I seem to be on a lucky streak when it comes to spiritual and religious books this year. After reading Shane Claiborne
's wonderful Irresistible Revolution
, I've stumbled ? and this is truly the correct word to use ? across Eric Elnes
's The Phoenix Affirmations
. If you, like me, have serious reservations about the public face of what passes for Christianity in America today, The Phoenix Affirmations
is the book for you. It's an invitation to the mainline denominations to take back the religion of love that Jesus laid out, and to change the face of our country and the world. The Phoenix Affirmations
lays the theological groundwork for a church based on inclusivity, not narrowness, fear, and hate; a church that approaches scripture with reason, love, and faith; and a church that's actively engaged in the real problems of the real world, problems of the environment, justice, and inter-religious dialogue and respect.
The entirety of this slim little book is a challenge to stand with Jesus at the side of the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the marginalized. It's a call to the church and to Christians to take up their cross, and the triple commandment to love God, neighbor, and self as the supreme law of life as we move further into the 21st century. This is a heady, moving little book, one that raises questions for all of us as to how to live our lives. I'm sure it'll make some people very angry, and cause others to yell "heresy!" All the more reason to read it now. For more info, visit crosswalkamerica.org.
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Eknath Easwaran was a religious genius. There's really no other way to think of this Fulbright Scholar from India who became one of the leading meditation teachers of our time. His Bhagavad Gita is a gem, as are his Dhammapada and his Upanishads. He wrote a large number of books illustrating his eight point meditation program, and his is a system definitely worth checking out.
Last year, though, his publisher, Nilgiri Press, reissued an anthology he put together of short sacred texts from throughout the world. It's called God Makes the Rivers to Flow, and it's a beautiful, moving, and immensely rewarding book. The design is a feast for the eyes, and the book includes hundreds of selections from world scriptures and religious teachers. The selections range from the entire text of the Sermon on the Mount to excerpts from The Upanishads and the Tao Te Ching to the teachings of Brother Lawrence and Sri Sarada Devi, a Hindu mystic. The book is a strong argument that there are many paths to the mountaintop, many ways to know God, many approaches to peace of mind and goodness in the world.
As a bonus, the book includes complete instructions for using these texts in meditation, information on using selected texts to work on unwanted habits of mind, and some generally wonderful tips on how one can use the book to advance one's spiritual journey.
All that aside, though, the book's a great one to leave by the side of your bed or favorite reading chair. It's a marvelous collection to dip into a little at a time, to ruminate over, to wonder at the beauty and incredible wisdom of. I've earmarked several favorites, and am working on memorization of some of the shorter pieces that particularly appealed to me.
For further info on Sri Eknath Easwaran and his eight point program, visit easwaran.org.