But first a P.S.:
On my Sept. 4 blog entry, I talked about an upcoming visit to this area by Dr. Jack Rogers, author of a great book on Christianity and homosexuality. But I failed to list one of the events where you can see him. He'll speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 11100 College Boulevard, in Overland Park, Kan. For other opportunities to hear him, go back to the 9-4 blog.
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And another P.S.:
The Rev. Forrest Church, whom I mention below as author of a new book called So Help Me God, will speak this Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. at Community Christian Church in Kansas City. That's at 47th and Main. He's well worth hearing.
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ANALYZING RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
And speaking of books, as I will be below, click here for a Wall Street Journal review of The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West by Mark Lilla. I haven't read the book yet, but it's on my list.
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RELIGION IN A COURT
The trial of the leader of a polygamist group is offering insights into this brand of fundamtalism. For a tral uodate, click here.
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TIME AGAIN FOR SOME NEW BOOKS
So I'll do that again this weekend. But first a word about such books. They're coming off the presses at the rate of about a million a day, it seems. Well, maybe that's not quite right. Maybe it's two million. It's a lot. I know that. And it's impossible to keep up.
So you have to pick and choose. Which is why I don't want you to imagine that I've managed to look at, read, skim or even know about every possible new book with some kind of religious theme. But here are some that might interest you:
First, three books related to Islam:
* Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy, by Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg. Filled with telling political cartoons, this book is a valuable resource not only for understanding Islam but also for getting help in countering ill-informed people who see it as a wicked religion. It offers solid information and analysis to combat ignorance and fear.
* A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent is Vital to Islam and America, by Anouar Majid. Well, heresy might be overstating it a bit, because what the author recommends is creative thinking to reverse the decline in both Islam and the United States. This is a careful look at the violence and mindlessness that plague both, with some insights into what's needed to reverse things.
* Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road, by Paul-Gordon Chandler. The author, an Episcopal priest, proposes using Islam's reverance for Jesus as a way of creating bridges between Christians and Muslims. He notes that since 9/11 some Christians have demonized Islam and viewed it as an enemy to be conquered. Chandler offers a saner alternative.
Next, two books that explore the religious roots of the United States:
* So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State, by Forrest Church. This wise pastor and historian (check Amazon.com for his other books) takes us back to the foundational church-state battle over whether America would be "under God" or would be a nation of free people able to choose their own religious commitments. It's a complex, fascinating story, and Church gives it the 400-plus pages it deserves.
* The Spiritual Journey of George Washington, by Janice T. Connell. Yes, Washington was a great general and an astute politician, among his other attributes. But he also was a man of deep faith, and that's what Connell shows us.
Next, a few with Jewish themes:
* Reading the Torah Out Loud: A Journey of Lament and Hope, by Marc H. Ellis. The author searches his Jewish roots for an authentic way to be religious today, and finds that requires all of us -- of whatever religion -- to discover and use our prophetic voices. It includes a good section on Jewish-Christian relations today.
* To Save a Life: Stories of Holocaust Rescue, by Ellen Land-Weber. Another good book with a religious component from the University of Illinois Press. This book is in the same arena as one I'm working on, though it takes a different approach. For information about my book project, click on the "Check this out" link on the right side of this page.
* Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family's Correspondence from Poland, edited by Christopher R. Browning, Richard S. Hollander and Nechama Tech. This fascinating book includes many letters written to author Hollander's father, which he discovered after his parents had died. They tell of that father's mother and his sister's Jewish families in Krakow in the midst of Nazi occupation of Poland. The letters were a rare find and add to what we know of the Shoah.
* The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Against the common perception that Christianity quickly split from Judaism and the two remained forever separate, this collection of essays suggests a far more complex reality. In the process, it offers some places to stand on common ground today so Christians and Jews might live in more harmony than they have historically.
Next a whole mix of books on various subjects:
* America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, by Robert Wuthnow. Anything by Wuthnow, a religious scholar at Princeton University, is worth a read. He argues here that issues of religious diversity in the U.S. are just as important as issues about other matters of diversity, such as race. And he helps us see where we are as a nation with this important matter.
* Rome and Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity, by Mary Reath. Since the Western church split apart in the 16th Century, there have been countless efforts to re-establish its unity. None, of course, has worked fully, but the dream persists. And Reath gives a readable account of the efforts and some hope for the future, with special emphasis on the Vatican and the worldwide Anglican communion.
* The Gospel Side of Elvis, by Joe Moscheo. Thirty years after Elvis Presley's death, the author explores The King's love of Gospel music. He doesn't try to present Elvis as a saint (who would buy that?) but as an authentic struggler who knew the religious music he loved.
* A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion, by Daniel A. Dombrowski and Robert J. Deltete. The serious debate about abortion in this country would proceed less divisively if everyone took the calm, thoughtful approach these University of Seattle professors take.
* Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope, by Brian D. McLaren. The author, a prime leader in the "emergent church" movement, suggests that a religion offering the good news of Christianity should make the world a lot better than it's been able to so far. He's got some suggestions for how to accomplish that. And when you've finished reading it, you can follow up at this Web site: http://www.everythingmustchange.com.
* Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America's Largest Churches, by Scott Thumma and Dave Travis. If you have prejudices or unexamined assumptions about megachurches in this country, this book should help you understand the reality of the phenomenon.
* Religious Charter Schools: Legalities and Practicalities, by Lawrence D. Weinberg. Already various disputes about public charter schools with religious themes have broken out in various places in the country. This book will help administrators, teachers, parents and students understand the constitutional limits.
* Another World: A Retreat in the Ozarks, by C. William Claassen. Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Ava, Mo., is the subject of this reflective work about the attractions and struggles of monastic life.
* The Self-Realization Fellowship has released two new books drawn from previous works by the late Paramahansa Yogananda (pictured here). The first, The Yoga of Jesus, draws from his work on Christ, while The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita is a compilation of his thoughts in his commentary called God Talks With Arjuna. Any follower of this path who hasn't read the works from which these are drawn will especially benefit from these two.
* Heaven Is Real, by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey. The author of 90 Minutes in Heaven, describes not only how he died in a car wreck in 1989 (which he wrote about in previous books) and went to heaven for an hour and a half but also how he now is working on aiming toward heaven again as a final and joyful destination.
* The Gospel of Cesar Chavez: My Faith in Action, edited by Mario T. Garcia. This volume explores the spirituality of a fascinating labor organizer and social activist. The author is professor of history and Chicano studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara and knew Chavez personally.
* The God of Nature: Incarnation and Contemporary Science, by Christopher C. Knight. This is a thoughtful and careful Christian exploration of how God acts in the world of nature. It's another quality offering from Fortress Press.
* What Is Secular Humanism? by Paul Kurtz. This is a thin, large-print, well-illustrated primer by an emeritus philosophy professor. Worth having on your reference shelf.
* Secularism and Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives, edited by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar. Once you've read the previous book on this topic by Kurtz, this one will help fill in some blanks and offer some academic perspective.
* When Did Jesus Become Republican?: Strategies for a Post-Bush America, by Mark Ellingsen. The author is a good historian of Christianity. In this volume, he asserts that Jesus has been, in effect, kidnapped by political and theological conservatives to serve their own ideological ends and to help the rich and powerful profit.
Today's religious holiday: Ganesa Chaturthi (Hinduism; 15th)
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend is about why faith communities celebrate their histories.)