There are more than two sides to every story, and this month we present several contrasting views : of science, faith, sin and the church.
Post-traumatic church syndrome : a memoir of humor and healing, by Reba Riley.
Reba Riley’s twenty-ninth year was a terrible time. An untreatable chronic illness forced her to take stock of things and she decided if she couldn’t fix her body, she might heal her injured spirit. This began a circuit of visiting thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. She visited an Amish community, a Buddhist temple, a virtual reality church, movie theater, a drive-in bar, sweat lodge, and fasted for thirty days without food. She realised she didn’t have to choose a religion to choose God. This is a book for questioners, doubters, misfits, and seekers of all faiths. (drawn from Syndetics summary)
Art + religion in the 21st century, by Aaron Rosen.
“The relationship between art and religion has been long, complex, and often conflicted, and it has given rise to many of the greatest works in the history of art. Artists today continue to reflect seriously upon religious traditions, themes, and institutions, suggesting a new approach to spirituality that is more considered than confrontational. Art & Religion in the 21st Century is the first in-depth study to survey an international roster of artists who use their work to explore religion’s cultural, social, political, and psychological impact on today’s world. … Each of the book’s ten chapters introduces a theme e.g. ideas of the Creation, the figure of Jesus, the sublime, wonder, diaspora and exile, conflict, etc followed by a selection of works of art that illustrates that theme.” (Syndetics summary)
Breaking the Mother Goose code : how a fairy-tale character fooled the world for 300 years, by Jeri Studebaker.
“Who was Mother Goose? Where did she come from, and when? … Several have tried to pin her down, claiming she was the mother of Charlemagne, the wife of Clovis (King of the Franks), the Queen of Sheba, or even Elizabeth Goose of Boston, Massachusetts. Others think she’s related to mysterious goose-footed statues in old French churches called “Queen Pedauque.” This book delves deeply into the surviving evidence for Mother Goose’s origins – from her nursery rhymes and fairy tales as well as from relevant historical, mythological, and anthropological data.” (Syndetics summary)
How’s your faith? : an unlikely spiritual journey, by David Gregory.
While NBC journalist David was covering the White House, he was taken aback by President George W. Bush asking him “How’s your faith?” In his early years he had no real beliefs although he identified culturally with the Jewish faith then his marriage to a Protestant woman of strong faith inspired him to explore his own spirituality. This question prompted him to explore more – he visited Christian mega-churches as well as deep into Orthodox Judaism. He interviewed leaders such as Joel Osteen and Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “David approaches his faith with the curiosity and dedication you would expect from a journalist accustomed to holding politicians and Presidents accountable. But he also comes as a seeker, one just discovering why spiritual journeys are always worthwhile.” (Syndetics summary)
Searching for Sunday : loving, leaving, and finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans.
What does it mean to be part of the Church? Like millions of millennials, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church. The hypocrisy, the politics, the budgets, the scandals – church culture seemed too removed from Jesus. Yet, something kept drawing her back. Her journey took her through seven sacraments often associated with church – baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death. This is not theology, but a memoir about taking risks, community, grace, and finding hope, somewhere in the messiness of church.
Not in God’s name : confronting religious violence, by Jonathan Sacks.
This author tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of the solution. Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts, and offers a new interpretation of early myths. “Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith.” Our task is to be a blessing to the world, not destroy it in God’s name.
Memories of heaven : children’s astounding recollections of the time before they came to Earth, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and Dee Garnes.
“British poet William Wordsworth expressed the idea that we gradually lose our intimate knowledge of heaven as we grow up, observing that “our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting” of our previous heavenly existence…. Curious about this, Wayne and Dee decided to issue an invitation to parents all over the world to share their interactions with children. The overwhelming response they received prompted them to put together this book, which includes the most interesting and illuminating of these stories in which very young children speak about their remembrances before they were born. … This fascinating book encourages parents and grandparents to realize that there is far more to this earthly experience than what we perceive with our five senses.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Faith versus fact : why science and religion are incompatible, by Jerry A. Coyne.
Evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne argues that science, based on reason and empirical study, will be in conflict with religious faith, and revelation. Building on the books by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable “truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science. Coyne urges us not to mistake faith for fact.
Inventing the universe : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith and God, by Alister McGrath.
We just can’t stop talking about the big questions around science and faith. Some have expected them to go away – in fact, we seem to talk about them more than ever. … Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists argue that religion is at war with science – and that we have to choose between them. But it’s time to consider a different way of looking at these two great cultural forces. What if science and faith might enrich each other? What if they can together give us a deep and satisfying understanding of life? Alister McGrath, argues that the relationship between science and faith is complex.
Saving the original sinner : how Christians have used the Bible’s first man to oppress, inspire, and make sense of the world, by Karl Giberson.
“When global exploration, anthropology, geology, paleontology, biblical studies, and even linguistics cast doubt on the historicity of Adam and his literal fall into sin, Christians responded by creatively reimagining the creation story, letting Adam “evolve” to accommodate his changing context. Even conservative evangelical institutions until recently encouraged serious engagement with evolutionary science, unhindered by the straitjacket of young-earth creationism, intelligent design, or other views demanding that Adam be a historical figure. Giberson calls for a renewed conversation between science and Christianity, and for more open engagement with new scientific discoveries, even when they threaten central doctrines. ” (drawn from Syndetics summary)
Born bad : original sin and the making of the Western world, by James Boyce.
“”Original sin is the Western world’s creation story.” According to the Christian doctrine of original sin, humans are born inherently bad, and only through God’s grace can they achieve salvation. In this captivating and controversial book, acclaimed historian James Boyce explores how this centuries-old concept has shaped the Western view of human nature right up to the present. … religious ideas of morality still very much underpin our modern secular society, regardless of our often being unaware of their origins. If today the specific doctrine has all but disappeared (even from churches), what remains is the distinctive discontent of Western people–the feelings of guilt and inadequacy associated not with doing wrong, but with being wrong.” (Syndetics summary)