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.
Mayer, Jane. Dark Money. Doubleday, NY. 2016. The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. In an attempt to understand why people who have more money than they could ever use need even more, I borrowed this book from the library. It was a page turner read. Mayer pulls back the curtain to let us see what is going on behind that enterprise and hopefully, we like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, will be aided with seeing who is really pulling the levers in our society. The best conclusion I can come up with is the insatiable need to be in control. It is the age old temptation to “be like God”. Mayer gives us the background of the childhood of the Koch brothers and I came away with a deep sense of pity for them. They truly didn’t have a chance and their response to this abuse is to be abusers as well. Alone they wouldn’t be too worrisome but they have aggregated many of the same persuasion so as to become a very threatening to our constitutional form of self governance. Now the current ruse is to want our “well being” and to lure the unsuspecting to use their sense of fairness as a tool of aggression. Books like Dark Money can help us resist this con game if we can see what is happening. Read this book, if fairness describes you .
A friend gave me this book for Christmas this past year. Moyers assembled a large group of people from all points of view to dig deep into the book of Genesis. He did a grand job of showing how such an approach enriched every person in the discussion. I started this form of engagement thinking it would be a Lenten experience 36 years ago and it has met the needs of 3-4 groups each week ever since. We look at the readings people will pray over on the coming weeks worship services. If you want to see how this process proceeds take a look at this book. You won’t be disappointed.
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
In this new work (2015) Mary Beard shares a lifetime of study and reflection on the period of history hinging on the year of 63 BCE. . You can listen to her share her story on a Fresh Air episode on NPR. The December issue of The Atlantic features an article called The Secret of Rome’s Success on this book. I was attracted to this work because I hoped it would give me a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges of the peoples of those times and enlarge my appreciation of God’s process of creation that ushered in the birth of Christianity. If you want to dig deeply (536 pages) you will not be disappointed.
Shanks, Hershel. Ed. Partings. Biblical Archaeology Society. Washington, DC. 2013. How Judaism and Christianity became two. I just finished this book and can say it won’t finish with me for a long time to come. I kept thinking all the while I probed the works of the 19 contributors to 15 chapters, that we face some of the same issues today that the Jews and Christians did in those years preceding the birth of Jesus up through almost the middle ages. These scholars who have studied and taught for many years have come together to attempt to answer the question of parting. You will find that there is no consensus of when or if such a reality ever existed. Throughout the world the changes brought about by the new realities of our generation are making it necessary to recognize and value truth wherever it can be found. Be it found in science, religion, culture, ecology or economy. The old ways demand new ideas if we are to continue as a viable reality. I highly recommend this work and deeply thank the editor and those who responded to his request for this dialogue.
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.
Dr. Joe Dispenza has explored the implication on how we can use the new knowledge of brain studies to “lose your mind and create a new one” in this work published in 2012 called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. He takes us further into the practical ways that we can move from a more instinctual way of being in the world to a more conscious one. He shows how knowledge without experience is merely philosophy; experience without knowledge is ignorance. He helps us to see how we can unmemorize our self-limiting emotions and move to wisdom. The book ends with practical methods of using meditation to achieve these goals.
Joe Dispenza, D. C has written a challenging book that explores the new discoveries in brain studies. Where we once thought that a damaged or addicted brain was permanently affected, his and others who are studying the brain with the newest technologies are finding that isn’t always so. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for growth and change that have exciting potential. The subtitle is: The Science of Changing Your Mind. This work will change a lot of things for a lot of people. Here is a quote from pages 1-2. Triggered by your most recent thought, did you know that suddenly, your pancreas and your adrenal glands are already busy secreting a few new hormone?. Like a sudden lightning storm, different areas of your brain just surged with increased electrical current, releasing a mob of neurochemicals that are too numerous to name. Your spleen and your thymus gland sent out a mass e-mail to your immune system to make a few modifications. Several different gastric juices started flowing. Your liver began processing enzymes that were not present moments before. Your heart rate fluctuated, our lungs altered their stroke volume, and blood flow to the capillaries in your hands and feet changes. All from just thinking one thought. You are that powerful. Explore the rest of the book for a whole lot more.
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.
Pope Francis said “This book has done me so much good”. The book Mercy by Walter Kasper published by Mahwah, NJ. 2013. I wanted to read it in order to see why he said this. When Francis talks about mercy he means steadfast love. He doesn’t mean the pity extended by a superior being for someone they could crush if they wanted to which is often the “west’s” use of the word. Kasper over and over quotes the bible and always it is this concept of steadfast love. This love, loves, because it can only love. In that love the beloved comes to experience their being while at the same time discovering everyone else to be also loved in this same way. The subtitle of the book is “the essence of the Gospel and the key to Christian Life. I can say with Francis, “this book has done me so much good”.
If Teilhard were alive today he would appreciate Kathleen Duffy’s Teilhard’s Mysticism as she engages the latest discoveries in science with his powerful quest to bridge the gap between science and faith. More and more people from all disciplines are recognizing their debt to his life long effort to find what holds all things together and gives everything its meaning. Duffy subtitles her work “Seeing the inner face of evolution”, and that she does. For all of us who have treasured the fruits of Teilhard’s life and work, we thank her for this contribution that builds on his.
Levine, Amy-Jill. Short Stories by Jesus. Harper Collins. NY. 2014. This is yet another book by Rabbi Levine that causes us to ponder and reassess what we thought we knew. By positioning ourselves in the crowds that listened to Jesus we see from their angle and come away challenged to think again. We people of the “second testament” will profit much from our “first testament” brothers and sisters. It will open us to new insights and new appreciation for the challenges of the parables. It will also make us aware of how we unwittingly sometimes perpetuate anti-Jewish stereotypes. This is a profitable read.
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.
A friend lent me her copy of an audio book Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. I found myself caught up in a story of coming to awareness, valuing courage, and learning from the challenges that life throws at you all in one engaging story.
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.
A friend gave me a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s audio book A New Earth published years ago and I had a chance to listen to it again recently. The wisdom in the work will be valuable to return to over and over again.
In these quiet winter days I reread a book of meditations by Henri Nouwen titled Here and Now. Any time spent with this gifted spiritual guide is sure to delight. I remember a chaplain convention where he was our plenary speaker. He had his friend Adam seated on stage with him. This will always affect the way that I encounter his writings. He put skin on his witness just as he says Jesus did that for God for us. It is a small but mighty book to read and reread.
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”.
This novel, Escape from Ephesus, written in 1991 by Lance Webb, attempts in story form to give us a readers experience of the trials and tribulations of our faith as shared by Onesimus (means useful). It is indeed useful as it hews closely to what we know from those days and years of the beginnings of our faith. Long before we had our gospels and structures, many gave their lives rather than settle for the futility of life without hope and love. You could read many other scholarly books, such as “And Man Created God” and get the facts/details of this same time period, but this novel catches you as surely as any lure of a great fisher could.