I read Jean Rolin's book called Christians in Palestine (titled Chrétiens in French) in... about 2 hours. I'm not sure if I absorbed it so quickly bec...moreI read Jean Rolin's book called Christians in Palestine (titled Chrétiens in French) in... about 2 hours. I'm not sure if I absorbed it so quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen next or because on so many levels I felt I, or close family members, could relate to it so much... Probably a mix of the two. It's basically his account of his encounters with Christian families and church leaders while in Palestine/Israel, as well as Christian-Muslim-Jewish relations there. Thanks to having visited Palestine/Israel, I felt like I was right there with him, in Bethlehem and Jerusalem and Ramallah visiting those places and families...
I'm a proud owner of this book (which for some reason was pretty hard for me to find), but reading it definitely felt bittersweet. Bittersweet because it's such a complex situation, and because this book highlights another layer of complexity within that very complex situation...
I definitely can't and won't pretend that I know what Jean Rolin felt during or even after his experience that led to the writing of his book. But I just got the impression that his conclusion was a sort of "this was a rather pointless effort on my part"-kind of closure. I felt like maybe he went into his project with so much hope and enthusiasm only to end up feeling a bit let down by the shocking and unexpected reality of things... of course that's my own interpretation of it.
But regardless of how he felt, if I could, I would honestly thank him for going through all that and for caring enough to write a book about it because it really moved me. Thanks to the personal writing style, I was so absorbed that I sometimes felt like he was writing it specifically for me, like I was witnessing something that so few others care about.
Just as Edward Said's biography moved me, this did as well (although of course, in an entirely different manner). Jean Rolin, a French journalist and self-proclaimed non-believer (at least at the time? who knows if that has changed or not) didn't have to care and to decide to take on a project all by himself concerning Christians in the Holy Land. But he did. And for that, I truly respect and praise him. And I'm sure others more familiar with his work (like the whole country of France perhaps? since that's where his work is well-known) do as well.
This is a must-read for all, but especially for Americans who are already often provided with a one-sided view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and are sadly even less aware of the CHRISTIAN Palestinian (note: non-evangelical) population present in the Holy Land.(less)
Continuing in my endeavor to read books on early Christianity, I have completed Gerd Theissen's "Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity" (origina...moreContinuing in my endeavor to read books on early Christianity, I have completed Gerd Theissen's "Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity" (originally published under the title "The First Followers of Jesus"). The book discusses the effects of the "Jesus movement" within both Judaic and Hellenistic societies. Not an easy subject to research or even to explain (as per Theissen: "there is hardly any literature which gives a thematic treatment of the sociology of earliest Palestinian Christianity," p.120), I of course did learn quite a bit from his analysis.
It was interesting to find that although the "Jesus movement" was first construed as a renewal movement within Judaism, it soon became clear that it was a separate religion. By analyzing the 3 roles of the "Jesus movement"-- the wondering charismatics, their supporters in local communities, and the bearer of revelation--we see how each society was influenced (or not so much) by this "Jesus movement." Theissen highlights that Judaism was undergoing an identity crisis, with various groups constantly arguing over the concept of "true Torah" and debates over "stricter interpretation of the Torah or laxer interpretation" (p.77). He hypothesizes that some of these renewal movements came about as a reaction against Hellenistic influences, thus intensifying norms. It is amidst the tensions of Judaic and Hellenistic societies that the "Jesus movement" emerged, eventually finding ground in Hellenistic society.
Although a mere 119 pages, this analysis is very dense and is by no means `a quick read' (or at least it wasn't for me?! and I say this having had religion classes as a kid in Brussels, having taken religion classes in college and acquiring my Bachelor's, and having numerous religious books at home... go figure!). At the very least, one's vocabulary is sure to be enriched following the completion of this book. Terms like "apodeictic," "eirenic," "monistic," and Palestinian Jewish society abound and may leave you reaching for your dictionaries and religious texts on repeated occasions (as it did for me). Since various subjects in this analysis interest me, I am delighted that a bibliography of helpful works is provided to help us launch our own personal quest for answers, if we are so inclined. (less)
This book may quite possibly be my favorite read on early Christian communities that I've read thus far. Dalrymple's account chronicles his encounters...moreThis book may quite possibly be my favorite read on early Christian communities that I've read thus far. Dalrymple's account chronicles his encounters with Christian communities starting from his passage through Greece's Mt. Athos, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Territories and Egypt. His goal? To walk in the footsteps of Orthodox monk John Moschos, albeit 1400 years later. As Moschos witnessed the increasing threats to the Byzantine Empire (Persian, then Arab Islamic invasions, as well as plagues and diseases), so does Dalrymple explore and highlight the complex situations of today's Middle Eastern Christians.
There are a few things to note on his account. Despite the apparent contradictions, reading it was heartbreaking, anger-inducing but also hilarious on several occasions. Tears aside, I laughed hysterically for minutes on end, with my favorite moments including the taxi driver at Aleppo (searching for a Syrian Orthodox Cathedral), the man I refer to as the "cat-hunter," and of course those drunken Egyptians in the taxi cab. Despite the 454 pages, I consider this a complete page-turner, so easy it is to read and hard to put down. For those who don't know much about Middle East Christians, I'd say this account covers it quite effectively and would be a great place to start. It's also very useful to read prior to a trip to any/all of the Middle Eastern countries in question due to its substantial historical information.
As sad as it may be to see that the Christian population of the Middle East is steadily declining, it's also true that it has not entirely disappeared. At least not yet (and who knows? Maybe it never will...?!). 17 years ago, when Dalrymple wrote his account, some of his interviewees were estimating that "no one would be left in 15 years." I am delighted to say that this is not so. Surely, no one can deny their declining presence, but perhaps my heart also rejoices at the thought that maybe this unfortunate decline is taking its time, that the little that is left is holding on by everything it's got... Are Christians deciding to stay no matter what? Is it `betrayal' when/if one chooses to leave and start a life elsewhere? If it was ever an option, would the ones who left ever consider going back? Many are the questions, abounding are the answers.
Depressing aspects aside, one thought lingers steadfastly in my mind: if nothing else, such an account reminds me that some things take much time to disappear, or in fact, never entirely do.(less)
I found the book to be easy to read, interesting and very enlightening. Granted, I say this not really having a preconceived notion of what heaven or...moreI found the book to be easy to read, interesting and very enlightening. Granted, I say this not really having a preconceived notion of what heaven or hell is/’should’ be like (although like everyone else, I have/had my own ideas too). It is my opinion that what Swedenborg presents sounds very plausible and I find his interpretation as further proof of God’s infinite love—which is what I tend to look for when reading spiritual works. I was delighted to find the book both mystical in nature but also very human. It’s not an intimidating text and indeed the subject of non-Christians is also dealt with. I am absolutely motivated to read Swedenborg’s other works, most notably "Marriage Love," "Divine Love and Wisdom," and "The White Horse."
In terms of the book’s contents, I have retained the following details. Firstly, although the introduction is rather lengthy—59 pages—I highly recommend reading it because it provides very insightful background information on the work and Swedenborg’s times. Although this work is titled “Heaven and Hell,” the book deals mostly with heaven and angels. There are 3 parts, the last of which is the chapter on hell. Hell is mentioned throughout the book, but usually in quick comparisons to whatever is being described as existing in heaven. It is written in simple language that is easy to read—delightful given that this can sometimes be an issue when dealing with spiritual works—reminding us that Swedenborg had indeed written the book for “people with simple heart and simple faith.” With that said, what might make the reading ‘slow’ is the fact that there are tons of annotations which the reader may want to read, causing him to pause on a constant basis. Also, depending on a reader’s background and reception of the subject at hand, reading slowly might help in better absorbing the content. Some readers may find some of his statements to be repetitive, but I personally don’t mind it as it serves to drive home certain important points and therefore help in remembering them. Since spiritual works can sometimes feel ‘heavy’ with information, I find this tactic to be effective.
One of the points that made an impression is “what we love, we intend.” I consider it a useful and powerful concept that I will be sure to actively reflect upon.(less)
Who isn’t interested, at least on some level, in the subject of virginity? As the author says, it’s a topic of high interest but which, as reflected i...moreWho isn’t interested, at least on some level, in the subject of virginity? As the author says, it’s a topic of high interest but which, as reflected in the title, has remained rather unexplored. The history, or what is known of it, spans from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to the present-day Western world, especially the United States. Some of the prominent figures discussed include Aristotle, Hippocrates, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, St. Augustine of Hippo, Queen Elizabeth I and Erzsebeth (Elizabeth) Bathory.
I found the book highly interesting and hard to put down. The author knows her subject and brings up many issues which only make one realize how difficult it may be to define virginity in the first place. She also highlights that virginity means different things to different cultures and that this changes over time. Although the tone is serious and scholarly, I highly enjoyed the spontaneous laugh-out-loud moments: “Even the globe was changing, as explorers traversed the world and discovered “virgin” continents where the maps had formerly said “here there be dragons.” (p. 178) This humor was welcomed amidst all the facts and reminders of the ways women have been objectified throughout history. Although the book itself is interesting and may be a page-turner, it’s clear that there are passages that will be hard for (especially female) readers at times.
I did have a slight issue, however, and that of course is also subjective. This entails a brief section of the book that in my view was irrelevant. Blank brings up several animals that have hymens and neither care nor are aware of that ownership, and uses this fact as an argument why human beings should do the same. My issue with that is not concerning my own opinion of the presence/existence of the hymen to ‘validate’ virginity, but by the simple fact that as a Christian, I strongly believe that there is little to no relation between what animals and human beings were created for and are meant to do. In my view that is like comparing apples and human beings. Using an animal example is not going to ‘sell’ me, a human being, an idea, provided I even needed to be convinced in the first place. After all, there are animals who eat their newborns—probably for a variety of reasons—but that doesn’t mean that it’s an example that is OK for us to replicate simply because it’s ‘naturally present in nature.’ Basically, animals are just that, and human beings have souls and free will and I therefore hold them to a higher standard (even though obviously we don’t always measure up to it). It seems Blank was coming from the theory of evolution where ‘we all came from animals,’ but seeing as I do not subscribe to that, I see each as separate entities with highly different purposes and no ancestral connection whatsoever. I understand that she was trying to make a point and downgrade the need to obsess over the meaning/symbolism of the hymen, but in my view that passage was not necessary. The facts, if not common sense, already show me that such obsession can be detrimental to women, and that is all I personally need.
With that said, I loved the book and I highly respect all the research that had to go into creating this unprecedented work. Eye-opening and definitely highly recommended. (less)
This nearly 700-page story was an enjoyable read about a pagan Roman soldier Vinicius who falls in love with Lygia, a Christian girl. As such, the sto...moreThis nearly 700-page story was an enjoyable read about a pagan Roman soldier Vinicius who falls in love with Lygia, a Christian girl. As such, the story alternates between romantic and historical plots, highlighted by the cruel treatment the early Christians suffered at the hands of the Roman empire. In many ways, the novel is also the story of the twisted Roman emperor Nero. Paul of Tarsus and Peter also appear in the story as characters with whom Lygia interacts with as a member of the underground—yet growing—Christian community. Depending on one’s religious/spiritual beliefs, the notion of these biblical characters’ presence in Rome might not be seen as entirely factual, however they’re unlikely to affect the story’s impact and spiritual angle. I found this story about faith and love to be as relevant and relatable as ever, as issues involving spirituality are often challenging for couples of both similar and different religious backgrounds.
In terms of book format, I add that the edition I read (ISBN 0895263459) was fraught with editorial errors/typos. This made reading a bit confusing at first since it always takes a while to get into a new story and its characters. Although I could eventually figure out who or what was being referred to—as opposed to thinking something else was happening, ha!—it really was quite surprising to find so many errors in my book. Therefore I presume that it’s probably best to read another edition.
To close on a positive note: although I know that the book is always better, I do look forward to seeing the 1951 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie version! :)(less)
Being that up to this point I’d read the first two volumes of the Household of God, The Childhood of Jesus, and Three Days in the Temple, this was my...moreBeing that up to this point I’d read the first two volumes of the Household of God, The Childhood of Jesus, and Three Days in the Temple, this was my first reading by Lorber that involved other planets.
All truth be told, this book sometimes felt a bit like ‘science fiction’ depending on its passages. After all, I was learning about different life forms on other planets and their corresponding spiritual meanings—and that’s just one of the reasons why I find his titles so unique and rewarding in different ways.
The book focuses on the structure of the earth, which highlights that everything was created following a pattern. We discover that the earth is a living thing, which therefore reacts in appropriate ways to the way it’s treated by its inhabitants—both physical and spiritual. I find it quite fascinating that such an order is in place, for it keeps everything balanced and is clearly a sign of a higher intelligence that has created all things in a perfect way. A few other points I retained include the fact that nothing which incites a response is ‘dead’; which serves to underline that technically, everything in the physical world is living and all consist of different forms of intelligence. Just as important is the need to know different forms of hell so that we may recognize them in ourselves and constantly contribute to our own personal spiritual growth.
The chapter on the moon is brief yet just as interesting, with its descriptions of life forms and potential reasons for ending up there. Needless to say, I’m definitely motivated to read Saturn (which just happens to be ‘my’ planet… at least if going by my sign’s horoscope. LOL!)(less)
I’ve wanted to read this book for ages, mostly because I know that St. Augustine’s played a big role in influencing Western Christianity. Therefore, a...moreI’ve wanted to read this book for ages, mostly because I know that St. Augustine’s played a big role in influencing Western Christianity. Therefore, as a person interested in Christian history, I knew I’d eventually *have* to read his stuff and find out what it’s all about. Well, I basically went from being enthralled at the beginning to getting impatient to just finish it! It’s mostly because I felt like the earlier chapters were easier to absorb, compared to the increasingly philosophical chapters that surface about halfway through the book and last up until the end. While I knew that seeking knowledge (read: asking tons of questions) would abound throughout the narrative, I often found his philosophical ways of analyzing God combined with his often negative view of God to be downright tedious. Clearly, everyone will relate to the divine in their own way(s), but I was disappointed to see my interest wane as I got further into the book. Kudos to me for getting through my introduction to St. Augustine (which translator Garry Wills is probably largely responsible for), but I am now seriously hoping that City of God won’t read exactly like this!(less)
This book was recommended to me a year ago and although I don’t quite know why it took me so long to read it, I’m so glad I finally decided to do so....moreThis book was recommended to me a year ago and although I don’t quite know why it took me so long to read it, I’m so glad I finally decided to do so. In hindsight, I should’ve picked it up right away given all the positive and insightful information it truly contains—and also maybe because the one who recommended it is none other than a psychic medium…?! (Haha)
In any case, I found it to be a very uplifting read that rings very true and which brought up concepts that I didn’t know about nor ever really considered. I honestly believe that many of its points were actually being proven true as I was reading the book; since I felt so inspired that I decided to do my best to follow as much of the advice as I could right away. Now, if I was a person who believed in coincidence, I’d probably dismiss the events that occurred as being just that. But since I don’t (and haven't for quite a while), I’ll take them as welcomed signs that the information given therein is true and full of love—and also serve as a reminder that the Bible can and should be looked at as a text that exemplifies the book's discussed values of prosperity.
Definitely an inspirational, spiritual tool that’s as relevant as ever and which should particularly come in handy during tough times. (less)
After falling in love with The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I picked up something else by Catherine Ponder. As expecte...moreAfter falling in love with The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I picked up something else by Catherine Ponder. As expected, this was yet another quick, highly inspirational read by the author. Her writing style is clear and to the point, and at times even blunt, which I find refreshing and motivational. Although case stories sometimes show their age, seeing as it was published in 1964, that does nothing to dilute the worthwhile spiritual advice given. For reference, most of the concepts mentioned are based on the Biblical Old Testament’s books of Genesis and Exodus. Amazing and highly recommended for anyone who wants to feel uplifted! =) (less)