Cover image for In search of grace : a religious outsider's journey across America's landscape of faith
In search of grace : a religious outsider's journey across America's landscape of faith
Hahn, Kristin.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 302 pages ; 25 cm
Communing with a medicine man -- Appropriating with non-Indians -- Yielding with the Amish -- Congregating with monks and nuns -- Testifying with Mormon missionaries -- Praying with practical Christians -- Spreading the word with preachers -- Spreading the wealth with Unitarian Universalists -- Listening with spiritualists -- Sanctifying with Jews -- Improvising with the self-taught -- Fasting with Muslims -- Meditating with masters -- Worshiping with devotees -- Stretching with yogis -- Godding with a bestselling author -- Recovering with a friend -- Crossing the bridge with Scientologists -- Casting spells with witches.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2525 .H34 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Like so many of us these days, Kristin Hahn was raised without much religion. And like so many of us, she sometimes wondered if the practice of a faith might offer some solace or substance otherwise lacking in her life.

An adventurous spirit, Hahn set out to explore faith in America. Wary of the dogma that too often separates both religions and people, she homed in on the actions that speak most convincingly of one's beliefs. Her journey commenced at a unique point in history, at a time and place marked by a vast array of choices -- ancient and new, sacred and secular -- and the freedom to choose among them.

Crisscrossing the nation, Hahn spent a week cloistered in prayer with convent nuns and a month of Ramadan fasting with Muslims. She went door-to-door with young Mormon missionaries and head-to-head with turbaned Sikh yogis. She sat through marathon meditations with Buddhist masters and spent days in conversation and ceremony with an Ojibwe medicine man. Her explorations exposed her to the rich, ancient culture of the Jews and brought her into the enclaves of Christian Scientists and Amish farmers, as well as the less traditional realms of Scientology, neopagan witchcraft, and the congregations of new-age gurus. And this was only the beginning.

What started out as curiosity soon blossomed into something greater, a powerful appreciation for the ways in which Americans observe their faith and how these rituals infuse lives with dimension and meaning.

This book is Hahn's chronicle of an unaffiliated pilgrim's progress across a uniquely American topography of sacred traditions, practices, and beliefs. Openhearted, insightful, humorous, and always thoughtful, it is a book that will speak to the universal need in all of us to seek a spiritual home.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Acclaimed author and documentary filmmaker Hahn chronicles her own life-altering spiritual journey. After years of working hard and attempting to apply increasingly unsatisfactory New Age solutions to age-old problems, she acknowledged a spiritual void in her otherwise successful life. Raised without benefit of organized religion, she began searching for a means to achieve the inner balance and emotional peace of the truly faithful. Setting out on a three-year odyssey, she traveled across the U. S., seeking and actively participating in the rituals and customs of 20 different faiths. Noting that America is a veritable melting pot of religions, she did not confine her personal investigations to conventional Judeo-Christian traditions. During the course of her explorations she engaged in the religious practices of Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Amish, Unitarians, Spiritualists, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Scientologists, Native Americans, and Wiccas. This absolutely fascinating account of one woman's search for spiritual fulfillment also serves as an enlightening overview of the positive power of religious diversity. Margaret Flanagan.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Burned out by her stint as a successful Hollywood writer, Hahn a Generation Xer with no religious upbringing made a journey through America's religious landscape to try to understand not so much theology as practice. She immersed herself in long interviews with believers of almost 20 different religions, from mainstream to alternative, and often joined them in some aspect of their ritual practices. Each chapter title captures the active spirit of the book: "Yielding with the Amish," "Testifying with Mormon Missionaries," "Fasting with Muslims" or "Casting Spells with Witches." Hahn's writing is astonishingly vivid, and she describes her encounters with a cocktail of good humor, respect, curiosity, admiration and the occasional wry but gentle criticism. It is especially remarkable that she can review the basic elements of religions and somehow make it all seem fresh and fascinating. Her facts, unfortunately, are not always airtight; LDS missionary service does not "guarantee the young volunteers a space in at least one of the three" kingdoms of heaven, and Virginia Harris, chair of the board of directors of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, is not "heir to Mrs. Eddy's throne." If there is a bias in Hahn's writing, it is an expected one for the child of a postmodern age: she leans toward religions that are inclusive of multiple paths to God and remains wary of those that make exclusive claims to truth and authority. Still, the book should be particularly attractive to 20- and 30-somethings, who will appreciate its flavorful narratives. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Thomas Jefferson, a Unitarian, once said that if he were to form a new religious sect he would follow the example of the bee, extracting the honey of every sect. Both of these books attempt to extract that which is religion in America, presenting authentic accounts of believers from many different religions. Both are also the culmination of years of research, in which the authors sought out everyday experiences in various religions throughout America. Each author has a unique manner of presenting the findings of what spirituality means for him or her. Gooch (William Paterson Univ.; City Poet) chooses an anthropological approach in analyzing five underexposed religions in America. His personal narrative includes detailed journalistic accounts of particular spiritualities, such as reading the Urantia Book, speaking with Deepak Chopra, and worship with the gay congregation of Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. Gooch documents the changes and formations in these spiritual groups, exploring, for instance, the changes in New Melleray Abbey, IA, from a visit in 1976 to a more recent retreat. He then provides a background to the Trappist filial tradition. Author and documentary filmmaker Hahn presents an armchair exploration of more than 20 distinct religions. She provides a short one- to three-page summary of the philosophy or doctrine of the religion to show how it motivates the religion. The remainder of the chapter covers the particular essence of a religion as she experienced it from attending services, prayer meetings, and rituals and interviewing members of the religion. A full spectrum of religion experiences is covered, from smoking sacred tobacco with Native American medicine men to an E-Meter reading with the Scientologists, and Hahn extracts the personal meanings of each. Both of these books provide something unique and do not set out to validate or invalidate any one religion or individual. Gooch's journalistic approach is recommended for large religion collections; Hahn's book is recommended for general audiences for its more personal, popular approach. Leo Kriz, West Des Moines P.L., IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Native American Beliefs
1 Communing with a Medicine Manp. 3
2 Appropriating with Non-Indiansp. 20
3 Yielding with the Amishp. 31
4 Congregating with Monks and Nunsp. 51
5 Testifying with Mormon Missionariesp. 67
6 Praying with Practical Christiansp. 82
7 Spreading the Word with Preachersp. 97
8 Spreading the Wealth with Unitarian Universalistsp. 111
9 Listening with Spiritualistsp. 121
10 Sanctifying with Jewsp. 139
11 Improvising with the Self-Taughtp. 156
12 Fasting with Muslimsp. 165
13 Meditating with Mastersp. 185
14 Worshiping with Devoteesp. 201
15 Stretching with Yogisp. 217
The New Age
16 Godding with a Bestselling Authorp. 235
17 Recovering with a Friendp. 247
18 Crossing the Bridge with Scientologistsp. 257
19 Casting Spells with Witchesp. 275
Epiloguep. 291
Notesp. 297