Jim Palmer,
Divine Nobodies:
Shedding Religion to Find God

(W, 2006)

Jim Palmer had it made. A rising star in the Evangelical movement, he was the pastor of a thriving megachurch, a respected member of the community, a man of position and status -- and then he lost it all. His was not, as he thought it was at first, a fall from grace. Actually, as he came to learn, it was a fall into grace.

Palmer's fall turned out to be the turning point of his life. It was the trigger that caused him to take a good look at his own inadvertent hypocrisy; he had confused church with religion and thought since he was very good and very successful at church, he was close to God. He discovered that his assumption, like most of his assumptions, was dead wrong. In fact, his devotion to church led him away from religion, away from God.

Only when he lost all of the protective coloration the church had provided did he truly find God and he found Him in all of the everyday people he met -- hip-hop artists, Waffle House waitresses, his friend who has to carry on and raise his children alone after the death of his wife.

Palmer frankly admits he is confused by many of these people. They make him confront and struggle with his stereotypes. His failure to reach out to a homosexual friend makes him see what a bad friend he has been, while the discovery that his daughter's swimming teacher is a liberal almost sends him into apoplexy. His struggles to overcome the strictures his church experiences put on his thinking will be familiar to every reader who has ever had to confront his own prejudiced thinking.

The author relates his journey in straightforward, unadorned prose that sounds like a guy speaking over a beer. Divine Nobodies is not only a delight to read, its central premise -- that God is not necessarily to be found in the church but is found instead in our hearts -- is an important one for Christians to hear.

by Michael Scott Cain
23 December 2006

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