3BoT Vol. 19: Three Books to Shake Up Your View of Christianity
Thursday, May 2, 2013Tweet
The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more info about Three Books on Thursday.
One frustration of mine (and the topic of a future blog post) is how much time and energy some Christians spend telling other Christians that they're not actually Christians. Christians from all different denominations draw a box around themselves and try to insist that only the people in their box are Christians, and all those other people clearly haven't even read the Bible or they wouldn't believe some thing or other.
That's why, as someone who wants to be open-minded, I try to spend time revisiting what I believe and why, as well as gaining a better understanding of what other people believe. It helps me to be able to say, "Even though your beliefs are not my beliefs, or your worship is not my worship, I understand why you believe what you believe or do what you do, and that we all belong to the same family of faith."
Today's three books challenged me to ask difficult questions about my faith, such as "How much of my understanding of the Bible is based on the assumptions I bring to reading it?" "What relationship does, or should, the Old Testament have to my life today?" and "Is the Mass actually the best form of worship for me, or is it just familiar?"
Here are three books for revisiting what it means to be a Christian:
The eponymous blue parakeet is a metaphor McKnight uses for all of those Bible passages we tend to ignore because they either make us uncomfortable or don't fit with what we already believe the Bible says. The author's accessible prose walks the reader through revisiting the Bible, if not with our blinders removed, at least with an awareness of what they are -- such as a tendency to view the Bible as a puzzle we have to put together or as a very long to-do list. He points out uncomfortable truths, such as that the Bible doesn't actually have a black-and-white commandment on premarital sex, and then walks the reader through figuring out how to make decisions in the absence of a clear-cut prescriptive. By laying open the process of Biblical interpretation and challenging preconceptions, McKnight makes it clear that it's not unreasonable for two different people to walk away with two different convictions about the right course of action.
It's no secret that I love Rachel Held Evans, who tackles many of Christianity's thorniest issues on her blog with an astounding amount of grace. I knew I would enjoy her latest book, but didn't know how much it would get me thinking about what relationship the Bible -- specifically, the Old Testament -- should have to my day-to-day life. Held Evans spent a year trying to follow the Bible's instructions for women -- like A.J. Jacobs, but gender-specific. Most vitally, I think, she demonstrates how frustrating and potentially damaging it can be when Bible passages are applied to life abstractly, such as pointing women to Proverbs 31 as a model, while neither considering historical context nor thinking through what the practical implications are. Any book that makes me both laugh and cry has to be good, and one that makes me think about my faith and my life is even better.
This book was recommended to me on a past 3BoT post, and I'm glad, as it gave me a lot to ponder. Strempek Shea, who grew up Catholic, spent a year traveling to different non-Catholic Christian churches across the United States. Across denominations, from tiny churches to mega-churches, it's astonishing to ponder that a religion with a single source could end up looking so very different depending on where you are. For me, at least, it's hard to come away from this book thinking that there is only one true denomination, when people are clearly finding and worshiping God in many different ways. Although it solidified for me that the Mass is my home (though I wouldn't mind checking out a Quaker service), I gained a deeper appreciation for the diversity of the Christian community and the way God meets each person where they are.
What other books have caused you to think more deeply about your faith and/or better understand the diversity within Christianity?
Click here for other 3BoT posts, or check out my Goodreads account for more in-depth reviews and recommendations.
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