Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren F. Winner
One of the best parts of taking my trips up to New York is spending time rummaging through Natalie and Jon’s bookshelves. I always end up with multiple contemporary memoirs to read. But this trip Natalie put a book directly into my hands. The title was “Girl Meets God” the image on the cover was a girl lying on her back with her head on a stack of books, her hands in a prayer pose. I turned it over the back mentions both Orthodox Judaism and Evangelical Christianity. Natalie certainly knows my obsession with religion, I’m in, I’ll read it.
The book is a memoir about one woman’s quest for God. She is the offspring of a Jewish father and Christian mother. Her parents get divorced and when she is in high school, being raised by Christian mother, she decides she wants to be Jewish. Not just Jewish she wants to be Orthodox. Her freshman year of college she undergoes conversion. However, by the time she reaches her senior year she finds Jesus and throws out all her Hebrew books. She gets baptised and classifies herself as Evangelical. In many ways her quest for God feels like a quest to connect to her broken family.
The book ended up being a very frustrating read for me. Lauren is obviously a very smart woman, she is a historian and an avid reader. She even seemed like someone I might like a great deal if I met her at a party. But somehow I found myself upset by her. I hate to judge someone’s choices but I was upset but the way she chose to live her life. It wasn’t her choice to give up Judaism for Jesus. I can respect that. But it was the degree of fanaticism that existed in her relationship with both religions.
There was no middle ground for her. Her belief lived in black or white. When she got frustrated with certain aspects of her Judaism she didn’t look at other ways to connect through that religion but found a religion that was even more extreme. Her Christianity was so far to one side of the Christian experience. In basic terms she went from not believing in a Hell to believing everyone she once had a shared spiritual experience with was going to Hell. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the idea that one religion is completely word for word accurate and thus all others are wrong. It’s an idea that leads to wars and discrimination. It upsets me that someone who is a obviously smart, on the road to attaining her PHD at Columbia, can be so closed minded about religion.
In one section of the book she talks about walking around the West Side and Columbia campus on Ash Wednesday. People would look at her oddly and she felt like a minority. She ruminated on how sad it was to be shunned because of her religious beliefs. I’m sure it felt terrible and she felt really uncomfortable but COME ON! There are only a handful of places in the world where Christians are the minority. Isn’t that fair? Let the Jews and Agnostics keep the Upper West Side.