Summer Reading to Reset Christianity

Instead of complaining about “them” I suggest we learn from these great thinkers and historians, perhaps to change and grow personally and in community. I am reading some of these, will try to read the rest. Nearly all beg for group discussion. Thanks to everyone who suggested reading material, listed in alphabetical order by title.

I am co-moderating a discussion forum on Christ of the Celts, I will be joining one and perhaps providing an online course for a third one of these. I did not link to places to purchase any of these, because this is not an ad. Some of them can be read for free online. Electronic versions are not expensive or are free. Contact me with other suggestions, for help with obtaining a book to read, or to discuss these ideas. – Mike

Christ of the Celts – J. Philip Newell

“I explore the Celtic image of Christ as the Memory of what we have forgotten. He remembers the dance of the universe and the harmony that is deep within all things. He is the Memory also of who we are.”
–from the Prelude

“Diagnosing the human soul with a longing for peace in the face of fear and fragmentation nurtured by global political forces and fundamentalisms, Newell offers the ancient traditions of Celtic Christianity as a way forward in healing humankind and the earth.”
–Publishers Weekly

“This graceful, wise, and important book is a superb introduction to the treasures of Celtic Christianity for our time.”
–Marcus Borg, author, The Heart of Christianity

Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God – Jack Miles

Five years after his everywhere–acclaimed, brilliantly successful, Pulitzer Prize–winning book about God as portrayed in the Old Testament—God: A Biography—Jack Miles gives us his striking consideration of Christ.

He presents Christ as a hero of literature based only in part on the historical Jesus, asking us to take the idea of Christ as God Incarnate not as a dogma of religion but as the premise of a work of art, the New Testament.

As this story begins, God has not kept his promise to end the five-hundred-year-long oppression of the Children of Israel and return them to greatness.

Under Rome, their latest oppressor, the Jews face a holocaust. This is God’s supreme crisis.

Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes – Tamim Ansary

In Destiny Disrupted, Tamim Ansary tells the rich story of world history as the Islamic world saw it, from the time of Mohammed to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and beyond. He clarifies why our civilizations grew up oblivious to each other, what happened when they intersected, and how the Islamic world was affected by its slow recognition that Europe—a place it long perceived as primitive and disorganized—had somehow hijacked destiny. – Book Jacket

A must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the Islamic world. But the book is more than just a litany of past events. It is also an indispensable guide to understanding the political debates and conflicts of today –
San Francisco Chronicle

Everything Belongs – Fr. Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr, A Franciscan monk who writes and teaches in the field of Christian spirituality and men’s ministry, has made a real contribution with his work, Everything Belongs. The primary thesis of the book is that the “egoic-operating system,” which is simply a reference to a person who operates chiefly out of the personal ego, must be dealt with in order to be transformed by God. We cannot be highly transformed people without dealing with our egocentrism.
– Tim Suttle

Fr. Richard Rohr challenges us all to stop and reflect and to be in tune with the Divine. Too often in our world we are overly busy. We do not take the time to stop and reflect, or when we do, it’s not for very long. Richard Rohr not only delves into why this is important, but shows how this is not only a mandate for Christians, but for all people, whatever their religion. He approaches contemplation from an ecumenical and an interfaith perspective.
– Timothy McPherson

God: A Biography – Jack Miles

The book recounts the tale of existence of the Judeo-Christian deity as the protagonist of the Hebrew Tanakh or Christian Bible Old Testament. The Tanakh and the Old Testament contain the same books, however, the order of the books is different. Miles uses the ordering found in the Tanakh to provide the narrative on which his analysis is based. The book’s central structure is that God’s character develops progressively within the narrative. The accounts of God’s actions in the various books are then used to deduce information about God’s nature and motivation. The book won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
– Wikipedia

This is a book with which I thoroughly disagreed, and thoroughly enjoyed. On the one hand, Miles is a vivid interpreter and helps you to really appreciate the Old Testament (or Tanakh… On the other hand, he pushes his thesis (narrative?) of “God in tension” to the breaking point.
– Zach Waldis

God: An Autobiography, as told to a philosopher – Jerry L. Martin

Although there is a bit of my personal story here, the substance is God’s story, as I received it in prayer. Even the title, God: An Autobiography, was given to me in prayer. I added the subtitle, As Told to a Philosopher. What I was told ranged far beyond anything I ever would have imagined on my own.

I do not feel like a prophet, and am certainly not a saint, so one day I asked God what my role was. The answer: to be “a serious reporter of what you are told when you pray.” That is what I have done here. – Jerry L. Martin

“This work has the potential to be the most influential book in our time. It exudes spiritual authenticity as it is well-grounded in human experience. It advances a way to embrace spirituality in oneself. As your own experience, the work is anchored in our time, our experience.”
– Celeste Colgan, Ph.D. (English), former Deputy Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities

Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution – Diana Butler Bass

“With her usual blend of plain-talking and sharp insight, Diana Butler Bass brings into focus the usually fuzzy realm of the spiritual but not religious, providing a much-needed guidebook for… the often-perplexing but growing turn away from organized religion.” – Religious Newswriters Association

“I’ve been grateful for Bass’s sharp mind, but upon finishing Grounded, I found myself in love with her mystical heart and gorgeous storytelling. We need to believe that God is with us, in dirt and water and suffering and homes and neighborhoods. God is definitely in this book.”
– Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior

The headlines are clear: religion is on the decline in America as many people leave behind traditional religious practices. Diana Butler Bass believes that what appears to be a decline actually signals a major transformation in how people understand and experience God.

Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally – Marcus Borg

“Marcus J. Borg, author of the best-selling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, has a knack for clarifying difficult theological issues and writing in a pensive style that is extremely accessible to Christian laity and seekers of all stripes. Almost single-handedly, he has opened up new avenues of thought for lapsed or non believers interested in re-visioning the Christianity of their childhood.”

We salute Borg’s courage and creativity in taking on the “single greatest issue dividing Christians in North America today . . . Separating the two groups are two very different ways of seeing three foundational questions about the Bible: questions about its origin, its authority, and its interpretation.”
– Mary Ann Brussat


The Evolution of God – Robert Wright

‘In his brilliant new book, “The Evolution of God,” Robert Wright tells the story of how God grew up. He starts with the deities of hunter-­gatherer tribes, moves to those of chiefdoms and nations, then on to the polytheism of the early Israelites and the monotheism that followed, and then to the New Testament and the Koran, before finishing off with the modern multinational Gods of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Wright’s tone is reasoned and careful, even hesitant, throughout, and it is nice to read about issues like the morality of Christ and the meaning of jihad without getting the feeling that you are being shouted at. His views, though, are provocative and controversial. There is something here to annoy almost everyone.’ – Paul Bloom



The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart – Peter J. Gomes

Many years ago when I began my service as minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church, an anonymous benefactor offered to present as many Bibles as were needed to fill the pews. No particular translation was specified, and no objections were made to the Revised Standard Version. Before proceeding too far along the road of this benefaction I felt it wise to take the advice of some colleagues, and I found their reaction to be apprehensive, and in fact quite suspicious of the motivation behind the gift. “What does the benefactor want or expect?” I was asked, and warned that placing Bibles in the pews would create an invitation to steal them. Further, I was warned that “people will think that this is a fundamentalist church. If they see Bibles in the pews you will have an image problem.” My colleagues and counselors meant well, I knew, and wished only to protect the church from secular and religious zealots. These concerns notwithstanding, however, we accepted the gift, placed the Bibles in the pews, and, happily, over the years we have lost quite a few to theft.

UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality – Colby Martin

“Colby doesn’t play it safe. He dives right into the deep end—into the scary, wonderful, messy truth of a grace free for all.”
— Glennon Doyle Melton

Read Online

Still, it’s refreshing when a book like UnClobber comes along. I wasn’t particularly aware of the details of the so-called “Clobber Passages” — five or six verses or chapters in the Bible that are used mainly by conservative Christians to denounce homosexuality as a sin — but I knew the Bible had something to say about sexual orientations. To that end, UnClobber and its unpacking of those Bible passages was particularly illuminating for me. It told me what those passages were, and why they might not be saying what everyone thinks they might be saying.
– Zachary Houle



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