America's favorite Quaker storyteller explores the terrain of faith and doubt as shaped by family, church, and young love, finding his way to a less convenient but fully formed adult spirituality.
Most of us grow up taking in whole belief systems with our mother's milk, only to discover later that what we received as being certain is actually nothing like it. And then we're faced with a choice--retreat to spiritual security and the community that comes with it, or strike out into the unknown.
With his trademark humor and down-home wisdom, Philip Gulley serves as just the spiritual director a wayward pilgrim could warm to, inviting readers into his own sometimes rollicking, sometimes daunting journey of spiritual discovery. He writes about being raised by a Catholic mother and a Baptist father across the street from a family of Jehovah's Witnesses--all three camps convinced the others are doomed. To nearly everyone's consternation, Philip grows up to be a Quaker and a pastor. In Unlearning God, Gulley showcases his well-loved gift as a storyteller and his acute sensibilities as a public theologian in conversations that will charm, provoke, encourage, and inspire.
Quaker pastor Gulley (Just Shy of Harmony) uses his own spiritual journey as a model for sloughing off damaging beliefs in this droll memoir. Young Gulley chafed against the hellfire threats and throttling of questions by the nuns and priests of his Catholic school. A move into evangelical worship continued to constrain him, with biblical inerrancy frustrating his search for truth. Finding a home in Quakerism as an adult finally allowed Gulley the freedom to explore a range of perplexing religious claims that had long vexed him. He tackles pressing concerns, including the damage of excluding women from leadership roles, the harmful perpetual guilt around sexual desire, and the isolating tendency to assert God hates the same things that believers do, alongside tales of his foibles. As Gulley moves from looking at his past into his current thoughts on his spiritual journey, he leaves behind his occasionally smug attitude toward more literal, conservative believers. In these later chapters, he uses moments in his pastoral career to show how he has gradually come to understand the danger of blending faith and nationalism and the benefits of holding firm on opinions. This sincere depiction of spiritual change will help believers feel more comfortable in searching and doubting.