I am thinking you still have quite a bit of summer reading left ahead of you and that not all of it needs to be cheesy novels or your 10th re-reading of my own books. (You may stop at nine.)
I'll do brief reviews on just a couple of these and then mention a few more and give you links to where you can learn more about them.
* The Unity Factor: One Lord, One Church, One Mission, by John H. Armstrong. This small (less than 50 pages) book is a plea for the deeply divided Christian church universal to cooperate and move forward motivated by love above all else.
It is evangelical in origin but ecumenical and quite reasonable in tone. And, as I noted in this recent column for The National Catholic Reporter, the truth in Christianity is not a doctrine or a dogma but a person, Christ Jesus. And this book gets that.
"Christians," writes Armstrong, "have always realized that truth is found in a person, not in a philosophy." Well, some Christians have realized that, anyway.
I also like his conclusion that people must be shown how the love Christianity promotes can change their lives. They can't simply be argued into the faith:
"Arguments designed to answer skeptical questions or emotional reactions aimed at the postmodern rejection of the biblical narrative will not fundamentally change anyone," he writes.
In his argument in favor of Christian unity (not bland uniformity), Armstrong sees more hope than I do, noting that "there is growing evidence that many Christians are deeply concerned about our disunity, and a growing number of them are beginning to get a vision of unity in mission."
I hope he's right, but so far I'm mostly disappointed in efforts to create more unity in Christianity.
* Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century, by Bill Donohue. I confess first that I rarely agree with Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, about much of anything.
Some of this is personal. My dislike of his overwhelmingly aggressive approach to almost any topic was deepened some years ago when he inaccurately criticized me. It became something of a national Catholic story when, after I had accepted an invitation to be the graduation speaker at a Catholic college in Kansas, I then was disinvited because my employer, The Kansas City Star, ran an excellent series of articles (which I did not write or edit) on AIDS in the Catholic priesthood. I don't recall now exactly how Donohue was wrong in nearly everything he said about that incident, but I was left wondering how someone in his position could be so misinformed.
So I naturally picked up this book with an acknowledged bias against its author, in addition to wondering why anyone would think that Catholicism doesn't matter, given that Catholics number well over 1 billion of the world's population and have been a powerful (and mostly good) influence on the world for centuries.
Well, the title is a bit misleading. Donohue uses his space not to knock down a straw man contending that Catholicism doesn't matter but, instead, to argue that the so-called "Cardinal Virtues" of justice, temperance, fortitude and truth that Catholicism promotes are exactly what the wounded world needs today. As, indeed, it does, along with mercy, compassion, understanding and love.
But in making his case, it's hard for Donohue to break away from his habit of being an ill-tempered protagonist (imagine a Catholic Rush Limbaugh on a vitriolic roll). A small for instance: Late in the book he writes about the late French philospher and historian, Michel Foucault, known especially for his writings on human sexuality, knowledge and power. Here is some of what Donohue says:
"He was a man so narcissistically driven, so full of himself, so expressly defiant of nature and the natural law that he died thinking that the AIDS he had worked so hard to acquire was merely a social construct. He may have been an inspiring writer, but he had about as much common sense as a man suffering from dementia. More important, what he inspired was moral and physical death."
Beyond that, Donohue says, his writings were "poisonous."
Well, you get the idea.
Donohue's book is (no suprise) Catholic apologetics, a good thing, but at its snottiest, not such a good thing.
Beyond all that, the book lacks an index. What were his publishers thinking?
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And now for mention of a few more that might tempty you:
* HOSOI: My life as a Skateboarder Junkie Inmate Pastor, by Christian Hosoi. This autobiography tells the story of a 1980s skateboarding king who fell from grace with drug additiction and about the woman who guided him toward a new life as a Christian.
* The Way to Love: Meditations for Life and Rediscovering Life: Awaken to Reality, both by the late Anthony de Mello. These first is based on a retreat he gave in 1984, while the second is a reissue of a previously published work by this author, a Jesuit priest who directed a pastoral counseling institute in India.
* Flying in the Face of Tradition: Listening to the Lived Experience of the Faithful, by Louis DeThomasis. In contrast to Bill Donohue's new book (see above), this is a Catholic's gentle plea to the church he loves to fix what ails it and move into the future with hope.
* 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness, by Joe Patrocki. The author, a Catholic consultant on faith formation, provides some help for those who are feeling spiritually dead in the water.
Finally two novels, though I rarely mention fiction:
* The Search, by Shelley Shepard Gray. This book two of "The Secrets of Crittenden County" series about Amish life.
* The Mirrored World, by Debra Dean. This is a fictionalized version of the intriguing life of St. Xenia of Russia. (This book has a late August release date, but you can pre-order now at the Amazon link I've given you on its title.)
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PRO-LIFE? YEAH, THAT WOULD BE THE ACA
Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional continues to pour in and bubble up. I'll have more to say about this here Monday, but I was intrigued by what a Catholic nun had to say here: "This law is pro-life and we must do everything possible to preserve and expand its reach."