Here’s a selection of books recommended by The Aaron Parsons Project.
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By Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo / Zondervan
If you're brave enough to take an honest look at the issues facing the culture--controlled church--and the issues in your own life--read on. Do you ever look at how the Christian faith is being lived out in the new millennium and wonder if we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing? That we still haven't quite "gotten it"? That we've missed the point regarding many important issues? It's understandable if we've relied on what we've been told to believe or what's widely accepted by the Christian community. But if we truly turned a constructive, critical eye toward our beliefs and vigorously questioned them and their origins, where would we find ourselves? Best-selling authors Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo invite you to do just that. Join them on an adventure--one that's about uncovering and naming faulty conclusions, suppositions, and assumptions about the Christian faith. In this book the authors take turns addressing how we've missed the point on crucial topics such as salvation, the Bible, being postmodern, worship, homosexuality, truth, and many more.
By Kristin Kobes Du Mez / Liveright Publishing Corp.
A scholar of American Christianity presents a seventy-five-year history of evangelicalism that identifies the forces that have turned Donald Trump into a hero of the Religious Right.
Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping account of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, showing how American evangelicals have worked for decades to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism. As Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the role of culture in modern American evangelicalism. Many of today's evangelicals may not be theologically astute, but they know their VeggieTales, they've read John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, and they learned about purity before they learned about sex and they have a silver ring to prove it. Evangelical books, films, music, clothing, and merchandise shape the beliefs of millions. And evangelical popular culture is teeming with muscular heroes mythical warriors and rugged soldiers, men like Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson, and the Duck Dynasty clan, who assert white masculine power in defense of "Christian America." Chief among these evangelical legends is John Wayne, an icon of a lost time when men were uncowed by political correctness, unafraid to tell it like it was, and did what needed to be done.
Trump, in other words, is hardly the first flashy celebrity to capture evangelicals' hearts and minds, nor is he the first strongman to promise evangelicals protection and power. Indeed, the values and viewpoints at the heart of white evangelicalism today patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community are likely to persist long after Trump leaves office.
A much-needed reexamination, Jesus and John Wayne explains why evangelicals have rallied behind the least-Christian president in American history and how they have transformed their faith in the process, with enduring consequences for all of us.
By Shane Claiborne / Zondervan
"A founding member of one of a growing number of radical faith communities, Claiborne lives among the poor and homeless of Philadelphia, ignoring social status, unencumbered by material comforts. This is a clarion call to rethink the meaning of the church, conversion, and Christianity. No reader will go away unshaken,"--Publishers Weekly. 384 pages, softcover. Zondervan.
How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers-and Why That's Great News
By Peter Enns / HarperCollins
Get ready to rethink how you understand the Bible. In How the Bible Actually Works, Bible scholar, popular podcast host, and author Peter Enns shows why Christians should cherish and love their Bibles, just not in the ways they have been taught. Enns reveals that once we see that wisdom, not answers, is the Bible's true subject matter, then it becomes clear that it operates more like a wise parent than an encyclopedia. Good parents wish for their children to become mature and wise adults, not mere rule followers. In the same way, the Bible forces us to wrestle with and refine how we follow God in today's world, making it much more relevant and powerful than we ever imagined.
By Edited by Sarah Bessey / Convergent Books
Prayers tend to fall into two categories: the spontaneous and the literary. Bessey has collected pieces from leading spiritual writers (e.g., Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber); thinkers; and artists. Petition God with beautifully wrought phrases ideal for personal or corporate worship. 160 pages, hardcover.
By Donald Miller / Thomas Nelson
Can you love a God who doesn't make sense? Like Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, Miller's memoir-like collection of essays wrestles with the paradoxes of the Christian faith, describing his journey back to a culturally relevant, infinitely gracious Savior. A mind-changing perspective for those who believe that organized religion doesn't meet their spiritual needs.
By Carlos A. Rodriguez / Whitaker House Publishers
Tired of sometimes offensive Christian dogmatism? Ready to engage the world around you with grace and love---instead of political or religious agendas? Drawing on stories from his own experience as well as contemporary issues---from ISIS to homosexuality and refugees---Rodriguez invites believers to model a Jesus-styled love that will transform your mind and actions.
By Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo / Thomas Nelson
Also known as Red Letter Christiantiy, Claiborne and Campolo take on the political, economic, and religious patterns that aren't working anymore! Focusing on the words of Christ---the "red letters"---they show that Jesus' example is still relevant, and call us back to a Christianity centered on him. Conservatives, progressives, skeptics, and believers will better understand the world-transforming power of Jesus' message. 256 pages, hardcover from Nelson.
By Jeremy Courtney / Zondervan
Nowadays it seems we are all afraid. We fear wars and injustice, government policies and economic ruin, tragedies and the loss of those we love. Our hearts tell us a better world is possible. We can imagine it - and almost taste it - but do we dare reach beyond our fear for it? Could it be that the extraordinary, meaningful lives we dream of aren't found in clinging to what we have, but in walking toward the very things that scare us most?
Founder of Preemptive Love Coalition Jeremy Courtney knows better than most that the world can be scary as hell. With almost two decades of working in conflict zones like Iraq and Syria, Jeremy and his team have come face-to-face with ISIS, suffered U.S. airstrikes targeting the team, spent jail time in Iraq, had fatwas calling for Jeremy's death, and yet learned to love anyway - despite being afraid. Gut honest, Jeremy shares his own journey, taking readers inside the heartbreak - and the joy - he and his family have experienced along the way.
With raw accounts of living with real people amid bombings, war, and terrorism, Jeremy opens the door on what he has experienced and his struggle to understand what it all means. Love Anyway will inspire you to confront your deepest fears and live the courageous life open to you on the other side of fear. By finding ways to respond to our scary world with the kind of love that may seem a little crazy, we can become agents of hope who unmake violence itself and unfurl the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
For a generation that has largely said, "count me out," church represents a complicated relationship of both longing and apathy. There's a history there--a past full of confusion and hurt, but a past that often is impossible to abandon. In Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans exposes her own thorny relationship with the church, articulating the concerns, frustrations, and hopes of many of her peers. Through a series of stories told around the church's sacraments--baptism, confession, and communion, among others--Evans offers the beginnings of a road map back to church and the resurrection that awaits when we are willing to give up and begin again.
New Kind of Christian's conversation between a pastor and his daughter's high school science teacher reveals that wisdom for life's most pressing spiritual questions can come from the most unlikely sources. This stirring fable captures a new spirit of Christianity--where personal, daily interaction with God is more important than institutional church structures, where faith is more about a way of life than a system of belief, where being authentically good is more important than being doctrinally "right," and where one's direction is more important than one's present location. Brian McLaren's delightful account offers a wise and wondrous approach for revitalizing Christian spiritual life and Christian congregations.
In 2016, writer and filmmaker Ben Howe found himself disillusioned with the religious movement he’d always called home. In the pursuit of electoral victory, many American evangelicals embraced moral relativism and toxic partisanship.
Whatever happened to the Moral Majority, who headed to Washington in the ’80s to plant the flag of Christian values? Where were the Christian leaders that emerged from that movement and led the charge against Bill Clinton for his deception and unfaithfulness? Was all that a sham? Or have they just lost sight of why they wanted to win in the first place? From the 1980s scandals till today, evangelicals have often been caricatured as a congregation of judgmental and prudish rubes taken in by thundering pastors consumed with greed and lust for power. Did the critics have a point?
In The Immoral Majority, Howe – still a believer and still deeply conservative – analyzes and debunks the intellectual dishonesty and manipulative rhetoric which evangelical leaders use to convince Christians to toe the Republican Party line. He walks us through the history of the Christian Right, as well as the events of the last three decades which led to the current state of the conservative movement at large.
As long as evangelicals prioritize power over persuasion, Howe argues, their pews will be empty and their national influence will dwindle. If evangelicals hope to avoid cultural irrelevance going forward, it will mean valuing the eternal over the ephemeral, humility over ego, and resisting the seduction of political power, no matter the cost. The Immoral Majority demonstrates how the Religious Right is choosing the profits of this world at the cost of its soul – and why it’s not too late to change course.
Among many Christian circles, the term “feminist” carries a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to. Perhaps there is a way to be a woman and follow your giftings and love Jesus madly at the same time. In Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey takes a thoughtful look at biblical teaching, church practices, and Jesus’ earthly ministry to explore the possibility and freedom available to women.
“Enns asserts that Christians can focus so much on the angst of uncertainty that they place God inside a stifling mental box. A fine work for believers of all stripes,”—Library Journal. Calls the bluff of all who think they have mastered the mind of God, since it’s incumbent upon each generation to reformulate and act out its own faith. 256 pages, softcover. HarperOne.
Rarely does a new theological position emerge to account well for life in the world, including not only goodness and beauty but also tragedy and randomness. Drawing from Scripture, science, philosophy and various theological traditions, Thomas Jay Oord offers a novel theology of providence – essential kenosis – that emphasizes God’s inherently noncoercive love in relation to creation. The Uncontrolling Love of God provides a clear and powerful response to one of the perennial challenges to Christian faith.
When Mack Philips’s youngest daughter, Missy, is abducted during a family vacation—and later presumed murdered—he thinks life can’t get any worse. Then he receives a note, supposedly from God, inviting him back to the scene of the crime. If he returns to the place of his darkest nightmare, will he find despair—or hope? 272 pages, hardcover from Windblown.