Richard Rodriguez is a Mexican-American writer from California who is also a gay Roman Catholic man. Rodriguez’ new book, Darling; A Spiritual Autobiography, Call Number 282.092 Rod 2013, covers such diverse topics as desert spirituality, the death of a friend from AIDS, the tour de France, Cesar Chavez, disappointment in San Francisco, modern journalism and the color brown. Rodriguez’ longest chapter is entitled “Darling,” where he attempts to explain his feelings about women, and Judeo-Christian positions on the nature of women. Rodriguez is a very good poetic writer, though he does ramble.
Mark Larrimore, The Book of Job : A Biography, Call Number 223.106 Lar 2013, links the story of Job to all the big issues of religion and morality. Larrimore begins with ancient Jewish limits on arguing with God as compared to early Christian notions of Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of mankind, which resolved the need for arguments with God. He covers medieval and early modern debates over the role of evil in the world and the modern debate over atheism and the question of God’s existence. He ends with the use of Job in philosophical reflections on twentieth century political disasters, such as the Holocaust. Along the way, Larrimore touches on the interpretation of the Book of Job through drama and visual art, poetry and prose, as well as the general effects of rationalism and historical criticism on the interpretation of Scripture. Although Larrimore can be difficult for the general reader to follow, he makes a convincing case that the story of Job introduces all the difficult questions of Western philosophy, as well as Jewish and Christian theology. Given Larrimore’s emphasis on visual depictions of Job’s story, it is unfortunate that Princeton University Press choose to print his book in a reduced size with inadequate reproductions of the author’s illustrations. Larrimore’s book deserves a better format.
Father Robert Clarke has donated two beautiful art books to the Library. Christopher de Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, Call Number 745.67 Deh 1994; and Kurt Weitzmann, The Icon : Holy Images - Sixth to Fourteenth Century, Call Number 704.948 Wei 1978, can be found in the collection of oversized art books on the counter by the northeast wall of the Library. Art books generally are for pursual in the Library and can not be checked out. However, special arrangements can be made for artists who wish to check out an art book for short-term use as an inspiration for their own artistic work. Similar arrangements are available to preachers.
Elisabeth Sifton & Fritz Stemm, No Ordinary Men
Elisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stem have written a new book about theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his lawyer brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, No ordinary men : Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, resisters against Hitler in Church and State, Call Number 943.086 Sif 2013. This short book is a family biography which portrays the inner conflict of both men over when the Christian church should involve itself in political affairs. Both men, members of privileged aristocratic families, started out considering themselves to be above and outside the Nazi problem in pre-World War II Germany. As Nazi politics took on a murderous face and the war began, both men could no longer reconcile their insider positions with their personal moral outrage against the Hitler regime. According to the authors, it was Dohnanyi who involved Bonhoeffer in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler which led to their imprisonment and deaths. On the Bonhoeffer side, the authors discuss the ecumenical Protestant church in Germany and how it was co-opted by the Nazis and replaced by an underground Confessing Church, which became a center of anti-Nazi resistance..Indirectly, the authors review the issue of whether a liberal, ecumenical form of Christianity can supply the moral guidance needed to deter a morally reprehensible political regime intent on genocide. And, if not, why not?
Marcus Borg, The Lost Gospel Q: The Original Sayings of Jesus
The Library has acquired The lost gospel Q : the original sayings of Jesus, consulting editor, Marcus Borg, editors Mark Powelson and Ray Riegert, Call Number 226.066 Los 1996. Unlike the other early gospels not included in the New Testament, the Q gospel is not an archeological document. The Q gospel is a reconstruction of the contents of a lost document, or documents, which scholars believe was available to the writers of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The editors have provided an English translation of their reconstructed text and a table of “Q parallels,” which are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The point of this exercise is to separate the “original” teachings attributed to Jesus from the later gospel accounts which include stories about his life and experiences. Readers of books describing the historical Jesus will be interested in the actual contents of the mysterious Q gospel referenced by modern historical Jesus scholars and theologians. Powelson and Riegert’s English reconstruction is also simple and accessible to ordinary parishioners who feel the power of Jesus’ teachings, but aren’t interested in becoming multi-lingual historians.
Peter L. Steinke, How Your Church Family Works
Peter L. Steinke’s, How your church family works : understanding congregations as emotional systems, Call Number 253 Ste 1993, was donated by Father Rob, who also recommends it. The reviewer was attracted to Steinke’s witty discussion of relationships between members of a church body and how to improve them. Although this is not a recent publication, it may have new relevance during the transition at St. Michael’s.
Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God
Elie Wiesel’s Messengers of God, Call Number 221.92 Wie 1976, translated from the French, is a retelling of the stories of the Old Testament patriarchs by a literary author drawing on the Jewish tradition. Wiesel’s portraits are compelling, but very different from the Christian version. So is Wiesel’s portrayal of God, who is a more approachable Being, subject to abrupt reversals of judgment and long philosophical arguments with the patriarchs themselves. Old Testament stories have become so encrusted with two thousand years of orthodox Christian interpretation that it is illuminating to hear the same characters described from a radically different point of view.
Jay Parini, Jesus: The Human Face of God
Jay Parini’s book, Jesus : The Human Face of God, Call Number 232.901 Par 2013, is an attempt to reassess the life of Jesus in the light of the Jesus Seminar and the scholarly movement which Parini refers to as “the Third Quest”for the historical Jesus. See, page 149. Parini incorporates the contemporary accounts which were not included in the Bible and the results of “scientific” historical reconstruction. However, Parini’s Jesus sounds very much like the traditional Jesus, as he is understood in standard Church teachings. For many readers, this may be reassuring. This book can be compared to Brian C. Taylor’s Becoming Human : Core Teachings of Jesus (2005). Read both books, and determine which speaks to you.
The Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear New Testament
For the serious New Testament reader, the Library now has a copy of The Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear New Testament, Call Number 225.48 Bib 2008.
Joshua Dubler, Down in the Chapel, Religious Life in an American Prison
In a more recent book, Down in the Chapel, Religious Life in an American Prison, Call Number 200.9748 Dub 2013, Joshua Dubler interviews black prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole or privileges in a Pennsylvania maximum security penitentiary, about their religion. The unspoken issue is whether religion and religious services have any meaning to men living under such hopeless conditions. For the most part, Professor Dubler lets the prisoners and their chaplains tell their own stories so the reader can draw his or her own conclusions. Around page 268-269, Dubler reminds the reader that Pennsylvania penitentiaries originated when 18th century Quakers substituted rehabilitation of law-breakers by forced confinement for the grisly physical punishments of the time. The idea was to nourish the soul rather than mortify the flesh. By pages 309-310, Dubler concludes that the 21st century abandonment of rehabilitation in favor of punishment and the warehousing of criminal defendants, has left religious activity in prisons with the more limited mission of providing tools for spiritual survival in the current climate of “mass incarceration.” Dubler is a student of comparative religion and the chapter entitled “Friday” also explores the history of Islam among modern black men and its tenuous relationship with Sunni Arab traditions. You may want to read this book before you review any reports from the New Mexico State Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform committee. See, front page, Albuquerque Journal, November 11, 2013.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Silence: A Christian History
Diarmaid MacCulloch is the English writer of a 1,161 page history of the Western Christian Church. In a shorter 358 page book, entitled Silence : A Christian History, call Number 248.47 Mac 2013, MacCulloch takes up the history of silence or mystical contemplation in the Western Church. He contrasts silent individual worship with noisy public forms of religious expression. Both forms have their place in the Christian tradition. He believes that the Protestant Reformation was a legitimate response to imperial church governance in the late Middle Ages, but when the Protestant churches broke up monasteries, they also destroyed the contemplative Christian tradition. MacCullough clearly supports the return of meditation and contemplation to the Christian church. However, he undercuts his own argument by a couple of nasty chapters condemning Christian silence in the face of moral crises, such as philandering theologians, child sexual abuse, anti-Semitism and American black slavery. If silence is a superior expression of religion, why did it condone and facilitate so many long standing moral wrongs?
Becky Garrison, Starting from Zero with $0
Becky Garrison, Starting from Zero with $0: Building Mission-shaped Ministries on a Shoestring, Call Number 254.1 Gar 2010, contains an interview with St. Michael’s Reverend Daniel Gutierrez, on multi-cultural ministry at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.
D. G. Hart, Calvinism: A History
D. G. Hart, Calvinism: A History, Call Number 284.209 har 2013, is a modern history of the Calvinist Christian tradition from Ulrich Zwingli’s Lenten sausage meal in 1522 to the twentieth century teachings of Karl Barth. At times, the scope of Hart’s detailed history becomes too much for a single, 300 page book. Among other things, Hart recounts how John Calvin’s vision of a church run by local municipal authorities was transformed into American “voluntaryism,” in which ordinary citizens determined their own church membership and assumed the duty of financial supporting their chosen assembly. We have become so accustomed to voluntary church membership and private financial support of churches that we forget that long after the Reformation, European churches continue to be tax supported organizations where membership is an accident of political citizenship, rather than individual choice. American churches really are governed differently and much of this difference is due to the followers of Calvinism.
Charles LaFond, Fearless Church Fundraising
Charles LaFond is a stewardship leader within the Episcopal Church. His most recent book is entitled, Fearless Church Fundraising, The Practical and Spiritual Approach to Stewardship, Call Number 254.8 Laf 2012. The author states that his book “attempts to provide a basic, no- frills, fool-proof path for raising an annual budget through pledges to a program or church.” See p. xvi. He argues that his combination of practical and spiritual considerations has been tested in “hundreds of churches,” both small rural congregations and large urban churches. St. Michael’s is somewhere in between these extremes, but LaFond’s book may well be worth considering.
Elesha J. Coffman, The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline
Elesha J. Coffman’s The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline, Call Number 280.409 Cof 2013, is a history of the influential liberal Protestant publication of the early twentieth century, known as The Christian Century. Coffman argues that this publication was designed to create a united non-sectarian Christian theology which emphasized the historical interpretation of the Bible and social activism. The author claims that the movement was doomed to failure because the liberal clergy failed to connect with a more conservative laity, and the goal of Protestant unity proved to be unattainable. It is interesting that Coffman lists the seven liberal Protestant churches as the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), northern Baptists, the Congregational Church (part of the United Church of Christ), the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Disciples of Christ. See p. 4. Because she sees modern Christianity as fundamentalist and/or authoritarian, Coffman may have underestimated the influence of liberal Christian theology on the laity and on the modern Roman Catholic Church. These early twentieth century guys may have had more influence on us than we think.
We have added several works of fiction by parish authors:
Maggi A. Petton, The Queen's Companion
Maggi A. Petton, The Queen’s Companion, Call Number FIC 813 Pet 2011, is a historical novel set during the sixteenth century Inquisition.
Maggi A. Petton, Heaven's Daughter
Maggi A. Petton, Heaven’s Daughter, Call Number FIC 813 Pet 2012, is an American Civil War novel.
Maggi A. Petton, When Rain Remembers
Maggi A. Petton, When Rain Remembers, Call Number FIC 813 Pet 2013, is a sequel to Heaven’s Daughter.
Barbara J. Langner, The Detectives Who Loved Shakespeare
Barbara J. Langner, The Detectives Who Loved Shakespeare, Call Number FIC 813 Lan 2012, is a contemporary mystery novel which begins at a peace conference.
Shared Governance, A Collection of Essays Prepared by the [Episcopal] House of Deputies Special Study Committee on Church Governance and Polity
The founder of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., William White, was the chaplain of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, in the early days of the American Republic. Both the U.S. Constitution, with its divisions of authority, and the governing body of the Episcopal Church were established between 1784 and 1792 by many of the same founding fathers. (See Robert Prichard, A History of the Episcopal Church, p. 84-97. ) It is helpful to remember this common origin when reading Shared Governance, A Collection of Essays Prepared by the [Episcopal] House of Deputies Special Study Committee on Church Governance and Polity, Call Number262.0373 Sha 2012. The essays in Shared Governance focus on White’s intent that the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church have equal roles for bishops, clergy and laity, as well as his proposal that state and local churches be organized into a national body on a “federal” basis. One of the essay writers, Katherine Tyler Scott, argues that this division of authority is essential to the active role of the laity in church governance and that “any erosion of the role and authority of the House of Deputies would fundamentally change the identity and character of the church.” Shared Governance, p. 28.
Division of authority is a form of governance which has worked for United States political governments, as well as for the Episcopal Church. This book will help parishioners understand how it works in the context of the church.
This month, a number of St. Michael’s parish authors have contributed a copy of their new books to the Library. Other works of fiction by parishioners will be added to the Library in the next few months.
Kathryn Ravenwood, How to Create Sacred Water: A Guide to Rituals and Practices
Kathryn W. Ravenwood, How to Create Sacred Water : A Guide to Rituals and Practices, Call Number 203.7 Rav 2012, draws on Native American and Egyptian traditions to create sacred water altars to bring healing to the planet and transformation of ourselves. The author also shares her early life and personal spiritual journey to enhance the reader’s understanding. This is a well-written and beautiful book.
Fred Bales, Our Sheltered Lives
Fred Bales, Our Sheltered Lives, Call Number 362.5 Bal 2013, is a lively account of the author’s adventures as a volunteer for Albuquerque Opportunity Center, a service center for homeless men operated “under the aegis”of the city’s Metropolitan Homelessness Project. As driver of the “Gray Ghost,” a vehicle used to transport residents to medical appointments and social service agencies, the author provides an entertaining and thought-provoking view of the world of contemporary homeless people in the city.
Gary Willis, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition
Gary Wills, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, Call Number 262.14 Wil, argues that the authority of Roman Catholic priests is derived from their power to invoke the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist and their ability to arbitrarily withhold access to the “real presence” from other Christian followers. As a church historian, Wills traces this authority to the Letter to the Hebrews, a late New Testament document, which according to Wills, incorporated a modified version of the Jewish high priest blood sacrifices in Jerusalem into the early Christian church. The blood sacrifice tradition was then preserved in the Roman Catholic Church through the atonement theology of Anselm and Aquinas. Wills argues for a modern shift to the more positive and inclusive theology of Augustine, another early church father. He ends with a powerful personal statement of which Roman Catholic traditions should be retained and which traditions are outdated and need to be reformed or abandoned. This challenging book should interest both Episcopalians, who are attracted to Roman Catholic traditions, and Roman Catholics who have been injured by outdated Roman Catholic traditions.
Lesley Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad
Lesley Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, Call Number 297.63 Haz 2013, is an attempt by a Western writer to recount the recorded details of Muhammad’s life, and place them into the cultural context of seventh century Arabia. There are followers of Islam who would argue that this very exercise is improper because the Islamic faith consists of the life, deeds and words of the Prophet and a true believer cannot separate Muhammad’s biography from his teachings. (A similar objection can be made to the search for the historical Jesus who, unlike Muhammad, left very few contemporarily recorded biographical details.) Hazleton’s efforts are further limited by her training as a psychologist and a journalist, which leads her into unsupported biographical speculations. However, as other reviewers have pointed out, this book is a good introduction for Westerners who have no idea who the historical Muhammad was or why his revelations became so important.
Jane Hirshfield, Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
Jane Hirshfield, Women in Praise of the Sacred : 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Call Number 808.819 Wom 1994, collects mystical poetry written by women from a variety of religious traditions starting with Enheduanna, a Sumerian priestess who lived in 2300 B.C.E. and wrote, on cuneiform tablets, about the powerful vengeance of her moon-goddess, Inanna. A thousand years later, Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, praised a more peaceful Hebrew deity designated as Lady Wisdom. Hirshfield presents excerpts from Buddhist, Taoist and Christian mystics throughout the Middle Ages, as well as Native American poems. One of the final poems is by Nelly Sachs, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who writes, hopefully, :
will take the ball
from the hands that play
the game of terror.”
Although it uses translations, this is a powerful collection of spiritual poetry with many applications to contemporary concerns.
Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
Christian Wiman is a West Texas boy who has taught literature at numerous prestigious universities and served as the editor of Poetry magazine. His new book, My Bright Abyss : Meditation of a Modern Believer , Call Number 814.54 Wim 2013, is the personal record of his return to religion after a struggle with a rare form of cancer. Wiman is a poet, not a theologian, aand his meditations can be rambling. The cental theme of his book is that “faith” is much greater and more mysterious than “belief” in a particular religious dogma or a literal “belief” in certain Scriptural events. This is a challenging book for contemporary Christians struggling with outdated expressions of religious belief.
A number of new books are in the collection, especially regarding Navajo and Native American spirituality.
We have also received some generous donations of works in theology and church history from retired clergy.