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RECOMMENDED RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL/ETHICAL BOOKS

2006-JULY TO DECEMBER

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See also recommended books for the current month and previous months

Secrets of Mary Magdalene: The Untold Story of History's Most Misunderstood Woman,
Dan Burstein et al., editor.

Review / order "Secrets of Mary Magdalene" safely from the Amazon.com online book store

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About the "Secrets of Mary Magdalene:"

Book Description by Amazon:

"Continuing in the tradition of the New York Times best selling Secrets of the Code, the latest book from the team, Secrets of Mary Magdalene, brings together world class experts from different faiths, backgrounds, and perspectives, to discuss the most thought-provoking new ideas and original thinking about Mary Magdalene. All of the contributors to Secrets of Mary Magdalene are well-known and highly respected authors whose books have sold more than five million copies in total. Never before has such a wide range of fascinating ideas and new scholarship about Mary Magdalene been collected in one book that is so timely, popular and accessible."

Reviewer S. Crane provided a list of the amazing diversity of contributors to this book:

Elaine Pagels- professor of Religion at Princeton Univ, one of the foremost scholars on Gnostic literature, author of "The Gnostic Gospels" & National Book Critics Circle Award winner
Lesa Bellevie, founder of magdalene.org and author of "The Complete Idiots Guide to Mary Magdalene"
Bart D Ehrman, professor of Religious Studies at Univ of North Carolina, authority on history of early Christianity, author of "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code"
Susan Haskins, researcher and author of "Mary Magdalene: Myth and metaphor" and contributor to "Secrets of the Code"
Karen L King, professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, author of "The Gospel of Mary Magdala..." and more
Marvin Meyer, professor of Bible and Christian Studies at Chapman Univ, author of many books on Christian religions in antiquity
Margaret Starbird, writer on the concept of the Sacred Feminine and acknowledged influence on Dan Brown's novel

Diane Apostolos-Cappadonna, professor of religious art & history at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Centre for Muslim -Christian Understanding and prof at Georgetown Univ
Ann Graham Brock, lecturer, TV doco person, and author of "Mary Magdalene, the first Apostle..."
Bruce Chilton, professor of Religion at Bard Univ, author and editor of "J for the Study of the New Testament"
Mary-Rose D'Angelo, prof in theology at Univ of Notre Dame, coedited "Women and Christian origins"
Deirdre Good, prof of New Testament, General Theological Seminary, NY city and author
Katherine L Jansen ,prof of history at the Catholic University of America, writer on women, gender and religious culture
Philip Jenkins, prof of History & Religious Studies at Penn State Univ and author
Katherine Kurs, at New School Univ, interests include contemporary American spirituality
John Lash, eclectic scholar, founder of Metahistory.org and author
John Saul, contributed to research with Henry Lincoln at Rennes-le-Chateau in 1970s
Jane Schaberg, prof of Religious Studies at Univ of Detroit Mercy and Magdalene author
Merlin Stone, teacher of art history, organiser of Goddess Festivals

Jacobus de Voragine, Dominican italian monk in 1200s
Joan Acocella, staff writter for the New Yorker
Tori Amos, singer-songwriter and pianist
Elizabeth Bard, art historian based in Paris, contributed to Secrets of the Code
James Carrol, civil rights activist and playwright
Richard Covington, contributor to "Women of the Bible"
Maxine Hanks, writer and feminist theologian
Ki Longfellow, novelist
Kathleen McGowan, editor and writer on spirituality, metaphysics and alternative therapies
Jeremy Pine, antiquarian and archaeologist
Nancy Qualls-Corbett, Jungian analyst, author of "The sacred prostitute..."
Anna Quindlen, bestselling author, columnist & Pulitzer Prize winner

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Book data:

Editors: Can Burstein, Arne De Keijzer, Deirdre Good, Jennifer Doll
Title:
"Secrets of Mary Magdalene: The Untold Story of History's Most Misunderstood Woman"
Publisher: CDS Books
ISBN: 1593152051
Release date: 2006-AUG
Pages: 351
Amazon customers' rating: 4.5 out of 5!

Cost: List: U.S. $24.95. Amazon.com sells it for $17.71 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

"The Phoenix Affirmations: A new vision for the future of Christianity" by Eric Elnes

Read reviews or order "The Phoenix Affirmations" safely from the Amazon.com online book store.

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About the author:

Eric Elnes is a biblical scholar with a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is:

bulletSenior Pastor of Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ in Scottsdale, AZ.
bulletCo-President of CrossWalk America, an organization committed to resourcing, strengthening and celebrating the emerging progressive Christian faith.
bulletOn the faculty of the Center for Arts, Religion and Education in Berkeley, CA.

Dr. Elnes is also the:

bulletAuthor of "Igniting Worship: The Seven Deadly Sins," Abingdon, (2004).
bulletOriginal developer of “The World’s Most Dangerous Bible Study.
bulletAuthor of "Asphalt Jesus: Finding a New Christian Faith Along the Highways of America" to be published by Jossey-Bass, (2007-MAY).

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About the "The Phoenix Affirmations:"

Book Description by Amazon:

"The Phoenix Affirmations, named for the town in which the principles were created and the mythological bird adopted by ancient Christians as a symbol of resurrection, offers disillusioned and spiritually homeless Christians and others a sense of hope and a more tolerant, joyful, and compassionate message than those we often hear from the media and some Christian leaders. These twelve central affirmative principles of Christian faith are built on the three great loves that the Bible reveals: love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self. They reflect commitments to environmental stewardship, social justice, and artistic expression as well as openness to other faiths. Transcending theological and culture wars, inclusive and generous in spirit and practice, these principles ask believers and seekers alike to affirm their Christian faith in a fresh way."

Amazon.com customer Dianne Bodeen:

"Eric Elnes is just one of many Christians trying to change the discussion of Christianity and Christian values in American culture today. This small book, built around the 12 affirmations he and colleagues, friends, and co-religionists in Arizona have put together, is a fine summation of what many Christians today would like folks to understand should be the character of 21st century Christianity. It is a book whose ideas resonate with those in other faiths as well. It should be an invitation to those who have walked away from the church to reconsider their faith and return to work with others to make sure the church is tolerant, inclusive, compassionate, and is a church that takes faith, prayer, and the Bible seriously (if not literally in the last case). Each chapter covers an affirmation, treating it in most cases with an incident drawn from Elnes's pastoral experiences. It is an easy read. Give it your consideration."

Amazon.com customer Craig Radden Henderson:

"Dr. Elnes' learned, measured, and accessible prose charts the resilient strengths of a fear-LESS Christianity. The vision of the Phoenix Affirmations challenges both our internal and external capacities to love. It's a recipe for prayer and action. The affirmations speak about commitments to the natural world, inclusiveness, art in worship, church-state separation, science, leisure. There is also an unapologetic commitment to openness to other faiths and even to those with none; yet love of Christ resonates on every page. Read it, study it, share it."

Amazon.com customer Sharon Groves:

"This book was a surprising gem. In my work I read and review lots of books on faith and spirituality. This book moved me in ways that others don't. It is well written, generous, and spiritually uplifting on a number of topics that concern all of us--such as marriage equality and the environment. I ended up using it as a kind of devotional primer. I would read one chapter a week and journal about what it opened up for me spiritually. I cannot recommend it more strongly."

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Book data:

Author: Eric Elnes
Titles: "
The Phoenix Affirmations: A new vision for the future of Christianity"
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Jossey=-Bass
ISBN: 0787985783
Release date: 2006-APR
Pages: 176
Amazon customers' rating: 4.7 out of 5!

Cost: List: U.S. $12.95. Amazon.com sells it for $9.97 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

"The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and
"Letter to a Christian Nation," both by Sam Harris

Read reviews or order "End of Faith" or "Letter to a Christian Nation" safely from the Amazon.com online book store.

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About the author:

Sam Harris has a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and is now completing his doctorate in neuro-science. He lives in Southern California. The End of Faith is his first book. It was followed quickly with a small book: "Letter to a Christian Nation."

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About the "The End of Faith:"

bulletEd Dobeas of  Amazon.com: "Sam Harris cranks out blunt, hard-hitting chapters to make his case for why faith itself is the most dangerous element of modern life. And if the devil's in the details, then you'll find Satan waiting at the back of the book in the very substantial notes section where Harris saves his more esoteric discussions to avoid sidetracking the urgency of his message. "

"Interestingly, Harris is not just focused on debunking religious faith, though he makes his compelling arguments with verve and intellectual clarity. The End of Faith is also a bit of a philosophical Swiss Army knife. Once he has presented his arguments on why, in an age of Weapons of Mass Destruction, belief is now a hazard of great proportions, he focuses on proposing alternate approaches to the mysteries of life. Harris recognizes the truth of the human condition, that we fear death, and we often crave "something more" we cannot easily define, and which is not met by accumulating more material possessions. But by attempting to provide the cure for the ills it defines, the book bites off a bit more than it can comfortably chew in its modest page count (however the rich Bibliography provides more than enough background for an intrigued reader to follow up for months on any particular strand of the author' musings.)"

"Harris' heart is not as much in the latter chapters, though, but in presenting his main premise. Simply stated, any belief system that speaks with assurance about the hereafter has the potential to place far less value on the here and now. And thus the corollary -- when death is simply a door translating us from one existence to another, it loses its sting and finality. Harris pointedly asks us to consider that those who do not fear death for themselves, and who also revere ancient scriptures instructing them to mete it out generously to others, may soon have these weapons in their own hands. If thoughts along the same line haunt you, this is your book."

bulletNatalie Angier, The New York Times Book Review: "An important book, on a topic that…should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason."
bulletThe Economist: "Will strike a chord with anyone who has ever pondered the irrationality of religious faith and its cruel, murderous consequences."
bulletThe San Francisco Chronicle: "[Harris] writes with such verve and frequent insight that even skeptical readers will find it hard to put down."
bulletJoseph C. Hough, Jr., President, Union Theological Seminary: "Here is a ringing challenge to all Americans."
bulletPeter Singer, author of The President of Good and Evil: "At last we have a book that…links Islamic terrorism with the irrationality of all religious faith."
bulletAlan Dershowitz, author of America on Trial: "Harris's tour de force demonstrates how faith threatens our very existence…A must read for all rational people."

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Book data:

Author: Sam Harris
Titles:
"The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason"
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: W. W. Norton
ISBN: 0393327655
Release date: 2005-OCT
Pages: 224
Amazon customers' rating: 4 out of 5

Cost: List: U.S. $13.95. Amazon.com sells it for $8.37 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

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About the "Letter to a Christian Nation:"

This book was inspired by the thousands of Emails and letters Harris received from readers of his book "The End of Faith." He writes:

"The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse."

Book reviews:

bulletSir Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University, and author of The Road to Reality: "Sam Harris’s elegant little book is most refreshing and a wonderful source of ammunition for those who, like me, hold to no religious doctrine. Yet I have some sympathy also with those who might be worried by his uncompromising stance. Read it and form your own view, but do not ignore its message."
bulletMarc Hauser, Harvard College Professor, author of Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Sense of Right and Wrong: "Reading Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation was like sitting ring side, cheering the champion, yelling ‘Yes!’ at every jab. For those of us who feel depressed by this country’s ever increasing unification of church and state, and the ever decreasing support for the sciences that deliver knowledge and reduce ignorance, this little book is a welcome hit of adrenalin."
bulletAn anonymous best selling author: "I can’t sign my name to this blurb. As a New York Times best selling author of books about business, my career will evaporate if I endorse a book that challenges the deeply held superstitions and bigotry of the masses. That’s exactly why you should (no, you must) read this angry and honest book right away. As long as science and rational thought are under attack by the misguided yet pious majority, our nation is in jeopardy. I’m scared. You should be too. Please buy two, one for you and one for a friend you care about."
bulletLeonard Susskind, Felix Bloch Professor in theoretical physics, Stanford University, author of The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design: "It’s a shame that not everyone in this country will read Sam Harris’ marvelous little book Letter to a Christian Nation. They won’t but they should."

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Book data:

Author: Sam Harris
Titles:
"Letter to a Christian Nation"
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Alfred A, Knopf
ISBN: 0664229395
Release date: 2006-MAR-01
Pages: 176
Amazon customers' rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cost: List: U.S. $16.95. Amazon.com sells it for $10.17 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

"Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the myths; heal the church"
by Jack Rogers

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

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About the author:

Jack Rogers is Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and was moderator of the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is the author of Reading the Bible and the Confessions;  Claiming the Center:  Churches and Conflicting Worldviews; and Presbyterian Creeds.

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About the book:

According to Amazon.com:

"In a powerful new book, evangelical theologian and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Jack Rogers argues unequivocally for equal rights in the church and in society for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Throughout history, he observes, Christianity has moved towards ever greater openness and inclusiveness. Today's church is led by many of those who were once cast out: people of color, women, and divorced and remarried people. He argues that when we interpret the Bible through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry, we see that the church is called to grant equal rights to all people. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers' own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church's well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; debunks oft-repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians; and concludes with ideas for how the church can heal itself and move forward again. A fascinating combination of personal narrative, theology, and church history, this book is essential reading for all concerned with the future of the church and the health of the nation. "This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality," says J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. "Rogers book will be useful to people of ALL mainline denomination..." says the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. "For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find."

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Reviews by individuals on the Amazon.com web site:

bullet

S. Simmons: "In an age of hype, hyperbole and misinformation Jack gently guides the reader on his journey supported by extensive research and clearly footnoted sources. He is able to illuminate cultural biases and a history of using the bible to support oppression allowing the reader to feel enlightened. The review of the current divorce rates among all Americans particularly among religious fundamentalist, traditionally opposed to gay marriage on the grounds it weakens the institution and fabric of society among other biblical claims, was quite an eye opener. As a heterosexual who simply wishes to support all persons in finding love, comfort, welcome within our churches and our society I welcome Jack Rogers substantial contribution to the ongoing debate. Buy this book for someone you know. "

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Pamela Byers: "Jack Rogers takes a fresh look at what the Bible says and doesn't say about homosexual people and relationships, in this very readable and greatly needed book. With the clarity born of a lifetime of teaching and the passion born of a lifetime of bible study, he lays out the principles of Reformed biblical interpretation and then takes on each of the famous verses most often used to demean and exclude."

bullet

John Thornton gave the book a rating of one out of five stars -- probably because zero stars is not an option. He wrote: "Jesus clearly defined marriage as one man to one woman (see Mark 10:6-9). So Jesus himself declared that all homosexual sex acts are either fornication or adultery and therefore all homosexual sex acts are always sin. Jack Roger's arguments about orientation are just silly. Jesus spoke often about the attitude of the heart. "For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander." Matthew 15:18-19. That is a direct discussion about "orientation" yet it is really lacking in this text. A person either embraces sin and is defiled, or struggles against sin and lives righteously. None of us can save ourselves, but we are all lost when we call sin by any other name."

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Book data:

Author: Jack Rogers
Title: "Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality"
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN: 0664229395
Release date: 2006-MAR-01
Pages: 176
Cost: List: U.S. $17.95. Amazon.com sells it for $12.21 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

A free study guide by Freda Gardner and David Maxwell can be downloaded at: http://drjackrogers.typepad.com/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

"The future of Christianity"
by Arthur Bellinzoni

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

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About the author:

Arthur J. Bellinzoni of Aurora, NY is professor of religion emeritus at Wells College. He earlier wrote The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr, and is the editor of The Two Source Hypothesis and The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature Before Saint Irenaeus.

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About the book:

He suggests that a new Christianity must be created that is consistent with human reason, modern science, and modern concepts of human rights. Otherwise it will become irrelevant and obsolete. It will be doomed. He suggest that it must grow beyond the Bible and become a truly universal religion; it must reclaim control of the Christian agenda from extremists within the church; it must base itself on the teachings of Jesus, not upon the layers of myth surrounding his life.

A review on Amazon.com states:

Christianity has endured for two thousand years, weathering the challenges of clerical corruption, religious wars, internal schism, and scientific criticism. Today, however, there is increasing evidence that institutional Christianity is succumbing to the growing secularism of contemporary society. Both church attendance and the number of clergy have noticeably declined. Will Christianity survive for another thousand years, or even a hundred years?

In this probing assessment of the state of Christianity, biblical scholar Arthur J. Bellinzoni boldly asserts that Christianity must break with the past and offer a new vision of the future if it hopes to survive. Addressing four issues of central concern, Bellinzoni advocates a radical rethinking of the Christian message. First, he suggests that the God concept must move beyond obsolete notions of a personal God and take its inspiration from such diverse sources as science, Taoism, Moses, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Buber. Second, Bellinzoni urges a more sophisticated approach to the Bible, one that values its timeless elements but is not afraid to discard its many antiquated features. Third, he recommends a new emphasis on Jesus’ social ethic, arguing that this could lead to a dramatic redistribution of the world’s wealth and greater respect for the planet. Fourth, Bellinzoni criticizes the persistence of obsolete myth in Christianity, demonstrating that, without its mythical embellishments, Christianity still offers a relevant understanding of the meaning of human existence.

A work of erudition that is also completely accessible to the lay reader,   provides a stimulating critique that forward-thinking Christians will welcome.

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Some other reviews:

bulletR. Joseph Hoffmann, Chair, Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion; Professor of Religion, Wells College

"[T]houghtful and challenging book...must be taken seriously by all those who take the continued influence of Christianity for granted."

bulletTurhan Tirana:

"This book is amazing in its focus and the precision and clarity of its analysis. It may rock your belief system, especially if you tend to take Scripture literally but even if you accept it more metaphorically. You won't be able but to agree with the analysis of the author, a distinguished academic."

bulletSusan Thompson:

"Finally! a book for the layman that goes to the very heart of Christianity in raising fundamental questions about our outdated concept of a personal god, the role of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus and the status of ancient mythology in the Christian message. Bellinzoni, professor emeritus of religion at Wells College, says it is time for us to give up our first century world view, think and behave like children of the enlightenment and retrieve Christianity from Christian extremists."

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Book data:

Author: Arthur Bellinzoni
Title: "The future of Christianity"
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Prometheus Books
ISBN: 1591024064
Release date: 2006-MAY-02
Pages: 195
Cost: List: U.S. $25.00. Amazon.com sells it for 37% off at $15.75 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

"Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical's Lament"
by Randall Balmer

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

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About the author:

Randall Balmer is professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a visiting professor at Yale University Divinity School. He is currently editor at large for Christianity Today -- a post that may not survive publication of this book. He has published nine other books, including "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America." He identifies himself as an Evangelical Christian

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About the book:

According to Amazon.com:

"The distinguished author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory returns with a searing examination of a new generation of evangelical leaders who have hijacked the Christian faith on behalf of the Republican Party "

"For much of American history, evangelicalism was aligned with progressive political causes. Nineteenth-century evangelicals fought for the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, and public education. But contemporary conservative activists have defaulted on this majestic legacy, embracing instead an agenda virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party platform. Abortion, gay marriage, intelligent design--the Religious Right is fighting, and winning, some of the most important political battles of the twenty first century. How has evangelical Christianity become so entrenched in partisan politics? "

"Randall Balmer is both an evangelical Christian and a historian of American religion. Struggling to reconcile the contemporary state of evangelical faith in America with its proud tradition of progressivism, Balmer has headed to the frontlines of some of the most powerful and controversial organizations tied to the Religious Right. With a skillful combination of grassroots organization, ideological conviction, and media savvy, the leaders of the movement have mobilized millions of American evangelical Christians behind George W. Bush's hard-right political agenda."

"Deftly combining ethnographic research, theological reflections, and historical context, Balmer laments the trivialization of Christianity--and offers a rallying cry for liberal Christians to reclaim the noble traditions of their faith."

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Some other reviews:

bullet

Rick Warren: "The lessons and insights we need for tomorrow -- both encouraging and painful -- are found in yesterday. It's why effective leaders always study history, and its the reason I read Randall Balmer. You won't agree with everything, but you will learn and grow!"
 

bullet

Tony Campolo: "Randall Balmer knows Evangelicalism inside and out. He writes with the ambivalence of a jilted lover who still cares very much about the movement but who is broken-hearted due to its subversion by right wing politics. Thy Kingdom Come is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what happened to us."

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Book data:

Author: Randall Balmer
Title: "Thy Kingdom Come"
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Basic Books
ISBN: 0465005195
Release date: 2006-JUL-03
Pages: 242
Cost: List: U.S. $24.95. Amazon.com sells it for 37% off at $9.23 plus postage. You can ask Amazon .com for free but slower shipping on most orders of US $25.00 or more. Books are often available cheaper -- new or used -- from Amazon's marketplace.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

Amazon.com lists the following books on the topic of spirituality:

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Amazon.com lists the following books on the topic of religion:

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Copyright © 2006 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-APR-30
Latest update: 2007-JAN-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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