"Apparently they had been searching quite purposefully for ancient manuscripts of the Bible, such as the one they had found."
~ from Janet Soskice's The Sisters of Sinai
The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics by John DanforthAsserting that religious motivation should guide us to serve interests beyond our own, rather than pushing a certain belief, Episcopal priest and former U.S. Senator John Danforth calls for cooperation in politics. While in his previous book, Faith and Politics, he emphasized the dangers of religious wedge issues, in The Relevance of Religion he lifts up the potential for religion to heal divisions. He also reviews the history of American politics, including negative aspects such as the polarizing effects of religion, sensationalist reportage, and ego-driven campaigning. This book will appeal to those interested in politics and religion, whatever their ideological persuasion.
Witches of America by Alex MarIn Witches of America, author Alex Mar reports on her five-year inquiry into pagan religious groups, including feminist-separatist Wiccans, followers of Aleister Crowley's Golden Dawn, a shamanist mystery cult, and the annual PanatheaCon, a pagan convention. While detailing a range of witchcraft practices, she also considers why people seek any organized system of belief within their lives, whether in mainstream denominations or fringe cults. Though she takes a skeptical approach to religious faith, she relates her encounters sympathetically, reporting with unflinching accuracy while dispelling the misunderstandings that lead people to fear witches.
Brand Luther by Andrew PettegreeOn All Hallows' Eve, 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther posted a diatribe against the Vatican's sale of indulgences on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The resulting controversy eventually coalesced into the Protestant Reformation and contributed to a major shift in European civilization. In Brand Luther, historian Andrew Pettegree depicts Luther's writing and publishing juggernaut, showing how he leveraged an accessible writing style, printing technology, and the rise of capitalism to create a wildly successful marketing campaign. This thoroughly researched portrait of Luther (including a discussion of his anti-Semitic rants) will engage those interested in the Reformation or the history of marketing strategy.
Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler by Mark RieblingIn this "absorbing, polished" (Kirkus Reviews) history of Pope Pius XII's World War II activities, intelligence expert Mark Riebling suspensefully recounts the Vatican's risky efforts to undermine Adolf Hitler. While Pius XII has been labeled "Hitler's Pope," Riebling's research uncovers a different story: the Pope refrained from speaking out against the Nazis for fear of betraying his covert anti-Nazi campaign. Drawing on recently unsealed files, audio recordings from the Pope's library, and research into the German Resistance, Church of Spies will fascinate students of Vatican history, World War II, and spycraft.
The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy by Rainn WilsonBest known as Dwight Schrute on television's The Office, comedian Rainn Wilson didn't fit in while growing up (and never was a bassoon phenom), and he struggled financially early in his acting career. He also floundered spiritually until he reconnected with Baha'i, the faith of his childhood. In The Bassoon King, Wilson irreverently and movingly details the challenges of his youth, dishes gossip on The Office, and shares the importance of openly embracing Baha'i and living according to its teachings. Whether you're a fan of his career (which he broadcasts on Twitter) or interested in his spiritual life, be sure to pick up this autobiography.
Focus on: Religious Journeys
The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World by Andy MerrifieldSeeking a slower lifestyle in order to engage in spiritual reflection, author Andy Merrifield decides to stroll around southern France in the company of a borrowed donkey (named Gribouille). Contemplating the spectacular scenery of the Haute-Auvergne, donkey husbandry, and works of literature by Robert Louis Stevenson and others (including the Bible and the Qur'an) that comment on donkey wisdom, Merrifield finds tranquility and happiness. The Wisdom of Donkeys recounts Merrifield's observations and his relationship with Gribouille, inviting readers into an alternative world where time slows down and insights come from unexpected sources -- especially donkeys. Library Journal calls this a "real love story."
In the Shadow of the Buddha by Matteo PistonoIn 1999, Matteo Pistono, an American disciple of Tibetan Buddhism, traveled to the Himalayas in search of closer study with teachers in the Tibetan tradition. His memoir, In the Shadow of the Buddha, recounts his experiences during six years as a pilgrim and disciple, describes his dangerous exploits in smuggling out evidence of Chinese brutality in Tibet, and relates the life of late 19th-century Buddhist mystic Tertön Songyal. While Pistono's human rights work is significant (pro-Tibetan activist Richard Gere contributed the book's foreword), his spiritual pilgrimage in search of liberation from anger provides a stronger focus for readers interested in religious memoirs.
Searching for Zion by Emily RaboteauIn this unusual search for spiritual meaning, biracial American novelist Emily Raboteau discovers Ethiopian Jews in Israel and then embarks on a worldwide search for the metaphorical Zion -- a spiritual homeland for people of the African Diaspora. Over ten years, she meets with Rastafarians, African Hebrew Israelites, followers of preacher Creflo Dollar in the South's Black Belt, and others. Her account vividly reveals the scars of racism borne by black people everywhere. Witty and engaging, Searching for Zion offers insight into the problem of spiritual identity along with thought-provoking considerations of race and belonging.
The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden... by Janet SoskiceTwin sisters Margaret Smith Gibson and Agnes Smith Lewis, prosperous 19th-century Scottish widows, felt called as faithful Presbyterians to extend the reach of biblical scholarship. After they learned of the manuscript collection at St. Catherine's, a Greek Orthodox monastery on a remote mountain in the Sinai Peninsula, the sisters traveled there in 1892, hoping to discover previously unknown copies of biblical texts. Relating details of the status of women in the period, the rigors of travel to such a remote place, and scholarly controversies about ancient manuscripts, Cambridge theologian Janet Soskice paints a colorful picture of the sisters' lives, illuminating the significance of their contribution to biblical studies.
Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric WeinerFaced with a mid-life medical scare, author Eric Weiner is startled when a hospital nurse asks him, "Have you found your God yet?" As a non-observant Jew, he decides after he recovers to explore a variety of religions to find the God who is right for him. Traveling around the globe, he visits (and whirls with) Sufi dervishes, meditates with Tibetan monks, and attends a convention of Raelians (who are inspired by their belief in UFOs). During his final stop, in Israel, he studies the Kabbalah. With self-deprecating humor, Man Seeks God recounts Weiner's experiences and shows his sincere appreciation for what he learns.
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