Finding Universal Truths in Away and Back - A Pagan Atheist's Perspective
In the eclectic world of spiritual literature, it's not every day that a Pagan Atheist reviews a Christian book. Yet, here I am, sharing my insights on Away and Back: Lessons from Jonah by King’ori Mbuthia with my Pagan World community. As a friend and a colleague at Speak Your Own Book, King’ori stands out as a writer of moral and ethical integrity, offering a fresh perspective in Christian literature. Since many in our community read a diverse range of spiritual books, and since we have several Christo-Pagans in the community, this particular book seems very appropriate for a Pagan World discussion.
King’ori's book delves into the Biblical story of Jonah, weaving a narrative that explores the trials of finding one's spiritual path, coping with guilt, and seeking redemption. He eloquently states, "You can indeed, as Jonah found out, look to His holy temple again and be restored to the joy of salvation.". This idea of returning to a place of spiritual peace resonates with my belief in connecting with the Universe.
Throughout the book, King’ori emphasizes prayer, solitude, and community. To me, these practices are universal in nature, transcending the Christian context and aligning with the broader spiritual language of inner peace and contentment.
King'ori and I don't see eye to eye on everything spiritual, as no two human beings do. One particular sticking point that stands out is his framing of Paul, referred to by King’ori as a "model Christian." This characterization initially struck me as contentious, considering Paul's history of persecuting Christians. However, King’ori's depiction of Paul is not about glorifying his past but rather highlighting the profound change he undergoes.
Paul's story is emblematic of redemption and the capacity for profound transformation. After his revelatory encounter on the road to Damascus, Paul becomes acutely aware of the gravity of his past actions. Unlike Jonah, who initially runs away from his divine calling, Paul faces his history head-on. He dedicates his life to atoning for his sins, fully embracing the teachings of Christ and working tirelessly for the Christian community. This journey from a persecutor to a proponent of the faith exemplifies what King’ori views as the essence of a "model Christian" – someone who not only recognizes their misdeeds but actively works to rectify them and contribute positively to their community.
This contrast between Paul and Jonah throughout the book offers a nuanced exploration of redemption. While Jonah's story is about avoiding and eventually accepting responsibility, Paul's narrative is about confronting one's past and actively seeking to make amends, as aggressively as he had committed those sins of his early life. King’ori uses these stories to demonstrate that redemption and transformation are available paths, regardless of one's history.
King’ori's discourse on "sin" and its consequences is thought-provoking. As a Pagan Atheist, I don't believe in "sin", but simply "harm". However, this is merely semantics, and very quickly into the book, it is clear that King'ori has a similar definition of sin. He criticizes the superficial understanding of forgiveness and repentance prevalent among some Christians, likening their prideful attitudes to Jonah's nationalistic pride and lack of compassion. This critique echoes the experiences of many of us in the Pagan community who have faced hypocrisy in the name of religion.
King’ori offers guidance through various life stages, providing advice rooted in Christian values that also align with humanistic, ethical principles. His insights into youth, adulthood, and the continual journey of self-discovery are filled with universal values like patience, generosity, and love. He underscores the importance of facing the consequences of one's actions, a principle that reverberates across belief systems.
Throughout the book, I find myself thinking over and over again with each of King'ori's insights and revelations, oh, how closely his experience of the Divine resembles my own interactions with the Universal energy that encompasses everything! Perhaps, though we call our paths by different names, we are honoring the same power and heading to the same source? I encourage you, Dear Reader, if you choose to purchase his book on Amazon, available at the very affordable price of $2.99, to decide the answer to that question for yourself. When you purchase this book, you can know that not only will you receive an engaging and enlightening glimpse into the true Christian's path, the one that is filled with lovingkindness and peace, but you will also be supporting a Kenyan writer, an author of color, and a kind and generous man, part of my SYOB family, and someone I consider a dear friend.
In summary, Away and Back transcends its Christian framework, offering guidance on ethical living, reflecting on human fallibility, and advocating for spiritual growth. King’ori's writing bridges the gap between Christian teachings and universal human experiences, making it a meaningful read for Christians, Christopagans, and, yes, even Pagan Atheists like myself. This book will particularly appeal to those seeking reconciliation with their past — especially if their past involves a negative church experience growing up—and embracing a future filled with spiritual fulfillment.