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Reading, listening
Books and CDs can make good gifts for family, friends and colleagues

By Vicki Gray and Jerry Hames

 


LW_hm_book_icon Book Rabble-Rouser for Peace
Publisher: Free Press
Author: John Allen
Description: 496 pp., $28. This is an authorized biography of Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has expended his life struggling for South African independence, seeking justice for the oppressed and waging peace within violence-stricken regions of the world. It is written by a respected journalist who has spent most of his last 20 years working alongside Tutu. As a result, it gives the reader remarkable insights into Tutu’s spiritual worldview and discipline that made him South Africa’s preeminent leader in the fight against racism and a towering figure in the subsequent reconciliation within the country.


LW_hm_book_icon Book A Year with Jesus: Daily Readings and Meditations
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
Author: Eugene H. Patterson
Description: 365 pp., $19.95. A college professor of spiritual theology in Vancouver, Peterson chooses from the gospels of Matthew and John, 365 readings to offer a refuge from the day-to-day frenetic pace and to become apprentices for Christ by reading and reflecting on his teaching. Prayer is a way of living, Peterson argues, and it is through spending time with Jesus that one learns how to pray.


LW_hm_book_icon Book The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
Author: Michael Lerner
Description: 416 pp., $24.95. The sub-title says it all. Rabbi Lerner feels that the fundamentalist Right has used fear to dominate our politics and economic life for its own narrow gain. “If,” he says, “the Right Hand of God seeks [only] to ‘win,’ the Left Hand of God seeks a world in which winning is no longer the appropriate category.” He and the Network of Spiritual Activists he founded last year (http://www.tikkun.org/) are dedicated to bringing about a new “bottom line” marked by “a politics of hope and a vision of love.” This important and inspiring book lays out a strategy for doing so.


LW_hm_book_icon Book Credo
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Author: William Sloane Coffin
Description: 173 pp., $12.95. Need some hope and joy in your life?  Open the pages of this rich compendium of excerpts from Coffin’s sermons.  An advocate of civil rights and peace at Yale, senior minister at Riverside Church, and immortalized as Doonesbury’s Rev. Sloan, Coffin, who died last April, was the quintessential prophet, never afraid to speak truth to power.  He decried those “who prefer certainty to truth, those in church who put the purity of dogma ahead of the integrity of love” and called for our churches “to be courageous and creative, not sanctuaries for frightened Americans.”  “A church,” he added, “is a place where we try to think, speak, and act in God’s way, not in the way of a fear-filled world.”


LW_hm_book_icon Book Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Revolutionary Hero
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
Author: Marcus Borg
Description: 343 pp., $24.95.  In his very latest book, this Anglican theologian and biblical scholar introduces the reader to a religious revolutionary who brought transformation, not doctrine, to the world. Borg offers his insights into who Jesus was, what he taught and why his life and those lessons still matter today. In a decade in which Christians are passionately divided over issues as evolution, the theology of just war and gay marriage, the book offers new insights.


LW_hm_book_icon Book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author: Jim Wallis
Description: 432 pp., $14.95. God, writes Wallis writes, is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  “Faith,” he adds, “must be free to challenge both right and left from a consistent moral ground.  God’s politics is therefore never partisan or ideological, but…reminds us of the people our politics always neglects – the poor, the vulnerable, the left behind.”  Wallis, the evangelical Christian editor of Sojourners, argues that the Religious Right has “hijacked the language of faith to prop up its political agenda” and that the Left has a tendency to “put faith in God aside” in “pursuing a progressive social agenda.”  Moving beyond “a false choice between ideological religion and soulless politics,” he sets forth a moral agenda that seeks to address poverty, the environment, war and peace, truth-telling, human rights, a reasoned response to terrorism, and a consistent ethic of human life.  Noting that “we are the ones we have been waiting for,” he calls on Christians to get politically involved in the pursuit of such an agenda.


LW_hm_book_icon Book And God Said, “Play Ball”
Publisher: Ligouri
Author: Gary Graf
Description: 179 pp., $19.95. As you might think, Graf’s book explores the sometimes amusing and thought-provoking parallels between the Bible and baseball. An entertaining, educational, fanciful and inspirational work, as the book enters the eighth and ninth innings, it explores the concepts of forgiveness, redemption, the Promised Land and resurrection. It’s the only book you’ll find Jesus and Yogi Berra, Noah and Hank Aaron mentioned in the same breath. Black and white photos – of baseball heroes only.


LW_hm_book_icon Book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author: Jimmy Carter
Description: 250 pp., $27. In his latest book, the former president, who with his wife, Rosalynn, founded The Carter Center to help prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy and improve world health, says the lack of permanent peace in the Middle East is a continuing threat to global peace. He shares his intimate knowledge, based on the peace he negotiated between Egypt and Israel and the Palestinian elections he observed in 2005 and 2006.He calls U.S. government leaders to push toward a goal of a just agreement, arguing that as long as Israel continues to violate key U.N. resolutions and American policy, there will be no lasting peace in the region. His message is challenging and provocative.


icon_audio_lg CD American Voices
Author: Ashley and Jonathan Steinhart and Linda Jaussi
Description: $14., email steinhart@frontier.net, or call 505-368-5055.  A physician,  college physics professor, and music teacher, all with musical roots in folk and faith, have joined voices to produce a memorable CD with an eclectic collection of folk songs from 18th century England and Scotland, Appalachia, New England and ballads and hymns. A guitar, keyboard and recorder accompany the harmonious voices of the trio. Selections include well-known  The Cherry Tree Carol,  Black is the Color (of My True Love’s Hair), the African American spiritual “All My Trials” and “Come, Come Ye Saints.” The Steinharts and Jaussi sing two versions of God Moves in Mysterious Ways by William Cowper, one of the great poets and hymn writers of 18th century England and close with Parting Friends, signaling the musical journey’s end with the lyrics  “your company has been delightful.”


LW_hm_book_icon Book God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est
Publisher: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Author: Benedict XVI
Description: 54 pp., $6.95. Who would have expected that the first encyclical of Benedict, with his reputation as a dour and uncompromising theologian, would be a treatise on love…in all its aspects, all inseparably inter-connected – eros and agape, love of God and of neighbor, justice and charity.  Concerning the latter nexus, he writes that “the just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics,” but that “there is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love.”  His arguments are nuanced and, for the most part, persuasive.  Anyone interested in ecumenical dialogue would do well to read this slim volume.


LW_hm_book_icon Book Love in A Fearful Land: A Guatemalan Story
Publisher: Orbis
Author: Henri Nouwen
Description: 128 pp., $14.  This is the story of the priest Stanley Rother – “Father Francisco” - who stood in “subversive service” with his Tzutuhil Mayan parishioners as they faced genocide in the Guatemalan highland village of Santiago Atitlan.  He was murdered by a death squad in 1981. Nouwen wrote this book in 1985 to ensure that Americans, remembering Stanley’s death and the role of the U.S. government in the violence and the cover-up of such events, might heed Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero’s call to “feel with the church.”  As a former Foreign Service officer and someone who visited Santiago Atitlan both before and after the massacres of the civil war, I left some tears on these pages.


icon_audio_lg CD The Chants of Christmas
Publisher: Paraclete Press
Author: Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola
Description: $16.95, http://www.paracletepress.com/ or 800-451-5006. The voices of the 16 members, who are dedicated to the singing of Gregorian chant, has been widely acclaimed. On this CD, the Schola chants the four major masses that constitute the celebration of Christmas. The listener will find that each has its own character and sound – from the Missam in Viglia, built on the anticipation of Christ’s birth, to the Missam in Die, a moving expression of the evangelical message, ‘The Lord has made known his salvation.” The Antiphons to the Blessed Virgin Mary, each with its own beauty, are included, although they are not liturgically part of the Christmas season. The antiphons, medieval in origin, were originally used before and after the chanting of a psalm or canticle.


LW_hm_book_icon Book A New Reformation
Publisher: Wisdom University Press
Author: Matthew Fox
Description: 102 pp., $12.  A former Dominican, now an Episcopal priest, Fox taught feminist theology and creation spirituality for a decade at Oakland’s Holy Names College before being silenced in the mid-nineties by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.  Filled with “holy outrage” at the current state of the church (and a flair for the theatrical),” he traveled to Wittenburg last year to nail his 95 theses for a “New Reformation” on the same church door where Luther started the Reformation 500 years before.  He argues that, today, there are two Christianities – “One worships a punitive Father and seeks obedience at all costs….The other recognizes the Original Blessing that all being derives from…and awe (not sin and guilt) as the starting point of true religion.”  Sensing a “Pentecostal moment,” he calls for a turning away from the fundamentalism and “Christofacism” that, he claims, have taken over western religion.  His conclusion: “Maybe its time to let the fundamentalists have the church with its buildings and its museums and its debts and payouts for pedophile offenders.  We will take Christ.” Harsh?  Sure. question remains: How do we as thinking, loving Christians respond?


LW_hm_book_icon Book The Messiah of Morris Avenue
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Author: Tony Hendra
Description: 245 pp., $24.  A rollicking and inspiring satire by the author of Father Joe.  The story begins around 2015.  Spiritual Adviser to three presidents, Spiritual Clerk of the Supreme Court under God, and Chaplain-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces with the rank of two-star general, the Rev. James Zebediah Sabbath is the most powerful person in “a faith-based, morality-valuing, Bible-believing America, where theocracy and democracy [are] synonymous.” Enter Jay, the “Mysterious Stranger,” driving a van through New Jersey “preaching radical notions like kindness, generosity, and forgiveness while tossing off a few miracles.” He makes it to the Bronx, to his Guatemalan mom Maria, and Johnny, an unbeliever, who publicizes Jay’s miracles. The “Sayings of Jay” and the “New Beatitudes,” which comprise the bulk of one chapter, are worthy additions to the originals.


icon_audio_lg CD Christmas Songs
Description: Elisabeth Von Trapp, $16., http://www.elisabethvontrapp.com/ or 802-496-3171. Von Trapp’s fondest memories of Christmases in Vermont included the blessing of the family home on Christmas Eve, followed by the lighting of candles and burning of incense in the kitchen, the, proceeding from room to room, singing and praying. “Our farmhouse was filled with friends and family and the walls resounded with Christmas Song. Although this CD is not new, it is classical Christmas, with Von Trapp arrangements of a Gregorian chant, 15th century German carol, Basque carol, English carols, a French folk medley. Of course, there’s Edelweiss as well.