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Recommended religious/spiritual books

Past book selections: 2013-July to December


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Previous months' recommendations

The current month's recommended book

Tentatively scheduled selections for future months

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2013-July's selection

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Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, "Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?," Thomas Nelson, (2012).

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

Amazon.com's book description:

For all the Christians facing conflict between Jesus’ words and their own lives, for all the non-Christians who feel they rarely see Jesus’ commands reflected in the choices of his followers, Red Letter Revolution is a blueprint for a new kind of Christianity, one consciously centered on the words of Jesus, the Bible’s 'red letters.'

Framed as a captivating dialogue between Shane Claiborne, a progressive young evangelical, and Tony Campolo, a seasoned pastor and professor of sociology, Red Letter Revolution is a life-altering manifesto for skeptics and Christians alike. It is a call to a lifestyle that considers first and foremost Jesus’ explicit, liberating message of sacrificial love.

Shane and Tony candidly bring the words of Jesus to bear on contemporary issues of violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and twenty other critical topics for people of faith and conscience today. The resulting conversations reveal the striking truth that Christians guided unequivocally by the words of Jesus will frequently reach conclusions utterly contrary to those of mainstream evangelical Christianity.

If the Jesus who speaks to you through the Gospels is at odds with the Christian culture you know, if you have ever wanted to stand up and say, “I love Jesus, but that’s not me,” Red Letter Revolution will prove that you are not alone—you may have been a Red Letter Christian all along.

Reviews:

  • This book, by a young and an elderly Christian, will help you decide how we Christians could change the world if we took the ‘red letter’ words of Jesus literally and seriously.” —President Jimmy Carter

  • “In Red Letter Revolution the uncompromised truth of Jesus' teachings are given voice by two modern-day Christian leaders who do more than preach this Good News. They walk the talk and lead the way.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu

  • “I started reading this book and couldn't stop. . . . Thank you, Tony and Shane. Thank you for this book. May the movement spread around the world.” —Abuna Elias Chacour, Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Galilee

  • “Red Letter Revolution is an adrenaline-producing conversation with prophetic bite.” —Eugene H. Peterson, author of The Message Bible

  • “I cannot over-emphasize or exaggerate the richness of this book.” —Phyllis Tickle, author of Emergence Christianity

  • “In this courageous and well crafted book, we have a return to the core message of the Gospel from two Christians who first tried to live it themselves—and only then spoke." —Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation

  • “Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo are two of the most significant prophetic voices in the Christian world.” —Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine (tikkun.org)

  • “This is a must-read book for anyone who is seeking to take Jesus’ call on their lives seriously.” —Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine

  • “If you ever wished you could eavesdrop on a conversation with two of the world's most interesting and inspiring Christians, just turn to page one.” —Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker (brianmclaren.net)
Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, "Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?," Thomas Nelson, (2012). Available in Hardcover, Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook CD or Audible file. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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2013-August's selection

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Paul H. Jones, "The Church's Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within," Polebridge, (2012-NOV)

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

Available in paperback format for @22.50 plus shipping, or in Kindle format for $9.49

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Amazon.com's book description:

There is a strange silence in churches about biblical and theological scholarship. A huge knowledge gap exists between the pulpit and the pew. Consequently, many Christians cannot reconcile their belief system with modernity. Paul Jones explores seven secrets that jeopardize the nature and purpose of the church. These secrets, he asserts, must be exposed to restore the church to vigor and vitality.

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Chapters in the book:

  • Chapter 1 The Church’s First Deadly Secret There Is No Meaning without Context
  • Chapter 2 The Church’s Second Deadly Secret Faith Means Trust, Not Belief
  • Chapter 3 The Church’s Third Deadly Secret The Bible Is Not the Word of God; Jesus Is
  • Chapter 4 The Church's Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within
  • Chapter 5 The Church’s Fifth Deadly Secret Read the Bible Critically, Not Literally
  • Chapter 6 The Church’s Sixth Deadly Secret Jesus’ Miracles Are Prologue, Not Proof
  • Chapter 7 The Church’s Seventh Deadly Secret My Religion and God Are Violent

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Editorial reviews:

  • "Paul Jones is an excellent teacher, as this book makes clear. Readers will learn much that is important for the life of the church today." --Marcus Borg, author of The Heart of Christianity

  • "A poignant critique of caricatures of the gospel and church that operate both inside of the church and outside of it." --Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

  • "Offers thoughtful laypersons and pastors, as well as college students, a theological and historical context for engaging the basic doctrines, traditions and practices of the Christian church." --A. Guy Waldrop, Director for the Council of Colleges and Universities of the Christian Church

  • "A poignant critique of caricatures of the gospel and church that operate both inside of the church and outside of it." --Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

  • "Offers thoughtful laypersons and pastors, as well as college students, a theological and historical context for engaging the basic doctrines, traditions and practices of the Christian church." --A. Guy Waldrop, Director for the Council of Colleges and Universities of the Christian Church.

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2013-September's selection

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Phyllis Goldstein, "A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism" Facing History and Ourselves (2011)

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

Amazon.com's book description:

A Convenient Hatred chronicles a very particular hatred through powerful stories that allow readers to see themselves in the tarnished mirror of history. It raises important questions about the consequences of our assumptions and beliefs and the ways we, as individuals and as members of a society, make distinctions between "us" and "them," right and wrong, good and evil. These questions are both universal and particular.

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Amazon.com's Reviews:

Lawrence L. Langer, author of Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism:

"Many of the famous villains of literature were compelling orators, as was Hitler, using the power of speech to feed their frustrations and hatred into their audiences. So long as we have language, we will have its abusers on behalf of their pernicious programs, and the need to challenge them will remain. A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism will make both a valuable and timely contribution to our understanding of this subject."

Omer Bartov, John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Brown University:

"This book is a tour de force of one of the most intriguing and disturbing phenomena in history. Tracing the origins and evolution of antisemitism from antiquity to the present day, this book provides a well-informed, highly accessible, and admirably balanced account that should become a basic tool for educators and an essential textbook for students in all fields concerned with the humanities and social sciences."

Michael Berenbaum, American Jewish University in Los Angeles:

"Facing History has done a characteristically masterful job in exploring antisemitism from ancient times to its current manifestation in a clear and lucid way accessible to students and their parents and to all concerned about the all too enduring quality of what has been termed "the longest hatred."

Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University:

"This book delineates with clarity and intelligence the long history of discrimination, insult, and assault against Jews. It makes depressing reading unless you remember what Facing History and Ourselves always remembers: that understanding the past helps us see how we can contribute to making the world better."

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2013-October's selection

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Rex A.E. Hunt & John W.H.Smith, "Why Weren't We Told? A handbook on 'progressive' Christianity (2012). Published by Polebridge Press.

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

Polebridge Press' book description:

"Progressive Christianity is not new. It has been around for two hundred years or more. But the anger and disappointment of those who have encountered it only recently is palpable: 'Why weren't we told?' This international collection of cameos and articles on the themes and issues addressed by progressive Christianity is a response to that cry."

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Review by Rev.Michael Cocks, Editor of The Ground of Faith:

"This publication is designed as a resource book for "progressive" freethinking Christian congregations wishing to escape bondage to a literally interpreted Bible, and to foster a spirituality in touch with the world around us. It is to be "inclusive not exclusive, not just in the sense of gender, race or species but also in rejecting the fundamentalist mindset. It recognises that the `truth to live by' may be revealed in varying and multiple ways." (p.188)

Actual "progressive" congregations described are largely located in Australia and New Zealand, as are also the numerous contributing scholars. A good anthology of prayers and hymns is provided.

There is an interesting section on "reclaiming the heretics for progressive purposes", discussing Arius, Origen, Pelagius, Meister Eckardt and others.

The book is made up of almost one hundred contributions, with many authors, sure to stimulate much thought and creativity. People of varied philosophical persuasions will find much to value."

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2013-November's selection

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Joe Wenke, "You Got To Be Kidding: The Cultural Arsonist's Literal Reading of The Bible" (2012)

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Only $9.99 in paperback & $4.86 in Kindle format

Some editorial reviews:

  • Sarah Hulcy: "A wonderful, biting, incisive 'Cultural Arsonist's Literal Reading of The Bible' in plain English, with terrific descriptions of the Old Testament God and the New Testament God (somewhat different individuals...); very tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic and pointed, dedicated to Christopher Hitchens and Thomas Paine, both of whom would, I believe, really enjoy this book! I know I did.  Having a sense of humor is required to enjoy this book."

  • Bill Baker: "This is hilarious!  Joe Wenke gives a nod to Mark Twain as he looks at the Bible with fresh eyes and with the pen of thinking comic. I know there will be those who will get out their pitchforks and light their torches and see Joe Wenke out, but as for me - someone who went to a Quaker high school and had religion each year and was one course shy of having religion be part of a dual major as an undergraduate, Joe Wenke's YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING is refreshing and should be a part of any library, especially a church library.

  • Christopher Rudolph of The Advocate: "Born the oldest of 11 children in a strict Catholic household, comedian Joe Wenke, a self-proclaimed 'trisexual,' dissects the Bible and asks questions that many never thought or dared to ask. Example: If the Wise Men were so wise, why did they get lost? How big was Noah's Ark and who cleaned up after the animals? [It's a] radically funny book that examines how ludicrous parts of the Bible are when taken literally. Bonus, ...transgender model Gisele graces the cover."

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2013-December's selection

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Neil J. Kressel, "The Sons of Pigs and Apes: Muslim Antisemitism and the conspiracy of Silence"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $20.27 plus postage in paperback & $16.06 in Kindle format

Some editorial reviews:

  • "A lucid, compelling, and much-needed account of how the crucial issue of antisemitism in the Muslim world is currently being minimized, downplayed, obfuscated, and in many cases completely ignored in much of the Western world. This book should be required reading for decision makers, opinion molders, and not least ‘experts’ in academia, who have been particularly complicit in this policy of silence."—Robert S. Wistrich, director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and author of "A Lethal Obsession and From Ambivalence to Betrayal."

  • “All religions and cultures suffer from sources that preach hate against the ‘other.’ Throughout history some have, tragically, practiced what their sources preached, while some have sought to dismiss or even counteract the hateful words of their sources. In this book, Neil Kressel shows how extremists within Islam, many in leadership roles, have exploited some of their hateful sources to preach and practice a virulent form of antisemitism. Read this book and judge for yourself.”—Alan M. Dershowitz, author of "The Trials of Zion."

  • “While parts of this book make me uncomfortable, I must admit that it represents, rather sadly, what many of my coreligionists think.”—Khaleel Mohammed, Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies, San Diego State University.

  • “Kressel handles one of the hottest topics in the world carefully, calmly, and coolly. He explains the dangers of Muslim antisemitism while destroying the many excuses for it that are so often offered -- and shaming those in the Muslim world or in the West who downplay these modern forms of the oldest, and one of the bloodiest, hatreds in world history.”Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations.

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Want a Kindle?

Amazon.com has way over a million eBooks, newspapers, and magazines available for download into their Kindle eBook reader. They have apps that work on PCs, tablets, and many other devices. Not only is this more portable than lugging up to 3,500 books with you but you can save a lot of money, because eBook versions generally cost significantly less than print versions. Ebooks have a search function. You can highlight passages from books and store them in a text file for use by an editor program on a PC or Mac:

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-AUG-01
Latest update: 2013-DEC-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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