God works in mysterious ways – just ask Neale Donald Walsch of Ashland.
Married and divorced four times, unable to stick to any career and recovering from a broken neck after a car accident, Walsch was in deep despair when he awoke in the middle of the night and put pen to paper: “What does it take to make life work?” he asked.
The question was directed to God.
Today, 12 years later, Walsch is the best-selling author of “Conversations with God,” a series of books translated into 27 languages and sold in more than 30 countries. Their popularity has spawned a Conversations with God Foundation that operates on a $1.3 million annual budget, employs 15 people and offers an array of books, audiotapes, videos, online courses, workshops and retreats.
The brashness of Walsch’s claim is that he’s talking to God, not about God. After scribbling his urgent question, Walsch says, he heard a warm and loving voice that gave him an answer to that and multiple other questions. He’s likened the process to “taking dictation.”
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All of his books – typically found in bookstores’ Metaphysics or Spirituality section – follow the same question-and-answer, give-and-take format between Walsch and God. They touch on hundreds of different topics, from sin to sex to salvation.
Walsch, 60, will give his first talk in Eugene on Friday. His speaking schedule later this spring includes stops in Houston, Phoenix and Kansas City – as well as visits to cities in Canada, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany and other countries.
He appears to have a significant following in Eugene, according to several bookstore owners and local fans.
“He’s definitely one of our better-selling authors,” said Michelle Loew, who works at Smith Family Bookstore near the University of Oregon. “No one here has to ask where his books are – we all know.”
The gist of Walsch’s latest book is that humanity is going down the tubes and needs to abandon its beliefs of religious superiority and a vengeful God. One of his current campaigns is “Humanity’s Team,” a grass-roots movement aimed at creating a “New Spirituality” of peace. The goal is to have 500 local teams established around the world by June.
George Crawford will lead the Eugene team’s first meeting on Feb. 27. Crawford, a retired chef and a part-time minister, said he’s drawn by Walsch’s view of a God who is “all-loving, nonpunishing and a friend to each of us.”
Linda Bumpas, a nurse who lives in Eugene, has also signed up for Humanity’s Team. When she first heard about one of Walsch’s books, “I thought, `Yeah, right, someone thinks he’s talking to God.’ But then I read it and loved it. It was like everything I’d already known but never found anyone who agreed with it.”
Bumpas said she likes how Walsch “emphasizes the positive” rather than sin and guilt, and his belief in a transformed world. “There are a lot of people out there who would like to move the world to peace but don’t think it’s possible,” she said. “We’ve got to realize it’s possible or else we can’t do it.”