The subtitle is deceptively linear. Black Panthers. Tibetan Buddhists. The (ongoing) fight for racial equality for Black Americans. I don't always finThe subtitle is deceptively linear. Black Panthers. Tibetan Buddhists. The (ongoing) fight for racial equality for Black Americans. I don't always find "spiritual autobiographies" inspiring, but this one was.
"What does one do when the oppressor's blood courses in one's own veins? How could I run away from myself? How to make peace with such horrific origins?....Given such history, the questioning of origins, though painful, was unavoidable" (p. 13).
"'Again,' [the Dalai Lama] said, 'Patience is most important. But if you are certain there is no other alternative [to violent action], if you are clear and certain about this, then what you must do is this: First, you must think lovingly and with compassion about the policeman. If you think or call him a pig, then you must let him shoot you! But if you can wish him well, and pray for his future happy rebirth, then of course, you can stop him from harming the others. You can stop him by any means necessary.' We were relieved and amazed" (p. 182).
"Though we all possess innate purity, clarity, strength, and potential to be infinitely wise and compassionate beings, still we need someone to encourage us and show us how to manifest those qualities" (p. 305).
"I call myself a Baptist-Buddhist not to be cute or witty....[but] because it is an honest description of who I feel I am. When I was on that plane...I felt sheer and utter terror, and I called on both traditions for help. Long ago, Kierkegaard had argued that one doesn't know what one really believes until one is forced to act....Most times, actually, I think of myself as being more an African American Buddhist...but...I call on both traditions. It is a deep response" (p. 311)....more
I read this book because an earnest young evangelical wanted me to - and I think that's probably at the heart of my problem with this book. I'm not anI read this book because an earnest young evangelical wanted me to - and I think that's probably at the heart of my problem with this book. I'm not an earnest young evangelical. I respect what the author aspires to in the context of her sincere personal experience and her community, but it's obvious to me that it's 1) limited and 2) been done better before. In fact, what's she doing is only "radical" (pffft) because her Christian community is ignoring the vast breadth of feminist/womanist Christian work in the decades preceding her, and it's only getting paid (some) attention to because the author is staying within most of the required boundaries as a white, cis, heterosexual, monogamous married evangelical woman who is pro-life and doesn't breathe a mention of even the possible existence of queer/trans folks in the list of social justice concerns informing her faith, and doesn't touch on racism or war (nope, being Canadian doesn't give her a pass, and neither does trying to punt by saying that the "revolution of love" takes many different forms (p. 7)). So much for "Jesus feminism" and "justice that leaves no one out" (p. 184).
I feel bad to be so harsh about the book, since I do think the author is doing something politically important in her particular community, in terms of the conversations it could be capable of - again, it's just really limited and doesn't deserve to be called "radical" or use the word "radical." I.e., she takes women's vocations seriously and seems to be open to women's ordination. Woop. That almost catches up with second-wave White liberal feminism, but....not quite...
I will say that I think her writing would be better suited to preaching - there's something about the extemporaneous feel of it. I won't go into how sappy/sentimental I found parts of it, 'cuz I think my lack of patience with it goes back to...not being an earnest young evangelical.
I did like pp. 115-121, when she talks about her own experiences of miscarriage and birth (with one birth in a parking garage) and how they've changed her concept of God.
Some good quotes:
"Live counterculturally when the culture, baptized or secular, does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice" (p. 194).
"My entire concept of God shifted through the experiences of pregnancy, loss, carrying babies, birth - all of it left my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep in the center" (p. 119).
"And so we value the man preaching at the front to thousands more than the social worker with a caseload of seventy, more than the caregiver with one tired soul in her care, more than the single mother coaching basketball in the suburbs" (p. 155).
"I'm not sure when the Church decided that 'biblical' was the perfect adjective for subjective roles and situations. I don't think it's helped us. Usually when people use that phrase, they are thinking more about June Cleaver than the early church's Lydia, described as being 'diligent in business'" (p. 88).
The chapter on the LDS Church's evolving teachings on Jesus helped me better understand Mormon distinctives. I also learned a lot I didn't know in theThe chapter on the LDS Church's evolving teachings on Jesus helped me better understand Mormon distinctives. I also learned a lot I didn't know in the chapter on Jesus and American Judaism (mostly, specifically, Reformed Judaism) and on Hinduism & Buddhism in America's approach to Jesus/bold critique of Christian assertions about Jesus. Useful ideas: "reversing the gaze" (p. 251 - original source, historian Susannah Heschel in a study of Abraham Geiger's writings on Jesus).
Stephen Prothero's writing drives me a little nuts, though. It's as if he wrote a first draft that entertained every flamboyant turn-of-phrase that came to mind, so that the editors would have work to do later - and then the editing stage never happened.
Zuckerman usefully posits three dimensions of apostasy (withdrawal from religion): early/late, shallow/deep, and mild transformative (p. 4-11).
Also usZuckerman usefully posits three dimensions of apostasy (withdrawal from religion): early/late, shallow/deep, and mild transformative (p. 4-11).
Also useful: "Peter Berger emphasizes what he calls 'plausibility structures' as being central to religion's existence; plausibility structures are specific social processes, dynamics, or interactions within a group of people sharing a common view and understanding of the world. A solid, pervasive, and monopolistic plausibility structure allows personal religious beliefs to have a 'taken-for-granted' quality--a naturalness that renders acceptance of them quite easy and matter-of-fact. But in other social circumstances in which plausibility structures are weak, diverse, or threatened, the effort to believe can become harder, heavier, and more onerous" (p. 101).
"Apostate accounts are essentially autobiographies, and autobiographies are never perfect works of non-fiction" (Daniel Carson Johnson, as quoted on p. 13)...more