Dr. Bennie Calloway III has been a minister for twenty-five years and church pastor for eighteen. He currently serves as the Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Boston. His father was also a minister before him which means that ever since his early years Bennie Calloway has been closely involved within a community with tightly-knit religious values.
Given his background and devotion to the religious life readers of his book Deeper Awareness will be somewhat surprised to read in the introduction to his book the following statement.
‘Religion is best described in my own experience as a way false way of being, believing, and behaving.’
Reading that leads you to realise that something, somewhere along the road dramatically and fundamentally changed for Calloway – an event that clearly caused him to evaluate his life, work and personal philosophy in a totally different light.
Through Deeper Awareness Calloway charts the events surrounding his mid-life crisis along with the circumstances that caused him to want to break free from the shackles of that limiting, consensus mindset — the same one found at the heart of every established religion and which tends to limit self-expression and freedom of thought.
As the author began to question the basic construct of the religion that he was part of he saw so clearly that traditional Christian dogma imposes a limited spiritual perspective upon its membership.
In his book Calloway is unequivocal in his assessment of the current atmosphere that permeates all parts of the Christian faith but in particular that segment of the African American Christian movement with which he is closely involved.
“…religious teaching is of no benefit to your spiritual life. Religion involves a lot of waste of money, time, effort, media exposure and manpower that perpetuates a message that hurts people rather than helps people.”
However the author is not simply an armchair critic of faith. In his book he speaks of his striving to help men and women rediscover their own spiritual identity — his argument being that one’s personal sense of spirituality does not depend upon group acceptance in order to verify it.
Calloway advises his readers that there are effectively three ways that can enable you to establish your own sense of personal identity. These are to;
- Embrace Yourself
- Experience Yourself
- Express Yourself
Any or all of these approaches may well be a challenge but it is an approach the author clearly feels is worth taking even if it places you into a position that is contrary to the church and its various representatives.
Finally, Calloway does not see spirituality as something that has to be divorced from the sheer reality of our times — and specifically within what he perceives as the decline in Black communities and their social structures.
Indeed he believes that spirituality is the glue that can hold people to account for their actions simply by imposing upon them the need to think more constructively about their lives and the impact they have upon others.
And those principles has always been found at the heart of the Christian message.
Our Review of Deeper Awareness by Dr. Bennie Elgin Calloway III
Deeper Awareness is a hard-hitting, brutally honest critique of the Christian church and in particular of the Black Christian ministry found in the rural south of the United States.
Whilst this might appear to be a localised problem his scathing assessment of what he feels is an anti-spiritual construct to the Christian church clearly pertains to its every offshoot — no matter where in the world it is located.
Today, Calloway is evidently someone who has become greatly disappointed with a religion that he was such a prominent voice within — though, it must be said, not with the Christian message per se. Consequently he battles on exposing the various personal and infrastructural failings that he observes surrounding many Southern Black Christian churches.
This is a brave, no-nonsense commentary — one written by an evidently highly insightful and intelligent man who is clearly full of passion and commitment. As a result this is a remarkably honest and open account of the author’s feelings.
Throughout its pages Calloway is fearless in challenging even the most delicate topics that he feels are in desperate need of exposure. These include issues such as financial misappropriation and the problem of dictatorial ministers. He even confronts today’s thorny issues of racism, or racial bias, within both the Black and White religious communities and its impacts upon the church.
In Deeper Awareness Calloway lances what is self-evidently a dark world with his laser insight and boundless light. He is a man with a mission and with feet in two worlds which causes him to highlight the fact that in a world of increasing individuation the role of traditional churches is becoming increasingly exposed for its failings. He understands that it needs to evolve or drown in a morass of its own creation.
To what degree this book and his ideas of spiritual transformation are accepted, or not, by its intended audience is going to be a whole other story in of itself but one feels that with his indefatigable sense of spirit Calloway will be a major force of positive change in his spiritual community.
His is a story worth following and so I thoroughly and whole-heartedly recommend Deeper Awareness to those who want to join the revolution his has started.