Interfaith Opportunities


Finding God in the World
     Every year, more people are leaving organized religion behind.  But instead of a decline in spirituality, Diana Butler Bass says in GROUNDED that this shift actually signals a major transformation in how people understand God. 

     Bass invites readers to join this emerging spiritual revolution, find a revitalized expression of faith, and change the world.

                          A NY Times article is based on the same premise:

Learning to Walk in the Dark
          Barbara Brown Taylor, author, Episcopal priest and professor of religion, deconstructs an opposing pair:  light versus darkness.  Reviewer Debie Thomas writes:
          Rereading Scripture to explore times when God shows up in the dark, Taylor makes a compelling case for "lunar" spirituality, a spirituality that sees God's hand not only in the bright periods of our lives, but also in times when the light wanes, and we find ourselves struggling with uncertainty, doubt, loss, or despair.  Often it is in the darkness, Taylor suggests, that God teaches us the most about himself. . . .

          Taylor's new book [ Learning to Walk in the Dark] offers a fresh and unconventional perspective on Christian discipleship, and does so in prose that is warm, lively, and engaging.

More of Thomas's Review
 Anti-war Book for Children

The Story of Hurry was written by Emma Williams and edited by Jean Stein, with illustrations by Ibrahim Quraishi.   Lyrical and tender . . . it is an attempt in Williams's words, to tap into children's "innate sense of justice" and "amazing sense of inquiry" in the hope they will provide conversations. . . .

The book goes about provoking these questions by following the adventures of a "little donkey," named Hurry, who just wants to make children happy.  Hurry lives "in a dry and lonely land by the sea" where the children often go hungry, the electricity frequently falters ad, some nights, bombs fall from the sky.  Grownups will recognize this land as Gaza, though its name is never mentioned in the book, nor is Israel's.  The book also sidesteps words like "war" and "siege," but it is clear, from both text and pictures, that the children of this land lead fearful, walled-in lives.  They wander to the beach to play but are "chased out of the sea by angry men."  They go to the zoo in search of fun and escape, but the animals are "thin, and sad, and few." . . .

Stein stumbled on the real-life story in a newspaper clipping not long after Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza that spanned more than three bloody weeks in late 2008 and 2009. . . . [The] offensive. . . destroyed thousands of homes, pummeled factories, ruined farms, damaged water wells and killed scores of animals.  Some of those were the exotic creatures that had once lived at the Happy Land Zoo.  In the grim aftermath, the zookeeper painted two white donkeys with black hair dye and transformed them into what he called "zebras made in Gaza" to cheer the children traumatized by the war."

 Lizzy Ratner's review in The Nation
includes a report from a sixth-grade girl who read "Hurry" 

Personally . . .
                                                 ION members suggest . . .

    Fleeing Herod by James Cowan is a beautifully written, intriguing spiritual journey exploring the mysterious exile of The Holy Family in Egypt during the five years immediately following Christ's birth.
        It is as well an American writer's exploration of Coptic Christianity.  Learning about this ancient religion (little understood in the world) had a profound effect on Cowan and did on this reader too.
                                                                      --Scottie Faerber

   At the moment I am enjoying some of the later books of Ray Stannard Baker, the muckraker journalist and biographer of Wilson.  He lived in Amherst on Sunset Avenue the later years of his life, and wrote under the pen name of David Grayson.  Each book is full of his love of farming, nature, life made richer with quotes from great writers whether they be those of the Old or New Testament, the Greeks, or from more recent thinkers.  There is a gentle religious component in his reverence for the natural world.  His Adventures in Solitude is a special treasure as he deals with illness and the end of life with strength and beauty.
                                                                           -- Lee Bridegam

The Cross and the Lynching Tree

     "The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a theological meditation on a dimension of the lethal oppression experienced by African Americans that has been formative for both the faith and civic posture of the black community for a very long time.  Cone foregrounds lynching and its ubiquitous threat as the concrete denial of African Americans' claims to a recognition of their full humanity and of their citizenship in the body politic and in the household of God.

     "It is the ubiquity of this experience [of lynching]  that makes it a theological category.  The theological methodology used by black theology is one which gives primacy to experience: experience of not only the divine but also of the vicissitudes of human pain and suffering caused by the workings of evil. "

--Reviewed by Stephen G. Ray, Jr., who teaches theology
at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and is executive
 director of the Society for the Study of Black Religion

What Christians Can Learn From Other Religions
by J. Philip Wogaman
          "This book provides a useful paradigm for teaching comparative religion and is an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in interfaith dialogue as a means to greater self-understanding."
--M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi, Washington Hebrew Congregation                                            
        "What Christians Can Learn From Other Religions does not seek to convert, but rather argues that Christians can and need to learn from the other religions in the world. . . . It is a well-written refreshing approach to interreligious dialogue.
         --Barbara Brown Zikmund, retired President of Hartford Seminary,
            and former chair of the NCC Commission on Interfaith Relations


The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur'an
Three Books, Two Cities, One Tale

          Anton Wessels believes that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must read the Scriptures together and not against each other.  As his book title suggests, the three books, in the end, are actually one tale.

          Heidi Hadsell, President of Hartford Seminary, calls this book "a remarkable, helpful resource," saying that The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur'an focuses on central questions that arise in each. . . . "The reader will learn a lot about Qur'anic and biblical texts and their contexts and will have to rethink some basic assumptions about his or her religious tradition, particularly pertaining to its relationship with the other religious traditions 'of the book.' "
          Jones Library partnered with ION
      to receive a Bridging Cultures grant

          The Jones Library in Amherst partnered with ION in applying for a Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys bookshelf grant consisting of 25 books for the library's permanent collection.  The books have been organized into five basic themes:  American Stories - Connected Histories - Literary Reflections - Pathways of Faith - Points of View.   All are available at the Jones Library.

               See the titles and themes at Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys

              Beyond Tolerance
Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America

     To many writers, tolerance is all that matters. . . . Gustav Niebuhr shows us there is much more to religious diversity than that.  We can actually learn from one another, deepen our faith and strengthen our culture.  This highly personal, eminently engaging account shows how some Americans are making this happen.

                                                    --Robert Wuthnow


Soil and Sacrament:
A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith 


          In this excerpt from the prologue of Soil and Sacrament, writer Fred Bahnson recounts his visits with four different faith communities - Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and Jewish - to explore the connection between feeding the spirit and feeding the body.

Recovering from Moral Injury after War
          "Moral injury might best be defined as an affliction of the soul, as distinct from a specific mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder.  It arises, to speak in a very broad way, from the way a combatant's actions in war seem to violate and thus undermine the most deeply held moral beliefs. . . .

          "Michael Yandell, 28, a student at the Brite seminary who worked on a bomb disposal team during the Iraq war, [says] "Most deeply, it's a loss of confidence in one's own ability to make a moral judgment with any certainty. . . .
It's not that you lose your ability to tell right from wrong, but things don't seem so clear any more.  For me, it's whether or not what I did, did any good."

From Samuel G. Freedman's review: Tending to Veterans' Afflictions of the Soul

In the Pioneer Valley, Wesley Methodist Church has shown special concern
for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan