Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A People's History of Christianity

While away on a road trip I picked up a copy of a new book, A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass. I recommend it.

The structure of the book follows a quote from Professor Joseph Stewart-Sicking, "I can't separate devotion from ethics." From my United Methodist tradition, this is a familiar combination that sets off sparks of new life – John Wesley spoke and came to live from a polarity he framed as "acts of piety" and "acts of mercy."

Part 1 – The Way, Early Christianity, 100-500
Christianity as a Way of Life
Devotion: The Love of God
Ethics: The Love of Neighbor

Part 2 – The Cathedral, Medieval Christianity, 500-1450
Christianity as Spiritual Architecture
Devotion: Paradise Restored
Ethics: Who Is My Neighbor

Part 3 – The Word, Reformation Christianity, 1450-1650
Christianity as Living Words
Devotion: Speaking of Faith
Ethics: Walking the Talk

Part 4 – The Quest, Modern Christianity, 1650-1945
Christianity as a Quest for Truth
Devotion: The Quest for Light
Ethics: Kingdom Quest

Part 5 – The River, Contemporary Christianity, 1945-Now
Christianity as Navigation
Devotion: Stepping into the River
Ethics: Universal Hospitality

Throughout the book are many stories of folks who have addressed the issues of devotion and ethics in their context – sometimes prophetically reminding the church institutional of its growing one-sidedness and sometimes stretching a settled orthodoxy through new insight and behavior.

I leave this recommendation with a paragraph near the end of the book, "In Seattle Anne Holmes Redding described universal hospitality as 'making connections of the heart across humanly devised lines of separation. Cooperating with God's healing work in self, other, community, and world. Hearing and responding to the groans of creation. Basically falling in love with all the 'wrong' folks. Helping Jesus be a bridge rather than a barrier."

Blessings upon your bridge-work. [That's bridge-work, not bridgework, though if you need a blessing for that as well, consider it given.]


  1. So nice to hear your voice! Thanks for the reading rec and the bridgework blessing! krfowler


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