From Publishers Weekly
In this panoramic view of two millennia of Christian history, Butler Bass (Christianity for the Rest of Us
) attempts to give contemporary progressive (the author prefers the term "generative") Christians a sense of their family history, refracted through little known as well as famous men and women whose work within and outside the institutional church fueled sometimes "alternative" practices as they tried to follow Jesus the Prophet. "Without a sense of history, progressive Christianity remains unmoored," argues Butler Bass, a former columnist for the New York Times
syndicate. Organized chronologically, each section of the book includes a chapter on religious observance and one on social justice, illuminating the author's conviction that authentic Christianity can be discovered in the practice of loving God and neighbor. Laced with stories from the author's own life and with contemporary examples of "generative Christianity," Butler Bass's version of Christian history includes familiar figures like the fourth-century church father Gregory of Nyssa and lesser-known individuals like the 19th century American abolitionist Maria Stewart. Is this truly "the other side of the story," as the subtitle proclaims? It's definitely a start. (Mar.)
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Bass borrows Howard Zinn’s perennial concept of history from the perspective of ordinary people to tell the story of Christianity by focusing not on institutions but on tales told down through the ages by the constituents of what she calls “generative Christianity,” who sought to live the Christian life by doing right in the eyes of God, as well as on those who rebelled against the church when they felt it necessary; that is, when the church became too rich or too comfortable with the wielding of power. Still, besides ordinary folks, she includes well-known authors, pastors, and theologians (e.g., Origen, John Calvin, Henri Nouwen). It’s a messy story, incorporating plenty of personal anecdotes en route from the early Christians (100–500) through medieval (500–1450) and Reformation (1450–1650) Christianity to modern (1650–1950) and contemporary Christianity (1945–the present). Clearly, Bass intends this to be the alternative history of a complicated topic and an important contribution to the historiography of Christianity. --June Sawyers