Speaking of the pope, as I do below, he strongly criticized the European Union on Saturday for excluding God and Christianity from any mention it the celebration of the 50th anniversary of its founding. I think if I were pope I'd have said something similar just to remind people that historical ignorance or purposeful historical distortion does no one any good. On the other hand, the record of how Christians have behaved in Europe over the centuries is, at times, a painful tale.
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POPE, GRAND SHEIK DON'T MEET
I was disappointed to learn that the man often considered the pope of Sunni Islam canceled or postponed a meeting on Thursday with Pope Benedict XVI. This is a conversation that needs to take place, and the sooner the better. In fact, the more often the better. So far it's unclear why the meeting was canceled. I was with a group of journalists who interviewed the grand sheik in Egypt in 2002 and, as I may have said here before, I find him inconsistent. He sometimes seems to say exactly the right thing but then will say things that sound, at least to western ears, as if he's defending suicide bombing.
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EVEN MORE BOOKS ABOUT RELIGIOUS MATTERS
In my column for this Saturday, I've listed some worthwhile new books about religion. But there's no way to list all the books that should and could be mentioned in that amount of space.
So I'm adding to the book list here on the blog this weekend.
* From Slave to Priest, by Carolina Hemesath. An intriguing biography of Augustine Tolton, the first place priest in the U.S. (He was baptized in Missouri.)
* Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment, by L. Shannon Jung, a professor at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. An intriguing volume in which Jung argues that we need to recover historic eating practices of the early church to keep us in touch with God and neighbor.
* Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith, by Henry H. Knight III and F. Douglas Powe Jr. These two St. Paul School of Theology teachers seek to redefine for this era what evangelism means in the tradition of John Wesley.
* A Long-Shadowed Grief: Suicide and Its Aftermath, by Harold Ivan Smith. This insightful Kansas City writer finds many ways to help those whose lives have been traumatized by the suicide of people they know and love.
* Tikkun Reader: Twentieth Anniversary, edited by Michael Lerner. This offers the best articles from Tikkun magazine, a source of progressive thinking.
* A Future History: Christianity for the Next Generation, by Glenn Thomas Carson. This small book by the president of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society will help other Disciples place their faith in a historical context.
* When Saints Sing the Blues, by Brenda Poinsett. This is a helpful discussion of depression and faith.
* Traveling through Grief, by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. DeVries. A useful little volume that can help people make sense of the pain of loss.
* Beyond Knowing, by Janis Amatuzio. The author is a forensic pathologist, or medical examiner, and tells stories about life and death from her wide range of experiences.
* The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History, by Michael Baigent. If you loved The Da Vinci Code, you'll love this, essentially an effort to show that almost everything Christians believe about Jesus is wrong. (Let me say again, that I don't always agree with the premises of some of the books I list here. Rather, I thin people should be aware of what's being published.)
* Will the Real You Please Stand Up? by Frank Harris. This former WNBA star and minister offers what she calls "spiritual strategies" from her own experience to help people live passionately and with purpose.
* Faith and the Historian: Catholic Perspectives, edited by Nick Salvatore. This is a collection of fine essays that grew out of a conference. This is serious -- but accessible -- writing.
* The God-Man: A Guide to Understanding the Godhead, by Robert Spearman. This is a Christian author's attempt to help people understand the Trinity more clearly.
* The Real Mary, by Scot McKnight. In this book an evangelical Christian seeks ways for others who fit that description to more fully embrace the mother of Jesus.
* Flawed Families of the Bible, by David and Diana Garland. There are no normal families, and the Bible is proof. This study of the imperfect people in biblical history shines light on how God's grace functions.
* Letters to a Young Evangelical, by Tony Campolo. One of the most arresting voices in Christianity today shares an intelligent and hopeful visison of the Christian faith.
* The Cave of Reconciliation: An Abrahamic Tale, by Pecki Sherman Witonsky. This is a fascinating little double book from the Jewish Publication Society. That is, held one way, it tells Jewish stories of Abraham and Isaac. Flip the book over, however, and it begins again as a book with tales of Ibrahim and Ismail in the Islamic tradition. It's an important book for interfaith discussions.
* The Last Week, by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan. This is an account of each day of the final week of Jesus' life, as told by scholars active in the Jesus Seminar.
* Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life, by Abbot Christopher Jamison. Growing out of a British TV series, this book seeks to help readers understand and adhere to the natural rhythms of life in ways that make more sense than the way most of us do life.
* Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way, by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. This is another in a good-size batch of recent books critical of the so-called Religious Right's political involvement. The author is the daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
* Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on Women in Genesis, by Marion Ann Taylor and Heather E. Weir. These two theological scholars have uncovered a large book full of biblical commentary by women.
* Evil and the Justice of God, by N.T. Wright. One of the most prolific Christian writers today offers helpful ways to think about the old question of theodicy, or why there is evil and suffering in the world. Wright is the bishop of Durham in England.
* God & Empire, by John Dominic Crossan. This is another in the recent surge of useful books examining the role of the Roman Empire in shaping the world Jesus came to address.
* The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings & Speeches, edited by John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne. This volume is full of the original speeches and other writings that help us understand the current pontiff.
* Buddha Is As Buddha Does, by Lama Surya Das. This long-time student of spiritual masters offers thoughts on 10 practices "for enlightened living."
* Short Trip to the Edge, by Scott Cairns. This is an account of a personal spiritual prayer pilgrimage to the Greek peninsual of Mt. Athos.
* Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul, by David L. Goetz. Life in the suburbs can, it turns out, suck life out of you. Here's help.
* Diaspora in the Countryside, by Royden Loewen. This is a fascinating study of two Mennonite communities experience fragmentation in their rural settings.
* Spirituality for the Skeptive: The Thoughtful Love of LIfe, by Robert C. Solomon. Here's a helpful volume by a man who confesses he's never understood spirituality or paid much attention to it.
* Treatise on Love of God, by Miguel de Unamuno, translated by Nelson R. Orringer. Unamuno, one of Spain's most prominent writers of the last 150 years, comes back to life in this new translation.
* The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, by David J. Hartline. The editor of CatholicReport.org argues that Catholicism is rising.
* The Divided States of America, by Richard Land. One of the best-known Southern Baptists in the country says both liberals and conservatives often don't understand the God-and-country issues.
* Real Life, Real Love, by Father Albert Cutie. The author offers the kind of advice that has made him something of a multimedia star.
* Get Out of that Pit: Straight Talk about God's Deliverance, by Beth Moore. Another advice book, this one from a woman who writes about her own experiences and her reliance on God to change things.
* The Vatican's Exorcists, by Tracy Wilkinson. This describes the growing demand for the services of Vatican-trainede exorcists.
* Jesus: The Unauthorized Version, edited by Mian Ridge. The world is full of texts that never made the Bible. This book uses some of them to offer a new vision of Jesus.
* To Fly Again, by Gracial Burnham, with Dean Merrill. This former Kansas Citian writes more about how she overcame her capture by terrorists in the Philippines and the death of her husband at their hands.
* Small is Still Beautiful, by Joseph Pearce. This book is an eloquent argument against materialism and all the wrong-headed values that go with it.
* Keeping the Faith, by Ana Mollinedo Mims. She offers guidance on how to put spiritual practices at the center of your career path.
* Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by C. William Pollard. This book offers the voice of an experienced CEO on questions more eternal than a company's bottom line.
* It's a Dog-Eat-Dog World and Cats Are Waiting Tables, by Martin Babb. A Tennessee pastor writes light essays about getting through this sometimes-odd world. The book is illustrated by Kansas City cartoonist Ron Wheeler.
* A Brilliant Mind, by Frank Minirth. This is a faith-based approach to using the brain God gave you.
* Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, by Chaplain William McCoy. The role of military chaplain is fraught with difficulty and danger. This book offers an insider's view as a way to appreciate the work chaplains do.
* How to Survive Your In-Laws, edited by Andrea Syrtash. This is sort of on the edge of faith-based books, but marriage in any religious tradition almost always requires a relationship with in-laws.
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