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LAST SUPPER RED is written in its goofy, outrageous style partly because many people will be reluctant to dive right into a more serious treatment of the issues raised in the book. And that's just fine. But since you're reading this, we assume you might be interested in exploring the deeper end of the pool. If so, we encourage you to do so!
THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS!
That all depends on what you're after, but here are three suggestions:
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
1) If you want a systematic and very readable description of the perspectives of Progressive Christianity arranged by topic, a good place
to start is with Living The Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (scroll down to find it along with the second and third resources);
2) If you want to discover what a new kind of Christianity might look like, regardless of whether or not it should be called "Progressive Christianity," and if you're interested in practical ideas about how such a new take on the faith might be put into practice, you could hardly do better than an illuminating book by the brilliant teacher, Brian McLaren. A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith.
3) If you are more interested or comfortable in starting your re-visioning of the Christian faith centering your attention on the Bible itself, Brian McLaren provides a most useful, intelligent and spiritually perceptive tour of the Bible's themes. Called We Make the Road by Walking, it is an extraordinary companion for (in the words of its sub-title) "A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation."
RESOURCES TO DEEPEN YOUR UNDERSTANDING
Spiritual But Not Religious
NOTE: The themes of many of these books overlap and could just as well be placed in different categories. Clicking on the Title will take you to its page on Amazon.com,
from which we've appended a few comments and reviews.
The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity, Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel (Oxford University Press, 2014). This is the best description yet of that ferment within contemporary Christianity that calls itself "emerging" or "emergent." If you are intrigued by Phyllis Tickle's assertion (see her book below) that currently the Church is holding a rummage sale on some of its ideas, then this book will give you a great introduction to it. Do not let the fact that it is written by social scientists put you off. The two authors actually know how to write and not put the reader to sleep. (Take it from this sociology major, that's a rarity!) "The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a creative, entrepreneurial religious movement that strives to achieve social legitimacy and spiritual vitality by actively disassociating from its roots in conservative, evangelical Christianity and "deconstructing" contemporary expressions of Christianity. Emerging Christians see themselves as overturning outdated interpretations of the Bible, transforming hierarchical religious institutions, and re-orienting Christianity to step outside the walls of church buildings toward working among and serving others in the 'real world.' . . . (The authors find that Emerging Christians) are shaping a distinct religious orientation that encourages individualism, deep relationships with others, new ideas about the nature of truth, doubt, and God, and innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, and leadership." ~From the book's cover.
Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious, Linda A. Mercadante (Oxford University Press, 2014).
"For those who think that being 'spiritual but not religious' is intellectually vague, it is time to think again. In Belief without Borders, Linda Mercadante explores the beliefs of the religiously unaffiliated regarding God, sin, community, the afterlife, and ethics and finds people living 'between' the worlds of secularism and traditional faith. By taking the new spiritual impulse seriously as theology, she affirms the power of spiritual experience as a force remaking the patterns of contemporary faith." - Diana Butler Bass
The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, Phyllis Tickle (Baker Books, 2012).
Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church's massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now. Tickle calls it "The Great Emergence" -- a time of dizzying upheaval and hopeful promise during which various sectors of today's church swirl into a great confluence at the center.
Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne, 2012).
From the back cover: Diana Butler Bass offers a fresh interpretation of the "spiritual but not religious" trend and shares a hope-filled vision for a renewed faith that stays true to the real message of Jesus.
From Amazon reviewer Greg Smith: "She proposes that new visions must end the centuries old approach of believing, behaving, and belonging in favor of the more ancient order: belonging, behaving, and believing."
"Diana reminds us here that, before every great awakening, folks say it is impossible... and after every great awakening, folks say it was inevitable." - Shane Claiborne
Finding God Beyond Religion: A Guide for Skeptics, Agnostics & Unorthodox Believers Inside & Outside the Church, Tom Stella (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2013).
Former Catholic priest Stella wants spiritual seekers to realize that God is in each of them, and if that sounds like the Quaker concept of the inner light, so be it. That it also suggests divine immanence, shorn of its orthodox confinement to the Incarnation but also free from pantheism, is implicit throughout this fluent, compelling guide. What religion in the title means also goes unstated, but the text inferentially confirms that the institutional church and its dogmas constitute most of what Stella advises seekers to go beyond to find God. Find but not become, for God is not a person. Indeed, as a person, God is not dead but never lived. In chapters provocatively titled to open up that conception of God-"From Belief to Faith," "Jesus: The Way, or in the Way?," "Morality as Right Relationship," "What Problem of Evil?," "Church with a Mission, Mission with a Church"-Stella exposes how, in our time, anthropomorphizing God prevents the fuller life that Christianity, in particular, promises believers. Exceptionally cogent spiritual guidance. - Ray Olson
What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell (Harper One Reprint, 2014).
Rob Bell is a new sort of Christian Evangelical and here he proposes ways to think and talk about God that make sense in a world informed by modern science. "What We Talk About When We Talk About God challenges conventional notions of God as an otherworldly divine being set apart from humanity, opposed to science and insistent on a conservative interpretation of the Bible. Instead, Bell argues that God is more clearly perceived during moments like, well, surfing." (Orange County Register)
A website for "Spiritual But Not Religious"
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, William L. Ury and Roger Fisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2nd Ed., 1992).
Since its original publication nearly thirty years ago, Getting to Yes has helped millions of people learn a better way to negotiate. One of the primary business texts of the modern era, it is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a group that deals with all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution.
Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight-forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.
Making Your Relationship Safe for Intimacy, James M. Truxell. How any two or more people can communicate in ways that avoid destructive conflict and promote mutual understanding and win-win problem-solving.
Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker J. Palmer (Jossey-Bass, 2011).
"There is a deep and disturbing cloud hanging over the United States. It is a malaise that is leading to cynicism and self-centeredness. The antidote is to be found in the healing of the heart of our democracy, so that we might emerge from this private focus to a public one, which recognizes our interdependence. I know of no better guide to discerning the problem and the solutions, than this book by Parker Palmer. It is a prophetic book, one that needs to be taken with all due seriousness, if we are to emerge from our malaise stronger and healthier than before." - Englewood Review of Books
Living the Questions: TheWisdom of Progressive Christianity, David M. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy (Harper One, 2012).
"I'm so grateful for Living the Questions. These progressive voices offer less rigid and more expansive approaches to Christian faith, and make room for people who practice critical thinking and question the gatekeepers. They help us see that questioning the gatekeepers is exactly what Jesus was all about." - Brian McLaren
"A welcome book that is bold (without being contentious) and courageous (without needing to be triumphant), Felten and Procter-Murphy give voice to a faith that provides a profound alternative to the dominant ideology of 'American Christianity.' Attention should be paid!" - Walter Brueggemann
The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, Marcus Borg (HarperOne, 2004).
Christianity appears to be at a crossroads, and religious historian Borg draws a distinction between what he calls an emerging paradigm and an earlier paradigm. The distinction is important because Christianity, he says, still makes sense and is the most viable religious option for millions. He contends the earlier paradigm, based upon a punitive God and believing in Christianity now for the sake of salvation later, simply doesn't work for many people. It also doesn't take into account the sacramental nature of religious belief; that is, religion as a vessel wherein the sacred comes to the faithful. Borg's emerging paradigm is based upon the belief that one must be transformed in one's own lifetime, that salvation means one is healed and made whole with God. He feels the new paradigm allows more people to be and become Christians. In his compelling proposal Borg consistently aligns the emerging paradigm with God, Jesus, the Bible, tradition, and religious practice, which constitute the heart of Christianity. - Donna Chavez
A Website or Progressive Christianity
From Discontent Toward Something Better: Books That Propose New Faith Understandings and a
Saving Jesus from the Church, Robin R. Meyers (Harper One, 2010).
New Vision for the Church
"Every once in a while, a book comes along that changes everything. This is the book. It is scholarly, pastoral, prophetic, and eloquent--all in equal measure. Robin Meyers has spoken truth to power, and the church he loves will never be the same." - Desmond Tutu
"With crisply prophetic joy, Meyers calls seekers and believers alike to leave belief about God behind in favor of becoming imitators of Jesus. We can save Jesus from the church, and in doing so, recreate faith communities freed from hypocrisy and filled with hope." - Diana Butler Bass
If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus, Philip Gulley
From the back cover: While many denominations claim to be growing, the largest group in American religious life is the disillusioned-people who have been involved in the church yet see few similarities between the church's life and the person of Jesus. In the midst of elaborate programming, professional worship teams, and political crusades, they ask, "Is this really what Jesus called us to do?"
While the church has dismissed these people as uncommitted and lacking in faith, perhaps the opposite is true. Their commitment to authentic spirituality over institutional idolatry might be the very corrective the church needs. These people respect Jesus, but question what Christianity has become. . . . In If the Church Were Christian, Quaker pastor and author Philip Gulley explores how the church has lost its way. This eye-opening examination of the values of Jesus reveals the extent to which the church has drifted from the teachings of the man who inspired its creation. Many Christians might be surprised to discover how little Jesus had to say about the church, and that he might never have intended to start a new religion.
A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying & How a New Faith Is Being Born, John Shelby Spong (HarperSanFrancisco, 2002).
Amazon.com review: Christianity will not be a viable belief system for honest people in the contemporary world, writes John Shelby Spong, until it drops a few outmoded ideas--for instance, belief in a supernatural God who reveals Himself from outside creation. A New Christianity for a New World continues the work begun in Spong's bestselling Why Christianity Must Change or Die, in which the former Episcopalian bishop diagnosed Christianity's major problems. Here, he offers a vision of what authentic Christian belief might look like today, stripped of theism and all its corollaries (doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Atonement).
A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith,
Brian D. McLaren (HarperOne, 2011).
We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the church. Not since the Reformation five centuries ago have so many Christians come together to ask whether the church is in sync with their deepest beliefs and commitments. These believers range from evangelicals to mainline Protestants to Catholics, and the person who best represents them is author and pastor Brian McLaren.
In this much anticipated book, McLaren examines ten questions facing today's church-questions about how to articulate the faith itself, the nature of its authority, who God is, whether we have to understand Jesus through only an ancient Greco-Roman lens, what exactly the good news is that the gospel proclaims, how we understand the church and all its varieties, why we are so preoccupied with sex, how we should think of the future and people from other faiths, and the most intimidating question of all: what do we do next? Here you will find a provocative and enticing introduction to the Christian faith of tomorrow.
The Bible and Books That Offer Perspectives Based Upon It
We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Activation, Brian D. McLaren (Jericho Books, 2014).
If I were to offer but one course in the Bible in a congregation, I would use this book. Those who already have an extensive knowledge of the Bible will learn much here. For those who are more to the Biblically illiterate end of the scale (no points off!) the view presented here will have you blowing the dust off the old black leather coffee table paperweight and possibly saying something like: "Gosh! I never knew the Bible actually could make sense in the 21st century and speak meaningfully to a world in which the physical climate is overheating because of human activities, in which the political climate is overheated by the hot air of my-way-or-the-highway dualistic thinking, and in which hot wars threaten peace around the globe." Actually, we can't imagine anyone saying that: it was hard enough just to write it. But something like that is likely to be your reaction upon reading McLaren's latest book. It's cool! (Sorry.) ~ Jim Truxell
Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally, Marcus Borg (Harper SanFrancisco, 2002)
Marcus Borg, who died in January 2015, offers a highly readable and succinct introduction to biblical interpretation, outlining the kinds of cultural, theological and historical lenses through which people read the Bible and explaining how those readings affect their relation to God. The historical-metaphorical reading that Borg presents includes both the "historical illumination of a text in its ancient context" and a metaphorical approach that "enables us to see and affirm meanings that go beyond the particularity of what the texts meant in their ancient setting." He applies this approach to the Bible in sections, wending his way from the creation stories to Revelation even as he advocates a journey from "precritical naivete" (the acceptance that the Bible is literally true) through "critical thinking" to "postcritical naivete" (accepting again that the Bible is true even if that truth does not depend upon factuality). The book is copiously footnoted without being in the least stodgy, and is open about Borg's own spiritual journey without being didactic or disrespectful of the tradition he has left.
Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, Marcus Borg (Harper One, 2008).
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 Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan (Harper One, 2007).
*Starred Review* Taking Mark, the earliest Gospel, as their guide, Borg and Crossan "retell a story everyone thinks they know too well and most do not seem to know at all." So doing, they offer an alternative passion of the Christ, the primary feature of which is not suffering (Latin passio) but passion understood Anglophonically as "consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm, or concentrated commitment." Jesus' passion was the kingdom of God declared in terms of God's justice, they say, and the fact that such declaration was seen, despite Jesus' nonviolence, as a threat to the system of domination by Rome and its wealthy Jewish collaborators led to his suffering. Borg and Crossan parse Mark's reportage (so to speak) on the days from Palm Sunday to Easter to demonstrate the challenges Jesus made to Roman and Herodian-temple rule. They point up Jesus' insistence on justice, especially equitable distribution of necessities, and such too-little-noticed matters as Jesus' great popularity, attested by the crowds who hang on his words and his adversaries' fears of angering those crowds; so fearful are they that they must find a traitor, seize Jesus at night, and whisk him through the courts. Written with Crossan's scholarly scintillation rather than Borg's sometimes plodding earnestness, this is politically concerned analysis of Christianity at its best. Ray Olson
Ian Fleming's Seven Deadlier Sins and 007's Moral Compass, W. Benjamin Pratt (David Crumm Media, 2008).
Note: This is a fascinating book that doesn't neatly fit in any of our categories. But since it's further sub-title indicates that it's also a Bible study on the Book of James ("James, a bondservant . . . .") we've included it here. Definitely an intriguing and rewarding read because of a number of themes it develops.
From the cover: Here's a book that will open your eyes and fascinate you with the many guises of evil in our times. It's also a book that will usefully disturb you, as you find these evil processes at work in your own life. Ultimately, it's a book that will reward your efforts as you look at evil through the eyes of Ian Fleming's James Bond. Like bond, you too might be roused to take on the dragons of evil in our midst. Great for individual reflection or small group study. Includes a complete study guide and other extras to help you quickly spark discussion in your group.
Prayer, Contemplative Spirituality,
"Music and Laughter, and Good Red Wine" This excellent essay on prayer was the Introduction to the book The God Who Fell From Heaven, by the Jesuit writer John Shea. Since the book is no longer in print, we have copied it word for word and it is available here.
In God's Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (Chalice Press, 1996).
Once the academic Dean of Wesley Theological Seminary, Suchocki is a kindred spirit to John Shea (see above) when it comes to her take on prayer . . . and, therefore, on God. This is a more scholarly treatment of the subject, yet is anything but ponderous. Some very useful, fresh metaphors and surprising understandings about prayer.
Suchocki explores the dynamics of prayer. "If," she says, "we regard prayer as a partnership with, not a manipulation of, God, we can find whole new dimensions in our prayer life."
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, Richard Rohr (Crossword, 2009).
I have read 5 of Rohr's works, and this one is the culmination of several of his classics. His seminal work is Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, which is his first attempt at the description of the holistic nature of Spiritual life, and how the Eternal is unitive, and not dualistic. This unitive theme is refined and brought home in an even more lucid way in this writing.
In the Naked Now, he brings together much of the works of others that he has synthesized and learned. He is truly an avid learner and gleaner of the wisdom of sages of all traditions and schools of thought. This contemporary writing reflects this new insight. - C. Sam Smith, customer review
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, Richard Rohr (Jossey-Bass, 2013).
How well do we know ourselves? So many roles and identities shape individual lives that it's easy to be confused about what is authentically "us." Rohr, a Franciscan priest and founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.Mex., leads a narrative excursion to the "True Self," the core of character that lies like a diamond buried within. Writing for secular seekers, the author claims that individuals need to allow the false self to fall away in order to get in touch with the true self, allowing it to breathe and flourish. Grasping onto the superficial identities of the false self, such as job, class, race, or accomplishments, can keep people from being the loving and generous conduits of the Divine that they are meant to be. God is always communicating with humans, but those who cling to ego and social position can't hear these divine messages. The author makes clear that it is not easy to shed this falseness for truth in the inner life, but it is a spiritual path well worth the effort. - Publishers Weekly
Yes, and . . .: Daily Meditations, Richard Rohr (Franciscan Media, 2013).
What Rohr has given us…is a collection of 366 meditations-one for every day of the year-to help us figure out what it means to wrestle with our Christian faith.… Rohr is convincing when he argues that "Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive and triumphalist texts in His own Jewish Bible in favour of passages that emphasized inclusion, mercy and honesty.
In his view, it is past time to do away with literal readings of the Bible, and it is time to read our Bibles within the contexts of both our own lives and our own political time. It is time to end theological eliteness and recognize that Jesus' ministry, which we seek to emulate, was both humble and revolutionary. Such an approach brings us into a true liberation theology, for ourselves, our churches and our world. - Sara Stratton, Catholic Register, Toronto
Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperOne, 2007)
Episcopal priest Taylor, a respected and beloved preacher, ended a 20-year career when, after much reflection, she left the church. She had expected to spend the rest of her life writing sermons and leading worship. Instead, she now teaches full time at a college in Georgia. With its three indicatively titled sections--"Finding," "Losing," "Keeping"--Leaving Church aims to explain her compulsion to leave the familiar behind. When she was first ordained and for years thereafter, she felt certain about the fundamentals of her own faith and what it meant to be Christian. But she slowly realized that she was conflicted, internally and with the church, in large part because of church-inclusiveness controversies, including gay and lesbian issues. She laments that while ostensibly protecting the integrity of scripture and church doctrine, people can trample the rights of others. She discovered that change isn't easy. Sometimes, even getting dressed in the morning seems an insurmountable challenge. Ultimately, Taylor's is a luminous portrait of faith not lost but questioned, refound, and regained. - Booklist
An Altar In The World, Barbara Brown Taylor (Canterbury Press Norwich, 2009).
"She's deliberately exploring the turf where our feet hit the floorboards each morning - and where the day takes us into the world. Even if you're not a Christian, you'll find a wise friend in Barbara's book." - Read the Spirit
"Taylor writes fluently, with an eye and ear for the striking image and memorable phrase. Many readers, especially the vast numbers of the "unchurched" but "spiritual," will find support and useful counsel." - Library Journal