Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Did You Think I Stopped my Book Reviews

Perish that thought.I have been reading, but also busy editing my father's memoirs for publication in a historical journal of his denomination.OK, on to reviews of the most recent reads.-

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex RelationshipsBy Matthew Vines

This is an important book for anyone to read who desires to see more deeply into the Biblical passages that have been used to condemn homosexuality. The author carefully analyzes some of the oft quoted sections, and shows in a new light that the interpretations that were written in a different time in fact mean something other than for what they are sometimes used.

The Biblical analysis is not trivial. In fact, at times the book is challenging. But, if you are a serious student of the Bible and want to go beyond a knee-jerk reaction that has too long characterized the church's approach to same-sex relationships, this book breathes fresh life into the title subject: God and the Gay Christian.

I am not gay, but have many gay friends who I cherish. And, frankly, it is offensive and deeply saddening to me when I hear “church people” inveighing against someone who is attracted to the same sex.  I am blessed to be able to talk with these friends about their experience as they came to understand and accept their own sexuality. In some of the conversations I have had, these friends have revealed how they have been deeply wounded by the church. It was very affirming to read a book that does not condemn someone just because he/she is gay.

Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero  by Christopher McDougall 

I admit it...the front piece photo, of an adorable looking donkey, is what got me to read this book. I am a sucker for animals in need who are "rescued" by people, but who in turn also rescue the people. Anything that helps we humans to get over being the proverbial top of the living heap. In reviewing the list of books I have read, I see many stories that help to connect me to all of living creation.

Now, a prospective reader must know--this book is NOT just about a donkey named Sherman. The book opens with the donkey in question being virtually at death's door when he is "adopted" by the author. And the book takes you along on the journey of rehabilitating Sherman, and eventually getting him ready to run a kind of marathon (of which I had not previously heard)-- the annual World Championship Leadville Burro Race in Colorado.

Along the way, the author encounters various people who are broken in many ways as much as Sherman was. But, like Sherman, their brokenness can be healed. These stories, and Sherman's story make this a very inspiring work.My only complaint--sometimes the author's language is a bit more crude--that does not offend me at all. But the times that there is a change of tone seems a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. ---

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faithby Barbara Brown Taylor

Barbara Brown Taylor is a well-known author whose works deal with spirituality, questing, and faith. I learned this when I began to read Leaving Church. You see, I had not encountered any of her works before. When her book AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD was published, I was intrigued with the title, but for whatever reasons didn’t read it.So, how did I come to read her earlier work LEAVING CHURCH? One of my friends at church gave me the book and said she thought I might like it. So, I read it.

What to say? First, yes I liked it. It resonated with me in ways that works such as those by Elaine Pagels (WHY RELIGION) and Rachel Held Evans (SEARCHING FOR SUNDAY). In many ways LEAVING CHURCH is a similar kind of personal account. Of course, the details differ, because the authors differ. Each has her own journey to describe. Perhaps I view LEAVING CHURCH through the filter of how closely it approximates my own experience. Rachel Held Evans’ book comes the closest to describing the kind of upbringing I experienced. 

Barbara Brown Taylor’s journey is long and multi-faceted. She describes her early longing for and search for spiritual connection. While the earliest expression she details in the book is a strong connection with nature, she moves on to describing her sense of call to Christian ministry. As a result, she becomes ordained as a priest in the Episcopalian Church, after her seminary training. Her initial call as a priest is to a large church where she is one among several priests. The grinding demands of that work, along with the oppressive sense of living in a highly urbanized area lead her to seek the calm of a more rural area. She and her husband find just such a location to which they move, and she begins life as a solo priest in a small church.

Each of these priestly calls have joys, triumphs, as well as valleys. Just as in the urban church, she begins to feel drained in the country setting. Thus the title LEAVING CHURCH. She traces a somewhat tortuous circuitous faith journey. Perhaps not surprisingly, she experiences burnout in her solo pastoral situation. And then leaves church.

That does not mean she loses faith—her faith continues, broadens and becomes more nuanced. 

If you enjoy and/or are inspired by faith journeys, you may enjoy this book.

The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr.By Marguerite Holloway
 I expected a book that dealt with how Manhattan got to be the way it is...While this book does that to a certain extent, it spends a great deal of time detailing the life John Randel, Jr. Perhaps I should have paid closer attention to the subtitle--because that is what occupied the bulk of the book.

I am still wondering how Manhattan got to be the way it is.