John F. Haught has written The New Cosmic Story: Inside Our Awakening Universe which is the most important book this bookaholic has read this year. His prophetic work will come to be seen as the opening to the future that we need. We stand on the threshold of what is becoming known by all who strive toward “rightness”. A rightness that is indestructible which is the universal search for meaning in all the world religions. Our sciences have brought us the awareness of the process, and our subjectivity demands an appropriate outcome in order for us to give ourselves to the unfolding of the not yet. Teilhard de Chardin and others began the process, Dr. Haught has built on their insights and takes us the next step.
I have worked my way through Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. This centuries old form of wisdom brought me the concept of Interdependent Co-Arising that is another way of approaching right mindfulness that frees one from the notion of anything or anyone being separate from everything else. It was a challenge to work through all the various systems that Buddhism entails in coming to this basic truth but I received nuggets of insights that enlarged my understanding of this noble path.
The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault is another treasure trove worth mining. She helps us explore more deeply the impact of recently discovered documents found by archaeologists and others, who then with the aid of many specialists open up new insights on the early believers. It will take many years to unpack the implications that this new source reveals. As many find the current “package” of belief too small, The Wisdom Jesus will help to enlarge the possibilities Cynthia and others are bring forth.
Klein, Naomi. No is not Enough. Harper Books. Chicago, IL. 2017. Resisting Trump’s shock politics and winning the world we need.
As I read this book I was flashing back to those days at the U of IA Hospital and Clinics and our Monday morning interdisciplinary rounds. Each week all the disciplines involved in diagnosing and treating our patients came together to gather all the facts we knew and discern what we still needed to know to figure out what our patient needed and wanted. After all the tests results came in we started our care planning. One would offer this option and another said that if we chose that course of treatment they would need to do this. Another would offer if that was chosen then maybe this should happen first. Still others suggested another option that no one had thought of. Alone, if each progressed without this information, we could end up with something no one wanted let alone the patient and their family.
Each week we regathered to evaluate our progress and revise our plans. As the chaplain I often stood between the vast system and the patient and family, bringing questions and insights that kept those two realities on the same page. This way we could harness the best of all the options we had available.
Naomi Klein has done the chaplain’s role for our present moment’s challenges. She has listened, witnessed, and brought all her skills together to help us diagnose our collective dis-ease. She has written a guide for how each of us can bring our skills to bear on healing what needs caring for and send us off with a renewed hope that we can Leap forward to a more humane-human future.
At 80 years of age and surrounded by the woes of the world, I must tell the author Ruy Teixeira I NEEDED THIS BOOK. He carefully outlines the last 100 years and brings together the information I needed to see the sweep of the global struggles and successes. He painted the big picture and reveals that the arc of history is bending toward a more evolved world. I keep a record of all the books I read and they are listed by the author last name. Today when I added this book to that list it came right after Teilhard de Chardin. I see this as an affirmation of Teilhard’s vision. If you need an antidote to the daily news this book is for you.
This classic by C.G. Jung is so timely for today. As I reflected on its message I was reminded of Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of union differentiates. This idea teaches that the more we come together, the more we discover our self. In biblical times the individual counted only as a member of a group. Outside the group survival was all but impossible unless you could find another group that would include you. Then centuries later, we rebelled and swung to the opposite pole of individualism. For a time we reveled in this new found sense of the importance of each life. It seems now that we are faced with another important paradigm shift that it isn’t an either/or dilemma, but a both/and reality. Jung invites us to reflect on the good/evil that is inherent in each of us. When we accept and respond in ways that our faith traditions offer, maybe we can evolve from just being attracted to the eternal truths offered by the worlds faith traditions and actually try to live them. It seems like our present worldwide anxiety offers us this invitation. You can go online and download a pdf version of this valuable little book.
Alice Hoffman has written a spell binding novel called The Dovekeepers which is built upon the terrible times around 70 CE. The temple has been destroyed, and the people have scattered. Some take refuge in the fortress that King Harold had built and were trying to survive the genocidal advances of the Roman army that wanted to totally destroy any holdouts that might cause them trouble. Narrated by some women and their experience of the life and times we get a glimpse from the female perspective that is lacking in our historical documents. Hoffnam has done her homework and is able to put flesh on the bones of this pivotal time in history. I listened to it on the CD version. It is very well done.
Getting the context of an author is especially important when studying the bible. Archaeologist Robert Cargill of the Univ. of Iowa has given his life to studying and teaching this context for those of us who come to the bible for inspiration. I will be coming back often to ponder this work as I also teach and write. Learning more about the struggles and customs of the people who composed and then saved these works can help us move more profitably into these timeless works of love. Written in 2016 and published by Harper/Collins.
Jenkins, Philip. The Many Faces of Christ. Basic Books. NY. 2015. What a read! As one who has a life long interest in the Bible and how it came to be; this book really opens up wide vistas on how the different peoples, in different times and places, made sense out of their experiences of God-ness. The sub-title “The thousand-year story of the survival and influence of the lost gsospels” is a very good summary of its contents. This scholarly, well referenced work will cause me to ponder in new and deeper ways.
In an attempt to better understand the struggle that every election involves I chose to read Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”. I admit that this exhaustive treatment of why and how people sort themselves out has helped me in my effort to make sense of what appears most of the time to be nonsense. He helped me see the value of each orientation such as liberal/conservative and how they each have strengths and weaknesses. We need each other to become whole, but have fallen into the either/or trap that the gospels warns us to avoid. Watching the “news” will become a more instructive exercise since reading this book. A current article that expands on this subject. For an interview with the author click on this link
Matarasso, Pauline Ed. The Cistercian World. Penguin Books. London. 1993. Monastic writings of the twelfth century. The abbot of New Melleray Abbey asked each of us associates to read this in order to become more familiar with the foundation of the order. I found the chapter on spiritual friendship by Alfred of Rievaulx the most timely for anyone of any age. The lyrical description of Clairvaux was a treat by an unknown author towards the end of the book.
In his new book- A Still and Quiet Conscience, John A. McCoy tells the story of Bp. Raymond Hunthausen. The sub title “The Archbishop who challenged a pope, a president, and a church” tells the story of what happens to someone who takes on the status quo. Hopefully with Pope Francis this kind of abuse won’t be happening again soon. I have met this humble servant of God and people, and can testify to his unconditional love for even those who wish him harm. Read this and see what being a shepherd really is.
Medsger, Beverly. The Burglary. NY. Alfred A. Knopf. 2014. This book outlines the discovery of J.E Hoover’s secret FBI. This book comes close to home for me as our oldest son was one of those Hoover targeted back in those pre Watergate days. After reading this book my faith in the basic decency of humanity was strengthened. People, many with young children, put their lives and futures in danger to unmask the evil that eating away at our basic freedoms. They did it when it was their turn, now it is our turn.
Warren, Elizabeth. A Fighting Chance. Metropolitan Books. NY. 2014 Her story of how she became interested in the rigged economic systems of today and its effects on everyone. I was stunned by the amount of stress anyone has to go through to even be elected let alone achieve anything once elected. We have created a monster of a system that needs our attention.
For a tough look at what some went through in the second world war listen to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. She has brought to life the true story of a forgotten hero, while also made real the human costs of war.
From Big Bang to Big Mystery: One reviewer states: “In a fascinating, accessible and thorough study, renowned priest Brendan Purcell explores the question of human origins. Covering a phenomenal range of material, Purcell moves easily between analysis of the various scientific perspectives on how humans are unique (emerging from a perhaps seven million year hominid sequence) and his suggestion that what is really needed is a look at why humans are unique. This pushes the zoological/paleontological discussion into the realm of philosophy and theology and gives new life to considerations of human emergence suggesting, even, that humans are better understood as an unprecedented cultural and spiritual event.”
This audio version of Jean Auel’s series The Land of Painted Caves is the final work in her novels of Earth’s Children. The 29 CD,s make for a engaging way to imagine the process of coming to consciousness for humanity.
Over 9 years ago Tom Friedman wrote his book The World is Flat. It aroused a lot of attention then and much was written about his thesis. Now all these years later, I have read his work and mused on how these 9 years have confirmed/challenged this thesis. This is a good book for a discussion group. I found myself in dialogue with him as I turned the pages of this important study of how our interconnected world has developed.
Selina O’Grady has written a fascinating book called And Man Created God. It is a review of the world religions at the time of Jesus. Although Selina comes at the subject as a non believer, she is another voice that adds to the many who try to situate Jesus, Paul and the early church in their context. I came away from this book bewildered by the chaotic milieu of religions that the people of Jesus’ day must have found oppressive. When given the chance to hear about God from Jesus, the disciples and Paul I can easily see why their words were indeed “good news”.
Marcus Borg explores the unfolding of Christianity in his The Heart of Christianity. His two concepts of “Earlier Paradigm” and “Emerging Paradigm” is a useful tool when considering this process. He examines each paradigm and the issues we face as we live in a time when both paradigms exist at the same time and the struggles with the challenges each presents.
In his book My Life with the Saints Fr. James Martin, S.J. takes us on a journey of discovery. He concludes his book by saying: “I hope this book is also a beginning for you, and that it has offered encouragement in your own journey with the saints. The saints in this book ar those for whom I feel the most affection, those who have afforded me courage,and those who I believe have prayed for me during some tough times. I hope that some of them will become your companions, too. Then one day, united in heaven, we will be able to thank God for these men and women who have been our models, our intercessors, and our friends.” In encourage you to read the last chapter first so that you will be encouraged to be the you God has created you to be, just as these role models certainly were.
Temples, Tithes, and Taxes is a very interesting study of the role of the temple in the ancient societies. Prof. Stevens, a CPA/Old Testament scholar, examines the role that the temples filled for their communities/nations. This naturally leads to comparisons of the modern day interface of armies, financial institutions, and worship centers. It begs the question of how people of faith dealt with the destruction of this central institution when the temple was destroyed. This could lead to insights for today post 9/11.
Bernard Lee wrote a book back in 1995 called The Future Church of 140 B.C.E. He sensed that the changes that came into being that we know as Pharisees were an organic growth in the influence of Jewish lay believers. Their province was the Synagogue and their specialty was study of the Torah. Lee sees the rapid growth of lay people with advanced theology degrees, positions of leadership in parish life, setting the stage for yet another radical change in the faith communities of our day. I emailed Dr. Lee and wondered how he would write that same book today, or at least update this seminal work. He responded that he was hopeful that the Spirit was working within faith communities to bring forth yet the next new thing in the way we come together to share our lived experiences.
The Help is in the movies now and provides a good read as a book. I read half way through the book before seeing the movie and I can promise you that the book is the best, but the movie does a good job with the story. Fifty years ago, within the lifetime of a lot of us the reality of race relations was just coming alive in our consciousness here in the midwest. This book/movie will cause a lot of reflection.
Walter Wangerin, a masterful storyteller, has used his skill once again in crafting a very engaging novel called Paul: A Novel. In it he uses scripture to bring us along with those early believers who faced terrible odds as they birthed Christianity. This is a book that will enlarge your gratitude for the risks they took for all of us.