to read

As a reminder, books listed on a post titled "to read" are not books I have read but books whose listings I have come across and that sound interesting. Thus, they are "to read." These particular titles are from some upcoming reviews in PW.

Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians
Candace Chellew-Hodge. Jossey-Bass/Wiley, $17.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-470-27928-1

Chellew-Hodge, a former journalist, is a UCC pastor who runs the online magazine Whosoever. Her experiences as a gay Christian searching for how to live with integrity while contending with sometimes-hateful opposition inform this book. The "spiritual survival tips" that conclude each chapter serve not only as summaries but also as direct points of advice for GLBT persons coping with inevitable conflict. She also includes brief meditation exercises. Chellew-Hodge offers a realistic voice of experience filled nevertheless with compassion and love—not just for her intended audience, but also for their attackers. Although some may find her impulse to forgive premature, Chellew-Hodge does not naively excuse much less accept the abusive language and behavior of anti-gay Christians. This is not a book explaining relevant Bible passages and their interpretations, though Chellew-Hodge advocates biblical literacy beyond literalism. Instead, it is a confident, sensible approach to handling the opposition and self-doubt that can undermine a GLBT person's sense of worth and belonging as a Christian. (Oct.)

The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology
Thich Nhat Hanh. Parallax, $10.95 paper (110p) ISBN 978-1-8883-7588-6

Past the age of 80 now, the indefatigable Vietnamese Buddhist monk Nhat Hanh continues teaching. As peace flows from Buddhist teachings, so too does an environmental ethic rooted in awareness and interrelatedness. Nhat Hanh's engaged Buddhism, a Buddhist school that emphasizes social responsibility, takes on the task of preserving and protecting the earth. A special bodhisattva (enlightened being)—Dharanimdhara, the Earth Holder—will guide human efforts to guard and restore the natural world. No effort is too small; an "Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet" in an appendix lists nearly 60 easy behaviors to minimize ecological impact. The Zen monk's often poetic voice redeems what might otherwise seem repetitive writing or simplistic views; seeing with "the eye of the elephant queen" provides deep insight. A foreword by bestselling, environmental journalist Alan Weisman (The World Without Us) adds a fresh framework for understanding Nhat Hanh's Buddhist insights about interrelationships with the natural world. This is an urgent call from a revered spiritual teacher about the moral imperative to treat the earth with respectful awareness. (Oct.)

The Grand Inquisitor's Handbook: A History of Terror in the Name of God
Jonathan Kirsch. HarperOne, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-081699-5

Mention the Inquisition to any informed person and you're likely to garner a response somewhere between horror and disgust. Kirsch, a prolific writer and documenter of our past (A History of the End of the World; Gods Against the Gods), offers up an amazing recounting of the abuses of clergy and state in those terrible times. Clinical in its descriptions, the narrative's lively and crisp prose brings us right into the torture chamber, shining a much-needed light into the mindset of the church and its representatives. Alarmingly, the author insists that although the Inquisition is but a memory for us today, the inquisitional mindset is alive and well. Kirsch discovers many examples in more modern and familiar history: Hitler's Germany, Senator McCarthy's communist-hunting, the Salem witch trials and Roosevelt's placing Japanese-Americans in interment camps. All of these injustices, he says, find their root in the same sense of power and privilege. Kirsch's powerful and cautionary account is essential reading for historians and anyone who wants to understand the potential dark side of religion. (Oct.)

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why
Phyllis Tickle. Baker Books, $17.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8010-1313-3

North American Christianity is presently undergoing a change every bit as radical as the Protestant Reformation, possibly even as monumental as its natal break with Judaism. And it's right on schedule. Tickle, author of God-Talk in America and PW's founding religion editor, observes that Christianity is holding its semi-millennial rummage sale of ideas. With an elegance of argument and economy of description, Tickle escorts readers through the centuries of church history leading to this moment and persuasively charts the character of and possibilities for the emerging church. Don't let this book's brevity fool you. It is packed with keen insights about what this "great emergence" is, how it came to be, and where it may be headed. Tickle issues a clear call to acknowledge the inevitability of change, discern the church's new shape and participate responsibly in the transformation. Although Tickle's particular focus excludes the dynamic forces of Asian, African, and Central/South American Christianity, this is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the face and future of Christianity. (Oct.)

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