The Episcopal Church, I will Bless You and You Will be a Blessing, Call Number 346.0168 Epi2012, is a collection of ceremonial language resources for the witness and blessing of a lifelong covenant in a same-sex relationship, prepared by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of the Episcopal Church for consideration at the 77th General Convention. It may also be helpful to partners who wish to conduct an appropriate ceremony while the Church is still considering official language.
Teresa E. Gallion, Contemplation in the High Desert, Call Number 815.008 Gal 2011, is a collection of short poems in the tradition of a 13th century Sufi mystic named Rumi. Gallion is a New Mexico poet who is inspired by the spirituality of the New Mexico landscape. It is helpful for Christian readers to remember that, in the Sufi tradition, God is also referred to as “The Beloved.”
Joan Chittister and Rowan Williams, Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is, Call Number 241.4 Chi 2010, is a discussion of the possibilities raised by the post-9/11 world. Archbishop Williams and Sister Chittister point out the positive aspects of negative forces, such as doubt, poverty, differences, divisions, conflict, suffering and crises. This is a thought provoking book which is recommended to readers who are overwhelmed by the negativity of contemporary events.
Frederic Raphael, A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus
Flavius Josephus is a first century historian who is known to Christian scholars as the only independent historical confirmation of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Frederic Raphael, A Jew among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus, Call Number 933.0072 Rap 2013, recounts the life and times of the Jewish scholar, known as Josephus, who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and wrote an eye-witness account of the last Judaean war from the Roman point of view. The history was written in Greek. Josephus was a member of the High Priest clan at a time when Pharisees and Sadducees argued over the interpretation of the Torah, while radical “Zealot” groups practiced an ancient form of community organization and terrorism. More important, theology, politics and military actions were completely merged into a single-minded activity. First century Judaeans were quite capable of killing off each other with, or without, Roman intervention. Josephus acted as a reluctant Judaean general defending Judaean cities against the Roman general Vespasian and lost horribly. Josephus tricked his way out of a Judaean suicide pact with other military officers and survived the resulting Roman slaughter by convincing Vespasian that the Jewish God Yahweh had destined Vespasian to become Emperor of Rome. (Josephus should know because he was a High Priest as well as a general.) Raphael’s commentary throws some historical and philosophical perspective on Christian-Jewish relations during the twentieth century as well as the continuing chaos in the twenty-first century Middle East. It also warns us that the Christian Church was not born in a peaceful political democracy.
David Potter, Constantine the Emperor
David Potter, Constantine the Emperor, call number 937.08 Pot 2012, is a new assessment of the role of Constantine as the first Christian Emperor. Potter sees Constantine’s reign as a continuation of Diocletian’s attempt to bring order and personal morality to Roman subjects. In his dense narrative of 3rd and 4th century Roman politics, Potter sees persecutions of the new Christian religion as sporadic episodes in the relatively neutral stance of the Romans toward the many conflicting religions of the Middle East. The Romans saw their subjects as a source of revenue and bounty and, generally, were more concerned with taxes than ideological beliefs. Diocletian’s vicious, but short-lived, persecution of Christians as a political mistake, rather than a moral failing. Constantine’s drafting of the Nicene Creed was “the sort of thing that an experienced imperial administrator would have decided upon” to prevent the church of his newly proclaimed personal god from tearing itself apart. In other words, Constantine’s edict proclaiming the elements of Christian faith was meant as an administrative means of resolving conflict rather than a source of theological purity. This is important for faith driven modern Christians to remember. It is unfortunate that the message requires such a detailed study of Roman history to reconstruct.
Lance L. Davis & Albert H. Keller, At the Close of the Day
Lance L. Davis and Albert H. Keller, At the Close of Day, call number 261 Dav 2004, is a guide book written by a physician and a minister on the management of terminal illness. The authors use case studies to instruct family members and counselors on how to manage the challenges of terminal illness in order to provide an environment for a peaceful end to life. It covers practical, as well as spiritual issues, and is accessible to family care givers as well as religious counselors.
Eleanor Hubbard & Cameron T. Whitley, Trans-Kin
Trans-Kin, ed. by Eleanor Hubbard and Cameron T. Whitley, call number 306.872 Tra 20012, is a collection of stories from family members and friends of transgender persons. It is a “useful tool that encourages understanding and acceptance of the transgender community and their loved ones.” This book is another resource for sexual diversity acceptance.
Robert Wright, The Evolution of God
Robert Wright, The Evolution of God, Call Number 200.9 Wri 2009, believes that religion does not shape politics; rather geopolitics shapes religion. That is, people’s religious beliefs reflect the geopolitical environment in which they live. Wright’s theories lead him to all sorts of interesting speculations. For example, how did Yahweh change from the most important God among many lesser gods and goddesses into the only God in the universe? Was Jesus’ execution a disastrous shock to his followers which had to be explained after the fact by the early Christian church? Was Allah an indigenous Arabic monotheistic god, or was the Koran an explanation of the monotheistic character of a common Abrahamic God shared by Jews and Christians as well as Arabs? This book is not for the faint-hearted, but for the reader who is secure in his/her faith and can appreciate the ambiguities of the Abrahamic traditions.
John D. Levenson, Inheriting Abraham
Jon D. Levenson, Inheriting Abraham, call Number 222.11 Lev 2012, argues that although Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have Abrahamic traditions, their respective traditions are so profoundly different that Abraham cannot be used to reconcile the three different religions. Specifically, Jews emphasize their genetic descent from Abraham and Isaac; Christians believe that their Abrahamic inheritance comes through faith; and Muslims believe that Christian faith wrongfully identifies Jesus with God. Levenson’s book was written as a response to Bruce Feiler, Abraham : a Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths, Call Number 222.1109 Fei 2002, and Karl-Josef Kuschel, Abraham : Sign of Hope for Christians and Muslims (1995) who were searching for a common origin of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Maybe we need to recognize the differences among the three traditions before we look for common ground.
Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander, M.D. writes about his personal near-death-experience in Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Call Number 617.48 Ale 2012. Is a doctor’s mystical experience more important than other peoples’ experiences, because he is a doctor? Let the reader decide.
Gail Albert, Mending the Heart, Tending the Soul
For a more accessible introduction to Jewish meditation, see Gail Albert, Mending the Heart, Tending the Soul, Call Number 296 Alb 2012. Dr. Albert is a psychologist who explores the five books of Moses in the Torah, offering new interpretations of the traditional stories for purposes of meditation. Albert treats the scriptures as spiritual metaphors, an approach which opens her interpretations to readers from all spiritual traditions without arguing over sectarian differences. This book comes with a well-deserved recommendation by Father Brian Taylor.
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.