Spirituality & Religion Reviews | February 15, 2014

Politics and bodies politic dominate the spiritual writing below, including Eilberg’s and Raheb’s approaches to the inexhaustible Palestinian crisis from their different perspectives, and Frost’s and Skillen’s strikingly contrasted adjurations to Christian engagement with the world. Most compelling as a bridge between faith and the world is Desmond Tutu’s new book, written in collaboration with his daughter Mpho Tutu. Mystics and scholars will rejoice in a new collection of essays by Leo Schaya. Phyllis Tickle and Jon Sweeney hope to usher in the Age of the Spirit, but the spirit of Christianity is perhaps best heard from the unjustly rebuked Leadership Conference of Women Religious: their selected addresses brim with authentic faith and, so, paradoxically, brought them to the wrong side of, you guessed it, politics.

redstarOsborn, Ronald E. Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering. IVP Academic. Mar. 2014. 210p. notes. ISBN 9780830840465. pap. $25. RELdeathbeforethefall030314

Osborn (Anarchy and Apocalypse) has written a thoroughly distinctive book on the suffering of animals—the cruelty we impose on them and that they impose on one another. His ingenious argument is that a too-literal reading of Genesis tends to make us too complacent about animal suffering, and a more nuanced, open approach makes us better advocates for animal rights and better witnesses of the proposed coming redemption. VERDICT Although written with an eye to Osborn’s Seventh-Day Adventist community, this compassionate volume should speak widely to Christians, whose environmentalism can usually use a little bolstering. Highly recommended for church groups of all ­denominations.

redstarSchaya, Leo. Universal Aspects of the Kabbalah & Judaism. World Wisdom. Feb. 2014. 200p. ed. by Roger Gaetani. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781936597338. pap. $19.95. REL

Schaya, little known in this country except as the author of The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah, is represented here by a group of essays on Kabbalah and mystical Judaism in general. At once academic and esoteric, these writings can be difficult but reward the reader’s labor; if they at times fly off into the clouds of mysticism, they give evidence of the unusual mind of a true believer. ­VERDICT Schaya’s other work in English is much treasured; students of the Kabbalah should be delighted with this successor ­volume.

redstarSpiritual Leadership for Challenging Times: Presidential Addresses from the spiritualleadershipforchallengingtimes030314Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Orbis. Apr. 2014. 160p. ed. by Annmarie Sanders. bibliog. ISBN 9781626980662. pap. $20. REL

In April 2012, to the dismay of much of the thinking world, the Vatican publicly scolded the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for lapses in dogma and practice, a backhanded slap at the inclusive tendencies of American Catholicism, particularly cruel when directed at women who have so little power within the Church as it is. These women and the orders they represent do the work among the poor that is the work of the Gospels. This is a ­selec­tion of ten keynote addresses from their annual meetings, culminating in Sister Pat Farrell’s measured, courageous response to the Vatican’s rebuke. VERDICT Any idea of nuns as out of touch or ill-informed is rapidly overturned by this stirring set of speeches; these women, and their orders, are as true Christians as can be found in our country, and the inherent story here of their moral growth should be of interest to all American Catholics, to women’s groups, and to Vatican watchers.

redstarTutu, Desmond & Mpho Tutu. The Book of Forgiving: The Four-Fold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. HarperOne: HarperCollins. Apr. 2014. 240p. notes. ISBN 9780062203564. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062203588. RELthebookofforgiving030314

No one, perhaps, now stands in higher esteem in the world as a spiritual leader than Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a former archbishop. This book, his second collaboration with his daughter Mpho, follows on from his previous accounts of his life and his work with the commission but amounts to a guide to practical sainthood and a how-to on forgiveness. Forgiveness ought to be simple but is all but impossible for most, even in small things; the Tutus’s recipe restores its simplicity. VERDICT Desmond Tutu’s moral authority alone makes his books worth reading; this volume more than repays that trust with its deep wisdom. Churches and businesses will benefit from this—and so should ­governments.

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Engaging the Traditions

Eilberg, Amy. From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace. Orbis. Apr. 2014. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9781626980617. pap. $25. REL

Frost, Michael. Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement. IVP. Mar. 2014. 224p. notes. ISBN 9780830844173. pap. $16. REL

Raheb, Mitri. Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes. Orbis. Feb. 2014. 160p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781626980655. pap. $24. REL

Rohr, Richard. Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation. Franciscan. Mar. 2014. 96p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781616367572. pap. $12.99. REL

Skillen, James W. The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction. Baker. Mar. 2014. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9780801048814. pap. $22.99. REL

Theology Questions Everyone Asks: Christian Faith in Plain Language. IVP Academic. Mar. 2014. 208p. ed. by Gary M. Burge & David Lauber. notes. ISBN 9780830840441. pap. $20. REL

Tickle, Phyllis with Jon M. Sweeney. The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church. Baker. 2014. 192p. notes. index. ISBN 9780801014802. $19.99. REL


Chasse, Betsy. Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World. Beyond Words. 2014. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781582704609. pap. $15. REL

Grosso, Chris. Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality. Beyond Words. Mar. 2014. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781582704623. pap. $15. REL

Pinn, Anthony B. Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist. Prometheus. Feb. 2014. 270p. illus. ISBN 9781616148430. pap. $18.95. REL

Shaw, Luci. Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey. IVP. Feb. 2014. 144p. notes. ISBN 9780830843107. pap. $15. REL

advice & self-help

Housden, Roger. Keeping the Faith Without a Religion. Sounds True. Mar. 2014. 184p. bibliog. ISBN 9781622030910. $21.95. REL

Taylor, Barbara Brown. Learning To Walk in the Dark. HarperOne: HarperCollins. Apr. 2014. 208p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780062024350. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062102867. REL

Graham Christian (MSLIS, Simmons Coll.; PhD, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst), formerly with Andover-Harvard Theological Library, is an independent writer and scholar in Western Massachusetts

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