Books That Could Change your Life: The Religious Awakening List

Way back in January, I began a list of Wednesday Reviews focusing on books that have changed my life–and which just might change yours. I started with the Artist’s List, moved on to the Feel Better List, then got waylaid just after the Budding Feminist List. Now I’m back to offer you the last two installments: Religious Awakening and Survival Parenting (next Wednesday). Thanks for hanging in there with me…and remember, any purchases made by clicking on the embeded links help support this website. Here’s to brave new worlds!

Shortly after being ordained as an evangelical minister, I became almost entirely disenchanted with the world of church. The church wanted me to debate people into conversion; I want to dialogue with people about life. The church wanted me to de-bunk all other religions; I wanted to learn from their holy stories. The church wanted me to entertain people on Sunday morning; I wanted to host a banqueting table heavy on the bread, wine, and storytelling. The church wanted a water-tight system of belief; I wanted a way of living that recognized everyday moments as holy.

I spent a lot of time at staff meetings blathering on about these things while my co-workers looked at me with concern. Then I read these books, held the hand of their authors, and gleefully jumped off the diving board and into the deep end of generous faith.

A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey
A New Kind of Christian

The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian
The Story We Find Ourselves In

The Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity
The Last Word (and the Word after That)

Brian McLaren

If you are a traditional church-goer who has felt kind of squirmy at Sunday morning services lately, I strongly suggest dipping into this trilogy. McLaren presents emerging/post-modern theology in the form of a fictional conversation between two friends—a pastor and a science teacher/philosopher. McLaren doesn’t claim to be an accomplished fiction writer, but his technique here makes these books easier to read than most religious texts.

were the unofficial required reading for the spiritual growth community I used to host. They’ve been a life line to the many ‘recovering evangelicals’ who have walked through our door. A New Kind of Christian breaks things open. The Story We Find Ourselves In ourselves In re-defines the Bible as a descriptive family story (as opposed to a prescriptive rule book). The Last Word (and the Word after That) tackles the concept of hell.

I would consider McLaren’s approach to be gently progressive; fundamentalists will hate it, but it’s great for the Jesus-y person who is deconstructing their faith in the hope of finding something at the center that’s worth holding on to. Read bravely. Today’s Flavor: Scratches where it itches.

The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness
The Spiral Staircase
Karen Armstrong

From her life as a young nun to her current role as an interfaith expert, academic Karen Armstrong The Spiral Staircase tells her story of journeying through faith and reason. Her tale spirals through faith, disillusionment, enlightenment, and back again, with each turn bringing her new understanding and depth. Most known for the popular texts A History of God and The Battle for God, in Spiral Staircase Armstrong uses a different voice to tell her own complex and very personal story. I’ve already marked up one copy, given it away, and started re-reading another. A well written memoir from one of today’s top scholars. Today’s Flavor: Find yourself on every tread.

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth
The Power of Myth
Joseph Campbell

Okay, so it’s not a book, but he has written plenty of them. The Power of Myth DVD series, Joseph Campbell’s theories on comparative religious studies are broken into bite sized bits for those of us who aren’t pursuing an advanced degree. I’ve only begun watching this amazing collection of lectures, quotes, and images – but already I know it will be a pivotal item in my transformational tool kit. The late Joseph Campbell was one of the most respected scholars in his field, and his work is amplifying this voice in my head that’s telling me “All truth is God’s Truth”—no matter what package it comes wrapped in. Today’s Flavor: Expand you mind without over straining your brain.

Find more great reads and other stuff I like at Magpie Reviews.

Jennifer/The Word Cellar February 27, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Thanks for tackling this tricky subject and sharing your finds with us. I’ve lately found myself to be a “Jesus-y person” who is looking for some Truth to hold onto. And I don’t talk about it with my Christian friends because I’m afraid they’ll “look at me with concern,” as your co-workers did. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my search. I’m adding these books to my must-read list.

Elaine February 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm

I’m on step (page) #145 of The Spiral Staircase and you are so right — I am finding myself on every tread.

Jennifer (Et Tu?) March 1, 2008 at 1:49 pm

What an intriguing list! I’m a recent convert (from atheism) and quite a few of these look interesting. Thank you for taking the time to put this together!

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