A Voluptuous God

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A Christian Heretic Speaks

Robert Thompson

224 PP | 6" x 9"
Paper
ISBN: 978-1-55145-558-7

"This book engages the mind, embraces the heart, and shakes us free of our
complacent relationship to the Divine. It celebrates the deepest
questions and challenges the easy answers."

- Contact Magazine

While "voluptuous" may not be a word most of us associate with God, Bob Thompson speaks metaphorically of God being delicious, of God taking pleasure in simple things, of God knowing "that laughter is the best medicine, that only love can heal what ails us and only joy can cause our hearts to sing." This metaphor of God calls us to laughter, love and joy - voluptuousness as "full delight." Thompson calls us to worship a God of intimacy rather than a God of distance. Humanity (and God) hungers for closeness.

Thompson's well-considered use of humor allows us to engage easily in the subject matter. The light but not trivial tone of his writing supports his basic premise that we are meant to live our humanity joyfully, thankfully, and fully from our hearts. A Voluptuous God is rooted in the Christian tradition but affirms that truth is found in other religions, spirituality and secular practices. It offers an exploration of the place (which is here and now) "where we belong to God and each other."

A Voluptuous God offers questions and insights around many of the things our minds and souls dance with daily. It allows us to examine our personal spiritual needs and gives access to the larger spiritual truths that give shape and meaning to our lives.

Robert Thompson, Author

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained   an American Baptist minister in 1973.  He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois.  He retired in November of 2010.

During the 1980’s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. In the 1990’s he became disillusioned with the spiritual constraints of mainline American Protestantism and embarked on an exploration of several Eastern spiritual traditions and the Christian mystics.  While continuing his spiritually promiscuous ways, he remains loyal to a quote by Thomas Merton, “There is in all things…a hidden wholeness”.  Merton’s vision, also reflected in the “garment of mutuality” as expressed by Martin Luther King Jr., prompted Thompson to understand his activism in a new light—not an expression of religious ideology but rather a manifestation of unity consciousness. This vision led him to embark on a course of interfaith engagement while serving the Lake Street Church. From 1999-2004 he assumed the role of Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

He is recognized as Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.   

Over the years he has contributed articles to periodicals including The Christian Century, The Chicago Tribune (op-ed), Sound Vision (a Muslim outlet),  and others. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007), and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.

Along with his spouse, Judy Langford, Bob Thompson moved to Atlanta in March of 2011. 

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Media Reviews

Deepak Chopra

A Voluptuous God speaks not only to Christians seeking a deeper Christianity but to all who search for deeper spiritual meaning. Here is a book that speaks to the questions of the mind and the hunger of the spirit. Reverend Bob Thompson reminds us that Divine truth lives at the core of human experience if only we will awaken to it.

Parker J. Palmer, Author of "A Hidden Wholeness"

Here is an important book for Christians like me who are offended and angered by the way the word “Christian” has been high-jacked by some of its most mean-spirited, small-minded, cynical and/or manipulative representatives. This book is so open to all the ways God is at work in the world, so rooted in the author’s own profound faith journey, and so grounded in his life as a parish minister, that it can help us reclaim both the name and the substance of a faith tradition that, rightly understood, has ultimate meaning and deep healing to offer a wounded and often hopeless world. I have only one quibble with A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks, and that is with its subtitle. The real heretics are those who shrink Christian faith down to something no more life-giving or generous than their own fears and political agendas. Bob Thompson and his kin are among the saints.

Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., Author of "The Golden Compass"

Reverend Bob Thompson has prepared an interspiritual feast to nourish our souls. The insights and stories that he shares speak to the deepest questions and longings of the human heart. What is God, how do we relate to such ineffable Mystery, and how - when all the dogma of religious difference is peeled away - do we finally realize that we are all travelers on the same journey?

Mirabai Starr, Author of "Teresa of Avila"

Like an inspired sermon, an ecstatic love poem, or a great joke, A Voluptuous God engages the mind, embraces the heart and shakes us free of our complacent relationship to the Divine. It celebrates the deepest questions and challenges the easy answers. I laughed out loud as I read this conversational book. My eyes filled with tears. I nodded in recognition and shook my head in wonderment. It is not necessary to be a Christian or even a believer to find deep wisdom, hope and practical tools for awakening in these pages. Bob Thompson, who has made it a point to cultivate direct personal encounters with all the world's great spiritual traditions, has the rare gift of including everyone at the table.

Guy Spiro, MonthlyAspectarian@lightworks.com

Voluptuous is not a word most of us associate with God. Yet God is delicious, says Robert Thompson, minister of Lake Street Church of Evanston. God takes pleasure in simple things. God knows that laughter is the best medicine, that only love can heal what ails us, and that only joy can cause our hearts to sing. Thompson calls us to worship a God of intimacy rather than a God of distance. God and humanity hunger for closeness, and so A Voluptuous God calls us to an intimate relationship with the divine.

Rooted in Christian tradition, it affirms that truth is found in other religions and spiritualities, and in secular practices. It offers an exploration of that place, here and now, where we belong to God and to each other. A Voluptuous God questions, and offers insight into, many of the ideas and experiences our minds and souls dance with daily. It allows us to examine our personal spiritual needs and makes accessible the larger spiritual truths that give shape and meaning to our lives.

Lael, dailymantra.com

Co-author of The Communist Manifesto Karl Marx famously quipped, “I am not a Marxist.” Had he lived long enough to see the birth of Christianity, would Jesus, another Jewish revolutionary of even greater cultural significance, similarly have declared “I am not a Christian”? Although it may be tempting to imagine Jesus disavowing conservative, fundamentalist Christianity, to quote a recent sermon by Rev. Joan Steadman of the Oakland Center for Spiritual Living, “Who knows what the dude was thinking.”

A new book by self-proclaimed heretic and Baptist minister Robert V. Thompson provides a refreshing take on the Christian God or, given the tome’s universalizing impulse, on God in general. Borrowing from a passage by medieval mystic Meister Eckhart, Thompson has named his book A Voluptuous God, a title that suggests the tack — counter to his faith’s traditional emphasis on suffering — that the author is taking.

Not one to shy away from the sensual, Thompson goes so far as to describe God as “delicious” and hearteningly proclaims “that laughter is the best medicine, that only love can heal what ails us, and that only joy can cause our hearts to sing.” Sounding a bit like a marriage counselor, he invites readers to greater intimacy with God, an experience he locates in the here and now “where we belong to God and to each other.”

Along with the rehabilitation of pleasure as a Christian value, Thompson emphasizes the importance of ambiguity over doctrine. He reminds us that Christianity’s very roots were heretical with Jesus time and again ignoring accepted norms in favor of the dictates of the heart. Hence Thompson’s distinction between heart-centered and head-centered religion: Religion of the head involves thinking about life’s questions in order to come up with answers. Religion of the heart is about seeing our innate and unalterable connection to all others as both the question and the answer. The heart is a compass that points to specific experiences that carry universal meaning, beyond doctrinal formula.

Given these sentiments and ideas, it is unsurprising that New Age stalwarts like Deepak Chopra and Joan Borysenko have praised A Voluptuous God. As Borysenko’s blurb reminds us, “when all the dogma of religious difference is peeled away…we finally realize that we are all travelers on the same journey.”

Michael Scott Cain, Rambles.net

For 25 years, Robert V. Thompson has served as minister to the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Ill. Ordained as a Baptist minister, he began in the early 1990s to explore the world's other spiritual traditions, a move that led him to become what he calls a "Christian heretic." He now believes all of the world's religions have their roots in the same spiritual earth and the entire question of our relationship to a Supreme Being is much more complicated than most religious institutions would have us believe. A Voluptuous God is the result of his search for a different way of embracing the Almighty. His title comes from a statement by the 14th-century mystic Meister Eckhardt, who said "God is voluptuous and delicious," and if Thompson's complex vision can be summed up in a sentence, it would be this: God does not reside in a faraway heaven remote from us; God is within us, is us. There is, according to Thompson, God in me, God in you, God in all. As he writes: If I am asked if I believe in a God whose abode is in a heaven, separated from the earthly domain, the answer is, "No, I do not believe in that God." If the question is if I believe in a God who uses coercive power to make things happen a certain way, I reply, "Not that one either." Instead, he offers a toast to a different conception of God: Here's to a God who giggled with delight, who tickles creation in order to waken it to the pleasures of life and the joys of living, who gets under your skin and who wants to get up close and personal. God is full of delight. God is sensual. God luxuriates in pleasure. His book details his vision. It offers a look at Christian mysticism for the world we live in. It's important to note Thompson is a minister rather than a theologian. Therefore, his book is clear, readable and offers a lot of pleasure. He is a great believer in stories, so he relies on tales from the Bible, from Zen, from the Sufi masters and the world's other religions to make his points, rather than using the arcane and abstract academic evidence a professional theologian would use.

As a result, A Voluptuous God is both an important book and an enjoyable one. Thompson offers a clear and vivid discussion of Christian Mysticism and its importance to our society. He wants to make our lives better, our faith stronger and our compassion and love for everyone foremost in our minds and actions. It's hard to ask for more.