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Every Dinner Table Is an Altar: The “Cowbalah” of Jim Corbett

a review of SANCTUARY FOR ALL LIFE: The Cowbalah of Jim Corbett

Sanctuary for All Life hallows humans’ relationship to the earth in words that point to a realm beyond words, a Peaceable Kingdom beyond the thrall of kings and states, living a law that trumps all written codes because it is “in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14). To show the way, Corbett obstinately synthesized the disparate disciplines in which he had steeped himself, from analysis of the range-grasses of the Sonoran desert to dissection of the finer points of the medieval Jewish mysticism of Spain. But what else could we have expected from a Quaker cowboy with a masters in philosophy from Harvard?

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Review of: Vanishing Grace – Remembering the Promise of Faith

A Review of Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

I was attracted to Philip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace (Zondervan, 2014) by the back-jacket copy: ‘“Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” Philip Yancey has been asking this all his life as a journalist. His perennial question is more relevant now than ever: in a twenty-year span starting in the mid-nineties, research shows that favorable opinions of Christianity have plummeted drastically—and opinions of Evangelicals have taken even deeper dives […] Why are so many asking, “What’s so good about the “Good News?”’

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Some Assembly Required: A Church Without God

I thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday Assembly. Clearly it addresses a felt need of many people for a community without religious content. I sensed that some folks were there in reaction against religion, but it looked like most were just looking for a wholesome community with which to connect.

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My Kind of Atheist- Book Review

Book Review of Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to Give Love, Create Beauty and Find Peace, by Frank Schaeffer

Although this book is very much about Schaeffer’s own journey to freedom, there’s enough of the good theologian and good biblical scholar in him to delight those of us who can never get enough of that kind of thing. He does a lot with the figure of Jesus as the only lens through which to grasp what God might be like, if God existed (the key God-marker in Jesus, according to Schaeffer: “non-judgmental co-suffering empathy”). He notes that Jesus violated every religious taboo of his time and place: touching dead people, touching lepers, touching women and letting women touch him.

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Pop Prophets and Religious Pluralism- A Review of Natural Mystics

A review by Jim Burklo of NATURAL MYSTICS: The Prophetic Lives of Bob Marley and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan by Varun Soni

Varun Soni argues that Khan and Marley, among other artists at present and in the recent past, situate themselves in long lineages of religious prophecy while expressing prophetic traditions in distinct ways that reflect cultural globalization and technological advances. Music is a more powerful medium for prophecy than ever before, now that it has the potential for instantaneous global reach. Varun names this phenomenon “pop-propheticism”, characterized by canonical recitation (referencing ancient lines of prophetic utterance), mystical intoxication with the Divine (whether through spiritual practices or by ingesting mind-altering substances), musical fusion (stretching traditional musical boundaries to reach new audiences), media proliferation (taking advantage of new and emerging communication channels), economic commodification (making the most of the global musical marketplace), and political appropriation (putting music consciously in the service of social change).

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Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk

Pluralistic Marriage- Review by Jim Burklo

Impending marriage often leads couples to learn more about their traditions of origin. And that study can lead to confrontation with the question of religious pluralism. Is my partner going to hell unless she accepts Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior – really? Is my partner’s Hinduism possibly as good a path to Ultimate Reality as my Islamic faith is for me?

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Book Review: Living the Quaker Way

Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today, Philip Gulley

In his highly readable Living the Quaker Way, Philip Gulley graciously welcomes the curious reader into the Quaker faith. His introductory chapter, “What is a Quaker?” is friendly, open, kind, unpretentious, and folksy. I read on expecting a primer on Quaker history, beliefs and practices and was not disappointed. But then I was startled by the change in tone. As he begins to work through the core values of the Quaker faith – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality – Gulley becomes eloquently and passionately critical of modern American life, criticism that I entirely agree with.

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Review of A Joyful Path, Year Two

One of the major challenges for Progressive Christians in the years to come is paying more attention to “equipping the saints.” The dictionary meaning for “equipping” is “to supply with intellectual, emotional, or spiritual essentials.” It is derived from an old French term which means “to put to sea, to embark.” The Center for Progressive Christianity has picked up this challenge and provided congregations and parents with two years of relevant and imaginative curriculums for the 21st century. They have taken the lead in reframing Sunday school teachings and made them into invaluable resources for “equipping the saints” as they head out on the sea of our culture. Whether you are a parent, a Sunday School teacher, a preacher, a spiritual seeker, or just someone who likes to look at ideas from a child’s point of view, this one’s for you.

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Food, Inc.- DVD

This hard-hitting documentary charts the sad and sometimes scary state of affairs in America’s food industry. Director Robert Kenner presents interviews with farmers, ranchers, and chicken farmers who are increasingly being squeezed out by large and powerful corporations (like Monsanto who over the past decade has increased its share of the soybean market from 2% to 90 %). In addition to exerting control over the nation’s food supply, Big Agriculture has the clout to influence the regulatory agencies which are supposed to protect the consumer. On the one hand the public has more choices in the marketplace (bigger-breasted chickens and insect-resistant soybean seeds); on the other, they are getting sick from the food they eat as new strains of e coli cause illness in an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. In 1972, The FDA conducted 50,000 food inspections and in 2006, the number was down to a dismal 9,200.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild:

Film Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) resides with her charismatic and often crazy father Wink (Dwight Henry) in a rural backwoods patch of land in Louisiana called “the Bathtub”; this low land is separated from the rest of the Louisiana bayou by a huge levee. They live in outrageous poverty: each has a shack on stilts filled with memorabilia and junk accumulated over the years. Wink, an ardent believer in his right to live the way he wants, is convinced that they reside in “the prettiest place on Earth.” When push comes to shove, there’s no way that anybody’s ever going to force him to relocate.

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Film Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is a fisheries scientist working for the British government who is more interested in his research than anything else. His wife Mary (Rachael Stirling) has lost interest in their love relationship as she demonstrates by her post-sex comment, “That should do you for a while.” An ambitious financier, she has scheduled a six-week working stint in Geneva.

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Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers

Book Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Gary Neal Hansen is assistant professor of church history and theology division at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He is also an ordained Presbyterian minister with the Presbyterian Church USA.

Hansen commends the creativity of the Great Artist in giving human beings so many ways to pray. With energy and precision he has selected ten master teachers of prayer down through the centuries and matched each of them with a specific prayer method. The book is divided into four sections.

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Occupy Spirituality: a book review by Jim Burklo

A Book Review by Jim Burklo

The book stirred my blood. It inspired me to work harder to change history, not just lament current repetitions of old, bad patterns.

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Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Film Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

In pursuit of his art and his love of freedom, artist and activist AI Weiwei has been a pain in the neck for Chinese authorities. When they have shut one door, he opens another like the clever and indomitable cat in the opening of this astonishing documentary directed by Alison Klayman. Winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, it also was featured as the opening night selection for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in 2012.

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Love Free or Die

Film Review

Gene Robinson was elected bishop in the rural Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. As Christendom’s first openly gay bishop he received a lot of publicity as “the most controversial Christian in the world.” Robinson’s faith and courage have been tested every step of the way; he’s had to endure death threats and the hatred of Bible-waving fundamentalists who see him as the spawn of hell.In this edifying and enlightening documentary, winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, director Macky Alston provides an up-close and personal look at Robinson and an overview of the struggles and challenges he has faced in his pioneering ministry of hospitality, reconciliation, and understanding.Robinson has not had an easy time of it.

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What Does it Mean To You?

Commentary on Burton Mack’s book, “The Lost Gospel Q*

I find it exciting to read Burton Mack’s book, “The Lost Gospel Q*, I find his account of the early days of Christianity fascinating, when, as a result of Jesus’ life and teaching, the discovery of God as being within was so vividly first articulated in the near-western world.

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Jesus, the Deconstructionist

Book Review of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Reza Aslan’s basic thesis in Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is that Jesus was a failed revolutionary who was willing to use violence to overthrow the political and religious order to bring in God’s kingdom.

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Zealot: Dr. Aslan’s Violent, Improbable Jesus

Book Review

A Google search for “Zealot Aslan” reveals 2,350,000 results in less than 35 seconds. Page two contains a run-down of the many scholars who either hate the book or shrug it off. Personally, I read it because I was gratified by Dr. Aslan’s skewering of Fox News reporter Lauren Green, who tried and failed to re-ignite the crusades of the 14th century by questioning Aslan’s motives for writing the book in the first place: Why would a Muslim care about who Jesus might have been, and how dare that person presume to be an expert?

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