Here’s a quirky list of people and resources that I find challenging and interesting. I hope you will, too. Use the links below to jump to a section:
- Thinking about the partisan divide
- Body and Spirit
- The Episcopal Church
- The Bible
- Christianity and Judaism
Thinking about the partisan divide
How and why human beings choose sides.
- Jonathan Haidt
A social psychologist at NYU, Haidt offers a deep dive into why and how it’s human to be partisan. Though not a religious person, Haidt defends the power of religious community to heal rifts and bridge divides. Check out this article, “Jonathan Haidt Is Trying to Heal America’s Divisions,” and his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.
- Kathryn Schulz
While Haidt takes a bird’s-eye view of human disagreement, Schulz focuses in on what it feels like to each of us to cross the divide between one point of view and another, and why and when we do. Schulz, who calls herself a “wrong-ologist,” writes for The New Yorker. View Kathryn’s book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.
- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the UK, died Nov 8, 2020. Rabbi Sacks offered a hopeful vision of how people of all faiths might live together, even while maintaining their distinctive commitments with integrity. His book, The Dignity of Difference, written in response to 9/11, is a reflection on one of the most important question of our times—how to live with those who see the world differently from ourselves. His latest book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, is a powerful dive into questions of trust and mutual commitment. A 2010 interview with Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast offers a nice introduction to this gentle and profound voice in a clamorous world.
Body and Spirit
Faith involves our whole selves– body and mind and spirit. The Christian faith is a way of living, not a set of intellectual beliefs.
- Naomi Rachel Remen
A medical doctor and professor at UCSF School of Medicine, Remen is the author of a groundbreaking curriculum for medical students used in more than half of US medical schools. Through her work, she seeks to listen to the psychological and spiritual aspects of physical illness, especially cancer, and to train health professionals to integrate their deepest values into their work. View her book, My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging.
- Bessel van der Kolk
A neuroscientist and medical doctor specializing in the effects of trauma, van der Kolk emphasizes the importance of the body-mind connection in healing. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma is van der Kolk’s 2015 book.
The Episcopal Church
This is the tradition I belong to. You may have seen our Bishop, Michael Curry, preach at Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding. Its history and disposition offer a wide tent,” that is—a tradition that provides plenty of room for a broad variety of people and viewpoints within it. Episcopalians are shaped by the way they worship and pray in community, using The Book of Common Prayer.
View more at the Episcopal Church’s website episcopalchurch.org.
Used by people of all persuasions to justify a variety of points of view, this holy book at the center of the Judeo-Christian tradition is part of an ongoing conversation between God and humanity. The historically recent idea that the Bible is simple and clear and must be taken literally can make it harder for contemporary Christians to engage wholeheartedly with it. As a faithful Jew, Jesus espoused a tenaciously loyal but creative response to the Bible and its meaning.
- E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
If you ever feel like the Bible doesn’t make sense, you may be right. These two scholars give contemporary US readers a helping hand. I recommend this book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible.
- Aviya Kushner
A Jewish reflection on the starkly different ways Jews and Christians approach the Bible. Illuminating. Check out Kushner’s book, The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible.
- Rob Bell
A well-known and controversial pastor, Bell excels at opening up the Christian faith in creative and thoughtful ways through books, videos and live shows. Be sure to read his book, What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything.
Christianity & Judaism
Jesus was a faithful, practicing Jew. Just the way you might investigate your family tree to make sense of who you are, Christians are finally beginning to turn to Judaism in search of a deeper understanding of Jesus and what he was saying.
- Rabbi David Zaslow
Rabbi Zaslow speaks across the Jewish-Christian divide, lecturing in both churches and synagogues. Check out his book, Jesus: First-Century Rabbi: A New Edition.
- Paula Fredriksen
Noted historian and scholar, Fredriksen restores the story of Christianity to its ancient context. You can get her book, When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation, here.
- Kate Braestrup
A chaplain to the Maine wildlife service, Braestrup makes prayer possible and real for people who weren’t out looking for God. There is nothing fake or fussy here. Be sure to read her book, Beginner’s Grace: Bringing Prayer to Life.
- Episcopal Morning Prayer
If you’d like to try out Episcopal Morning Prayer– a beautiful daily pattern of Scripture readings, Psalms and responses– as found in The Book of Common Prayer, you can ask Alexa to lead you through it. Here’s a link to The Rev Lorenzo Lebrija’s enthusiastic demonstration of this newly available option. Lebrija, an Episcopal priest affiliated with Virginia Theological Seminary, runs an organization called “Try Tank,” which pursues a wide range of creative, faith-building experiments.
Have you found resources that have provided guideposts and food for thought? Send me your list here. I’d love to learn from you, too.