AMERICAN GRACE: HOW RELIGION DIVIDES AND UNITES US
By Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell
Published by Simon & Schuster, $30
A student of religion in the United States could consult several volumes to find information about contemporary interfaith relations, the interplay between religion and politics, the changing ethnic makeup of church bodies, and how attitudes are changing on such issues as abortion and homosexuality. Alternatively, such an information seeker could consult one book -- American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us -- to find a treasure trove of material about these and similar subjects.
JESUS: AN HISTORICAL APPROXIMATION
By José A. Pagola
Published by Convivium Press, $49.99
The Pharisees did not seek the death of Jesus. In the Last Supper, bread and wine did not symbolize his body and blood. Jesus did not interpret his death as a sacrifice.
BLIND SPOT: WHEN JOURNALISTS DON’T GET RELIGION
Edited by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Roberta Green Ahmanson
Published by Oxford University Press, $19.95
Foreign correspondents try to sort out the factions involved in violence in Iraq and India. Political writers analyze the approaches candidates take to reach faith groups in the United States. Film critics cover controversies involving movies about the life of Jesus.
Religion is a factor in most subjects covered by the news media, not only the once-a-week religion beat. Martin Marty, University of Chicago church historian, asks, In the wake of Sept. 11, is there any news today that is not religion news?
Despite the subjects importance, its complexity sometimes baffles reporters to the extent that significant stories are ignored or misreported. Several scholars and commentators give examples and offer suggestions for overcoming the problem in Blind Spot: When Journalists Dont Get Religion.
SAVING PARADISE: HOW CHRISTIANITY TRADED LOVE OF THIS WORLD FOR CRUCIFIXION AND EMPIRE
By Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker
Published by Beacon Press, $34.95
Saving Paradise offers much more than readers might expect from its title. The subtitle, How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire, is intriguing. In the prologue, authors Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker say their latest work is based on a five-year search to discover why images of the crucified Jesus did not appear in churches until the 10th century.
The two scholars of religion describe their travels to churches in Rome and Ravenna, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; and Cologne, Germany, where they came upon the oldest crucifix to survive until today, one that was created about 965 and is found in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Maria. They draw upon their own observations and the work of other scholars to show how the Christian concept of paradise has shifted from a this-worldly to an otherworldly emphasis over the first two millennia of the faith.