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Excerpted from God at the Edge by Niles Goldstein. Copyright 2000 by Niles Goldstein. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"There is a long history of people discovering God in unexpected, unusual, sometimes even uncomfortable contexts."

Niles Goldstein
God at the Edge
, Part 1

Much of what passes for spirituality these days is approached from a perspective that is comforting and clean. There are twelve steps for this, seven rules for that, and guardian angels to help us with all of our problems along the way. A great many books on the topic, as well as the motivational speakers who go with them, seem to focus exclusively on the brighter side of spiritual issues, on getting in touch with the serenity, sensitivity, and self-love that are often beyond our grasp. Sometimes these books and individuals go out of their way to accentuate the happier aspects of life, offering uplifting messages of boundless optimism and hope.

While such messages are important and speak to many people, they do not resonate with all of us, nor do they deal adequately with the experiences of struggle and pain. Reality can be messy, and it can frequently force us to reduce our expectations and rein in our hopes. Not everyone can find spiritual fulfillment in a place that feels inviting and safe, like a self-help book or a house of worship. There is a long history of people discovering God in unexpected, unusual, sometimes even uncomfortable contexts. It can occur in a place of darkness, at the edge. Judaism was born in the wilderness of the desert, at the foot of a mountain, as a people cringed in terror. Christianity traces its origins to a man dying on a cross, crying out in doubt and despair.

While American popular culture has generally approached spirituality from a lighter perspective, the world around us has fallen prey to decidedly darker forces. A thousand years ago panic swept over Europe as people thought that the end of history was at hand. Monks stopped copying manuscripts, and construction on new religious buildings came to a halt. Today, as we step into the next millennium, similar apocalyptic impulses have surfaced. We have doomsday cults, survivalist groups, and religious fanaticism. We fear nuclear catastrophe, AIDS, overpopulation, global warming, even alien invasion.

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