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A fresh exploration of a redeeming, dynamic, and radically different way to hold one's religion
Samir Selmanovic—who grew up a in a culturally Muslim family in Croatia, converted to Christianity as a soldier in the then-Yugoslavian army, and went on to become a Christian pastor in Manhattan and in Southern California—looks at how our ongoing and sometimes violent power struggles over who owns God and what God wants for the world and its peoples...
A fresh exploration of a redeeming, dynamic, and radically different way to hold one's religion
Samir Selmanovic—who grew up a in a culturally Muslim family in Croatia, converted to Christianity as a soldier in the then-Yugoslavian army, and went on to become a Christian pastor in Manhattan and in Southern California—looks at how our ongoing and sometimes violent power struggles over who owns God and what God wants for the world and its peoples are not serving God, humanity, or our planet.
This is a personal story and a moving exploration of a new way of treasuring one's own religion while discovering God, goodness, and grace in others and in their traditions.
Chapter 1 Living with a Splinter.
Chapter 2 The Secret of the Ordinary.
Chapter 3 God Management Systems.
Chapter 4 Why Is God Not More Obvious?
Chapter 5 Where Does Your Heart Go?
Chapter 6 Your God Is Too Big.
Chapter 7 The Blessing of Atheism.
Chapter 8 One World at a Time.
Chapter 9 When My God Becomes Our God.
Epilogue My Story and Maybe Yours.
Posted February 13, 2010
I actually attended the church in So Cal where Samir was a pastor. When he left and start his project in Manhattan, I didn't understand or believe in what I thought he was doing there. After reading his book, I get it. And I am a convert. We can learn many things from our different-religion neighbor, things that will enrich our spiritual lives as well as our secular lives. Samir left me with hope, and the conviction to try harder to understand and appreciate that which I don't understand in other faiths. And for that I am very thankful. The book moved me forward in my faith life. Well done Samir!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 22, 2009
I'm just an average Jane Doe who grew up in a Christian household, but am a member of the ranks of those who are disenchanted and disgusted with the "we're right and you're wrong" mentality. It truly is, or should be, "all about God" - no matter what religion or ethnicity you're from. This life is a process of waking up from the misconceptions and prejudices we "absorb," more than are taught, growing up. Both about God and our fellow man. This book resonated with my soul in ways I cannot even begin to describe. Samir has taken the step that so many are scared to take, and admits that we don't know everything, can't know everything, and will never know everything about God. Because God is bigger than our respective religions, which ever religion that may be. Life is to be an exciting journey towards a love relationship with the Creator of all men - with the "Beloved" - not about keeping God all to ourselves and being "in charge" of God. Samir is truly a modern-day mystic who has given me new eyes to see with and a new hope to live with.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2009
Hope. This is a hopeful book with a native trust in Life as the ultimate guide and teacher. Samir shares his hope, while exploring the sometimes brittle and leaky vessels of our faith traditions. Hope that we can rescue and revive our traditions through real exchange with those of other faiths.
Faith. Samir invites us along on his personal journey of faith (it's always a personal story). What a trip! The author excels at bringing alive all the people who are part of his mysterious path: his life-loving nominally muslim family, his new Christian family he meets while in the army, atheists, jews, muslims, regular folks, theologians. Faith in people.
Love. It's a love story, after all. And Samir shares the intimate moments of his love affair with God. It's a love story that is charged by the violent disapproval of society and family - made all the stronger for that. A love that is inclusive, not divisive; that invites those "with any faith or no faith at all" to celebrate what is alive in themselves and others. What the world needs now.
Posted September 25, 2009
When you're reading along and think to yourself, "I wish everyone I know would read this," chances are you've got a good book in your hands.
In "It's Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian," Samir Selmanovic articulates a concept utterly fundamental and timely. Framed in the sociological perspective of a world where cultural boundaries are falling like dominoes, the author alerts his readers of the critical need to go beyond arms length mutual respect. He calls for an embracing of "the other," a willingness to learn, and courage to expose and examine one's own religious assumptions. He does not envision a world with one single religion. He envisions a world where "Humankind is like a living organism, a body in which religions are the various parts."
His writing goes from poetic to philosophic, anecdotal to theoretic, darkly serious to daringly comedic. His words beg to be quoted with frequency and passion.
A book that offers more than religious and theological commentary, Selmanovic has written something to inspire individual and global evolution.
Posted September 21, 2009
Pastor Samir takes you on a sublime journey through different countries, religions and even unbelievers. This book stretches your mind, heart and soul! It is filled with antedotes and stories that will make you laugh and cry, sometimes both at the same time. It teaches you to love God and oneself differently, so much so, that it spills out to those around you. It will fill you with the desire to reach out to other religions, not fear them. You will never be the same!
Lynne Fujimoto R.T.(R)(M)
Posted September 8, 2009
Samir Selmanovic is just a man and he has come to the conclusion his religion is imperfect. That this personal discovery has contributed to an unwavering faith in God may come as a surprise to some, but this is a book about faith. Although it would be cringingly cliché to say that this is a book about faith, hope and love. It is. Strikingly, it's a bold faith that openly embraces the reality of 'difference' in a 21st century context and unequivocally affirms the presence of God. Not so much a 'how to' but a 'why we need to' book, Selmanovic uses autobiographical sketches to construct ontological and epistemological arguments about what it might mean to be human, what we can know about God and the nature of Divine knowledge.
His central premise is simple: "That which separates us from each other separates us from God." Selmanovic's call to mutuality is not new in Judaeo-Christian thought, what is distinct about his position however, is that he does not invoke this call because others need 'us' but because we need 'them'. A blurring of boundaries for where 'we' begin and 'they' end, such is Selmanovic's yearning for the Other it's almost as though the scriptural imperative to love others as we love ourselves becomes a conviction that to love others is the only way to love ourselves. Nevertheless, the invitation is clear: seek God in others and you will find Him, "because where people dwell, God dwells."
The personal stories range from the achingly sad: a young man is rejected by his father, a city grieves in the aftermath of 9/11; to the humorous: a Christian pastor makes futile attempts to avoid the onslaught of evangelical missionaries in a street market and a longing groom waits for a wedding night that takes two weddings to arrive. Yet despite the sad and farcical nature of some of the stories there is no hopelessness here. Instead these stories reek of affirmation, constantly reminding us that we are all just people, nothing more, but nothing less also. And, if God dwells resolutely in and around us then perhaps our preoccupation with our reward in heaven needs to be steadied by a desire for God here "in the landscape", in our own stories and in each other.
For anyone alarmed at the increasingly frayed edges of contemporary Christianity this book provides reassurance that despite Christianity's inevitable evolution over time, God is still here. For those who recognise the urgent need to address religious diversity this book provides a picture of what it might look like through one person's journey. And for those of us who have had the audacity to question sanctioned truths about God and travelled the lonely path of dissent, this book is for us because Selmanovic aptly demonstrates that pain and doubt can be allies of growth and hope.
But perhaps the biggest strength of this book is that the collection of stories is held together by the author's most compelling argument: that our religious diversity is not a problem to be overcome. Instead, diversity is the solution (read: blessing) we are offered. As he clearly states at the outset of his book, It's really all about God is not a discussion about religious pluralism, it is a discussion about interdependence. About recognising that only an intentional dream which acknowledges the cumulative histories and aspirations of all of us has the hope of bringing us closer to God. In this manner, Selmanovic transforms difference from a stubborn complication to an
Posted August 29, 2009
Some are born as seekers. Critical questions must be asked. Difficult struggles must be embraced. Fear must be a familiar friend.
As a seeker, I love finding others who are chasing More. While the world tells us that decisions are either or, we want all. While those in Authority tell us that s/he has "the" truth, we discover that Truth is talking to us through the ordinary events in the day as well as the communities in which we live.
This book invites us into More than we currently see. I found myself listening into family conversations during their once a year trip to a cemetery. In teaching his daughters to remember by looking back, the girls introduced us to something even greater (p. 22)
Mom, Dad, what is a cemetery?
It is a place where we remember.
Something we've forgotten since the last time we were at the cemetery.
I forgot. What is it, Dad?
That life is a gift.
Dad, maybe we could also visit a place where people are born.
The stories and questions are not always easy. They do point to truths greater than any one community holds. I was challenged, in a good way. I laughed in some spots. On other occasions, I was silent. I paused at the end of some pages. Then I struggled to read faster than I have ever read. With every story, I found myself holding something new. I came away filled with a renewed interest in seeking More.
This book is a gem worth reading, reflecting, and holding as you seek to find more than what you have.
Posted August 3, 2009
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It's very rare for me to stay up late because I just can NOT put down a non-fiction book. Samir Selmanovic's "It's Really All About God" reels you in with its raw truthfulness, wit, humor, and deep emotions such that it's really quite a page-turner.
This is not a preachy book. It's the story, questions, and conclusions of one struggling believer. Samir has had a variety of experiences in his still-ongoing spiritual development: Croatian, American, Muslim, Christian, and he would say atheist too, though I would have instead labeled what he describes of that era of his life as agnosticism.
You might look at a history like that and say, "Hey, doesn't this guy believe in anything enough to stick with it?" And you might be right in asking that question. But that's sort of the point of Samir's journey: his allegiance is to God, wherever that takes him. He tried having walls of protection around his faith to keep people who didn't share his views out or at least at a safe distance. But that was not making God the center; that was making religion the center.
Now, now, don't go lumping him in with the "spiritual but not religious" crowd either, though he does truly empathize with them. Samir highly values religion and tradition (he is himself a minister) and thinks that the "spiritual but not religious" set are missing out on something that could really add to their spiritual experience when they bypass religion altogether. But religion should be a vehicle, God the destination.
And when Samir puts God at the center, he's also putting people, relationship, and love at the center. He argues against the separation/segregation of holy vs. mundane life. Everything is holy. God is omnipresent. And love is the key to the whole enchilada.
To my eyes, the only weak point in the book was his assertion that a God who limited God-self to one religion and withheld that goodness/god-ness from so many would not be worth worshiping. It's a weak argument because it doesn't matter if God is "worth" worshiping. If he/she/it is God, then they're God. Period. And if God really is God, then it doesn't matter if he/she/it makes sense, is just, is loving, is nice, etc.
A better way Samir could have put it is that God wouldn't BE God if he/she/it were a petty, unjust, hateful being who played favorites and let billions of people in the out-crowd burn for eternity.
Samir does phrase things oddly sometimes because English is not his first language. I suspect, because of later areas of the book where he talks about the egotism of many religious systems that try to limit God or manage God, Samir was NOT trying to say God is subject to our judgment or our human/fallible/short-sighted opinions. But it does come across that way and does so in the introduction of the book, which I fear may put some readers off getting to the core of his message. Don't be put off! Read on!!
I highly recommend "It's Really All About God." It speaks to believers as well as doubters; the religiously unversed as well as the religiously fluent. It speaks to the four faiths listed on the cover, but its ideas apply to any faith. And best of all, it was a true joy to read -- I reveled in its unpretentious honesty, its comedy, its tragedy, and its inspiration.
Posted August 1, 2009
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I have been waiting for It's Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian to hit the shelves for a long time. Even though I have heard Selmanovic speak several times and had a good idea of where this book was heading, I was overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised when I had an opportunity to read the finished product. This book is full of powerful Good News that paints a beautifully narrated picture of what faithfulness might look like if we get out of the God management business. Ever since reading Reza Aslan's great book, No god but God, I wondered when a voice with connections to my own Christian tradition would write a book that looked to the future of faith with hope. This is that book.
Selmanovic has creatively weaved together a book that is part theology, part personal narrative, and part poetry and the result is inspiring, humbling, and challenging. His voice and tone throughout is pastoral, open, and deeply human. The reader follows along from one important moment to the next in the journey through faith and doubt and back again. It will challenge your thoughts, touch your emotions, and gently nudge you to follow the same path towards a God that is much bigger and unpredictable than we may have previously imagined.
If you have God all figured out this book is not for you. But if you are tired of hearing people of faith proclaim "gospel" messages that are just reflections of their own narrow, homogeneous way of thinking and want to hear something new give this a try.
Posted July 29, 2009
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Perhaps I am just overly pessimistic, but based on its title this book wasn't what I expected. I mean that in a good way. It's Really All About God is an overflow of love and hope for the future of religion. Whereas many interfaith dialogs seek to blur distinctions, mixing the world's religions into a monochromatic stew of ethic teachings, Samir takes an alternative route. He asks, "Can God be found in those outside of my religious tradition?". As a result, It's Really All About God provides its reader with complimentary ways of understanding and experiencing God, despite their religious background.
For many, this will be an unnerving approach. However, it need not be. Samir carefully and calculatedly constructed a theological framework that speaks unilaterally, across religious divides. His framework is one of asking deep questions about how we, as religious people, understand power, community, the nature, and knowledge of God.
Do we only participate in conversations we can control? Must we have the last word? Is a singular belief necessary for Spirit-filled community? Are our religions equatable to the presence of God? If not, how does that change how we look at religion?
Samir is interested in deepening our faith and opening our communities, rather than proselytizing a particular faith or ideology. Taking the role of a prophet, Samir is careful to limit the answers he provides. He merely confronts the reader with tough questions and allows the discomfort and silence of unanswered questions. His hope is that, through the subsequent silence, God will make Godself heard and known.
However, this book is not just for theists. Taking a road far less traveled, Samir also dedicates much of this book to discussing how non-theists may participate in and contribute to the conversation about God. He argues that non-theists have valuable critiques to offer those of us within religious communities. Moreover, he also argues that non-theist (or "atheistic") faiths are fellow sojourners, rather than adversarial opponents. Samir carefully offers a theological framework that allows each tradition to develop and grow through dialog, even traditions generally considered outside the religious conversations.
Though far from flawless, I applaud Samir for It's Really All about God. Many authors have attempted to facilitate inter-religious dialog, but few have done it with the pastoral care and artisanship of Selmanovic. This book is a window into his life, his family, his struggles, and ultimately his trans-religious experiences of God. Many may fault Samir for this transparency and for publicly confessing how God has spoken through religions besides his own. I, however, have been deeply moved by this book and find myself both challenged and transformed.
I highly recommend this book.
Posted July 27, 2009
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A while back I had a chance to hear Samir Selmanovic speak on the topic of "Finding God in the Other." It was a paradigm shifting riff on the idea that unless we are willing to listen, we have no right to preach. And that God's truth is available and present in all His children. How we love each other is how we learn about and love God. Or that's what I came away with. I was shaken. It upset my tidy views of Truth and mission.
I made an effort to connect with Samir and we exchanged ideas and shared some time together. In the process I recently received a reader's proof of his new book.
Upon reading and rereading it, I was moved to tears and startled by his remarkable personal journey and his willingness to put himself on the line in sharing it. A Muslim background and a brush with Christianity (and everything in-between) have given him an epiphany of sorts. This well-educated (degrees in engineering and theology I think) spiritual pilgrim shares his insights in a kind of extended essay. In some places it is sublimely poetic. But at its core it's more a manifesto of why faith matters at all. And a plea for open conversation where we not only share our differences, but actually celebrate them! That only in honest communication can we learn from our collective experiences, even with our radical points of view.
Before we wipe each other out and/or destroy the planet, maybe it's time to -- just for once -- try and love each other. Selmanovic implies that Jesus was a humanist, that he died for something greater than himself. That he was an agnostic, perhaps even atheist, in that he lost sight of God's presence ("Why have you forsaken me"). I see in the same way, Jesus was a good Buddhist, in that he emptied himself. And of course, he was a very good Jew. Jesus was us. All of us. But make no mistake that this book is just for Christians. It is not.
This book challenges the glib dismissal of religion by some as being of no import. (It would be great to hear a conversation with Dawkins, Harris and Selmanovic. Or maybe one with Jon Stewart!) On the other hand, it faces squarely the growing and real-life horror of fundamentalist of all creeds destroying civilization as we know it -- the God Wars that we all recognize but don't speak of openly -- yet.
This book deserves to make waves and be a flash point of discussion. It offers hope.
I believe we are at a point where it is no longer safe to be quiet. In fact, perhaps it is an act of cowardice. Make no mistake, a wave of change is coming and unless we can speak to each other about the things that matter most, our very belief systems -- those things that are not acceptable to debate in public -- we are doomed.
After all, like Noah, we are one family and we are all in the same boat -- this time our planet is our Ark. We are all God's children and we all have a story to share. God speaks to -- and through -- us. All of us.
Perhaps we are in fact made in His image. Are we the fragments of God coming together as He explores his own nature? If so, our task is to "learn to love well." What else is there if not that?
Read this beautiful and dangerous book.