Book News

{mosimage}Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics From the Great War to the War on Terror by Michael Burleigh (HarperCollins, 557 pages, hardcover, $34.95.)

In his first volume of two on the co-mingling of European culture and faith covering the late 18th century to modern times, the encyclopedic and masterful British scholar Michael Burleigh laid down a basic theory to ground his work: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” In other words, the tides of history roll out, but they also return. Faith may seem to disappear, but in fact it does not.

Patchett’s Boston beautiful but wrong

By
{mosimage}Run by Ann Patchett (Harper Collins, 295 pages, $32.95).

Ann Patchett’s latest novel, Run, will fly out of bookstores. And well it should, for it is a beautiful book. It is a non-Catholic novel about semi-pagan Catholics, but both the plot and the characters are engaging. The tone is as gentle and musical as the soundtrack on its promotional DVD. If you have a soft heart and an ear for good writing, you will be entranced and moved by Run.


Exploring the roots of the Messiah

By

{mosimage}

Here is an excellent introduction into the concept of the Messiah in the Bible. It allows us to understand how the Christian understanding of Christ is rooted in the Jewish tradition, but goes beyond it. This new Christian understanding was formed by the disciples’ experience of Jesus and His work.

Possibilities, dangers of Islam’s rise in Europe

By
{mosimage}God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe’s Religious Crisis by Philip Jenkins (Oxford University Press, 340 pages, hardcover $31.95).

They thought he was a cranky crackpot in his time, but Hillaire Belloc’s 1938 prophecy has come back to haunt Europe today: “Anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom.”

The reproduction industry

By
{mosimage}Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women and the World, by Liza Mundy (Alfred A Knopf, hardcover, 406 pages. $34.95).

This book tells gripping stories about virtually unregulated U.S. industries assisting human reproduction. It challenges pro-lifers to find new language for abiding concerns in rapidly changing contexts. It gives insight into probable future assaults on Canadian law.

Jesus still provocative after all these years

By

{mosimage}The One Who Is To Come  by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. (Wm B. Eerdmans, 183 pages, softcover, $22.99).

Of the distinguished trio of Catholic scholars (Raymond Brown, Roland Murphy and Joseph Fitzmyer) who edited both the Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) and its successor, the New Jerome (1990), today Fitzmyer is the sole survivor, and unquestionably the éminence grise of Catholic exegetes. Almost 87 years old, Fr. Fitzmyer remains one of the most formidable scholarly minds in the field of Scripture, an expert in ancient Aramaic and Hebrew, a specialist in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the author of dozens of books on the Bible.

Bridging the Catholic-Jewish gap

By

Jews and Catholics Together: Celebrating the Legacy of Nostra Aetate, edited by Michael Attridge (Novalis, softcover, 180 pages, $19.95).

{mosimage}It’s hard to imagine just how abysmal Jewish-Catholic relations were before the Second Vatican Council, but abysmal they were. Merely 40 years ago, Jews were often viewed as “Christ-killers,” condemned to wander the Earth because of their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah. There was also a longstanding and largely unresolved debate within Christianity over “supersessionism,” the view that the Jewish covenant with God was nullified by the covenant in Christ, thus making Judaism a false religion. Consequently, Jews were targeted by missionaries for conversion. And then there is the question, still being grappled with today, of how centuries of Christian anti-Semitism provided fertile soil for the Holocaust.

God seeks the salvation of all

By

{mosimage}Biblical Human Failures by Walter Vogels (Novalis, 176 pages, softcover, $19.95).

In Biblical Human Failures, Walter Vogels takes readers on a tour of scriptural stories and characters familiar because of their compelling, visual imagery. Vogels is a wonderful guide, making sense of the labyrinth of the Old Testament and exposing depth of meaning between the lines of the sketchy details in the Gospels. His knowledge of the texts combined with his skill as a story teller makes what can be a tedious and confusing journey continually interesting and provocative. But this tour is not for the faint of heart.

Mother Teresa and the media storm

By

{mosimage}Perhaps what the headlines should have really said was “Stop the presses: Mother Teresa was human after all!” At least then they would have been truer to the underlying message in pretty much all the coverage of the new book of letters, Come be My Light, by Mother Teresa just published.

We fear poverty made visible

By

{mosimage}The Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in Christian Ethics by Kelly S. Johnson (William B. Eerdmans,  236 pages, softcover, $24.99.)

Yes, it’s judgmental, but I’ve always been flabbergasted when Christians vote Conservative. The hard, cold policies of Margaret Thatcher and, closer to home, Mike Harris, literally put vulnerable people on the hard, cold streets. One reason for such voting patterns is the fact Christianity, including Catholicism, so often fails to make the crucial links between theology and economics, between finances and ethics. Kelly S. Johnson, professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton, Ohio, ably attempts to fill the gap in her striking new book, The Fear of Beggars.

Beware of Coehlo’s ‘feminine face’ of God

By

{mosimage}The Witch of Portobello by Paolo Coelho, translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (HarperCollins, softcover, $29.95 list).

The blurb on the Advance Reader’s Edition of The Witch of Portobello invited me to “discover why Paolo Coelho ranks with J.K. Rowling and John Grisham as one of the world’s most successful writers.” I thought that was a good clue to what was between the covers: magic and suspense, soon to be sold in an airport near you. The kind of work that, when Graham Greene wrote it, he dismissed as “an entertainment.” Meanwhile, Greene’s “entertainments” are studied in English literature classes, and John Grisham’s are not and probably never will be.