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Author discusses ‘quest for God’

Megan Loney | Friday, October 10, 2008

The religious quest for the divine dates back to the earliest human beings, but has not ended with the formation of defined religions. This search for the divine spirit continues today author Elizabeth Johnson said in her lecture on her new book “The Quest for the Living God.”

Johnson’s lecture was the second part of The Quest Project’s fall lecture series. The Quest Project, managed by Saint Mary’s College Center for Spirituality, in cooperation with the John Templeton Foundation and the Saint Mary’s College Annual Endowed Lecture Series Fund, hosted the lecture at the Little Theater in the Moreau Center for the Arts at 7:30 Thursday evening.

Johnson’s book “The Quest for the Living God” covers eight theologies: transcendental, political, liberation, feminist, black, Hispanic, inter-religious and ecological said Johnson.

“I wrote it [the book] for a broad audience to enlighten and provide food for thought, said Johnson. “There is such a hunger for a mature faith today, which is not always fed by the institutional church.”

During her lecture, Johnson focused on highlighting three of the eight theologies presented in her book: feminist, inter-religious and ecological.

She first spoke on the feminist theology. Johnson explained this theology as “God acting womanish.” She said that in civil societies and in religion women have been considered the second sex. Most religions give God a male persona with terms such as “king,” “lord,” and “father,” Johnson said. This poses a problem for women because it robs women of spiritual power, said Johnson.

“Mystery of the living God is neither male nor female,” said Johnson, “but in the divine image and likeness of both.”

Lizzy Pugh, a junior at Saint Mary’s College, enjoyed the feminist theology section of the lecture the most.

“I just loved the feminism theology,” said Pugh. “I’ve heard my mom talk about the mother side of God, but for me to hear it somewhere else it was very enriching.”

Johnson continued her lecture with a look at religious pluralism, or inter-religious theology. She described inter-religious theology as “glimpsing another religion out of the corner of our eye while practicing our own.”

The multitude of God is so overflowing that it allows for a variety of different religions each offering their own view and worship of God, Johnson said. She emphasized that the differences in religion do not mean that the religions are of lesser or higher value or are truer than another.

“However committed we are to our own faith, we do not have a monopoly on either truth or value,” said Johnson.

Johnson closed her lecture with an overview of ecological theology. This theology incorporates finding God in everything, humans and nature. The Church has focused so much on the human world that the natural world remains a backdrop said Johnson.

In this theology, God “creates the world from within. He makes the world by empowering the world to make itself,” Johnson said. She compared God to a choreographer who takes input from the dancers when creating the routine.

Students packed the auditorium for the lecture. Saint Mary’s senior Sarah King, a religious studies major, is modeling her senior composition on Johnson’s work. Kin said she has been familiar with Johnson for over a year.

“I have been deeply interested in Johnson’s work since last year,” King said. “It really strikes me because I really believe that there are elements of God that we try to restrict, but there are so many aspects that we can’t imagine.”

Johnson said, the quest for the divine is vital for religions to evolve: “The search must be undertaken if religious traditions are to remain vibrant and alive.”