|Pam Dewey, the author
of Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion, gives us the
purpose for her book in its first chapter: “This Field Guide
is intended to provide both data and a source of light, so that the reader
may safely explore the contemporary Wild World of Religion. True apostles
of Jesus Christ, true prophets of God, and true teachers inspired by God
should surely have no fear at all of having light shone on their teachings
and works. Such light will only make truly spiritual works shine brighter.
It is those who are self-appointed apostles, prophets, and teachers who
may have reason to fear light shining on their teachings and activities.”
The narrative portions of the book carried me along as well as any novel I’ve read. Pam Dewey reveals her background and her motivation for researching this subject in a manner worthy of any mystery.
Other portions of the book are intended as references to inform the reader of the personalities inhabiting the world of religion (Chapter Eleven); of the descriptions of various movements (Chapter Twelve through Eighteen); and Chapter Nineteen refers the reader to other sources of information.
I found Chapters Nine and Ten to be the most helpful to me. In these chapters, the author defines the many religious terms used by various religious groups. Some terms are not as benign as they appear in a first impression.
The Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion is more of an introduction to the subject than an encyclopedic comprehensive study. The author writes more about her own former religious affiliations than some of the more well-known movements. Her experience adds to her credibility as a researcher and writer on this subject. She operates a web site which has more information on more personalities, churches, and movements than is practical in a print book.
Her suggestions regarding recognizing “Signs of Trouble” and her “Prescription for Intervention” in Chapters Seven and Eight are alone well worth the cost of the book.