Some Background On This Book Choice

I first encountered Diana Butler Bass when I listened to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts called “The Deconstructionists.” As many of you know, I am currently spending quite a bit of time listening to why millennials are disenchanted with the institutional church. The two young hosts of this podcast, John Williamson and Adam Norlach, give me hope for the future. They are big thinkers, respectful questioners, and giant sponges for learning. They are both from the evangelical Christian tradition and both are rethinking all that they had previously just accepted as Truth. Kindred spirits, they began speaking about their inner journeys and discovered that many other people were on similar pathways.  A dream come true, they began inviting writers, teachers, and speakers from all faith traditions to a podcast conversation which they produce each week. I could go on and on about them, and the podcast, but won’t right now. Suffice to say that they were the ones who introduced me to Diana Butler Bass.

Diana (I think of her as a friend though we have never met), had my full attention within about 10 minutes of listening. Her voice held conviction; her ideas echoed deep because Diana is interested in the same things that root and ground me: incarnational spirituality.  I immediately purchased this book and was captivated by her personal experiences and storytelling style. And when that happens to me, I want to share with my friends as a springboard for meaningful conversation.  And so we are here.

The Introduction to the Book

It took our group two hours last month to discuss the Introduction, it is full of so many intersecting ideas from the last book we read, “The Great Emergence,” by Phyllis Tickle. If you were not there, here are some nuggets from that conversation:

  • The question, “Where is God?” is more important than the “what” or “why” questions at this time in history.
  • Many people in the past were taught to view life as a three-tiered universe with heaven “up there,” humankind in the center, and hell down below us with gaps in between.  Finding God came through faith and/or good works that moved us, like an elevator, up and down; also called “vertical theology.” God was distant and omniscient.
  • Events and discoveries of the 20-21st centuries crumbled the old model.
  • Many have stopped believing as a result of the seeming inconsistencies between science and faith, struggles between good and evil, that seem to go on endlessly. People no longer need God to rescue them, fix things, intervene with miracles so to them, the beliefs they were taught about the conventional God are dead.
  • “You can not revive a God for a world that no longer exists. . .Venerating a God of a vanished world is the very definition of fundamentalism, the kind inflicting pain and violence on many innocent people today.”
  • “We live in a theologically flattened world.”
  • But is there another option between fundamentalism and a deceased god?
  • Yes, says Diana, citing the many crises of the 21st century (9/11, school shootings, tsunamis, human trafficking, wars, etc).
  • The question “Where is God?” has been answered by many: GOD IS WITHIN (returning to the basic meaning of Incarnation).
  • In this “Age of Anxiety,”  the way of the mystic is the dominant response in contrast to fundamentalism. The language of mysticism is everywhere today.
  • This is a worldwide phenomenon, in all faith traditions, a “re-enchantment of the world, a spiritual revolution.” Ordinary people are leading this revolution, not churches and clergy. Church numbers are declining but not belief in God.
  • The gap between the spiritual revolution and the institutional church is on the rise because people are claiming personal agency for their own lives: crafting playlists. food, media, beer, etc. God is becoming far more personal to them. Institutional churches have failed to grasp this. “They are sleeping through the revolution!”
  • “To re-locate God is to reground our lives.” We cannot separate spiritual from material any longer (dualism).
  • Diana wrote this book because she is heartbroken over being dismissed for believing in this spiritual revolution movement. She’s not angry. She was challenged in her own faith to move beyond the conventional God (outside time and space) to a grounded God in relationship, right here and now. This doesn’t mean she is watering down faith, a cafeteria Christian, lazy, or indifferent. She’s experiencing God beautifully, everywhere. The world is sacred ground.
  • The book’s main insight: “God is the ground, the grounded, that which grounds us.” Diana wrote it to help others understand and join her on this beautiful journey.





2 thoughts on “Some Background On This Book Choice”

  1. Chapter 1 can be summed up by the Sallie McFague quote/question: “What if,” she asks, “we saw the earth as part of the body of God, not as separate from God (who dwells elsewhere), but as the visible reality of the invisible?”

    I have to admit this stretches my previously held Creator vs. created paradigm. I have no trouble seeing the fingerprints of God everywhere, but that He is here in the soil itself? Neurons are exploding in my brain.

    The mention of the Garden Church (pg. 46) reminded me of a twitter feed I read recently. It’s a really lovely account of a guy traipsing through the foggy woods hoping to locate a mysterious “place of worship” noted on an Ordnance Survey Map . It turns out to be managed by the Green Christian movement.



    1. Thanks for this Melinda!! I think this book is challenging a lot of us to find new meaning in the traditional view that “God is everywhere.” Several of the women are struggling with finding God in the dirt, something we women have been trying to eliminate from our houses all of our lives (the dirt, that is). Some seemed to like the word “soil,” instead. I personally like the word dirt better. Whatever we name it, to know the Earth is charged with God sends me into ecstacy!


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