Book press release: A Voluptuous God

Contact: Jen Lawrence


Evanston’s Lake Street Church Invites Public to “A Voluptuous God” Interactive Book Event September 30

Evanston, Ill. – If we learn to listen to that deep part of ourselves that tells us what is true, and accept our deep connection to one another, we can awaken–to a truly radical way of being in which there are no insiders or outsiders, says Rev. Robert V. Thompson, author of the newly released, breakthrough book, A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse Fall 2007).

With endorsements from such spiritual luminaries as Deepak Chopra and Joan Borysenko, the book’s unorthodox title draws from the words of a 14th century Rhineland mystic. Meister Eckhart’s statement, “God is voluptuous and delicious,” is a metaphor, says Thompson, for direct aesthetic experience, a kind of focused, sensing attention that can provoke profound experiences of aliveness, beauty, and intimacy.

Thompson, a former Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, is among a growing number of writers associated with emergent Christian spiritualities such as those espoused by Matthew Fox and Marcus Borg. A Voluptuous God moves beyond the theoretical to apply to modern daily life, from a minister’s experiences, what Thompson terms “the radical inclusivity” of the teachings of one of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers, the historical Jesus of Nazareth. The book shares with the reader how to use the daily challenges of life to experience the Mysterious Power that connects us to one another and everything in the universe. Thompson is the senior pastor of the progressive Lake Street Church in Evanston, known for its popular annual interfaith World Community Sunday, celebrating all faiths, active social justice committee and membership drawn from sixteen different traditions.

Members of the congregation will read passages from A Voluptuous God as touchstones for then speaking from their own personal experiences at a special event immediately following the church’s 10:30 a.m. September 30 service. The event is part of Lake Street’s celebration of the book’s publication, considered an expression of the evolving community and what has drawn it together.

The book gives voice to a point of view, widely shared by the Lake Street community, that is distinct from popular traditional Christian-based doctrine. Particularly in times of growing complexity and change, Thompson feels it is imperative to rely on one’s own “inner authority,” which he describes as that “deep part of us that tells us something is right, good or true.” Many well-known religious writers and speakers today assign “authority” elsewhere––citing scriptural texts to legitimize a choice or worldview, for example.

The word, “heretic,” in the subtitle of A Voluptuous God, comes from the Greek haireses, to choose, Thompson, an ordained Christian minister, explains. “A heretic is someone who chooses. A heretic is one who lives through the heart, rather than according to a belief system provided to him or her. Heretics know that the mystery of life cannot be shrink-wrapped, the beauty of life cannot be limited to canvas, and that quest for meaning requires taking risks and making sacrifices. This is why heretics refuse to allow those in authority to speak for them,” notes Thompson.

Thompson’s sermon titles, such as “For a Good Time Call God,” have been known to draw passersby from the street into the church service. Yet the church, which is led by elected lay co-directors, is a vibrant community of independent thinkers and learners with wide interests. Members create and offer an array of intriguing programs, study groups and events on such topics as meditation, mysticism, creation stories, The Baghavad Gita, dreams, music, Spanish language, “Bible Background,” Dances of Universal Peace, gender-based affinity meetings, equinox celebrations and outside speakers, such as the Medium for the Oracle of the State of Tibet.

Thompson says that rather than seeking an authority outside ourselves for dealing with life’s challenges and choices, we can develop a contemplative practice to deepen our awareness and quiet our minds; place ourselves in a community, which is the best place to grow and learn about ourselves as individuals, since no one of us has all “the answers;” and accept that we are not powerless and can individually and together create a better world for all of us.

“The heart is a compass that points to specific experiences which carry universal meaning, meaning that is too large for a doctrinal formula. Religious orthodoxy is the inevitable result of thinking exclusively from the head,” says Thompson.

Lake Street Church’s upcoming annual interfaith World Community Sunday, featuring speaker Joan Borysenko, will be held October 7 at 10:30.

Founded in 1858, the Lake Street Church is welcoming and affirming and includes members from sixteen spiritual traditions. Formerly The First Baptist Church of Evanston, it is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches. The church building hosts Connections for the Homeless, a shelter founded by an alliance of local churches. The Lake Street Church offers weekly services on Sunday at 10:30, and many other weekly programs. It is located at 607 Lake Street in Evanston, Illinois. For more information:, 847-864-2181.

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