Re-finding Our God and Our Religious Heritage – Faith for the 21st Century with book reviews and implications for interchurch families and Ecumenists

Pages 30 –  35 …….   Re-finding Our God and Our Religious Heritage – Faith for the 21st Century with  book reviews and implications for interchurch families

July, August and September 2013                         Volume 24; Edition 3

The ARK, A Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families

International Standard Serial Number:   ISSN 1943-6467 (print)

                                                                    ISSN 2160-682X  (online)


IMG_3207_2 Japanese Bridge cropped to HD

Re-finding Our God and Our Religious Heritage – Faith for the 21st Century

Some theologians, along with ordinary people, have reflected over and considered in effect the question posed on the pages immediately proceeding this page. By asking “What if our children (and here the term “children” is referring to all of our children, not  only those who have been brought up in an interchurch family) don’t want to be part of our religious heritage?“

This is a question for all Americans because statistics found in a recent Pew Report indicate a drop in church membership in “Mainline Churches” as well as in the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.A.  Asking why and endeavoring to find out the causes for this change is important at this juncture in our American history. ~ M.J. Glauber


Books recently published:

*  From Each Brave Eye: Reflections on the Arts, Ministry, and Holy Imagination  was published on January 28, 2013 in Kindle Format.

The publishers created the following book description:  “All too often, the metaphors and methods that we apply to the work of the church are those of bureaucracy and business—Robert’s Rules and sales pitches for salvation. Yet many who take the church seriously, ordained ministers and laity alike, yearn for something more.”

“They seek to carve out in their ministries a space for beauty. From Each Brave Eye is a collection of essays by men and women committed to the work of the church and to exploring the intersection between theological reflection and artistic expression.”

“These essays grow out of a common conviction that the human imagination can be sanctified, and that creative engagement with a variety of artists—from Wendell Berry and Richard Russo, to Five Iron Frenzy and Tim Burton—can provide nourishment and life to the contemporary church.” This is a book description for “From Each Brave Eye: Reflections on the Arts, Ministry, and Holy Imagination”

Entries used to create this book include articles written by:

Michael Sares (with Dave Meserve) on Greek Orthodox icons and holy imagination.

Timothy W. Ross on Wendell Berry and the least of these.

Debra Dean Murphy on poetry and the theological task.

Derek L. Penwell on The Empire Grill and community building.

Erik W. Dailey on Five Iron Frenzy and faithful living in a broken world.

Meredith A. Holladay on the Indigo Girls and social justice.

Tom M. Trinidad on Big Fish and our Christian stories.

Todd Edmondson on contemporary film and John Howard Yoder.

Katie Mulligan on salsa dancing and welcoming with discomfort.

*  Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power-And How They Can Be Restored  by Marcus Borg

was published on April 12, 2011 in Kindle Format. The publishers created the following book description:

Reviewers say the following about Borg’s book:                                                                           “This book could start a revolution. Borg cracks open the encrusted words of faith and pops them into fresh language that people can understand and trust. The last time this happened, we got the Reformation.” —Anne Sutherland Howard, executive director of The Beatitudes Society

In a revolutionary argument vital to every person of faith in the English-speaking world, acclaimed Bible scholar Marcus Borg—author of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time—argues that the very language Christians use has become dangerously distilled, distorted, and disconnected from the beliefs which once underpinned it.

Stating a case that will resonate with readers of N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian, Borg calls for a radical change to the language we use to invoke our beliefs—the only remedy that will allow the Church’s words to once again ring with truth, power, and hope.

The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus by John Dominic Crossan

was first published on March 6, 2012 in Kindle Format. The publishers created the following book description:

“In 1969, I was teaching at two seminaries in the Chicago area. One of my courses was on the parables by Jesus and the other was on the resurrection stories about Jesus. I had observed that the parabolic stories by Jesus seemed remarkably similar to the resurrection stories about Jesus. Were the latter intended as parables just as much as the former? Had we been reading parable, presuming history, and misunderstanding both?
~ from The Power of Parable

 “So begins the quest of renowned Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan as he unlocks the true meanings and purposes of parable in the Bible so that modern Christians can respond genuinely to Jesus’s call to fully participate in the kingdom of God. In The Power of Parable, Crossan examines Jesus’s parables and identifies what he calls the “challenge parable” as Jesus’s chosen teaching tool for gently urging his followers to probe, question,and debate the ideological absolutes of religious faith and the presuppositions of social, political,and economic traditions.”

“Moving from parables by Jesus to parables about Jesus, Crossan then presents the four gospels as “mega-parables.” By revealing how the gospels are not reflections of the actual biography of Jesus but rather (mis)-interpretations by the gospel writers themselves, Crossan reaffirms the power of parables to challenge and enable us to co-create with God a world of justice, love, and peace.”

Editorial Reviews for “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus” provided by the publishers indicate:

“A refreshing and stunningly insightful treatment of the gospels as parables. In this book John Dominic Crossan has solidified his reputation as the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation.” (John Shelby Spong, author of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World )

“John Dominic Crossan, who has given the world a series of insightful books on Jesus, has done it again. His innovative presentation… offers a brilliant new way of looking at parable and metaphor in the gospels and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies Chapman University )

“Moving from the parables of Israel’s Scriptures to the parables told by Jesus of Nazareth to the parables of his life recorded in the ancient Gospels, Crossan combines acute historical investigation with challenging theological observation. In so doing, he recovers the profundity, and the provocation, of the biblical tradition.” (Amy-Jill Levine, author of THE MEANING OF THE BIBLE )

“This book is like unto a virus, which a crafty leprechaun took, and infected our preferred operating systems with a Jesus O/S, that is incompatible with previous versions. Verily I say unto ye, Fortunate is the church if a little Crossan goes viral. It may leaveneth the whole lump.” (Rev. David Felten & Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, co-creators of the Living the Questions series )

“A remarkable and important book for Christians and for all who seek to understand the Bible better—Crossan combines his customary literary and historical brilliance with fresh insights that illuminate not only the parables of Jesus but much of the Bible as a whole.” (Marcus J. Borg, author of Speaking Christian )

“John Dominic Crossan has done it again. His innovative presentation of how Jesus told stories about God’s kingdom and how the gospel authors told stories about Jesus offers a brilliant new way of looking at parable and metaphor in the gospels and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies Chapman University )

“A fascinating book, written with Crossan’s usual lucidity but likely to disturb conservative Christians; a must for most academic and seminary libraries as well as many church groups and pastors.” (Library Journal )

“Crossan’s exceptional clarity and methodical presentation combine to make this one of the best, most enthralling Bible-study courses many readers will ever take.” (Booklist (starred review) )

“Offers valuable and accessible insights into the intentions of the evangelists and the revolutionary content of the gospels.” (Publishers Weekly )

 *  Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner      

                                           was published on January 31, 2012 in Kindle format.

“The publishers have provided the following book description: “Following up her highly acclaimed Girl Meets God, author Lauren F. Winner has written an engrossing reflection of literary grace and spiritual wisdom with Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.”

“As she lives through a failed marriage and the loss of her mother, Winner finds her Christian faith slipping away. Through reading religious works and tomes and being counseled by leaders of the church, she learns she must find the courage to trust in God in order to to find His presence.”

“Elegantly written and profound, Still offers reflections on how murky and gray the spiritual life can be while, at the same time, shows us how to see the light we do encounter more clearly.” This resonated with me.

Book reviewers have provided the following perspectives: 

In Girl Meets God (2002), Winner wrote about moving from Judaism to Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. Now, 10 years on, she has hit a rough patch. The death of her mother and a much-stewed-over divorce have thrown her into a spiritual crisis, and she no longer feels God near.

To miss the presence of God is not new. In the sixteenth century, St. John of the Cross called it “the long night of the soul,” and more recently, Mother Teresa’s letters recount the absence of Jesus for more than half her life. Within this framework, Winner seems, well, a bit of a whiner. Even her spiritual advisor tells her at one point that she might do less thinking and more serving church, God, and neighbor. Although she muses throughout, Winner never really makes clear to readers, or perhaps to herself, why she thinks this space has formed between her and God. That said, those musings, in short chapters, are elegantly written, and the author’s strong personality makes the book eminently readable, even when you want to tell her to snap out of it. –Ilene Cooper, Booklist

“Anyone committed to truly examining the shape of personal faith, unfolding over the years in a broken world, should sense a fruitful opportunity, if not a solemn obligation, to expound at length…[Winner] probes these depths as deftly and eloquently as anyone writing today… An instant spiritual classic.” (Christianity Today )

“In present-tense, lyrical essays . . . [Winner] explores her emotional landscape as she struggles to move beyond the depression that plagues her following her mother’s death and her own divorce. Examining feelings of grief, failure, and doubt . . . Winner brings poetic nuances to her exquisitely crafted prose.” (Publishers Weekly ( a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly) )

“Compulsively readable, direct yet never indiscreet, Winner’s book shows intelligence and verve as it seriously addresses the spiritual crises around God’s apparent absence or silence, as faced by many. A must-have for Winner’s readers and fans of Anne Lamott.” (Library Journal (starred review) )

“Titles to pick up now… Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis: insights on spiritual uncertainty from a devout Christian convert.” (O, the Oprah Magazine )

“Elegantly written . . . eminently  readable.” (Booklist )

“The book is made to pour over again and again. You’ll fill the pages with underlines, the margins with notes. Each short chapter is loaded with insights that don’t so much build on one another as weave a rich tapestry of possibilities in the midst of a spiritual desert.” (Relevant Magazine )

“[A] provocative memoir . . . an open, honest contemplation of a spiritual impasse.” (Kirkus Reviews )

“Winner writes thoughtfully and eloquently about finding herself in the middle and accepting her place there.” (Shelf Awareness )

“Still grasps for faith in a Middle space and discovers a stranger, bigger and more faithful God than we expected.” (Relevant Magazine )

“Soft and vulnerable, yet blunt and veracious . . . If you’re a lover of books like Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott or any other writers who are not afraid to unveil their imperfections in hopes of finding kindred spirits, then take this walk with Winner.” (Beliefnet )

“Winner possesses a flair for narrative and a willingness to use her life’s story as an easel. . . . Like Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies), or Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), Winner is at her best spinning small but hopeful meditations on life’s imperfections.” (The Washington Post )

“Lauren Winner’s brave, spare, and subtle book is a great gift to the church. She lifts up doubt and absence with enough honesty to reveal the unfinished edges, and the radiance, of faith itself.” (Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak )

“Winner grabs God’s hiddenness by the shoulders and will not let go. She knows the grace that can only be learned when we stand with Moses, staring into the raging waters, and hear a voice say, ‘The LORD will fight for you; you need only to stand still.” (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of The Wisdom of Stability )

“Still water reveals depth–as does this account of ordinary life and what lies beneath.” (Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God? )

“An unusually painful story, told with rare honesty by an unusually gifted writer.” (N.T. Wright, author of Simply Jesus )

“Not for the faint-hearted, Winner’s book not only undresses and confronts doubt, but imparts new courage to trust God through it.” (Worship Leader Magazine )

“Winner is one of those gifted teachers who slips in some wisdom along with the sweet stuff on the spoon. We take our medicine from the ancients, the Christian mystics and the scriptures while tasting the sweetness of her narrative.” (Christian Century )

“In an age when it is much easier to make fun of the church than to love it … Winner has made the church a main character so honestly drawn that we recognize it … treasure it and laugh in amazement that God can work with it. Still.” (Christian Century )

“Still is about losing the connection to God, or Jesus, and then getting that connection back.” (Washington Post )

“Despite deep pain and doubt, Winner relentlessly searches God’s mysteries, seeking peace and authenticity in her faith. Her spiritual memoir is unblinking, credible, and compelling.” (Christianity Today (Christianity Today 2013 Book Award, Spirituality) )


Implications for Interchurch Families and those who are seeking Christian Unity

These works may not necessarily reflect the views of all the members of AAIF, interchurch families, IFIN,  ecumenists, nor those who are seeking Christian Unity.

These books represent different viewpoints and thoughts about our spirituality and religiosity that are circulating in our American Society at this time. In this sense, it may serve us well to read and to seek to understand how many or how some people may view the world we find ourselves living in at this time.

Ark readers would like to hear what books you would suggest because these books may provide an insight into another viewpoint leading toward solutions for problems that otherwise may seem impossible to find.

It is a good thing to examine with the intent to seek out the best way to address the human and spiritual needs of our contemporary society. Even if we read viewpoints that completely disagree with what we may consider to be  a viable solution, it is in our best interest to try to understand how those people came to hold a viewpoint that may be far different from the one we may hold.

The ARK would like to hear what books you have found that address spirituality in the U.S.A. at this time, and what suggestions are offered.

    • Do you agree or disagree with what is being stated and with what is being proposed as a solution? 
    • Do you have books that you have read that surprised you by the insight they give into our contemporary society? 
    • Have the books you have found connected our ordinary lived experiences with our spiritual being? How was this achieved? 
    • What are the positive aspects being suggested as a solution?
    • What part of the suggestions being offered could be ‘tweaked a bit’ so that they could become useful for helping to create what our community may be seeking?
    • And, What is contemporary society seeking? Is it really so different from what has been sought in the past?
    • Some of the changes in church affiliation have been highlighted in the Pew research and statistics. What are we missing? And, Are we missing or overlooking something?Or,  Are the solutions simply eluding us? Where to from here? What other factors need to be considered?             

The time has come in America that we cannot keep doing what we have always done and expect new results.  What books exist that may provide new insight and hope and that are inclusive or universal because we are seeking Christian Unity. 

Ark readers would like to hear what books you would suggest because these books may provide an insight into another viewpoint leading toward solutions for problems that otherwise may seem impossible to find.  

                                                    ~ M.J. Glauber

IMG_2972 AAIF 2010 Conference


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s