Did you hear about the man who practiced twelve religions in twelve months? Andrew Bowen was Hindu in January, Baha’i in February, Zoroastrian in March, Jewish in April, Buddhist in May, and agnostic in June. He practiced Mormonism in July, Islam in August, the Sikh faith in September, Wicca in October, Jain in November, and Catholicism in December.
Why? The 29-year-old resident of Lumberton, North Carolina says he became a Christian in high school and took “a nose dive into fundamentalism. It just ignited a furnace in me.” He met his wife in college; they eventually had two daughters. In 2008, when his wife’s pregnancy threatened her life, the couple was forced to abort their child. She became more committed to her Baptist faith, while Andrew grew bitter toward God.
Eventually he launched “Project Conversion”–he would study and practice one faith each month, led by a mentor from each belief system. He is now writing a book and blogging on his experience. Bowen still meditates daily using various prayer books and attends Catholic Mass occasionally, though he doesn’t call himself by any of the faiths he practiced.
I admire Bowen’s commitment to spend a year learning and practicing religions he had never experienced. Much discipline and dedication was required to complete his project.
At the same time, I’m not surprised at the national attention Project Conversion is now receiving, or the nearly 1,000 likes Project Conversion has already compiled on its Facebook page. His approach to God is quintessentially American–the harder we work at finding God, or nearly anything else, the further we’ll progress.
Here’s the problem: his odyssey was founded on the faulty but popular premise that it is up to us to find God and experience peace (or any other desired outcome). Christianity, by contrast, claims that God seeks us: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus said that he came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
An Olympian like Michael Phelps may be able to swim closer to Hawaii than I can, but we’ll both drown in the attempt. Any relationship between sinful people and a holy Deity must be initiated and enabled by him. For many years, I tried to earn by religion what I could only receive by grace. What about you?
Andrew Bowen speaks for many in our culture when he says, “I don’t think about God now. I just participate.” My question is, In what?