Friday, March 23, 2007

Recommended Reading for Liberal Christians

I grew up in Texas and I dearly love my home state. But it wasn't easy being a liberal there. And it was even harder to be a liberal Christian. A lot of people tried to tell me that I couldn't be a liberal AND a Christian. I became pretty embittered as a teenager and quit going to church until I went to college. My faith journey has had many twists and turns.

I was adopted through Lutheran social services at three months old. My mother was Baptist and my father was Episcopalian. We attended a non-denominational bible church while I was growing up. (and I spent some time in a Lutheran preschool) As I got older, my peers started to develop an "all or nothing" attitude. Either you spent all of your time with your church friends listening to Christian music and reading Christian literature or else you weren't included in the group. I increasingly felt like an outsider and a pariah. Was it so terrible to listen to the Police? Was it bad that I just didn't really enjoy Oke's books? Why did that make me a bad person? I quit going to church.

When I went to college, I thought I would try again. I found a home in my campus church where the pastor was the most gentle and caring man. So non-judgmental. I felt rejuvenated. I tried joining a campus bible study but I started to encounter the same problems I had in my youth. At one point, we decided to create a tape of music that was descriptive of our spiritual journeys. Each person brought in a song. Most people brought in songs by people like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. There is nothing wrong with Christian music. I think anything that uplifts the soul is wonderful. But, I brought in "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" by Sting. I got some looks. I think I've written about this before but it bears repeating. I felt hurt and I dropped out of the bible study.

When I moved to Colorado for graduate school, I joined a Lutheran church and really found a home there. The first service I attended included a special prayer for Matthew Shepherd's family. I knew right then that that was the church for me. I was ready to be part of an inclusive group of people . I think one of the main problems with Christians is that we tend to be a little full of pride and judgment. We are charged with reaching out to one another and loving one another not excluding people because they are different.

There are a few books that have been really important to me in my faith journey that I would like to recommend.

1. A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren
This is part of series that really opened my mind and allowed me to rethink the kind of Christian that I am.

2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Miller's story was very much like my own. And because he is also a member of Generation X, everything he was saying was very familiar and really spoke to me.

3. Plan B by Anne Lamott
Lamott is a liberal Christian who has been on quite a faith journey herself. I enjoy her honesty and determinism. There are other books in this series that are equally good.

4. Sabbath by Wayne Muller
This book had me rethinking what it means to observe the Sabbath.

5. Practicing Our Faith
I'm reading this right now as part of my church's book club. It is an interfaith approach to practicing one's faith in the modern world.

If anyone has suggestions on other good books to read, let me know. Faith is a journey and I'm constantly trying to learn and evolve. Slowly but surely...


Purl said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I look forward to reading those books.

I've wanted to talk about faith with you. We recently joined a Lutheran church after many, many years of never attending church. I'm still uncomfortable with the word Christian because of how it has been appropriated by the right wing.

Malady said...

I absolutely agree with you, Purl. I sometimes feel like I have to "hide" my Christian life because of the negative connotations among the liberal world because of the right wing. I don't have anything against conservatives but I don't feel they should get to "corner the market" on Christianity. And I don't want people to always associate Christianity with negative attitudes like hatred towards gay people.

Bookfool said...

What a lovely, heart-felt post. I often feel the same way. We're not currently attending church, but not because we don't have faith - it's just that we haven't found the kind of church home in which we feel comfortable, although we're members at a local church and I sometimes do Bible Studies (kiddo goes to youth, when he feels like it). I do have a problem with some of the closed-mindedness I've encountered. Being a liberal and a Christian is definitely a little weird. I didn't realize we had this in common.

I love Anne Lamott's take on religion. She's so fresh and open. I'll have to look into the others. :)

Ellen said...

I'm not sure it qualifies, but you might also like Adventures In Missing The Point by Tony Campolo. And I love Anna Lamott too.

Ellen said...

And I think I remember bringing in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2, and Kate thought I was a heretic. I think that I quit the study not long after that....

Malady said...

Ellen---You were there so you know what I'm talking about. Some of us really have to straddle the secular/non-secular divide!

Malady said...

Also Ellen, I will definitely look that book up! I see that it is co-written by Brian McLaren and I really like him! Thanks for the recommendation.