308 pages, 54 of 103 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled
Bookwi.se Note: I have read, but not reviewed this. It is worth reading.
The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but it is also a nation of shocking religious illiteracy.
- Only 10 percent of American teenagers can name all five major world religions and 15 percent cannot name any.
- Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answers to all or most of life’s basic questions, yet only half of American adults can name even one of the four gospels and most Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible.
Despite this lack of basic knowledge, politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed—or misinterpreted—by the vast majority of Americans.
“We have a major civic problem on our hands,” says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. He makes the provocative case that to remedy this problem, we should return to teaching religion in the public schools. Alongside “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” religion ought to become the “Fourth R” of American education.
Prothero avoids the trap of religious relativism by addressing both the core tenets of the world’s major religions and the real differences among them. Complete with a dictionary of the key beliefs, characters, and stories of Christianity, Islam, and other religions, Religious Literacy reveals what every American needs to know in order to confront the domestic and foreign challenges facing this country today.
God’s Politics by Jim Wallis – $3.99
399 pages, 140 of 240 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled
Bookwi.se note: the audiobook is on sale for $2.95
Religious fundamentalists scare us with their interpretation of faith and politics, while secular ones are scared of faith having any impact. One doesn’t speak for us, while the other wants us to be quiet…
Evangelical Christian writer and political activist, Jim Wallis presents an exciting alternative.
336 pages, 85 of 145 reviews are 4 or 5-star
In the history of the Western World, the Bible has been a perpetual source of inspiration and guidance for countless Christians. However, this Bible has also left a trail of pain. It is undeniable that the Bible is not always used for good. Sometimes the Bible can seem overtly evil. Sometimes its texts are terrible.
Bishop John Shelby Spong boldly approaches those texts that have been used through history to justify the denigration or persecution of others while carrying with them the implied and imposed authority of the claim that they were the “Word of God.” As he exposes and challenges what he calls the “terrible texts of the Bible”, laying bare the evil done by these texts in the name of God, he also seeks to redeem these texts, hoping to recover their ultimate depth and purpose. Spong looks specifically at texts used to justify homophobia, anti-Semitism, treating women as second-class humans, corporal punishment, and environmental degradation, but he also delivers a new picture of how Christians can use the Bible today. As Spong battles against the way the Bible has been used throughout history, he provides a new framework, introducing people to a proper way to engage this holy book of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
421 pages, of reviews are 4 or 5-star
The unholy alliance of the Political Right and the Religious Right threatens to destroy the America we love. It also threatens to generate a popular aversion to God and religion by identifying religious values with a pro-war, pro-business, pro-rich, anti-science, and anti-environmental stance.
Over the past few decades, the Republicans have achieved political dominance by forging a union with the Religious Right. This marriage has provided a sanctimonious veneer for policies that have helped the rich get richer while ignoring the needs of the middle class and the poor, dismantling environmental and civil liberties protections, and seeking global domination. The Right champions the materialism and ruthless selfishness promoted by unrestrained capitalism and then laments the moral crises of family instability and loneliness experienced by people who bring these commercial values into their homes and personal lives. In response, the Religious Right offers insular communities for the faithful and a culture that blames liberals, activist judges, homosexuals, independent women, and all secular people for the moral and spiritual emptiness so many Americans experience.
Yet, however distorted both the Right’s analysis and its solutions to America’s spiritual crisis may be, it wins allegiance by addressing the human hunger for a life with some higher purpose. The Left, by contrast, remains largely tone-deaf to the spiritual needs of the American people. It is the yearning for meaning in life, not just the desire for money or power, that lies at the core of American politics.
Addressing the central mystery of contemporary politics — why so many Americans vote against their own economic interests – The Left Hand of God provides an invaluable, timely, and blunt critique of the current state of faith in government. Lerner challenges the Left to give up its deeply held fear of religion and to distinguish between a domination-oriented, Right-Hand-of-God tradition and a more compassionate and hope-oriented Left-Hand-of-God worldview. Further, Lerner describes the ways that Democrats have misunderstood and alienated significant parts of their potential constituency. To succeed again, Lerner argues, the Democratic Party must rethink its relationship to God, champion a progressive spiritual vision, reject the old bottom line that promotes the globalization of selfishness, and deal head-on with the very real spiritual crisis that many Americans experience every day.
Lerner presents a vision that incorporates and then goes far beyond contemporary liberal and progressive politics. He argues for a new bottom line in our economy, schools, and government. This is a fundamentally fresh approach, one that takes spiritual needs seriously in our economic and political lives. Presenting an eight-point progressive spiritual covenant with America, Lerner provides a blueprint for how the Democratic Party can effectively challenge the Right and position itself to win the White House and Congress. By appealing to religious, secular, and spiritual but not necessarily religious people, The Left Hand of God blazes a trail that could change our world and reclaim America from the Religious Right.
352 pages, 52 of 65 reviews are 4 or 5-star
From top Jesus expert Marcus Borg, a completely updated and revised version of his vision of Jesus—as charismatic healer, sage, and prophet, a man living in the power of the spirit and dedicated to radical social change.
Fully revised and updated, this is Borg’s major book on the historial Jesus. He shows how the Gospel portraits of Jesus, historically seen, make sense. Borg takes into account all the recent developments in historical Jesus scholarship, as well as new theories on who Jesus was and how the Gospels reflect that.
The original version of this book was published well before popular fascination with the historical Jesus. Now this new version takes advantage of all the research that has gone on since the 80s. The revisions establish it as Borg’s big but popular book on Jesus.
528 pages, 10 of 14 reviews are 4 or 5-star
In Scripting Jesus, famed scholar of early Christianity L. Michael White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the desired audience reaction.
The gospel stories have shaped the beliefs of almost two and a half billion Christians. But the gospel writers were not reporters—rather, they were dramatists, and the stories they told publicly about Jesus were edited and reedited for the greatest effect. Understanding how these first-century Christians wanted to present Jesus offers us a way to make sense of the sometimes conflicting stories in the gospels.
One gospel’s version of events will be at odds with another. For instance, in Jesus’s birth narrative, there is no mention of a stable in Matthew or Luke, but then there are no wise men in Luke and no shepherds in Matthew. Jesus has brothers in some gospel accounts, and sisters in others, and their naming is inconsistent. Depending on which gospel you are reading, the disciples shift from bumbling morons to heroes of faith. Miracles alter or disappear altogether, and whole scenes get moved around. Such changes from one gospel to the next reveal the shaping and reshaping of the basic story in the living world of the first followers of Jesus.
With his usual engaging style, White helps us read the gospels with fresh eyes, giving us a clearer idea of what the gospel stories meant to people in ancient times, and offering insight for how we can understand Jesus’s story today.
258 pages, 34 of 40 reviews are 4 or 5-star
Country Western singer Kinky Friedman often performs a song entitled “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” and New Testament professor Amy–Jill Levine would agree. In fact, her career is dedicated to helping Christians and Jews understand the Jewishness of Jesus, thereby deepening the understanding of him, and facilitating greater interfaith dialogue. In this book, she shows how liberal Christians misunderstand Judaism, misunderstand the New Testament, and thus yank Jesus out of his Jewish context and wind up promoting hatred of Jews. Only with the deeper understanding this top Jewish, Southern–born New Testament scholar provides can we hope to respect each other’s beliefs, as well as enrich our own.
Through a extremely busy teaching and speaking schedule, Levine has honed her message at synagogues, Catholic conferences, Jewish Community Centers, denominational meetings, in the classroom and in her highly successful Teaching Company audios and videos. Levine is brilliant, charming, funny and forceful, and uses these traits to give a completely fresh perspective on Jesus and the New Testament. In addition to offering new insights with great skill, she has the remarkable ability to be tough, pointing out how even liberal Christians can be unwittingly anti–Semitic in their understanding of what Jesus stood for.Her truth–telling here will provoke honest dialogue on how Christians and Jews should understand Jesus and our New Testament heritage.
325 pages, 73 of 100 reviews are 4 or 5-star
It is often said, even by critical scholars whoshould know better, that “writing in the nameof another” was widely accepted in antiquity.But New York Times bestselling author Bart D.Ehrman dares to call it what it was: literaryforgery, a practice that was as scandalous then as itis today. In Forged, Ehrman’s fresh and originalresearch takes readers back to the ancient world,where forgeries were used as weapons by unknownauthors to fend off attacks to their faith andestablish their church. So, if many of the books inthe Bible were not in fact written by Jesus’s innercircle—but by writers living decades later, withdiffering agendas in rival communities—whatdoes that do to the authority of Scripture?
Ehrman investigates ancient sources to:
- Reveal which New Testament books wereoutright forgeries.
- Explain how widely forgery was practiced byearly Christian writers—and how strongly it wascondemned in the ancient world as fraudulentand illicit.
- Expose the deception in the history of theChristian religion.
Ehrman’s fascinating story of fraud and deceit isessential reading for anyone interested in the truthabout the Bible and the dubious origins ofChristianity’s sacred texts.
273 pages, 9 of 15 reviews are 4 or 5-star
Unraveling the Mystery of Jesus’s Last Days
A world-renowned scholar reveals how archaeology has a major role to play not only in how the gospels should be read and understood, but also in understanding Jesus in his world.
Inside you’ll find:
- the actual site of the execution of Jesus
- startling new information about the crucifixion based on the discovery of a first-century crucified man
- the surprising location of the trial of Jesus
- the truth about his final resting place
352 pages, 13 of 21 reviews are 4 or 5-star
Bible scholar Jennifer Wright Knust addresses the big questions that dominate today’s discussions and debates when it comes to sex and the Bible: Is premarital sex a sin? When, and in what contexts, is sexual desire appropriate? With whom can I legitimately have sex? Are same-sex relations permissible? In an era where the phrases, “the Bible says,” and “God says,” are so often exploited, it is time to consider what the Bible actually does—or does not—say about monogamy, polygamy, homosexuality, gender roles, and sex.
Unprotected Texts directly and pointedly takes on widely shared misconceptions about sex, arguing that the Bible cannot—and should not—serve as a rulebook for sexual morality, despite popular claims to the contrary. From the Song of Songs’ lyrical eroticism to the rigid sexual rules of Leviticus—and everything in between—Knust parses the Bible’s contradictory, often surprising messages.
Skillfully revealing the latest insights from critical scholarship, Knust provides a compassionate and liberating model for navigating these deeply personal issues that affect us all.
274 pages, 24 of 34 reviews are 4 or 5-star
Jesus came preaching, but the church wound up preaching Jesus. Why does the church insist upon making Jesus the object of its attention rather than heeding his message? Esteemed Harvard minister Peter J. Gomes believes that excessive focus on the Bible and doctrines about Jesus have led the Christian church astray. “What did Jesus preach?” asks Gomes. To recover the transformative power of the gospel—”the good news”—Gomes says we must go beyond the Bible and rediscover how to live out Jesus’ original revolutionary message of hope:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer once warned against cheap grace, and I warn now against cheap hope. Hope is not merely the optimistic view that somehow everything will turn out all right in the end if everyone just does as we do. Hope is the more rugged, the more muscular view that even if things don’t turn out all right and aren’t all right, we endure through and beyond the times that disappoint or threaten to destroy us.”
This gospel is offensive and always overturns the status quo, Gomes tells us. It’s not good news for those who wish not to be disturbed, and today our churches resound with shrill speeches of fear and exclusivity or tepid retellings of a health-and-wealth gospel. With his unique blend of eloquence and insight, Gomes invites us to hear anew the radical nature of Jesus’ message of hope and change. Using examples from ancient times as well as from modern pop culture, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus shows us why the good news is every bit as relevant today as when it was first preached.
I have not read any of these books, so they may not be any good. Some of the books from previous Free Book posts or previous Kindle Deal posts are still available. If you want to see all free books as they come out you should follow Books on the Knob on their RSS or Twitter Feed. Or Ireaderreview or the many free book threads on Amazon’s Message Boards.
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