When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People
Duane R. Bidwell Beacon Press (NOVEMBER) Hardcover $25.95 (200pp), 978-0-8070-9124-1
If you are this, you can’t be that: It’s a ubiquitous assumption in our oversimplified, 140-character-driven world. In When One Religion Isn’t Enough, Duane R. Bidwell explores spiritual fluidity, unpacking our assumption that all identities are demarcated by firm boundaries and challenging the rigid ways that we conceive of ourselves and others.
The book draws on Bidwell’s experiences as a Buddhist Christian, the stories of diverse spiritually fluid individuals, and social, psychological, and theological scholarship in order to open windows into the experience of religious multiplicity. Its greatest strength is its storytelling, through which embracing multiple religions becomes a vivid lived experience. Particularly poignant are two of Bidwell’s experiences of honoring a death as a religiously multiple individual. These stories and others position spiritual fluidity as more pragmatic than radical, despite the inherently countercultural implications of claiming a complex identity.
Chapters read as if they were written to be published separately, and the book becomes repetitive. “A Field Guide to Spiritual Fluidity” elucidates the concepts and experiences of religious multiplicity with remarkable clarity, but it is bogged down by the fact that much of its information has already been shared in previous chapters. Still, the book operates with great sensitivity and awareness, addressing the difference between spiritual fluidity and spiritual bypassing or cultural appropriation. The book insists on true engagement over appropriation.
If hashtags, sound bites, and online sounding boxes have you worn down, When One Religion Isn’t Enough is a welcome antidote—inspiring reading for anyone interested in enlivened spirituality or seeking permission to embrace their complexities.