Caroline Barnett 03-15-2016

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Among the people who Lee studies in Rescuing Jesus is Sojourners’ own Chief Church Engagement Officer Lisa Sharon Harper, who confronted the overwhelming whiteness of her evangelical campus ministry. Despite hearing otherwise from her religious leaders, she knew her whole identity as an African-American woman with a commitment to racial justice was an essential part of her faith.

And many other leaders are featured: Jennifer Crumpton, who grew up hearing conservative gender complementarian teachings, now challenges the patriarchal structures of evangelicalism through her ministry and call to lead. And there’s Will Haggerty and Tasha Magness and other LGBTQ students at Biola University, a private Christian college with explicitly anti-queer policies. Despite the threat of expulsion, these students founded an underground network of support and solidarity for LGBTQ Biolans.

Image via Tony Gentile / Reuters / RNS

A new book-length interview with Pope Francis gives fresh insight into his view of gay parishioners, marriage annulments, and other hot topics being debated by Catholics globally.

Anne Colamosca 10-30-2015

WHILE OTHER Turkish writers choose to live outside the country, Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk—except for short periods—still lives in Istanbul, Turkey, in the building where he was raised. It is not exactly a safe, secure life. He has already faced charges for making anti-Turkish remarks regarding the long-denied mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. He fled the country for more than a year until charges were dropped (due in part to pressure from high- profile writers that included Gabriel García Márquez). And since then, numerous other writers and journalists have been arrested by the increasingly authoritarian government.

Pamuk’s newest and ninth novel, A Strangeness in My Mind, took him six years to write and release, as he has struggled against conservative forces who call him a “Western stooge.” Like Istanbul: Memories and the City, a memoir by Pamuk, A Strangeness in My Mind is a double portrait of the main character, Mevlut Karataş, and the city of Istanbul. It is a postmodern fairy tale, a mesmerizing odyssey, a coming-of-age urban fable.

Mevlut is a street vendor who sells a fermented wheat drink, boza, which became popular in the days of the Ottoman Empire. Through Mevlut’s prism we become acquainted with a city of 14 million—up an astounding 12 million people since Pamuk was born in 1952. Pamuk has described Mevlut “as a man of immense imagination ... he sees and feels things in the streets that no one else does.” He is a quietly observant Muslim, modest, shy, and with his own inner sense of holiness and of “strangeness.” Like Pamuk’s own character in Istanbul, Mevlut is a lonely dreamer, living outside of the mainstream, caught up in his own imaginary world, often being judged harshly by those around him.

THE GLORY OF God is humanity fully alive, to paraphrase St. Irenaeus.

If Irenaeus is correct and Christian discipleship is centered on following Jesus toward a life that is more compassionate and more alive, then Sherry Turkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, is perhaps the most important Christian book of 2015. Granted, Turkle steers clear of the language of faith, but in calling us to become more fully human, she has penned a profoundly religious book that Christians need to read and reflect upon.

Western culture has long been losing the capacity for conversation. Embodied in the current partisan climate of Washington that competes at all costs, rather than converse and collaborate, this aversion to dialogue is symptomatic of cultural changes that have unfolded over the last 500 years. From Enlightenment philosophy to industrialization to automobility, these cultural shifts have disintegrated communities and diminished our capacity for open conversation. More recently, Bill Bishop’s 2008 book The Big Sort highlighted how the increasing homogeneity of our relational networks erodes our capacity to converse with those who differ from us.

Turkle focuses primarily on an even more recent concern, the ubiquitous tyranny of the smartphone. Although not a Luddite who would advocate abolishing phones, Turkle fiercely describes the ways our phones inhibit our capacity for connection, conversation, and empathy. “We are being silenced by our technologies,” she maintains. With joint Harvard doctorates in sociology and psychology, Turkle backs her claims with a vast body of research. Even a silenced phone sitting on the table during conversation, she notes, changes the dynamics of what we discuss and how.

Face-to-face conversation, Turkle argues, is the most basic human activity. In conversation, we learn to listen and to be empathetic. Our mobile devices also impede our capacity for solitude, a skill that is vital to our development from childhood onward. Turkle emphasizes that it is in solitude that our minds are formed and we develop a distinctive voice. In exercising this voice in private conversations with family, friends, and lovers, and in public conversations, it is refined and our capacity for solitude and self-reflection is further enhanced, drawing us ever-deeper in this virtuous cycle.

The Editors 04-01-2015

Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers by Michael G. Long / The Mask You Live In by Representation Project / Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace by Patricia Raybon / Leave Some Things Behind by the Steel Wheels 

Lex Bayer and John Figdor, authors of “Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart.” Photo via Kimberly Winston/RNS.

“There are lots of books out there about why you should not believe in God,” Bayer said. “But there aren’t any about what do secular people believe in. I think that’s the question John and I felt hadn’t been adequately addressed.”

In exploring that, the two men — both whom have studied philosophy and logic — came up with 10 essentials. For the extra-nerdy, there’s even “a theorem of belief” in the appendix that looks like something a mathematician might scribble.

The result is 10 “non-commandments” — the authors’ irreducible statements of atheist and humanist belief.

First up: “The world is real, and our desire to understand the world is the basis for belief.”

No. 2 on the list: “We can perceive the world only through our human senses.”

Halfway through, at No. 5, the authors conclude: “There is no God.” Once over that hurdle, the non-commandments become less controversial — an ethical society is good, as is moral behavior.


Forgive Us, by Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson, and Soong-Chan Rah. 

Julienne Gage 10-07-2014

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child, by Linda Lawrence Hunt. Westminster John Knox Press. 

Sam Harris describes how spirituality must be divorced from religion. Photo via Simon & Schuster Publicity/RNS.

Uber-atheist Sam Harris is getting all spiritual.

In his new book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion,” the usually outspoken critic of religion describes how spirituality can and must be divorced from religion if the human mind is to reach its full potential.

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

Reggie L. Williams 08-05-2014

Excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance, by Reggie L. Williams

Julie Polter 08-05-2014

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. IVP Books.

Anne Colamosca 08-05-2014

The Kennan Diaries. W. W. Norton & Company.

Julie Polter 07-10-2014

The Disposable Project by Raul Guerrero / Jesus Was a Migrant by Deirdre Cornell / The New Black by Yoruba Richen / How to Be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean

Andrew Wilkes 07-09-2014

Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World. IVP Books.

Jennifer Moon 07-09-2014

Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing. The Crossroad Publishing Company.

Donna Schaper 06-03-2014

From the Psalms to the Cloud: Connecting to the Digital Age. Pilgrim Press.

Brittany Shoot 06-03-2014

The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. HarperOne.

Ryan Herring 06-03-2014

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. IVP Books.

The Editors 05-14-2014

Matthew Vines sits down with Sojourners to discuss his first book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

Matthew Vines 05-09-2014

Excerpt from God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, Convergent Books