Tag Archives: religion

Christians can’t add to the “believe me” culture

unknown-1By now we all know the terms “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Whether you’re on the right or left, Republican or Democrat, American or a citizen of another country, Christian or another religion or no religion, there must be concern about the increasingly subjective nature of truth. When facts, evidence, logic, and cause and effect are set aside and replaced with “believe me,” we must be skeptical of the one who is asking for our blind trust. We wouldn’t get on a bicycle outfitted with wings and just believe if someone told us that it could fly. Facts, evidence, logic and cause and effect tell us that a bicycle, although outfitted with wings, cannot fly, no matter how much someone tells us to believe that it can.

I could be talking only about politics but the same is true in our churches. Our churches cannot be places where facts, evidence, logic and cause and effect are set aside for a “believe me” stance. In a world of fake news and alternative facts, we cannot proclaim biblical truth, gospel truth, as a “just believe me” kind of truth. We have to value our integrity and the integrity of the message we proclaim better than that.

A 2013 study by Gallop showed that trust that American have in their pastors, ministers and clergy has plummeted in recent years. In the study only 47% of Americans gave clergy a “very high” or “high” rating on honesty and ethics;  that number has dropped from 67% in 1985. That number was even lower for those ages 18-34, with only 34% rating clergy “very high” or “high” in honesty and ethics. In an already skeptical generation, 7 out of 10 do not see pastors and ministers as honest or ethical. We have much work to do here.  There have been enough politicians who have lied, corporate CEOs who have stolen and pastors who have fallen to make the most trusting person cynical and skeptical. As Christians, not just clergy, we have to commit to living honest and ethical lives. This isn’t following moral rules for morality’s sake but so that in a world that appears unreliable, we must stand out as reliable, truthful and trust worthy.

As I am now preparing sermons each week, I am more aware than ever of the need to be deliberate in showing that, while the message of Jesus takes faith, it is not a faith devoid from facts, evidence and logic. It is a far different thing to show that the message of Jesus is true rather than just saying that the message of Jesus is true. I may not get it right all the time, but I hope that I am at least aware and thinking about it. Showing the message of Jesus to be true begins with a life lived true to the message of Jesus from the inside- out, showing how it connects to every area of life, how the truths of scripture match our observations of reality and not just saying  “believe me.”

(And here I’ll quote my sources in order to be honest and ethical: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2013/december/seven-people-americans-trust-more-pastor-gallup-honesty.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/trust-in-clergy-gallup-poll_n_4468205.html)

The Past vs Future Debate in the Church

One of the great debates within sports is what would a historically great team or a historically great player do in competition with a modern day great team or modern day great player? How would teams or players of different eras compete against each other? How would the Pittsburg Steelers of the 1970s or the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s do agains the New England Patriots of the 2000s? How would the 1996 Chicago Bulls do in a seven game series against this year’s Golden State Warriors? How would Sandy Koufax pitch against the best of today’s MLB hitters?

Most of these debates are just what sports fans do to argue with one another but some of them go to a deeper level of how should the advancements of modern technology and training relate to the history of each sport. Much of the time, it is the historical team or player who feels they could win against their modern counterparts.

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Roubaix - France - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Tony Martin (Germany / Team Etixx - Quick Step) - Tom Boonen (Belgium / Team Etixx - Quick Step) - Robert Wagner (Germany / Team LottoNL - Jumbo) pictured during Paris - Roubaix 2016 World Tour Cycling race - photo Marketa/Navratilova/Cor Vos © 2015

Top: Paris-Roubaix from the 1970s; Botton: Paris-Roubaix, 2016.

On Sunday one of the oldest cycling races was held: Paris-Roubaix. First organized in 1896, there have been 114 runnings of the race- stopping only during World War I and World War II. What makes Paris-Roubaix so unique is that during the race, riders must traverse 27 sections of cobbled-stone roads. These roads date back to the time of Napoleon. The first editions of the race rode exclusively on the cobbled roads (because that’s all there were) and left competitors muddy from the roads and bloody from crashes.

While the cyclists have gotten faster and technology has many times eclipsed the technology of the bikes of 1896, each rider feels a connection to the riders who have gone before as they battle and race over some of the same roads that have been used for 120 years. For me, the beauty of the race is the way the organizers and riders of Paris-Roubaix have effectively meshed the history of the race with the pinnacle of modern technology.

In my last post, I mentioned that one thing Millennials desire from the church is to be connected to the past, as well as, the future. When the church holds the past vs. future debate, many times it sounds like the debate between the 1970s Steelers and the 2000 Patriots. In a 2015 interview, “Mean” Joe Greene from the 1970s Steelers said that what today’s players do is “wrestling” while in his era they brought “toughness and mayhem.” Therefore, he said he would have a hard time playing in today’s NFL. In these debates there stands an irreconcilable conflict between the past and the future. We all know that, on a whole, football players are bigger, stronger and faster now then in 1970s but historically great players believe that their era was better.

When the church looks at the past vs. future debate in the way mentioned above it creates a division between those who identify with one era versus those who identify with another. This division emerges from a limited perspective from one side and ultimately to frustration on the other side, because it is impossible to return to a previous era. To go back to our football analogy, fans of the 2000 Patriots never saw the 1970s Steelers play and there is never going to be a way to see the 1970s Steelers, in their prime, play against a team from the modern era in their prime.

So what is the solution?

The church needs to embrace past and future in a similar way to the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race. There must be a way to keep the connection to the past while recognizing and embracing the good things of modern church culture. When it comes to the Christian faith, Millennials have a desire to know and understand that they represent a continuation of a tradition that spans over two-thousand years (the Jewish roots of Christianity go back farther than that) and crosses over many cultural boundaries- even if they are a part of a church with cutting edge media, music and technology. I’m not the first to make this case for an ancient-modern version of Christianity for the church today but I want to quickly suggest three easy things churches and church leaders can do to move toward this ancient-modern vision.

  1. For every modern example, use an ancient example. This suggestion is for pastors and teachers. Instead of having all your quotes from modern authors, theologians or pastors, use quotes and examples from ancient theologians and pastors. Also use quotes from theologians, authors and pastors from different cultures- from Africa, Asia or Latin America.
  2. Explain things. Take time during worship gatherings to briefly explain why aspects of worship are done the way they are done. Why sing songs? Why kneel at a certain time? Why do you do Communion a certain way in your tradition? Why do you do baptism  a certain way in your tradition? In most cases there are historical reasons for these traditions and if your church is going to keep using the traditions then they need to explained.
  3. Use the calendar. For centuries the church has used the calendar to guide it’s worship. It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes. There is something special about having Christians from across the globe and across traditions reflecting on the same thing that generations of Christians have also reflected upon.

The past vs. future debate within the church shouldn’t be like a theoretical game between sports teams of different eras. It could be that embracing an ancient-modern approach could re-engage a generation to the church.

Half Memoir, Half History: A Review of The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today

images-2There is an old saying that says, “You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been.” I feel confident that if this saying were spoken in reference to the Church Fathers, John Michael Talbot would agree. In fact, that is really a summary of his latest book, The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today. Talbot lives, breathes and looks ancient Christianity built on the monastic communities of early Christianity- the major difference is that he is living within the modern world as well. He lives within a unique mix of the ancient and the modern.

This book does the same. It tells the story of Talbot’s birth into Christianity, his early years as a monastic disciple and the founding of his monastic community- The Brothers and Sisters of Charity in rural Arkansas. At the same time, the book tells the story of the Church Fathers through themes like community, prayer, service and stewardship. As a person who has become fascinated with the blending of the ancient and modern within the Church, I found the book to be enlightening and encouraging. One of the most enlightening aspects of the book is the amount of quotes and ideas from the Church Fathers that Talbot incorporates into his writing. The words of the Church Fathers, not least of all the world of Scripture, as well, really engage the conversation on every page. I found the book encouraging because it shows how ideas from the earliest pastors and laymen of Christianity still hold true for churches, clergy and Christians hundreds of years later. Talbot writes, “The faith does not change, though our understanding of it must necessarily develop…Development was necessary and it’s still necessary today” (172-171).

As a Catholic layman, Talbot’s writing is full of orthodox Catholic theology. He talks about the need to be under the authority of a bishop, he devotes a chapter to the presence of Mary, and he repeatedly mentions the need for Christians to accept the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Given that I recently read a work by Pope Francis, I was surprised that Talbot’s Catholic theology comes across much fuller and more forcefully than in the book by Pope Francis. As a non-Catholic reading the book, I was not put off or distracted by Talbot’s theology. Christianity is a religion that “looks chaotic from up close, but there is a sense to it. There is a pattern, and there is profound unity” (172). I think there is much more that unites Protestants and Catholic than what divides; I think Talbot (who speaks about the monastic life to both Protestants and Catholics) would agree.

One weakness of the book, somewhat ironically, is the unity of perspectives of the Church Fathers. I admit that I haven’t read and studied the Church Fathers one tenth as much as Talbot, but I would be surprised if they agree on everything as it appears in the book. Talbot takes examples from Father’s hundreds of years apart and they say similar things but I would like more examples of where they differed in their opinions. I don’t think showing differences would have hindered the mission of the book and would have been another example of the fullness and richness of the Christian faith.

I genuinely enjoyed the book and it is one that I will reference to refresh myself on the perspectives and the words of the Church Fathers. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in early Christian history or who, like me, is interested in the blending of ancient and modern within the Church today. I received this book from Blogging for Book for this review.

* Read John Michael Talbot’s biography here.

Everyone’s Joy: A Review of The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis

9780553419535The last time I read a work written by a Pope, it was a response to Martin Luther written by Pope Leo X. Needless to say, there has been a tremendous amount of evolution within the papacy and the Catholic Church in the last five hundred years. Even while young in his papacy, Francis is sure to be a marker within the evolution of the highest office in the Catholic Church. The Joy of the Gospel is written to those in the church and to those who lead the church. It outlines Pope Francis’ heart for the poor, for justice and for the earth and most of all for the proclamation of the gospel. Briefly, a word on the format of the book; the book is formatted in numbered paragraph form. Paragraphs are numbered, I presume, so that references can be made no matter how the book is printed or in whatever language it is printed. When I site a reference, I will site these numbers.

To those within and to those who lead the Church, Francis implores them to take the message of Jesus to the rest of the world. Above that Francis wants joyous people to evangelize: “Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows but “by attraction”” (15). It is this joy that drives the message of Francis throughout the book and pushes a few somewhat progressive ideas.

In several places he humbly devalues the authority of the papacy by giving authority to local parishes to work as they see fit. He raises the value of women within the Catholic Church when he says; “I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological refection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more inclusive female presence in the Church” (103). He elevates the distinct cultures in the world and calls for the Church to work within the uniqueness’s found therein (117, 118). He spends a great amount of time speaking to the clergy on the importance of the homily- the preaching. He tells the clergy: “Let us renew our confidence in preaching, based on the conviction that it is God who seeks to reach out to others through the preacher, and that he displays his power through human words” (136). Finally, he proclaims the unity of Christians and the need for ecumenical and interreligious peace (244). In places, he speaks ambiguously. For example, in section 63 he talks about the “new religious movements” that have arisen to challenge the Catholic faith, however, he doesn’t give any examples of these movements.

Pope Francis has quickly become an influential voice among Protestants, as well as Catholics. As a Protestant reading this book, I found that it speaks to Christians and church leaders of all backgrounds, not only to those who profess to Catholicism. Of course the book promotes Catholic theology- references to councils and synods, previous Popes and a closing prayer to Mary. However, there is much more that can unite Christians and encourage them to follow Jesus and Jesus’ example rather than divide them among theological lines. Modern Christianity has, in many ways, become something other than what Jesus established and this book will encourage Christians that a return to its founding principles is possible and indeed happening. Finally, one last quote from Pope Francis that encourages all Christians to take the message of Jesus to the world; “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (120).

Read Chapter 1 of the book for free here.

I received this book from Blogging for Book for this review.

Doubt of the Month: Good Works

Each month during my year of doubt, I will be writing on a specific topic that I’m questioning and thinking about. This month the topic is good works.

I’m Protestant enough to believe that good works don’t play a role in salvation. One way to look at salvation is as God’s grace meeting human faith and good works do not make a person have any more faith or make God have any more grace. And, of course, the Apostle Paul talks about salvation as a work of faith in Ephesians, Colossians and Romans. The most famous of these is Ephesians 2:8-9.

And that leads to the question: If all my bad works don’t make God love me any less and all my good works don’t make God love me any more, why should I do good?

I think most Christians would respond in three ways. First, they would say that we do good works because Jesus did good works and Christians should try to imitate Jesus. True. Jesus fed people that were hungry, he healed people that were sick, he saved people from dangerous situations (when he calmed the sea and saved his disciples and others from drowning, for example) and he interacted with people that were social outcasts. The complication that comes from this response is that we don’t, and in most cases are incapable of, performing the same good works that Jesus did. We aren’t healing people. We aren’t exercising demons. We aren’t calming storms. There is really no comparison between the good works that Jesus did and the good works that you and I are capable of doing. It would be similar to if you or I watch basketball on t.v. and say that we are following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan- the comparison is laughable.


If all my bad works don’t make God love me any less and all my good works don’t make God love me any more, why should I do good?


That brings us to the second response: Christians do good works because it’s the right thing to do within our society; good works are our social obligation as Christians. Just as in the first response, this is partly true but ultimately incomplete. Here the good becomes defined by society and religion is used as a defense of the good that society has defined. This is what happened in the American South during slavery and in Germany during the reign of Hitler’s Nazi regime, just to name two examples, when Christians were able to use Scripture to defend the “good” that the society was perpetuating.

Lastly, the third response is that doing good works makes us feel good. At least that is what we say, what we really mean, however, is that we do good works because we want good things done for us. This is the least spiritual response but probably the one the best reflects our true intentions.  Many, perhaps most, of our good works are done because we feel good after doing them. We want the good feeling and we desire recognition for the good that we did. If you get a little frustrated when you do something nice or good and don’t receive a thank you for it, it is because you didn’t receive the recognition you felt you deserved for the good work you did. It’s very ironic that we often give our money, give our time and give our resources all because we are selfish. This desire to be recognized for our good works does not end with recognition from others people, we desire recognition from God as well. We feel that God owes us something for the good we do; we deserve good circumstances, good finances, good families and deep spiritual experiences. Contrary to our feelings, God does not owe us good in return for our good.

So, why do we do good works? If those three responses are partly true but ultimately incomplete, is there a reason for you and I to continue or start doing good works?

I think there is and I think it does go back to Jesus. Previously I said that we cannot, in most circumstances, replicate the individual works that Jesus did, however, we can imitate the reason behind the individual works that Jesus did. When Jesus did good works, he did them for two reason. First, Jesus did good works to make God known. Jesus didn’t do good works to make himself famous (in many cases he told those he helped not to tell anyone) but to make God known- even if only to the individual he helped. Second, Jesus did good works to show that every person has dignity and value. Most of Jesus’ good works were directed toward the outcasts and toward those who couldn’t give him anything in return- even if they wanted to.


The way I was living everyday life was moralistic therapeutic deism at best and a sad belief in karma at worst.


This topic has been on my mind because I have found that when I do good works I do them out of the three responses that I mentioned earlier. But when I’m really honest I do it mostly from the third reason. When I do what is good, I somehow think that I am racking up points that will compel God to reward me. When rewards don’t come it is because I haven’t racked up enough points or because it is a result of the bad things I have done. In the way I was living everyday life, good works make good things happen and bad works make bad things happen. It was moralistic therapeutic deism at best and a sad belief in karma at worst.

I wonder how many Christian behave in the same way? Notice I didn’t say believe because we all know and can say the right beliefs but we don’t always behave in the way we believe. Do we try to abstain from doing wrong- lie, cheat, steal, curse, speed, gossip, do violence- because we don’t want bad things to happen to us in return? Or because we don’t want to point people away from God or devalue any person? Do we attempt to do good- be moral, be generous, be faithful, be loving, be peaceable- because we want God to notice and reward us for our good deeds? Or because we want to point toward God and give value and dignity to others?

Why do we do good works? I’ve doubted my reason.

10 Quotes from Marcus Borg

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Marcus Borg 1942-2015

As I opened Twitter last night I was surprised to find that Marcus Borg, the influential New Testament scholar and theologian, had died. I was introduced to Borg through his books when I was doing my undergrad work at Hardin-Simmons University. I don’t agree with all of Borg’s positions but I enjoyed his fresh perspective and debating his ideas against those of other New Testament theologians, as well as, my own opinions.

My favorite book by Borg is Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & The Heart of Contemporary Faith. What I find interesting is that the book begins with Borg telling his own faith journey from faith to doubt and back to faith again. It is from that book that I want to share ten quotes from the late Marcus Borg. These are sentences and passages that I find intriguing and that have caused me to look at things in a new way.

10. “The gospels contain both their memories of Jesus of Nazareth and their ongoing experience of the post-Easter Jesus.” (20)

9. “It is the claim that I emphasized at the end of chapter 1 and that will emerge yet again in this book: that the Christian life moves beyond believing in God to being in relationship to God.” (39)

8. “The historical Jesus was a spirit person, one of those figures in human history with an experiential awareness of the reality of God…Jesus was a teacher of wisdom who regularly used the classic form of wisdom speech to teach a subversive and alternative wisdom…Jesus was a social prophet, similar to the classical prophets of ancient Israel. As such, he criticized the elites of his time, was an advocate of an alternative social vision, and was often in conflict with authorities. Jesus was a movement founder who brought into being a Jewish renewal or revitalization movement that challenged and shattered the social boundaries of his day, a movement that eventually became the early Christian church.” (30)

7. “The dominant social vision was centered in holiness; the alternative social vision of Jesus was centered in compassion…He directly and repeatedly challenged the dominant sociopolitical paradigm of his social world and advocated instead what might be called a politics of compassion.” (49)

6. “Now I no longer see the Christian life as being primarily about believing…Rather, the Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of a God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit. And a Christian is one who lives out his or her relationship to God within the framework of the Christian tradition.” (17)

5. “We see the challenge to the purity system not only in Jesus’ teaching but in many of his activities…One of his most characteristic activities was an open and inclusive table…The open table fellowship of Jesus was thus perceived as a challenge to the purity system. And it was: the meals of Jesus embodied his alternative vision of an inclusive community.” (55-56)

4. “Strikingly, the most certain thing we know about Jesus is that he was a storyteller and speaker of great one-liners.” (70)

3. “Secondhand religion is a way of being religious based on believing what one has heard from others. It consists of thinking that the Christian life is about believing that the Bible says of what the doctrines of the church say.” (87-88)

2. “Firsthand religion, on the other hand, consists of a relationship to that which the Bible and the teachings of the church point- namely, that reality that we call God or the Spirit of God.” (88)

1. “The gospel of Jesus- the good news of Jesus’ own message- is that there is a way of being that moves beyond both secular and religion conventional wisdom. The path of transformation of which Jesus spoke leads from a life of requirements and measuring up (whether to culture or to God) to a life of relationship with God. It leads from a life of anxiety to a life of peace and trust. It leads from the bondage of self-preoccupation to the freedom of self-forgetfulness. It leads from life centered in culture to life centered in God.” (88)

I hope you have found these quotes fascinating, like I have and I would encourage you to read more from Marcus Borg.

*  All quotes taken from: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & The Heart of the Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 1994.

 

Religion of Violence or Religion and Violence: A Review of Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong

9780307957047In his book The End of Faith, self-proclaimed secularist, Sam Harris summarizes his call to end religion and spiritual faith by stating, “Whatever our religion differences may mean for the next life, they have only one terminus in this one- a future of ignorance and slaughter.” For Harris, religion only ushers in two results: intellectual ignorance and the bloodshed of human slaughter. Is he correct? Does religion naturally lead to violence? In Fields of Blood, Karen Armstrong looks to answer that question.

Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books including A History of God and The Case for God. She has written on the major world religions and her own personal journey in two memoirs: Through the Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase. She lives in London.

As mentioned earlier, Fields of Blood seeks to discover the answer to the question of whether religion naturally leads to violence. The answer, as one would expect is multi-layered and multi-faceted. Armstrong begins her work by tracing the history of people groups and their religious beliefs from the earliest records of both. The journey begins in Part One in Sumer as ancient people developed the earliest forms of religions and society. The journey then moved to India and finally to China before turning to the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Armstrong’s reason for examining these different peoples (even though a majority of the book focuses on Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is to emphasize that for pre-modern people religion and life were inseparable. There was no secular, there was no sacred and to make any distinction in the two would have made no sense in the pre-modern mind. It was the gods or God that structured society so that there were aristocrats and peasants and since an agrarian society was built upon the two pillars of taxation and warfare (37), religion had to make a space for this violent reality.

However, as society and religion developed, there arose those who saw that the message of religion, whether Hindu, Buddhist or Jewish, could not mesh with the inherently violent structure of society. It is into this category that Armstrong places Jesus. As a Christian, it is to this section that I can best speak. Armstrong takes the standard liberal interpretation of Jesus’ life as being a political movement to end the oppression of the Jews by the Roman Empire. The deification of Jesus came later as St. Paul and others tried to explain Jesus’ apparent failure after the crucifixion. As a person who would call myself fairly widely read on scholarly Christian writers, I find her treatment of Jesus and the rise of Christianity lacking and half complete and so I would assume that adherents of the other religions she examines would arrive at the same conclusion at the treatment of their faiths. However, Armstrong’s position is to examine the role of religion and the societies in which they formed and have influence and so she must look at each objectively and on equal footing, as an academic and not as a follower or proponent of any religious faith. She completes Part Two of the book by looking at the rise of Christianity within the Roman and Byzantine Empires, the formation and rise of Islam and the Muslim and Christian conquests in the Middle Ages.

Part Three brings the reader into the Modern Age. Armstrong focuses on Western Europe and America as she traces the development of religion and modern society from the Enlightenment, to the founding of the New World and finally to the development of the nation state. It is here that Armstrong answers the question we poised at the outset, does religion naturally lead to violence. Armstrong’s answer is that, in the Modern Age, the sacred does lead to violence but it is not the sacredness of religion but the sacredness of the State. She writes, “If we can define the sacred as something for which one is prepared to die, the nation had certainly become an embodiment of the divine, a supreme value” (293). The problem, as Armstrong righty sees, is “you can take religion out of the state, but you can’t take religion out of the nation” (276).

Overall, I agree with Armstrong’s analysis and conclusions. What the modern mind has attempted to do is separate secular and sacred and try to have them act independently, even contradictorily, against each other. Yes, there have been people killed exclusively by religious motives but many times more have been killed by political, economic or social motives by people who also happen to be religious. In Christian vocabulary we would say that our propensity toward violence is a result of our sin nature and we would repent of that violence as we become more like Jesus through the process of sanctification. This is one of the attributes that set Christianity apart; it proposes that while violence may be the past it does not have to be the future. In Christianity, nonviolence does not arrive with the defense of a religious homeland or as more people are accountable to religious laws but as those who say they follow Jesus actually begin to follow the example of Jesus. All to often, however, what American Christians have done instead is to make the goals and means of the State the same as the goals and means of Christianity. When that happens it appears that religion does indeed lead to violence.

Armstrong’s goal is to defend religion against the claims of Harris and others and in that she proposes and presents evidence of an alternate view on how religion and violence have been somewhat benevolent companions throughout history. The book does have weak moments but it is overall consistent in its voice. The book is not for everyone and I would recommend it to those who have experience in reading academic works on religion and history.

I received this book from Blogging for Book for this review.

Read more about Karen Armstrong here.