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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (2013)

For many years, authors have written about Jesus of Nazareth using the Christian Bible, historical works and their imagination. Recognized history outside of the Bible has little to say about Jesus (he was a Jew who was crucified under Roman authority) but much to say about his effect on western culture and civilization. Now in Zealot, Reza Aslan writes a description of Palestine at the time of Jesus to show how the man from the Gospels may have fit into that tumultuous time when our calendar began.

Aslan, a well-educated scholar of Christianity and other religions, writes to define Jesus as a special man much like other Zealots of his time but one whose miracles are not questioned through later centuries of controversy about his birth, divinity, and resurrection. Aslan emphasizes the confrontational aspects of encounters and parables in the Gospels to paint Jesus as a revolutionary against the Roman and Jewish temple authorities.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Aslan believes Christian writers moderated the zealous teaching of Jesus from a revolutionary stance to one of a Kingdom beyond this world with mercy, justice and peace as its goals. Zealotry, that is excessive zeal and fanaticism, was seen to endanger the early Christian community by inviting violent repression from Roman authority. Aslan doesn’t give much value to the 2000 years of witnesses beginning with the Apostle Paul viewing Jesus as the Son of God. Christians may not find this work a best choice for Christmas reading.

 

The Book of Samson by David Maine (2006)

The story of the Biblical figure Samson is told in a humanizing and darkly humorous way. Samson himself is a womanizing violent religious fanatic, but still manages to be a sympathetic character through his straightforward narration.

Check the catalog for The Book of Samson or for other books by David Maine.

God in America

God in America (2010)
This six hour documentary looks at the settling of America, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, and the issue of religion and politics in America from a strictly religious history point of view.

The Evangelical Protestant religion of many of the early settlers made them resentful of either church leaders or kings telling them what to do. Itinerant Methodist ministers traveling in the wilds west of the Appalachians made Methodism the fastest growing denomination in the US until the battle over slavery broke it into northern and southern denominations. The rights of Catholics and Jews to have their children free from Protestant religious training in public schools led to a greater separation of church and state.

In postwar America, Billy Graham and his crusade against "Godless" communism made him the best known religious figure in America. These are just a few of the interesting takes on American history found in this program which was created by a cooperative effort of The American Experience and Frontline.

For more information, visit the companion website.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (2009)
Mitch Albom, who hasn't been to a church since he was young, is moved by the deep faith of two very different men, an elderly and spirited rabbi who wants Mitch to give his eulogy when he dies, and an ex-con turned minister to the poor and homeless. The book is touching and entertaining and just might get us thinking about our faith and the place God has in our life. Listen to Albom talk about his book. Also check out the author's interview on Good Morning America, read reviews at Amazon.com and visit his website.