Origin by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology, returns in this mystery. Langdon travels to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain to attend a major announcement by one of his former students, tech billionaire Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch promises the discovery “will change the face of science forever.” But when the event goes terribly wrong, Langdon and the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal, must flee for their lives and rush to make Kirsch’s discovery public before they are caught. Dan Brown’s fifth Robert Langdon novel again deals with the intersection and conflict between science and religion. Having read all of Dan Brown’s previous novels, I can say that this is one of his best. While there is less emphasis on symbology and codes, Origin is entertaining and bold. The simple but compelling prose builds to a provocative climax making the book hard to put down.
American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham
Jon Meacham tells the story of how the Founding Fathers viewed faith and politics and their delicate balancing act creating a nation where religion can shape public life without controlling it. Meacham uses historical context and the Founding Fathers own words to successfully argue that America is neither a Christian nation nor a completely secular one. Succinctly and well written, Meacham provides a balanced look at American history through the lens of religion. “It is, rather, a habit of mind and heart that enables Americans to be at once tolerant and reverent—two virtues of relevance to all, for the Founders’ public religion is consummately democratic. When a president says “God bless America” or when we sing “America! America! God shed his grace on thee,” each American is free to define God in whatever way he chooses. A Christian’s mind may summon God the Father; a Jew’s, Yahweh; a Muslim’s, Allah; an atheist’s, no one, or no thing. Such diversity is not a prescription for dissension. It is part of the reality of creation.” I recommend this reading this book, especially in such a time of divisiveness because it reminds us that the United States was founded on the unity we find through our Creator (whoever or whatever that might be) endowing all humans with the same inalienable rights.
Religion Month Encore
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian D. McLaren
Total Reading Time: 3.25 hours
Review: Why can’t we all just get along? No, seriously, why not? Rev. McLaren makes a passionately persuasive argument that it is imperative to ameliorate the horrible hostility among religions and the religious/nonreligious. He advocates a position that he himself admits is radical and subversive: that we can share our faith without requiring conversion and in return we should gratefully receive the treasures offered by other faiths without feeling the need to convert. It would be a complete paradigm shift from the current religious atmosphere of “I’m right and you’re going to hell.” It’s completely necessary and we can do it without losing all that is good about our respective beliefs, without losing our Christian identity. Because guess what? That’s how Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed would do it.
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong
Total Reading Time: 3 hours
Review: I will let Bishop Spong’s elegant & thoughtful words speak for themselves. “The task of the modern Christian is to have the living Word that moves beneath the literal words of the Bible erupt to call people into life and into the task of building an inclusive community where Christ is seen in all persons, where those in Christ can begin to respect the dignity of every human being, and where all people can begin to respond to the presence of God that is over, under, around and through all of life.” “Men and women, homosexual persons and heterosexual persons, all races, nationalities, and persons of any ethnic background, all communists and capitalists, rich and poor, old and young, religious and nonreligious, Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus, atheists and agnostics–all persons reflect the holiness of God, for all are made in God’s image. How can I enslave, segregate, denigrate, oppress, violate, or victimize one who bears the image of the Holy One? That is the Word of God I meet in the Bible.”
Note: For the next month, I’ll be reading books about religion. My father has generously given me some good suggestions and I’m looking forward to it. So here it goes…
The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction About Jesus by John Dominic Crossan
Total Reading Time: 4.75 hours
Review: I was immediately struck by Professor Crossan’s impressive academic vocabulary. However, if you’re scared of words like paradigmatically, eschatological or asceticism, you might want to think twice about this book. I imagine this book is a lot like sitting in one of Professor Crossan’s lectures. I tried my best to keep up with the profound nature of his religious academia and I hope I retain even a small amount. Although, I’m pretty sure, as a preacher’s kid, I find this stuff overly fascinating. Case in point: I’ve grown up hearing the term “apocalyptic eschatology” over and over, so much that when I read (and finally understood) it here, I had a nostalgic reaction which I’m guessing most people wouldn’t.