Check out the group studies ready to be downloaded at www.thethoughtfulchristian.com There are too many to list here.
Information about First Nations and resources available for study on various justice issues can be found at http://www.presbyterian.ca/resources/online/138.
The Real Consequences of Bullying, Meagan Pillow Davis. www.thepresbyterianleader.com, 2008. “Sticks and stones may break my bones,” but words can also hurt and have lasting consequences. If we’ve learned anything from recent tragedies such as those at Columbine and Virginia Tech, it’s that bullying is pervasive in our schools, and all of us need to do something about it. This one-session study invites participants to describe instances where they have witnessed bullying, as the bully, the bullied or the bystander. Bullying is defined; the myths and facts are discussed; and possible action steps are considered.
Experiencing Ecological Christianity: Faith Formation Curriculum for Adults, Tim Scorer. www.UCC.org 2011. Based on the bestselling book Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos by Bruce Sanguin, Experiencing Ecological Christianity invites participants to focus on the ecological crisis. According to Bruce Sanguin, “Today, there is nothing more critical than a compassionate response to the plight of our planet. The church must be at the forefront of shifting human consciousness away from an ethic of domination for economic gain, and toward a spirituality of awe.” DVD with pdf formatted leader and student guides.
Eco-Faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations, Charlene Hosenfeld. www.UCC.org 2011. Do you want to put your concern about global warming, pollution, and environmental destruction into church and community action? This book is a user-friendly guide for church leaders and congregations to understand environmental issues as they relate to caring for the whole of God’s creation. Each chapter contains an introduction as well as extensive lists of facts, actions, and resources. There are also inspiring stories from worship communities around the country that have made the decision to go green. Additionally, the book integrates current ecological research, religious thought, and a psychological perspective because, as the author asserts, environmentalists, psychologists, and people of faith are natural allies.
Visitation: Being in the Presence of Christ, Bruce Elison. www.UCC.org 2011. One of the most important ways the church can show Christ’s compassion and love is by visiting someone in the hospital or at home. Yet many people are anxious about visiting the sick and are unsure of what to say or do. This study examines how we should look to Jesus for the ultimate example of caring for the ill and includes practical suggestions for visitation, including tips for preparing for visiting, visiting at the hospital, and visiting in someone’s home. Suggestions for prayers are also included.
A Reformed Understanding of Usury, Christian Iosso. www.thepresbyterianleader.com 2009. This essay provides a summary of the official position of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on the issue of usury. It includes a summary of predatory lending practices, the Christian response, and steps that can be taken on an individual and congregational level to effect change.
Disagreement in a Community of Faith, Gary Demarest. www.thepresbyterianleader.com 2009. This two-session leadership study offers sound counsel for managing conflict within a community of faith. Unresolved conflicts and disagreements over beliefs and behaviors can create serious divisions in congregations and denominations. Conflict in a congregation is a major reason why some people become inactive or transfer their membership. Ongoing conflict may even motivate some members to withhold financial support. An underlying assumption seems to be that a healthy congregation should be free from conflicts and disagreements. But is that a reasonable expectation? Conflict is inevitable, but unresolved conflict is the true threat. This study provides advice on how to work toward the resolution of conflict in your congregation.
Oil & Water: Two Faiths: One God, Amir Hussain. WoodLake Books, 2006. With keen insight this book explores the differences between Christianity and Islam, as well as the things these faith traditions hold in common–including, first and foremost, the belief in and desire to be faithful to the one, true God; shared roots and scripture (from the Jewish faith); and the spiritual values of peace and social justice. It provides an overview of the Islamic faith and of the lives of Muslims in North America today. It explores key points for dialogue today, including issues of violence and jihad, the roles of women and men, and the mystical tradition within Islam.
The Search for Truth about Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction, Ben Daniel. Westminster John Knox Press, Available March 2013. Are Muslims infiltrating American society? What does Islam really teach about women’s roles? Does the Qur’an condone violence? Presbyterian pastor Ben Daniel tackles common stereotypes and misconceptions that tend to define Islam in the popular imagination. Daniel also looks at Christianity’s own history of violence and explores what he calls “the American cult of fear,” particularly as it relates to the rise of Islamophobia in the United States. Blending travel narrative, interviews, and well-crafted storytelling, Daniel helps debunk the myths and put a human face on Islam in America.
Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger, David Beckmann. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. It is within America’s technical and financial power to help end world hunger in our lifetime, if we set our hearts and minds to the task. Contrary to what many people believe, the world has made measurable advancements against hunger and poverty over the last several decades. But too often the binding constraint on further progress is a simple lack of political will. As a result, one of the most powerful ways to affect change is often the most neglected- political activism. Beckman, the head of Bread for the World, looks at the causes of hunger, presents case studies of countries that have made great strides against it, and puts a human face on the problem by telling about people who are, quite simply, hungry every day.
In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us, James Calvin Davis. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. From “the big four” (abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and stem-cell research) to war, poverty, and the environment, this timely book considers religion’s impact on moral debates in America’s past and present. Davis argues for religion’s potential to enrich both the content and the civility of public conversation. This book will interest all concerned citizens yearning for more careful thinking about the role of religion in public debate.
Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration, Ben Daniel. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. Using a blend of travel narrative, interviews, theological insight, and biblical scholarship, Daniel tackles the controversial issues that surround undocumented migration in the United States by taking the reader to the spiritual, legal, and geographical front lines of the immigration debate. Here, the political becomes personal and talking points have a human face. The result of this journey is a compelling argument that encourages Christians to meet undocumented migrants as neighbors and as friends. Study questions are included.
Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference, Letty M. Russell. Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. In this book, theologian Russell redefines the commonly held notion of hospitality as she challenges her readers to consider what it means to welcome the stranger. In doing so, she implores persons of faith to join the struggles for justice. Rather than an act of limited, charitable welcome, Russell maintains that true hospitality is a process that requires partnership with the “other” in our divided world. The goal is “just hospitality,” that is, hospitality with justice. Russell draws on feminist and postcolonial thinking to show how we are colonized and colonizing, each of us bearing the marks of the history that formed us. With an insightful analysis of the power dynamics that stem from our differences and a constructive theological theory of difference itself, Russell proposes concrete strategies to create a more just practice of hospitality.
To Do Justice: A Guide for Progressive Christians, Rebecca Todd Peters, Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty. Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. Encouraging Christians to call for public policies that benefit those most vulnerable in our nation, To Do Justice offers tools for studying complex domestic social problems such as Social Security, immigration, the environment, and public education, and serves as a guidebook to becoming involved in social action. Rooted in Christian tradition, each essay analyzes a contemporary problem from social, biblical, and theological perspectives before providing directions for public policy. These engaged ethicists from across the mainline denominations provide concrete examples of how progressive-minded Christians can work for justice in response to these moral dilemmas. With discussion questions in each chapter, this book is an excellent resource for classrooms—both in colleges and in churches.
A Conspiracy of Love: Living Through and Beyond Childhood Sexual Abuse, Wendy Read. WoodLake Books, 2006. Though this book is intended to speak primarily to adults who have suffered childhood sexual abuse, anyone who seeks to find meaning in suffering, or who grapples with the concepts of evil and holiness, will appreciate the truth and wisdom contained in this book.
Anger: Discovering Your Spiritual Ally, Andrew D. Lester. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. Is it okay to get angry? Andrew Lester thinks it is, and in this accessible book he shows the reader how to understand anger so that it will be helpful, not hurtful, to Christian life. Lester challenges misconceptions about anger that have followed Christians for centuries. By comparing the research of psychologists and sociologists with the teachings of Christianity, he uncovers a basic truth: anger occurs when you, or those people or things close to you, are threatened. Lester explores the biblical teachings about anger, focusing on the destructiveness of the dark side of anger as well as the creativity that can result from appropriate anger. He shows how to face your anger and also how to know when it is time to get help.
The Bully and Me: Stories that Break the Cycle of Torment, Helen Carmichael Porter. WoodLake Books, 2006. The stories are first-person accounts by both victims and bullies based on Porter’s observations, countless interviews, personal exexperience, and imagination. The book explores the idea that victims and bullies are two sides of the same coin and that the healing of both lies in dealing with this paradox. There is not a lot of real violence in these stories; there is some, and much of it is implied in threats, taunts, gossip, e-mails, gestures, and language. Most of the bullying is teasing and it is always designed to torment and ridicule. This is not a self-help book; it is about listening to and thinking about the stories of bullying that happen every day in our homes, our schools, and our communities.
Caring for Mother: A Daughter’s Long Goodbye, Virginia Stem Owens. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. In Caring for Mother, Owens gives a clear and realistic account of caring for an elderly loved one. Along the way, Owens notes the spiritual challenges she encountered, not the least of which included fear of her own suffering and death. This book will be a helpful resource to those who have assumed the role of caregiver, helping to anticipate some of the emotional turbulence along the way.
Meg Hickling’s Grown Up Sex: Sexual Wholeness for the Better Part of Your Life, Meg Hickling. WoodLake Books, 2008. The author’s down-to-earth, no-nonsense style engages readers in topics such as the importance and meaning of sexual maturity, healing from old sexual wounds, male and female midlife changes, the use of pharmaceutical and other aids to sex, homosexuality and homophobia, and the sexuality and sexual needs of elders.
No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction, Ellen Painter Dollar. Westminster John Knox Press, 2012. Dollar tells her gut-wrenching story of living with a disabling genetic bone disorder that was passed down to her first child—and deciding whether to conceive a second child who would not have it, using assisted reproduction. Her story brings to light the ethical dilemmas surrounding advanced reproductive technologies. What do procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) say about how we define human worth? If we avoid such procedures, are we permitting the suffering of our children? How do we identify a “good life” in a consumer society that values appearance, success, health, and perfection?
Stories from the Edge: A Theology of Grief, Greg Garrett. Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. Where is God in the midst of suffering? How do people find strength and comfort in times of terrible adversity? Garrett addresses these questions and others as he helps readers grapple with the question of where God can be found in times of tragedy. He explores the theological themes of biblical stories and American myths and discusses how these stories have shaped our beliefs about God. He further examines what these foundational narratives reveal about our understanding of God, how they inform how we live our lives, and how we experience God’s presence in the midst of grief and suffering.
Thirst: God and the Alcoholic Experience, James B. Nelson. Westminster John Knox Press, 2004. This book explores the path of recovery. Nelson writes, as he lives, with a very special blend of insight, wisdom, humor, and humility. Sobriety sustainers and spirituality seekers will be encouraged and enlightened by his work.
Virtues and Vices: Stories of the Moral Life, Jacob Neusner, Andrew M. Greeley, Mary Greeley Durkin. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. Each author presents a story on each of the seven virtues—faith, hope, charity, justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence—and then offers a story on each of the seven deadly sins—pride, covetousness, lust, anger, sloth, greed and gluttony.
What Was Lost: A Christian Journey through Miscarriage, Elise Erikson Barrett. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. United Methodist pastor Elise Erikson Barrett draws on her own painful experiences, as well as interviews with others who have gone through the devastation of miscarriage, in an effort to help women grieve and, in time, to think theologically about pregnancy loss. Barrett also offers some much-needed practical advice about breaking the news to others, coping with insensitive comments, and grieving what is often a private loss, unmarked by the world.
Mary E. Speedy is a retired certified church educator living in Mechanicsburg, PA.