I read Mitch Albom’s newest book in one weekend. It’s an honest, true story that raises the deepest questions, conflicts and emotions about faith to the surface. In the end, Mitch uses this book to inspire a new perspective about believing in something and how two very different men — one pastor and one rabbi — taught him how.
We live in a time when technology and science suggest we no longer need religion. Yet as the world grows more threatening, we turn to faith more and more. Why? That journey is the soul of this book. The story follows Mitch to churches and synagogues, to the suburbs and the city, to the “us” versus “them” that divides faith around the world.
As an accomplished, recognized author and successful ESPN broadcaster with no formal or professional religious affiliation, Mitch is a neutral party who gives voice to the common conflicts we all wrestle with. This book, and Mitch’s story, is refreshing and stirring.
GET THIS! Mitch will be LIVE here at Granger on March 13-14 talking about his journey and provoking us on ours. I. Can. Not. Wait.
Until then, I’ll share a few bullets from the book…
Mitch on life, faith & religion
- As is often the case is with faith, you think you’re doing someone a favor, when in fact you’re being given one.
- Man likes to run from God. So perhaps I was only following tradition when, as soon as I could walk, I started running from Albert Lewis. He was not God, of course, but in my eyes, he was the next closest thing, a holy man, man of the cloth, the big boss, the head rabbi. I ran until he couldn’t see me anymore.
- What do you really know about your religious minister? You listen to him, sure. You respect him. But as a man? Mine was as distant as a king. I had always felt that rabbis, priests, pastors, any cleric, really, lived on a plane between moral ground and heavenly sky. God up there. Us down here. Them in between.
- You know how Christianity speaks of fallen angels? Here on earth, falling is less dramatic. You drift. You wander off. I know. I did it.
- By the time I graduated and went out into the world, I was as well versed in my religion as any secular man I knew. And then. I pretty much walked away from it. It wasn’t revolt. It was, if I’m being honest, apathy. A lack of need. My career as a sportswriter was blossoming; work dominated my days. Who had time to go to church? I was fine. I was healthy. I was making money. I was climbing the ladder. I didn’t need God for much.
- Over time, I honed a cynical edge toward overt religion. People who seemed wide-eyed with the holy spirit scared me. And the pious hypocrisy I witnessed in politics and sports, only made things worse. My daily routines—work out, scan the news, check email—were self serving, not roped to tradition. To what was I connected? A favorite TV show? The morning paper? My work demanded flexibility. Ritual was the opposite. Besides I saw religious customs as sweet but outdated, like typing with carbon paper.
- Growing up, I would shut my eyes and try to sway like the people around me. It is the “mimic” stage of my devotion, and I must think about what to pray for, because I don’t understand the “sanctify” and “glory” stuff. I ask God for a dog.
- Much of what we call “depression” is really dissatisfaction, a result of setting a bar impossibly high or expecting treasures that we aren’t willing to work for. We prescribe happiness in a pill as if sadness were as treatable as the common cold. Pills are not going to change the fundamental problem in the construction. Wanting what you can’t have. Looking for self-worth in the mirror. Layering work on top of work and still wondering why you’re not satisfied. I knew. I had done all that. There was a stretch where I could not have worked more hours in the day without eliminating sleep altogether. I piled on accomplishments. I made money. I earned accolades. And the longer I went at it, the emptier I began to feel, like pumping air faster and faster into a torn tire.
- In the end, I cut back and erased much of my schedule. But I still kept my hands on my own wheel. I didn’t turn things over to fate or faith. I recoiled from people who put their daily affairs into divine hands, saying “If God wants it, it will happen.” Such surrender seemed silly to me. I felt like I knew better. But, privately, I couldn’t say I felt any happier than they did.
- The second death. To think that you died and no one would remember you. I wonder, in a strange way, if this was why we tried to do so much so fast in America, to make our marks, to be known. Think of how important celebrity has become. We sing to get famous; expose our worst secrets to get famous; lose weight, eat bugs, even commit murder to get famous. Notice me! Remember me! Yet the notoriety barely lasts.
On Rabbi Albert
- When I visited Albert, he never pounded on my shortcomings.
- “When you come to the end, that’s where God begins.”
- A spate of recent books had declared God a fool’s notion, hocus-pocus, a panacea for weak minds. I thought the rabbi would find these offensive, but he never did. He understood that the journey to belief was not straight, easy or even always logical. He respected an educated argument, even if he didn’t agree with it. “In this job, you don’t retaliate.”
- “We were a part of each other’s life. We were close—on top of each other. If someone was about to slip, someone else could catch him. That’s the critical idea behind congregation. We call it a sacred community, but we’re losing that now. That is why the temple itself is so important now. It’s become our connection to humanity.”
- “These things society tells us we must have to be happy—a new this or that, a bigger house, a better job. I know the falsity of it. I have counseled many people who have all of these things and are not happy. The number of marriages that have disintegrated when they had all the stuff in the world. The people who fought and argued all the time when they had money and health.”
- “Love changes. The infatuation kind—he’s so handsome, she’s so beautiful—can shrivel. As soon as there is a test, something goes wrong, that kind of love can fly out the window. On the other hand, a true love can enrich itself. It gets tested and grows stronger. The only difference between ‘marital’ and ‘martial"’ is where you put the i. I think people expect too much from marriage today. They expect perfection. Every moment should be bliss. That’s TV or movies, but that’s not the human experience.
On Pastor Henry
- As a drug dealer he made a fatal error: he decided to try some of his own product. That was the cliff. And off it he flew. Henry was addicted to his own poison.
- If this is a Man of God, I’m the man in the moon.
- “Glory, Glory, hallelujah, since I laid my burden down.” Okay, I said, because I didn’t know what you say to that.
- I wanted to trust Henry Covington, but I didn’t want to be naive. “Well, Pastor, I’ll be in touch.” I don’t know if I meant it.
- “Jesus…He lifts me up. He rearranges me. He repositions me. By myself, I’m no good.”