From Publishers Weekly
The dean of San Francisco's Episcopal cathedral opens his new book with a gauntlet-throwing epigraph from James Baldwin: "[W]hoever wishes to become a truly moral being... must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes [and] hypocrisies of the Christian Church." So begins one of our day's great statements of liberal Protestantism. For Jones, religion is a love affair, a great story, an experience to be shared with community—not a creed to nitpick and defend. Jones invites spiritual seekers to "reimagine" Christianity. Who was Jesus? A "broken and ruined man" who asks us to live as though each day were our last and to "possess nothing." And what about Mary? How are we to make sense of her perpetual virginity? Jones muses, "Mary is a book we can read.... Don't get caught in the sticky mess of doctrinal controversy. Just look." The Trinity, he says, is not fuzzy math, but a radical statement about community. Jones is not only innovative but erudite. He draws on novels by Nick Hornby and John Updike; he laces his text with musings on Emily Dickinson and John Wayne. Indeed, with his literary flair, his emphasis on community and practice and his sharp-edged liberalism, Jones reads like a cross between Lawrence Kushner and John A.T. Robinson. This book is a winner, both charitable and bold.
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Religious faith, Jones says, shouldn't be so much a refuge from the realities of the world as a launching pad for our imaginations. The dean of San Francisco's Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral begins by wondering whether there is a future for faith and concludes that there is, but that faith could be much more meaningful to a greater number of people if religion would shed its adherences to exclusionary, tribal attitudes and strict, dogmatic thinking. Focusing on Christianity, but hurling bouquets and brickbats at all the major religions, Jones doesn't demonize organized religion, nor does he stand up as its loudest cheerleader. Targeting primarily lapsed Catholics, atheists, and the simply lost, he abstracts their by now extremely familiar stories of religion gone bad and actually draws strength for his thesis from such straying believers' damaged faith. No complainer, he proposes ways to reimagine Christianity by embracing those who think differently and releasing notions of dogma as containing the
answers to all the questions now and forevermore. Donna ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved