Feisal Abdul Rauf is familiar to much of the country as the imam behind the controversial proposal to build an Islamic community center near ground zero in lower Manhattan. Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America will likely stir some Islamophobes, but it is also likely to give the conversation about American Muslims a move forward in the direction of greater awareness. Those whose awareness of religious controversy is shaped by watching Comedy Central may recognize sometime Daily Show guest Bart Ehrman. The religion scholar that evangelical Christians love to debate offers a surprising argument for the historical existence of Jesus in Did Jesus Exist? Other illusions do, however, exist, chief among them Frank Peretti’s new novel. Illusion is the first novel in nearly seven years from the writer who invented Christian horror.
Ron Sider, the theologian whose influential work, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pricked and shaped the consciences of many Christians, takes on another ambitious topic. Fixing the Moral Deficit deserves attention for its focus on economics that is both moral and practical. Another ethical imperative comes from the venerable Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh in Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society. The Vietnamese monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. at the height of the Vietnam War is now 85, and continues his life’s effort to promote spiritually based social engagement; his books have been reliable sellers that cross religious boundaries.
The attention that a book from her husband, Rick Warren, might have gotten will likely buoy the reception for Choose Joy by Kay Warren. In addition to helping her husband cofound Saddleback Church, Kay Warren is a Bible teacher and cancer survivor. A different family connection will help My Story, My Song: Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith by Lucimarian Roberts. The author is the mother of Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, who contributes her reflections to the book. Hard to imagine that won’t get a GMA mention, or more than one.
Yet another religion scholar who writes with bestselling clarity about matters often obscured by jargon tackles the Christian Bible’s most puzzling book. Revelations by Princeton University scholar Elaine Pagels, whose work has shed light on the origins of Christianity, should help decode the Book of Revelation, where so many find support for all manner of end-times notions. And the season in religion books in an election year would not be complete without the examination of politics and Christian conservatism promised by The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party Are Taking Back America by David Brody, the chief political correspondent for Christian Broadcasting News. Critics may wonder what year the country is being taken back to, but they may have to read the book to find out.
The season’s top religion titles come from known names. Novelist Beverly Lewis’s “The Fiddler” continues to play on popular longing for a simpler lifestyle. Amish might not be quite as white-bonnet hot as previously, but publisher Bethany House is banking on the “mamm” of Amish romance to the first-print tune of almost a quarter-million copies.
PW’s Top 10: Religion
Beverly Lewis. Bethany House, Apr.
Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America Feisal
Abdul Rauf. Free Press, May.
Did Jesus Exist?
Bart Ehrman. HarperOne, Mar.
Frank Peretti. Howard, Mar.
Fixing the Moral Deficit
Ron Sider. InterVarsity Press, Feb.
Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society
Thich Nhat Hanh. Parallax, May.
Kay Warren. Revell, Apr.
My Story, My Song: Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith
Lucimarian Roberts, as told to Missy Buchanan with reflections by Robin Roberts. Upper Room, Apr.
Elaine Pagels. Viking, Mar.
The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party Are Taking Back America
David Brody. Zondervan, June.