Barnett: Spiritual e-Soup (2007)

I received several great books from my father for my birthday this summer. He knew about my interest in religion online, so besides sending me books on the topic from my wish-list he pushed my envelopes and gave a few that were beyond my original scope.  In several cases he managed to expand my horizon and include in my learning journey whole new areas. However there was one exception that didn’t live up to this hidden goal.

The subtitle for Ralph Barnett‘s “Spiritual e-Soup” was promising: “A Compilation of Inspirational Messages from the Internet.” Reading the book I quickly discovered that it is not for me. The author originally wanted to cluster the quotes around their themes, but gave up. The lack of organization is a major drawback for me in accessing, reading the book. Hundreds of short entries are following each other without any connection between them.

I assume this kind of books with inspirational messages are best used if one just pops up the book when in need of spiritual stimulus. Even for this use it would be useful to have chapters. I realize that would reduce the chance for an unexpected thought. Still, if you are mourning you need different kind of help then when you are celebrating the birth of a child or experiencing midlife crisis. I consider it shear laziness from the author of not putting more effort in organizing.

Another part of the book I was missing was citations. It would have been much appreciated it the author did some homework and explore where his quotes came from. I recognized half of them, but in the case of some of the other half I would have enjoyed knowing more about the source. As a person used to academic books this bothered me. Again, I understand that citation is not needed for an inspirational quotes books. It’s something though I am used by now and withouth I feel a sense of lacking.

As I mentioned I was familiar with about half of the quotes. Probably because I have been online for almost two decades (got my first email address in 1992) and these quotes have been making their circles on the internet at least since then. So my expectation of reading new messages was not met. For someone who doesn’t know the quotes this would not be a problem; for me it was a source of slight disappointment.

Nothing in the the title or in the blurb about the book suggested that it was written from a conservative Christian perspective. Had I known that, before jumping into it it would have caused less shock. I could have easily accepted  that the religious tenets this book might help to strengthen are not mine. I love reading about what people in other religion believe in. But the misogynist messages and conservative values in the social realm of the quotes were harder for me to digest.

To summarize it was an unorganized book, collected for conservative Christians, without attribution of sources, containing lots of content I read decades ago. Not my cup of tea (or bowl of soup), but some might find it inspirational.

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