In this captivating book, Bob Thompson opens a window onto the soul and lets the welcome breeze of his writing freshen many of our traditional perspectives on Christianity. Using humour and a light and accessible tone, he challenges religious orthodoxy in a non-confrontational way that encourages us to live our humanity joyfully, thankfully, and fully from our hearts. He offers an image of God that is not obscured by rigid dogma, the idea of separation, or an obligatory sense of unworthiness. Voluptuous is not a word most of us associate with God. Yet God is delicious, says Thompson. God takes pleasure in simple things. God knows “that laughter is the best medicine, that only love can heal what ails us, and that only joy can cause our hearts to sing.” Thompson calls us to worship a God of intimacy rather than a God of distance. God and humanity hunger for closeness, and so Thompson calls us to an intimate relationship with the divine. The book is rooted in the Christian tradition but affirms that truth is found in other religions and spiritualities, and in secular practices. It offers an exploration of the place – which is here and now – “where we belong to God and to each other.” A Voluptuous God questions, and offers insights into, many of the ideas and experiences our minds and souls dance with daily. It allows us to examine our personal spiritual needs and makes accessible the larger spiritual truths that give shape and meaning to our lives.
About the author
ROBERT THOMPSON writes a golf column for the National Post and was a staff reporter covering business and sports. He is also a columnist for Score Golf, a contributing editor for Travel and Leisure Golf, and has written for The Globe and Mail and Golf magazine. His books include Always Fresh: The Untold Story of Tim Hortons by the Man Who Created a Canadian Empire, and The Third Best Hull.
Like an inspired sermon, an ecstatic love poem, or a great joke, A Voluptuous God engages the mind, embraces the heart and shakes us free of our complacent relationship to the Divine. It celebrates the deepest questions and challenges the easy answers. I laughed out loud as I read this conversational book. My eyes filled with tears. I nodded in recognition and shook my head in wonderment. It is not necessary to be a Christian or even a believer to find deep wisdom, hope and practical tools for awakening in these pages. Bob Thompson, who has made it a point to cultivate direct personal encounters with all the world's great spiritual traditions, has the rare gift of including everyone at the table.
Mirabai Starr, Author of "Teresa of Avila"
Co-author of The Communist Manifesto Karl Marx famously quipped, “I am not a Marxist.” Had he lived long enough to see the birth of Christianity, would Jesus, another Jewish revolutionary of even greater cultural significance, similarly have declared “I am not a Christian”? Although it may be tempting to imagine Jesus disavowing conservative, fundamentalist Christianity, to quote a recent sermon by Rev. Joan Steadman of the Oakland Center for Spiritual Living, “Who knows what the dude was thinking.”
A new book by self-proclaimed heretic and Baptist minister Robert V. Thompson provides a refreshing take on the Christian God or, given the tome’s universalizing impulse, on God in general. Borrowing from a passage by medieval mystic Meister Eckhart, Thompson has named his book A Voluptuous God, a title that suggests the tack — counter to his faith’s traditional emphasis on suffering — that the author is taking.
Not one to shy away from the sensual, Thompson goes so far as to describe God as “delicious” and hearteningly proclaims “that laughter is the best medicine, that only love can heal what ails us, and that only joy can cause our hearts to sing.” Sounding a bit like a marriage counselor, he invites readers to greater intimacy with God, an experience he locates in the here and now “where we belong to God and to each other.”
Along with the rehabilitation of pleasure as a Christian value, Thompson emphasizes the importance of ambiguity over doctrine. He reminds us that Christianity’s very roots were heretical with Jesus time and again ignoring accepted norms in favor of the dictates of the heart. Hence Thompson’s distinction between heart-centered and head-centered religion: Religion of the head involves thinking about life’s questions in order to come up with answers. Religion of the heart is about seeing our innate and unalterable connection to all others as both the question and the answer. The heart is a compass that points to specific experiences that carry universal meaning, beyond doctrinal formula.
Given these sentiments and ideas, it is unsurprising that New Age stalwarts like Deepak Chopra and Joan Borysenko have praised A Voluptuous God. As Borysenko’s blurb reminds us, “when all the dogma of religious difference is peeled away…we finally realize that we are all travelers on the same journey.”
For 25 years, Robert V. Thompson has served as minister to the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Ill. Ordained as a Baptist minister, he began in the early 1990s to explore the world's other spiritual traditions, a move that led him to become what he calls a "Christian heretic." He now believes all of the world's religions have their roots in the same spiritual earth and the entire question of our relationship to a Supreme Being is much more complicated than most religious institutions would have us believe. A Voluptuous God is the result of his search for a different way of embracing the Almighty. His title comes from a statement by the 14th-century mystic Meister Eckhardt, who said "God is voluptuous and delicious," and if Thompson's complex vision can be summed up in a sentence, it would be this: God does not reside in a faraway heaven remote from us; God is within us, is us. There is, according to Thompson, God in me, God in you, God in all. As he writes: If I am asked if I believe in a God whose abode is in a heaven, separated from the earthly domain, the answer is, "No, I do not believe in that God." If the question is if I believe in a God who uses coercive power to make things happen a certain way, I reply, "Not that one either." Instead, he offers a toast to a different conception of God: Here's to a God who giggled with delight, who tickles creation in order to waken it to the pleasures of life and the joys of living, who gets under your skin and who wants to get up close and personal. God is full of delight. God is sensual. God luxuriates in pleasure. His book details his vision. It offers a look at Christian mysticism for the world we live in. It's important to note Thompson is a minister rather than a theologian. Therefore, his book is clear, readable and offers a lot of pleasure. He is a great believer in stories, so he relies on tales from the Bible, from Zen, from the Sufi masters and the world's other religions to make his points, rather than using the arcane and abstract academic evidence a professional theologian would use.
As a result, A Voluptuous God is both an important book and an enjoyable one. Thompson offers a clear and vivid discussion of Christian Mysticism and its importance to our society. He wants to make our lives better, our faith stronger and our compassion and love for everyone foremost in our minds and actions. It's hard to ask for more.
Michael Scott Cain, Rambles.net