Hunting Magic Eels by Richard Beck

“You are standing at the gateway of heaven. You are living in the House of God.”

Hunting Magic Eels is a map for burned-out Christians.

Beck, himself burned out by years of doubt and Christendom, wrote this book as an antidote to focusing too much on the wrong things. His idea is that we live in a time of a reduced existence: We’ve reduced humans to meat, redwoods to lumber, art to content. 

“Welcome to the ache,” he writes.

We have a chalk outline of what’s missing from our hearts, but we don’t know how to fill it. Why is life so disappointing and unfulfilling?

We’re disenchanted, Beck argues, meaning we’ve moved away from encounters with the Creator and viewing the world as an active place of the divine. We’ve reduced a relationship with the living God to a set of (poorly followed) ethical principles or political positions (blech). We need to re-enchant our worldview so that we can re-enchant our lives. Beck suggests a big way that we do this is by refocusing our attention. We need to see God, and know that we matter, and that everyone matters, and that Creation matters.

To provide some examples of an enchanted worldview, Beck looks back through various strains of Christian faith that are more enchanted than the contemporary mainstream protestant bundle of beliefs and practices:

  • Liturgical enchantments
  • Contemplative enchantments
  • Charismatic enchantments
  • Celtic enchantments

Beck closes off the book with some tips for discerning true encounters with the divine and enchantment vs. hearing what we want to hear.

The book provides a nice overview of some different strains of Christianity or belief systems beyond mainstream evangelical Christianity. If you’re not really in the mainstream, I don’t know how helpful you will find the book. Still, it’s a personable and encouraging read if you’re feeling weary.