Stepping Out with the Sacred by Val Webb

As part of the Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge I popped into a local bookshop and asked if they had any theology books written by Australian women. Guess what I walked out with? 😉 [I also picked up The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Its author, Dorothy Soelle, wasn’t Australian, but the book was wonderful. But that’s another review 🙂 ]

Stepping Out with the Sacred by Val Webb is a book about engaging with the Divine, the “something more”. It’s NOT a how-to guide. It’s a book about the many paths (religions), their overlap and differences. Why is this important?

I’m not sure if Val ever spelled it out in a way I can quote. If she did, I missed it. But reading “Stepping Out with the Sacred” I felt like it was reaching towards a way to understand God (which really means, to understand how we want God to be) that would enable people to network for good causes, like environmentalism.

Don’t get me wrong, the book shows evidence of years of theological research and thought. It’s not lightweight. It attempts to prepare readers to “dialogue” with other religions.

Val self-identifies as Protestant and I think she’s writing for that audience. She provides accessible examples of people’s experience of their religion, whatever it may be. What I can’t judge is how truly she’s captured believers’ own notion of what they believe and how they live it (and to declare my own background: I’m Catholic and not a big fan of St Therese of Lisieux whom Val mentions and quotes a number of times — to be clear, I respect Therese’s commitment to the life she chose. I don’t respect how gleefully the male Catholic hierarchy held up her meekness as a model to all [us women] by canonising and marketing her — and this is the sort of complexity in religions that Val’s book just doesn’t have space to cover).

Fundamentally, “Stepping Out with the Sacred” addresses the question of how we live in the world, and does so through a theological lens. In fact, I think it goes further and asks us to consider how we create the world by out perception/belief in “something more” — whether that something more be God or another intangible, like ideology.

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