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Does the Historical Jesus Matter? Testing good theology

This coming weekend will be marked by a 25th anniversary gathering and celebration for the important scholarly enterprise known as the Jesus Seminar. A good time to ask what difference it makes when the Jesus of history turns out to be considerably more interesting than the myth-encrusted Christ created by the church over the centuries. Or does it make any difference at all?

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Religionless Religion: Beyond Belief to Understanding

In these perilous times when the very survival of the human species is at stake, there is a desperate need for wisdom to provide guidance. The sacred literature of the world’s major religious traditions is a source for such wisdom, but it has largely been misinterpreted and misunderstood, and, thus, instead of being a source for wisdom, it has been a source for confusion and conflict. The ancient scriptures, for the most part, were written in a language which is quite different from ordinary language. It is a mythological language, which is symbolic, and therefore its meaning is hidden. In the Bible, for example, there are many narratives that appear to be historical, but they are history that has been mythologized, and therefore their surface meaning is not their real meaning. Clyde Edward Brown clearly illustrates that the correct interpretation of the world’s religious texts would lead to a different concept of religion. Instead of belief in the literal truth of texts that have been misinterpreted, the emphasis would be on having those religious values, such as social and economic justice, which are common to all religions.

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Women Healing Women: A Model of Hope for Oppressed Women Everywhere

Much has been written on the plight of women in Indian society, but this book presents an effective practical response to the appalling injustices – and a model of hope for agencies and programs for oppressed women around the world. This book recounts the true story of “Maher”, a remarkable project and centre for battered women and children located near Pune, India. Founded in 1997, the project has provided refuge to more than 1250 women, half of whom might otherwise have been murdered, committed suicide, or starved to death. Maher is an interfaith community that honours all religions and strongly repudiates caste distinctions – making it a rare beacon shining new hope upon some of the gravest problems in India and around the world. The book is rich with stories – poignant first-hand accounts by women and children whose lives have been transformed by the Maher project. Later chapters explore the larger implications of this pioneering work, with guidance for implementing similar projects elsewhere. Written in a concise narrative style, “Women Healing Women in India” is an easy and compelling read.

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Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing The Story

In Correcting Jesus, Brian Griffith patiently and clearly untangles the many strands of the story of Christianity, and the many changes made over the centuries to the original story of Jesus and his message. For any reader who’s wondered, “Where did that rule come from?” and “Was it always this way?” Brian’s book is the one you’ve waited for. He’s always passionate but direct in his thesis that the original words of Jesus were meant as a basis for a society based on partnership and equity, not the one of domination and hierarchy they’re used so often to justify.

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Questions for the Rabbi and the Pastor

A son returning from college talks with his father about his course on Religion…

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I Want to be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth

A Memoir

In Brenda Peterson’s unusual memoir, fundamentalism meets deep ecology. The author’s childhood in the high Sierra with her forest ranger father led her to embrace the entire natural world, while her Southern Baptist relatives prepared eagerly and busily to leave this world. Peterson survived fierce sword drill competitions demanding total recall of the Scriptures and awkward dinner table questions (Will Rapture take the cat, too?) only to find that environmentalists with prophecies of doom can also be Endtimers. Peterson paints such a hilarious, loving portrait of each world that the reader, too, may want to be Left Behind. Her clever take on the “Left Behind” phenomenon in the book’s title isn’t just a gentle refutation of an escapist religious prophecy. It’s an appeal for something more inclusive than the idea that true believers will one day be swept up midair and whisked off to an eternal paradise, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

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