Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reading into Faith

My brother, as I've mentioned in Desert Year, is beginning to imagine a life of faith. Like me, he's in his 50s and grew up in a family whose view of religion ranges from tolerant to skepticism to ridicule; unlike me, he did not have a high school education provided by first, nuns, and later, UCCers well versed in Scripture and Paul Tillich. He's explored Eastern forms of meditation, experienced the discomfort of living in a largely conservative mega-church environment, rejected my suggestion to make the long drive out of the suburbs and into the city in the direction of the two Prebsy churches whose websites shout "progressive and inclusive," and followed my suggestion to have lunch with the pastor of a local church, whom he found to be friendly and engaging but reluctant to address his real questions.

I need some books, he said. So I took a look at my library shelves, so packed that books fall off them more often than not, and sent him a little package:

Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader: Easy, short meditations and some insight into a Christian life of simplicity and depth, turmoil and peace.

Barclay's Mark: It happened to fall off the shelf, I figure the first gospel is as good a place to start as any, and maybe the commentary will help him with a text about which he knows nothing. One of the Amazon reviews says the scholarship is outdated, so I suppose I need to find him something else soon.

Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book: I think Peterson is one of the most elegant writers around, and offers a way into Scripture that combines love and prayer with serious engagement, humor, and generosity.

Other ideas?

25 comments:

Joan Calvin said...

Anne LaMotte? It would depend on your brother, I think.

Hope said...

Anne Lamott was my first thought as well. Traveling Mercies.

Katherine E. said...

Maybe "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" by Marcus Borg.

ROBERTA said...

Sara Miles - Take This Bread - can't say enough good things about this book....love it more every time i read it!

Anonymous said...

"Yours, Jack" by C.S. Lewis

It's a progression from atheism through lif3e as it is and great faith with doubts along the way but faith winning. Basically, it is a compendium of many of his letters and can be picked up and put down, but is inspiring, useful and a good beginning, IMHO
Eve

Stushie said...

John Stott - Basic Christianity

Michelle said...

...I gave my brother also looking for his faith life; Annie Dillard (Polar Expeditions) and a book called St. Benedict's Toolbox

Stratoz said...

I give a third vote to Anne Lamott and with add a huge vote for my guy Frederick Buechner... Whistling in The Dark and Wishful Thinking. They brought me back to a life of faith, suggested to me by a wonderful UCC minister. be warned... my word verification is "worst"

Anonymous said...

Some great suggestions, here. Lamott, Buechner, Dillard, etc.... good stuff. How about Ragamuffin Gospel or Abba's Child by Brennan Manning?

Mich

Sarah S-D said...

My first thought as Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies. It was very helpful to my sister though she would say she still hasn't totally found her way to faith. She has read and re-read that book.

Maybe Kathleen Norris too, "Amazing Grace".

Gannet Girl said...

Thnaks for all the great suggestions. He will love Buechner and Anne Lamott!

Sophia said...

The Shack. Fiction is easy to get into and speaks to us in ways that prose can't sometimes. It's not perfect, but it is powerful and creative and about a God who is 1) completely loving and 2) gender balanced and 3) accepting of a wide range of emotions. All three are crucial, at least in my spiritual experience, and hard to find in much spiritual and theological writing.

Gannet Girl said...

Weeeelllll....I read The Shack last week. I...uh....hated it.

Sophia said...

Interesting, Gannet--I would love to hear why.

I actually haven't read it slowly and carefully yet myself, and don't know if I will still like it or not when I do.

Ruby said...

How about The Good Book by Peter Gomes? or Nora Gallagher's Things Seen and Unseen? or Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk? And Buechner is wonderful, as is Marcus Borg, and of course Annie Dillard.

Nicole said...

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.

Gannet Girl said...

The Shack -

abysmal writing, sexist theology, psychedelic imagery, a God who doesn't suffer --

did I mention the writing?

but I think I'm a minority of one...

Michelle said...

...minority of two!

EJ said...

I haven't posted here, yet, but I found my way through Sarah S-D and have popped in periodically to see how things have been progressing.

It funny you should mention "The Shack." My mother is a middle school music teacher, a lifelong Lutheran and a pastor's wife who is constantly trying to connect as subtly as she can to the spirituality in people within the Public school system. She is in a particular school which is HIGHLY skeptical of anything that smacks of what they PERCEIVE to be faith. Funny though, when it comes to wearing cross jewelry or clothing, that is not recognized as anything connected to faith, but as fashion. But I digress...

The principal at her school, lapsed Catholic, read The Shack upon recommendation and asked my mother if she's read it. He found it highly engaging. So, in order to have some connection, she read it. Yesterday, she asked if I, our friend Lori, and a good friend of mine, "J", would read it and get together to discuss - I think largely because she doesn't know what to do with it and how to engage him on this. I haven't read it, yet, but she said something about a very, very loose Trinitarian idea, and some incredibly 1970s "hey man,lets just all love each other" thought.

I will say this. While I haven't read the Shack, I have read an awful lot of Pop Christian books which are theological crap, HOWEVER, they really seem to be a place where some folks feel they can jump from. And that is the beginning point of engagement and discussion.

Personally, I'm an Anne Lamott type, as well. For those who just find life and the emotions of life, too real for the Pop Christian shtuff. But others are highly offended by Annie.

EJ

Ruby said...

...and add another no vote to The Shack.

Sophia said...

What's the sexist part? I must have missed it because I was so positively struck by its rare depiction of the First Person of the Trinity as a black woman--even if he had to call her Papa--and the Third as an Asian woman.

Gannet Girl said...

All the stuff about woman being made out of man and complementary roles of women and men . . . Everytime I see the word complementary in connection to the roles of women and men my skin starts to crawl.

And, yes, the depictions of the First and Third persons of the Trinity were imaginative . . . but he just couldn't embrace the idea of God as Mother, could he? And I'm sorry, but the big nose on Jesus? Please.

Sophia said...

Oh, gosh, I missed the Adam and Eve stuff completely. Thanks for clarifying.

Stushie said...

I also don't think the Shack is a Christian starter book or rekindler for faith. However, it is a great exercise in Christian apologetics. it makes you think about what you don't believe and why. I've done a scriptural study of it which I've sent out to literally hundreds of small group leaders and pastors who have requested it. Whether we agree with it or not, many people are reading it.

You can find the studies at

http://www.churchstudies.blogspot.com/

Kris said...

I wondered what you would think of The Shack. I think because of AA, and Higher Power vs God, I really enjoyed it. My mother, devote Catholic, said it was a ok story but she was not thrilled at all with it. Other AA folk have also enjoyed it, and found use for the message. I am waiting to hear how a friend who is devote Catholic & AA likes it .... lol
For a simple person like me, it was a simple story that brought the God of my understanding a little closer. But I do agree, the nose thing was a bit over the top ;)