Beliefs Biographies Abound – June Recent Picks

This month’s selections include three windows into Pope Francis’ life and contribution, and two very different rites of passage away from fundamentalist family communities.

Syndetics book coverMama Maggie : the untold story of one woman’s mission to love the forgotten children of Egypt’s garbage slums, by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn.
This chronicles the story of the Maggie Gobran, “Mother Teresa of Egypt”, from privileged child to stylish businesswoman to college professor and now the figure in white who walks among Cairo’s notorious zabala, or garbage slums. Her work has seen multiple Nobel Prize nominations. “Smart and savvy, as tough as she is tender, Maggie Gobran is utterly surrendered to her mission to the “garbage people” who captured her heart. At her request, the book also spotlights the people she serves – the men, women, and children who prove every day what a little bit of help and a lot of love can do.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhere the dead pause, and the Japanese say goodbye : a journey, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett.
Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather’s bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly. Her journey towards consolation leads her into the radiation zone in a white hazmat suit; to Eiheiji, a school for Zen Buddhist monks; to a Crab Lady and Fuzzy-Headed Priest’s temple on Mount Doom; and into the “thick dark” of the subterranean labyrinth under Kiyomizu temple, among other twists and turns. … (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe great reformer : Francis and the making of a radical pope, by Austen Ivereigh.
At its heart, this book is as much about Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the remarkable man whose background and total commitment to the discernment of God’s will transformed him into Pope Francis, as it is about the intersection of faith and politics. This investigates Francis’ teenage years growing up in Buenos Aires and events during the Perón era that shaped his beliefs; his ongoing conflict and disillusionment with an authoritarian and militaristic government in the 1970s and priestly training gave him a unique understanding and advocacy for a “Church of the Poor”; through to present days. The library has also received The future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis, by Garry Wills, and Pope Francis : conversations with Jorge Bergoglio, by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti.

Syndetics book coverThe spiritual child : the new science on parenting for health and lifelong thriving, by Lisa Miller ; with Teresa Barker.
Psychologist Lisa Miller explains the evidence for a link between spirituality and health to explain that children who are developing a positive approach to spirituality are 60% less likely to be depressed as teenagers, and have significantly more positive indicators for thriving including an increased sense of purpose, and high levels of academic success. Miller then translates these research findings into practical advice for parents to encourage their children’s wellbeing in concrete ways.

Syndetics book coverCut me loose : sin and salvation after my ultra-Orthodox girlhood, by Leah Vincent.
This memoir tells of a young woman’s promiscuous and self-destructive spiral after being cast out of her ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbi’s family. At sixteen she was caught sending letters to a male friend, and her parents packed her up and put her on a plane out of New York. She spent the next few years using her sexuality as a way of attracting male approval and becoming increasingly unfaithful to the religious dogma of her past. This is the story of one woman’s harrowing struggle to define herself as an individual. (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGirl at the end of the world : my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future, by Elizabeth Esther.
What happens when a pastor holds unchecked sway over his followers? How can we leave behind the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God in the process? “I was raised in a homegrown, fundamentalist Christian group … I know hundreds of obscure nineteenth-century hymns by heart and have such razor sharp “modesty vision” that I can spot a miniskirt a mile away. Verily, verily I say unto thee, none of these highly specialized skills ever got me a job, but at least I’m all set for the end of the world. Selah.” This is a story of the impact of spiritual abuse on young psyche and the growing hope that God can still be good when His people fail. (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTurning the hearts of the children : early Māori leaders in the Mormon Church, edited by Selwyn Kātene.
This book discusses twelve influential men and women, who joined the Mormon Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and became leaders. Each chapter is written by direct descendants of these rangatira. What inspired so many Maori in the 1880s to question the mainstream churches and turn to the Mormon church? Unlike other missionaries, the Mormons did not reject traditional Maori socio-cultural mores, but shared reverence for family and genealogy, and guidance by visions and dreams.

Syndetics book coverThree journeys to Heaven : the true stories of my near death experiences, by Marilou Trask-Curtin.
Having died and returned to life several times, the author shares how her experiences have shaped her behaviour, goals, attitude, and life mission. Guardian angels, and healing miracles have also been part of her journey.

Syndetics book coverJesus on trial : a lawyer affirms the truth of the gospel, by David Limbaugh.
A former law professor relies on his lifetime of legal experience to examine the evidence within the gospels for the life and work of Jesus Christ. He reflects on his own spiritual and intellectual passage from determined sceptic to devout Christian. Limbaugh concludes that gospels stand up to examination e.g. internal consistency, together with historical and religious evidence beyond the gospels.

Syndetics book coverGod’s bankers : a history of money and power at the Vatican, by Gerald Posner.
After an investigation for nine years this book traces the political intrigue and inner workings of the Catholic Church, and its accumulation of wealth and links with financial markets across the world throughout the last 200 years. The vast cast includes Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, and even kings and prime ministers. This is the challenge of any church leader – how to overcome and rein in the obstructive financial excesses of its privileged headquarters far from the ‘leper’ on the street corner.