There are probably few reference books that vacationers will drag down to the beach this summer. And though I make a living in academia, there aren’t many works of reference that I want to read from cover to cover. I love history because I love stories, storytelling and engrossing narratives—not because I’m taken with the facts, figures and dates that populate reference books.
One of the most interesting shifts in Christian theology after the Shoah was in how the adjective Jewish was used. In the patristic era, to call someone’s work Jewish was to insult it: the work was too fleshly or legalistic. Since the Shoah, to call someone’s work Jewish is to praise it as appropriately this-worldly, concerned with the ordinary stuff of life, embodied.
The Big Questions in Science and Religion, by Keith Ward (Templeton Foundation Press). Of the many excellent overviews of current issues in the interaction of science and religion, this one is readable and balanced, a good start for a broad audience. A theologian conversant with scientific issues, Ward covers ten questions, from the big bang to revelation and divine action.
A quick word on your “if it feels good, don’t do it” distillation of my message. We can dig into this more as we go, but for now I’d just point out that at various times, Christianity—and particularly my own Catholicism, the faith of carousing Irishmen, hedonistic Italians, and “give me chastity, Lord, but Lord not yet” sinners in every time and place—has been scolded for being altogether too worldly, too pleasure-loving, too forgiving of the weaknesses of the flesh.
A Daring Promise: A Spirituality of Christian Marriage, by Richard R. Gaillardetz (Liguori). If marriage is the place where the majority of us “work out our salvation” before God, then a book on its spirituality is essential.
As states have been moving away from mass incarceration patterns, restorative justice models have become more popular. Thirty-five states now have legislation that encourages using restorative justice. Even without statewide legislation, many police departments have made use of local nonprofits that work with law breakers to try to keep them out of prison. Restorative justice brings offenders and victims together in an attempt to find ways that offenders can make restitution for their misdeeds. The hope is that both offenders and victims will have more empathy for each other. Recidivism rates tend to be lower in such cases, compared to rates in the traditional court system (PBS, July 20).