Monday, February 4, 2013

The Enoch Factor

Okay, it 2013 and time to get back to the blog for some new thoughts. It's out with the SBNRs (Spiritual But Not Religious for those hopelessly out of date) and in with the Nones (people who check none when as their religious affiliation on forms), apparently.

But while I get back to gathering new ideas for blogs, it's time for another book review. The book is titled The Enoch Factor, and it is written by Stephen B. McSwain.

One thing is clear about this book The author has his audience clearly in mind. He wants to reach all those people raised in conservative churches who have had enough and want something different. In other words, not me, an Episcoapl college chaplain who has been challenging church doctrine most of his life because that is what I have been taught to do.

A quick look at reviews on Amazon will tell you that a lot of people are in love with this book. I am not one of them. Here's why:

1) The connection to Enoch is vague at best, and silly on close examination. Basically, McSwain takes off on one line of scripture about Enoch walking with God and manages to develop a whole theology around it. At least he doesn't seriously try to engage the book of Enoch, a book accepted as canonical by one church in the entire world. But if you remember the Prayer of Jabez from a few years ago, then you know how this treatment of one line can become utterly distorted.

2) McSwain is another disgruntled former conservative evangelical pastor who suddenly realized what he had been preaching was a load of crap. Instead of discovering that other Christian tradtions, though, he discovered the gnostic wisdom books.

3) The result of that discovery is that he is now 'Awakened', as he tells us repeatedly, and we who have not made this dicovery of a Jesus who is all about spiritual stuff, but apparently unconcerned with incarntional life. The dualism evident in this was palpable, as was the judgment about who is awakened and who is not.

4) All of which became to sound like a Christian self-help book. Stop going to church and led to meditate. You will be a better Christian--not that Jesus was about creating Christians anyway.

 5) How am I supposed to take seriously the excessive use of quotes from people like Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer? Granted he quotes some better sources (even Jesus on occasion), but after the third quote from A Course in Miracles, I was ready to stop. And, as much as I love Buddhist thought, I don't actually believe I have to study his sayings to achieve my awakened state.

6) However, I didn't stop. I read the whole thing because I wanted to get to the third section which was going to tell me how I might be awakened too. "To know God, Go Within" (p. 195). That's pretty much it. Notice the incredibly individualistic nature of all this.

7) Finally, if I have avoided most of the pscho-babble that usually accompnies self help books, it is because I save the best for last. The way one goes within is to conquer the Ego that is destroying you. That's right, it's all about what we now call ego. When we stop the ego from the way it controls us by going within (like Jesus going to the wilderness), we will awaken.

If you are convinced organized religion is pure bunk and do not care about anything communal being part of your spiritual practice, you might be satisfied with this. If you are ready to say goodbye to Christianity, by all mean, pick up this book.

However, if you are not that angry, please consider an Ignatian retreat or find your local emergent community or a parish where you can actually struggle with your questions. Believe it or not, there are actually thousands of them out there. They are probably the ones you have been told to stay away from because they don't preach about sin and hell every week. This is not the book for you.

1 comment:

Dr. Steve McSwain said...

I just discovered your review and I love it. Thanks.