Faith assumes there are no lost causes. It inoculates us, reassuring us that even in death, we are found. Jeff Sharlet's new book, Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness and the Country in Between, tackles the difficult questions of belief and doubt through unconventional practitioners of faith.
In the collection of beautifully written narratives, we hear a dozen or so people of "faith," including Ron Luce, whose militant Christian group, BattleCry, trains young people to be warriors for God; a New Age healer; a Jewish author and Holocaust survivor, an anarchist who ultimately dies in the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico; and philosopher Cornel West, a Christian and a socialist, who characterizes the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter as "total spiritual abandonment, the absence of faith."
Sharlet's previous works have incisively critiqued fundamentalism and American power; Sweet Heaven is equally thoughtful, but tender, acknowledging that between the extremes of snake handlers and nihilists, most of us wander through life groping for meaning, with consolation that in the act of finding, we too, may be found. Sharlet speaks at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Center for Documentary Studies. —Lisa Sorg