Books of Faith

By Howard Schwartz Sharon L. Schmeling | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 27, 1994 | Go to article overview

Books of Faith


Howard Schwartz Sharon L. Schmeling, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


In a Brooklyn neighborhood called "God's Alcatraz," the police wear T-shirts that say "THE KILLING FIELDS," and even the toughest men would rather double-park outside St. Paul Community Baptist Church than turn a corner beyond its view. While the church's pastor can't change that, he embarks on a crusade to transform the church into a nurturing village that empowers black men and raises children from the ashes of urban violence and chaos. The story of that transformation is vividly told in Samuel G. Freedman's "Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church," (373 pages, HarperCollins, $12). This splendidly written and inspirational biography of the pastor of one of New York's most famous Baptist churches will make you laugh and cry.

Angel books were hugely popular in 1994, with enough titles on bookstore shelves to build the Tower of Babel. Unlike many books in this genre, Billy Graham's "Angels" (192 pages, Word Publishing, $15.99) is neither trendy nor about a fleeting faith. First published in 1975, it has been reissued for a new generation. Graham's explanation of angels and their work in the world is solidly grounded in Scripture. If you want something heavier, try "Know-ledge of Angels" by Jill Paton Walsh (268 pages, Houghton Mifflin, $21.95). This is an entertaining religious fable about an atheist and a wolf-child whose lives are inextricably woven together although they never meet. This delicately crafted novel tells a great story while engaging the age-old debate about the existence of God and the need to defend one's faith.

"Dakota: A Spiritual Geo-graphy" by Kathleen Norris (224 pages, Houghton Mifflin, $9.95), explores how the author, a New York City transplant, is spiritually transformed by the simplicity of the Great Plains. Out on the desolate prairie, Norris embraces the wisdom of the early Christian fathers and learns that deprivation is freedom.

Another title that lends itself to meditation is "Portrait of Mary" by Nikki Grimes (116 pages, Harcourt Brace, $15.95). Using the Gospels as her guide, Grimes weaves an imaginative account of the life of Jesus' mother.

Those seeking insights into the relationship between politics and religion could do no better than to read "The Soul of Politics" by Jim Wallis (275 pages, New Press/Orbis Books, $19.95). Wallis challenges the left to rethink its abandonment of personal responsibility. He invites the right to acknowledge social oppression and structural injustice. This important and provocative book argues that politics needs religion, whose moral voice beckons humans to higher virtues.

Joseph Girzone's Joshua series, about a modern-day Jesus figure who infuriates combative church leaders with simple truths, has sold 1.5 million copies in seven languages. It has brought angry Christians back to the church and given comfort to leaders such as Gen. H. Norman Schwars-kopf, who read it on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. Girzone's newest book, "Never Alone: A Per-sonal Way to God" (115 pages, Doubleday, $14.95) shares, for the first time, the author's own journey to God. He challenges and inspires readers to embark on their own journey to wisdom and peace. Reviewed by Sharon L. Schmeling, a free-lance writer and associate director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. …

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