I’ve read a lot of books in the last couple of years. The following is my personal reading list (at least, the non-fiction books), and I believe that each of these would be valuable to you, for varying reasons. I’ve included the Amazon blurb for each, as well as a link to the Amazon listing for the book.

Disclaimer: We make a tiny bit of money on these Amazon affiliate links. You can help support this blog simply by purchasing anything from Amazon within 24 hours of following one of these links.

Table of Contents

Racism and Oppression

Scapegoats: The Gospel through the Eyes of Victims” by Jennifer Garcia Bashaw

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jemar Tisby and Lecrae Moore

How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice” by Jemar Tisby

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho

Building a Multiethnic Church: A Gospel Vision of Grace, Love, and Reconciliation in a Divided World” by Derwin L. Gray and Matt Chandler

Women, Patriarchy, and the Church

The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth” by Beth Allison Barr

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy” by Terran Williams

Sexuality and Gender

Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships” by James V. Brownson

Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships” by Karen R. Keen

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines

The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart” by Mark Achtemeier

UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality” by Colby Martin and Glennon Doyle Melton

Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God” by Megan K. DeFranza

Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)” by Preston Sprinkle

Evangelicalism and Christian Nationalism

The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism” by Paul D. Miller

The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power” by D. L. Mayfield

Inalienable: How Marginalized Kingdom Voices Can Help Save the American Church” by Eric Costanzo, Daniel Yang, and Matthew Soerens

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” by John Fea

Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc.” by Skye Jethani

Why I Left Church to Find Jesus: A Personal Odyssey” by Julie McVey

Church Comes Home: Start a House Church Network Anywhere” by David L. Barnhart Jr.

Why Do the Nations Rage?: The Demonic Origin of Nationalism” by David A. Ritchie

Not in It to Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines The Church” by Andy Stanley

Christians Against Christianity: : How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith” by Obery M. Hendricks

General Christianity

That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation” by David Bentley Hart

On Earth As It Is in Heaven” by Sam Soleyn

My Father! My Father!” by Sam Soleyn

A Portrait of Jesus” by Father Joseph F. Girzone

Listening to the Language of the Bible: Hearing It Through Jesus’ Ears” by Lois Tverberg and Bruce Okkema

The City Gate: The Prosperity & Protection of Cities & Churches” by John Kingsley Alley

Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World” by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding” by Lois Tverberg

Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew about the Bible” by Michael F. Bird

This Is the Word of the Lord: How the Bible Became Text and Why It Matters” by Dr. Bill Thomason

Reviews


The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein

Available on Amazon

I found this book to be extremely eye-opening. It’s a book full of well-documented and well-sourced hard facts – but ones I had never heard before. It helps give a lot of context to complaints about systemic racism in America’s history.

Amazon’s description: Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, “virtually indispensable” study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.


The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jemar Tisby and Lecrae Moore

This was another hard-history book. I don’t fully agree with all of Tisby’s calls to action or his suggested solutions, but there is so much else of value here that I still highly recommend it. I ran a 12-week book study on this book.

Amazon’s description: The Color of Compromise is both enlightening and compelling, telling a history we either ignore or just don’t know. Equal parts painful and inspirational, it details how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church. The Color of Compromise:

  • Takes you on a historical, sociological, and religious journey: from America’s early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War
  • Covers the tragedy of Jim Crow laws, the victories of the Civil Rights era, and the strides of today’s Black Lives Matter movement
  • Reveals the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about meaningful integration
  • Charts a path forward to replace established patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, immediate action
  • Is a perfect book for pastors and other faith leaders, students, non-students, book clubs, small group studies, history lovers, and all lifelong learners

The Color of Compromise is not a call to shame or a platform to blame white evangelical Christians. It is a call from a place of love and desire to fight for a more racially unified church that no longer compromises what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality. A call that challenges black and white Christians alike to standup now and begin implementing the concrete ways Tisby outlines, all for a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people. Starting today.


How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice” by Jemar Tisby

This book, also by Tisby, is a very practical book, less historical, but more down-to-earth suggestions.

Amazon’s description: In this follow-up to the New York Times Bestseller the Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby offers an array of actionable items to confront racism. How to Fight Racism introduces a simple framework—the A.R.C. Of Racial Justice—that teaches readers to consistently interrogate their own actions and maintain a consistent posture of anti-racist behavior. The A.R.C. Of Racial Justice is a clear model for how to think about race in productive ways:

  • Awareness: educate yourself by studying history, exploring your personal narrative, and grasping what God says about the dignity of the human person.
  • Relationships: understand the spiritual dimension of race relations and how authentic connections make reconciliation real and motivate you to act.
  • Commitment: consistently fight systemic racism and work for racial justice by orienting your life to it.

Tisby offers practical tools for following this model and suggests that by applying these principles, we can help dismantle a social hierarchy long stratified by skin color. He encourages rejection passivity and active participation in the struggle for human dignity. There is hope for transforming our nation and the world, and you can be part of the solution.


Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi

This was an extremely hard book for me to read – not because of big words or challenging intellectual concepts, but simply to see a side of American history that I had never been taught that so completely broke down my white-man assumptions about our history. Kendi has a PhD in history; this book is written with all the intellectual rigor and careful sourcing as one would expect from a PhD. As with The Color of Compromise, I highly recommend it. But be aware: it’s a very long book with a ton of historical detail.

Amazon’s description: Some Americans insist that we’re living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America–it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis. As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities. In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.


Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho

I saw this book on the table at BJs, and went home and bought it on Kindle. It’s a friendly, easy read despite the challenging topic. Acho is very approachable and soft-spoken, but addresses plenty of difficult tropes and questions.

Amazon’s description: “You cannot fix a problem you do not know you have.” So begins Emmanuel Acho in his essential guide to the truths Americans need to know to address the systemic racism that has recently electrified protests in all fifty states. “There is a fix,” Acho says. “But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.” In Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Acho takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, many white Americans are afraid to ask—yet which all Americans need the answers to, now more than ever. With the same open-hearted generosity that has made his video series a phenomenon, Acho explains the vital core of such fraught concepts as white privilege, cultural appropriation, and “reverse racism.” In his own words, he provides a space of compassion and understanding in a discussion that can lack both. He asks only for the reader’s curiosity—but along the way, he will galvanize all of us to join the antiracist fight.


Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Wow. Okay, this book, the target of my second book study, is a mixed grab bag of indisputable history facts with a bit of grandstanding from someone who was clearly wounded by patriarchy. But despite the flaws that we uncovered, it’s another deep dive into a side of American history that is both undeniable and simultaneously steadfastly ignored by the evangelical branch of America’s church culture. Worth the read.

Amazon’s description: Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping, revisionist history of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, revealing how evangelicals have worked to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism—or in the words of one modern chaplain, with “a spiritual badass.” As acclaimed scholar Kristin Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the centrality of popular culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. Many of today’s evangelicals might not be theologically astute, but they know their VeggieTales, they’ve read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and they learned about purity before they learned about sex—and they have a silver ring to prove it. Evangelical books, films, music, clothing, and merchandise shape the beliefs of millions. And evangelical culture is teeming with muscular heroes—mythical warriors and rugged soldiers, men like Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson, and the Duck Dynasty clan, who assert white masculine power in defense of “Christian America.” Chief among these evangelical legends is John Wayne, an icon of a lost time when men were uncowed by political correctness, unafraid to tell it like it was, and did what needed to be done. Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Trump in fact represented the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values: patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. A much-needed reexamination of perhaps the most influential subculture in this country, Jesus and John Wayne shows that, far from adhering to biblical principles, modern white evangelicals have remade their faith, with enduring consequences for all Americans.


Building a Multiethnic Church: A Gospel Vision of Grace, Love, and Reconciliation in a Divided World” by Derwin L. Gray and Matt Chandler

Available on Amazon

This is a wonderfully visionary book meant to be read by church leaders, but inspiring for the layperson. With that said, I think there are some practicalities in the suggestions, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating the vision-casting from a former NFL star turned pastor.

Amazon’s description: America has become a beautiful mosaic filled with many colors and ethnicities—but does your church reflect this change? Are you longing to be a cross-cultural leader who can guide the church into a multicolored world for the sake of the gospel? If so, Building a Multiethnic Church will give you the tools to embrace an invigorated community of grace, love, and reconciliation. In Building a Multiethnic Church, bestselling author and pastor Dr. Derwin Gray calls all churches and their leaders to grow out of ignorance, classism, racism, and greed into a flourishing, vibrant, and grace-filled community of believers. Drawing on wisdom from the early church and the New Testament, Gray will help you understand that planting and transforming churches into multiethnic communities is a biblical calling; identify and implement the best practices to help build multiethnic churches; and recognize that reconciliation between ethnic groups in the church is not just a social issue, but a theological issue that cannot be ignored.


Available on Amazon

That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation” by David Bentley Hart

I really wanted to get my head around the doctrine of universalism, the idea that all humans will eventually be saved, even if they reject God in this earthly temporal life. This book looked like it would serve as a first reading.

I quickly found that I have an utter love/hate relationship with this book.

On the one hand, it was supremely useful. I found myself constantly thinking, “I guess I always knew that; I just didn’t have words for it” or “Oh, THAT makes perfect sense, and resolves all the internal contradictions I never was really willing to acknowledge.” He often includes the original Greek versions of verses that he quotes, along with a translation, which should benefit anyone who knows a little Greek. And in my view, he utterly nails down the issue with a resoundingly complete package of conclusions and assertions that are entirely self-consistent and convincing. So if you’re looking for an incredibly thorough treatise on the issue of “infernalism” – the doctrine of hell – this is the book for you.

But be prepared to suffer through the author’s style. He’s brash, harsh, cocky at turns, and unwilling to brook those he views as idiots, castigating them in the strongest possible terms. As perhaps the hardest thing of all for me, he writes in the “sesquipedalian” (using overly complicated words) style of a Doctorate-level college professor: words like sanguinary, ameliorative, banality, hypostasis, ontologically, dialectical, recalitrant, surd, equivocacy, or sanguinary liberally flood this book… along with countless Latin phrases, often left undefined. If I were a graduate student of religion or philosophy, this style might suit me. But I’d much rather read a book in more everyday English, even if it required a few extra words to say the same thing. It would be infinitely more approachable, and that’s a true shame to me, because I wish I could recommend this book to everyone. However, I cannot, because I know a lot of people would spend more time in the dictionary than these pages. (The Kindle, at least, makes that fairly easy, by just long-pressing a word to pop up its definition… which works fine except for the Latin phrases.)

So it’s up to you. If you can tolerate the attitude and professorial language, I highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to understand universalism.

Amazon’s description: A stunning reexamination of one of the essential tenets of Christian belief from one of the most provocative and admired writers on religion today.

“A scathing, vigorous, eloquent attack on those who hold that that there is such a thing as eternal damnation.”—Karen Kilby, Commonweal

The great fourth-century church father Basil of Caesarea once observed that, in his time, most Christians believed that hell was not everlasting, and that all would eventually attain salvation. But today, this view is no longer prevalent within Christian communities.

In this momentous book, David Bentley Hart makes the case that nearly two millennia of dogmatic tradition have misled readers on the crucial matter of universal salvation. On the basis of the earliest Christian writings, theological tradition, scripture, and logic, Hart argues that if God is the good creator of all, he is the savior of all, without fail. And if he is not the savior of all, the Kingdom is only a dream, and creation something considerably worse than a nightmare. But it is not so. There is no such thing as eternal damnation; all will be saved. With great rhetorical power, wit, and emotional range, Hart offers a new perspective on one of Christianity’s most important themes.


Listening to the Language of the Bible: Hearing It Through Jesus’ Ears” by Lois Tverberg and Bruce Okkema

Not what I expected, but interesting nonetheless. This is more like a daily devotional than anything else, touching on a number of Biblical terms and phrases that have more rich context than many Western readers would expect.

Amazon’s description: Listening to the Language of the Bible is a guide for discovering the richness of the Scriptures in their Hebraic setting. The book contains more than 60 brief, illustrated devotional articles that unpack the meaning of biblical words and phrases for life today. By examining the Hebrew and Jewish cultural context of some of the Bible’s seemingly odd phrases, it shares insights that clarify reading and deepen Bible study. Listening looks at many topics from the perspective of the ancient writers, including prayer, family and the promised Messiah. It also looks at the words of Jesus in light of first-century Jewish culture. The book can be read by itself for a brief overview, or with the Companion Bible Study as a guide to explore the Scriptures from a Hebraic perspective.


Church Comes Home: Start a House Church Network Anywhere” by David L. Barnhart Jr.

This was a powerful book, casting a vision for a different type of church model. Not everyone can do it, but Barnhart makes a compelling case for the need for and value of this different model.

Amazon’s description: People have lost faith in all collective institutions: government, corporations, the media, and the church. We are in the midst of a spiritual disaster, a flood of biblical proportions, and house churches provide lifeboats for people who are seeking a more authentic, life-giving form of Christian community. Many people remember that the early church started in homes, but they don’t understand that house churches are still a legitimate and viable model today. House churches can create the intimacy so many people are hungry for. They can nurture life-changing discipleship for individuals and create justice-centered communities. Networked house churches can become truly diverse, multi-ethnic communities that spread the Gospel by emphasizing practices over programs. These communities de-center the preacher, opting instead for grassroots organizing, but they are not leaderless — they are leader-full. This book provides an alternative model for denominations and established churches to consider. It will help pastors reconnect with the traditions of community organizing, itinerant preaching, and discipleship training that sparked Methodism and other church movements in the United States. Church Comes Home offers alternative ways to look at some of the problems facing our church and our culture.


The City Gate: The Prosperity & Protection of Cities & Churches” by John Kingsley Alley

This book actually first got me thinking about how institutional church sometimes works against its own best interests, and more importantly, sometimes works against the Kingdom. Starting with an amazing, well-documented miraculous story from Australia, it walks through the author’s process of personally encountering the Lord in new ways and new revelations about the Lord’s goal for His church.

Amazon Description: This is a unique book. A combination of profound truths, presented in narrative and biblical theology, along with perceptive insight from a fathering heart, combine to bring an authoritative, apostolic message to the Body of Christ. This cut-through teaching, coming from a seasoned, mature, apostolic voice, is timely. In making clear the Word of our Lord Jesus and the words of His apostles, it calls for a profound change in the visible structure of the Church, and in the way we live out the expressed values of Christianity. To embrace the biblical imperative of establishing City Elderships would fly in the face of much vested interest in the Church. But vested interest does not stand in the judgement day. We must live, rather, by the fear of the Lord.


Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World” by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James

This book was the topic of my third book study. This book is simply amazing. It is a lot more fun and interesting to read than any of the others listed here; it’s not emotionally challenging at all. Rather, it shares a different way of seeing the world – not more right than Westerners, just very different. But critically, it shows with dozens of specific examples how we Western Christians are missing some very important context in many parts of scripture, that really unlock a lot of additional meaning to the Bible.

Amazon’s description: The Bible was written within collectivist cultures. When Westerners, immersed in individualism, read the Bible, it’s easy to misinterpret important elements―or miss them altogether. In any culture, the most important things usually go without being said. So to read Scripture well we benefit when we uncover the unspoken social structures and values of its world. We need to recalibrate our vision. Combining the expertise of a biblical scholar and a missionary practitioner, Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes is an essential guidebook to the cultural background of the Bible and how it should inform our reading. E. Randolph Richards and Richard James explore deep social structures of the ancient Mediterranean―kinship, patronage, and brokerage―along with their key social tools―honor, shame, and boundaries―that the biblical authors lived in and lie below the surface of each text. From Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar to Peter’s instructions to elders, the authors strip away individualist assumptions and bring the world of the biblical writers to life. Expanding on the popular Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, this book makes clear how understanding collectivism will help us better understand the Bible, which in turn will help us live more faithfully in an increasingly globalized world.


The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth” by Beth Allison Barr

This is another hard-history book, mixed with the author’s personal life story. Worth reading, especially if you are wondering about the complementarian/egalitarian divide, or if you’re wrestling with the role of women in Christian church culture.

Amazon’s description: Biblical womanhood–the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers–pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn’t biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It arose from a series of clearly definable historical moments. This book moves the conversation about biblical womanhood beyond Greek grammar and into the realm of church history–ancient, medieval, and modern–to show that this belief is not divinely ordained but a product of human civilization that continues to creep into the church. Barr’s historical insights provide context for contemporary teachings about women’s roles in the church and help move the conversation forward. Interweaving her story as a Baptist pastor’s wife, Barr sheds light on the #ChurchToo movement and abuse scandals in Southern Baptist circles and the broader evangelical world, helping readers understand why biblical womanhood is more about human power structures than the message of Christ.


Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships” by James V. Brownson

This would be perhaps my top recommendation for understanding the question of same-sex relationships. It’s an incredibly careful and detailed investigation of scripture and the Bible’s references to same-sex matters of all kinds. But more than that, the author very diligently and patiently addresses the practicalities of the debate within the Church today, trying to help reframe the discussion in such a way that the conversation is useful for real solutions instead of just arguments.

Amazon’s description: This thought-provoking book by James Brownson develops a broad, cross-cultural sexual ethic from Scripture, locates current debates over homosexuality in that wider context, and explores why the Bible speaks the way it does about same-sex relationships.

Fairly presenting both sides in this polarized debate — “traditional” and “revisionist” — Brownson conscientiously analyzes all of the pertinent biblical texts and helpfully identifies “stuck points” in the ongoing debate. In the process, he explores key concepts that inform our understanding of the biblical texts, including patriarchy, complementarity, purity and impurity, honor and shame. Central to his argument is the need to uncover the moral logic behind the text.

Written in order to serve and inform the ongoing debate in many denominations over the questions of homosexuality, Brownson’s in-depth study will prove a useful resource for Christians who want to form a considered opinion on this important issue.


God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines

I cannot say much more than the extensive review below already says, but I will add this: out of all the books I’ve read so far that address homosexuality and the Bible, this is one of the top three that I’d recommend. As Evans says below, it’s a winsome and inviting book to read, but if you’re coming into it from a non-affirming perspective, it will require some careful soul-searching and prayer to absorb what the author presents. I found it supremely useful in firming up what I felt like the Lord was asking of me in my search for truth in this area.

Amazon’s description: “God and the Gay Christian is a game changer. Winsome, accessible, and carefully researched, every page is brought to life by the author’s clear love for Scripture and deep, persistent faith. With this book, Matthew Vines emerges as one of my generation’s most important Christian leaders, not only on matters of sexuality but also on what it means to follow Jesus with wisdom, humility, and grace. Prepare to be challenged and enlightened, provoked and inspired. Read with an open heart and mind, and you are bound to be changed.”
— Rachel Held Evans, author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood and Faith Unraveled

As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to someday share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he’d been taught, condemned gay relationships.

Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. With care and precision, Vines asked questions such as:

• Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not?
• How should we apply the teachings of Jesus to the gay debate?
• What does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah really say about human relationships?
• Can celibacy be a calling when it is mandated, not chosen?
• What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same-sex relations?

Unique in its affirmation of both an orthodox faith and sexual diversity, God and the Gay Christian is likely to spark heated debate, sincere soul search­ing, even widespread cultural change. Not only is it a compelling interpretation of key biblical texts about same-sex relations, it is also the story of a young man navigating relationships with his family, his hometown church, and the Christian church at large as he expresses what it means to be a faithful gay Christian.


Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships” by Karen R. Keen

This book, written by a woman who identifies as having a homosexual orientation, yet chose to be celibate for 16 years to honor what she was taught about homosexuality, is a very careful deep dive into the Bible’s perspectives on sexual relationships. Her analysis spans literally millennia of literature and religious thinking, and carefully considers what the Bible actually says compared to what non-affirming conservatives have said it says.

Amazon’s description: When it comes to same-sex relationships, this book by Karen Keen contains the most thoughtful, balanced, biblically grounded discussion you’re likely to encounter anywhere. With pastoral sensitivity and respect for biblical authority, Keen breaks through current stalemates in the debate surrounding faith and sexual identity.

The fresh, evenhanded reevaluation of Scripture, Christian tradition, theology, and science in Keen’s Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships will appeal to both traditionalist and progressive church leaders and parishioners, students of ethics and biblical studies, and gay and lesbian people who often feel painfully torn between faith and sexuality.


The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart” by Mark Achtemeier

This book, together with “Unclobber,” seriously challenged my understanding of the main verses used to attack LGBT people and reject all forms of non-cisgender, non-binary understanding. Very well argued and compelling, although its conclusions are so drastically different than what I grew up with that it will take some time to think it through.

Amazon’s description: In the early 2000’s, Mark Achtemeier embarked on a personal journey with the Bible that led him from being a conservative, evangelical opponent of gay rights to an outspoken activist for gay marriage and a fully inclusive church. In The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage, Achtemeier shares what led to his change of heart: the problems with excluding groups of people and the insights into the Bible’s message that led him to recognize the fullness of God’s love and support for LGBT persons. Readers will discover how reading snippets of Scripture out of context has led to false and misleading interpretations of the Bible’s message for gay people. Achtemeier shows how a careful reading of the whole Scripture reveals God’s good news about love, marriage, and sexuality for gay and straight people alike.


UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality” by Colby Martin and Glennon Doyle Melton

This book, together with “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage,” seriously challenged my understanding of the main verses used to attack LGBT people and reject all forms of non-cisgender, non-binary understanding. Very well argued and compelling, although its conclusions are so drastically different than what I grew up with that it will take some time to think it through.

Amazon’s description: Churches in America are experiencing an unprecedented fracturing due to their belief and attitude toward the LGBTQ community. Armed with only six passages in the Bible–often known as the “clobber passages”–the traditional Christian position has been one that stands against the full inclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Unclobber reexamines each of those frequently quoted passages of Scripture, alternating with author Colby Martin’s own story of being fired from an evangelical megachurch when they discovered his stance on sexuality. UnClobber reexamines what the Bible says (and does not say) about homosexuality in such a way that breathes fresh life into outdated and inaccurate assumptions and interpretations.


Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” by John Fea

I found this book to be a very helpful walk through early American history – both before and around the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, up through the Bill of Rights. It’s chock-full of well-sourced historical writings of the Founders themselves. Rather than starting from a “yes” or “no” answer, Fea addresses the question with equanimity and patience. The answer, to give a bit of a spoiler, is a resounding “maybe – it really depends on how you define ‘Christian’.”

Amazon’s description: John Fea offers a thoroughly researched, evenhanded primer on whether America was founded to be a Christian nation, as many evangelicals assert, or a secular state, as others contend. He approaches the title’s question from a historical perspective, helping readers see past the emotional rhetoric of today to the recorded facts of our past. This updated edition reports on the many issues that have arisen in recent years concerning religion’s place in American society including the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, contraception and the Affordable Care Act, and state-level restrictions on abortion and demonstrates how they lead us to the question of whether the United States was or is a Christian nation. Fea relates the history of these and other developments, pointing to the underlying questions of national religious identity inherent in each. “We live in a sound-bite culture that makes it difficult to have any sustained dialogue on these historical issues,” Fea writes in his preface. “It is easy for those who argue that America is a Christian nation (and those who do not) to appear on radio or television programs, quote from one of the founders or one of the nation’s founding documents, and sway people to their positions. These kinds of arguments, which can often be contentious, do nothing to help us unravel a very complicated historical puzzle about the relationship between Christianity and America’s founding.”


Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc.” by Skye Jethani

This was a powerful book to me. It’s really written to pastors and church leaders, but I found it very useful to help me understand the Biblical role of pastors and churches, in contrast to what is visible today in the American evangelical church systems in which I was raised. In particular, it calls us to recognize when we’ve gotten a little too focused on metrics and numbers and the business of church, and not focused enough on the ministry and people within the organization.

Amazon’s description: “In my first seminary class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say why we enrolled. I’ll never forget what one student said… ‘My denomination wants me to have an M.Div., but once they see I can grow a big church, I don’t think they’ll make me finish the program.’” The priorities of this future pastor were startling, but he’s not alone in them.In the years since that class, author and minister Skye Jethani has seen more and more pastors swallowed by the celebrity syndrome. Not long ago, ministers were among the most trusted and admired people in our culture. But not anymore. A 2013 study from Gallop revealed that Americans’ admiration for clergy has reached an all-time low. That, taken with reduced trust of institutional religion overall, makes it easy to see why ministers feel insecure about their calling. In response to this trend, some pastors have looked to emulate those who are praised by the culture—business leaders, entertainers, and social activists. This has led to a new understanding of what a minister should be. We’ve turned away from viewing our pastors as shepherds, and now expect them to be celebrities. Immeasurable will help ministers recognize the cultural forces shaping their view of the calling, and then reimagine what faithful church leaders can look like in the twenty-first century. Through short essays and reflections on the pastor’s soul and skills, this book will help prospective pastors explore their calling to ministry, and it will help veteran pastors reframe their vision for the work. Drawing on cultural dynamics, personal stories, and his own experience working in a church and with church leaders, Skye Jethani will address matters like ambition, anger, community, consumerism, fame, health, justice, platform, preaching, rest,simplicity, success, vision, and more. There are endless resources to help pastors do the practical work of ministry, but there are far fewer that speak to the pastor’s soul and spirit. Immeasurable provides affirmation and encouragement for church leaders faithfully serving God. It commends the true work of ministry—shepherding, teaching, encouraging—while redefining what we mean by success in ministry. It’s a book church leaders can return to again and again for insight and inspiration.


Why I Left Church to Find Jesus: A Personal Odyssey” by Julie McVey

This was a very lightweight and fairly quick read. You might find value in it if you have deconstructed to the point of stepping away from the church and from God entirely.

Amazon’s description: Have you ever felt like you were outgrowing your childhood religion or the religion in which you have spent many years investing your time, resources, and most importantly, your faith? Have you ever experienced being shunned for religious reasons? It’s hard enough to spiritually evolve and accept that many doctrines of your once beloved religion no longer resonate with you, but to be shunned by family or close friends because of it is one of the most painful realities one can endure as it forces one to go through the loss of a person still alive. The grief is real. In Why I Left Church to Find Jesus: A Personal Odyssey, you will take a journey of carefree freedom in innocent faith to bondage in an authoritarian religion to freedom once again but not without the high cost that comes with spiritual transformation. Christians, ex-Christians, and religious outcasts will relate to the heartache, confusion, and betrayal of not only a religion lost in such a spiritual evolution but, more painfully, of friendships lost.


Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)” by Preston Sprinkle

This was a superb book and was extremely valuable to me. The format is:

  • An extended essay on the topic of homosexuality and the church by a knowledgeable and respected author
  • Three other authors critiquing that essay
  • The essay’s author rejoinder to the critiques.

This pattern is repeated for four essays. So, it’s presented as a friendly and respectful debate between four peers on a very difficult topic.

Some of the discussion was purely exegetical – investigating how the scriptures discuss the topic. Some was experiential – one of the writers is a celibate gay man, for example, discussing his personal self-awareness and choices to be non-affirming in light of what he finds in the scriptures. All the authors are well-educated and very careful in their presentation. And importantly, each of them were self-critical in their essays, anticipating and addressing challenges proactively. This indicates to me a high degree of care and caution in their thinking, and a refusal to succumb to confirmation bias.

Honestly, I found that each of the writers had some very strong points, and each of them had what I believe to be weaknesses in their position. As such, I didn’t find that this book settled the topic for me; rather, it helped to clarify the issues, and give me a sense that I had heard solid arguments on both sides of the issue, giving me room to make up my own mind from an informed position. In my view, this is the best kind of debate, where you end up being able to clearly articulate a position even if you choose against it.

Amazon’s description: Unique among most debates on homosexuality, this book presents a constructive dialogue between people who disagree on significant ethical and theological matters, and yet maintain a respectful and humanizing posture toward one another. Few topics are more divisive today than homosexuality. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church brings a fresh perspective to a well-worn debate. While Christian debates about homosexuality are most often dominated by biblical exegesis, this book seeks to give much-needed attention to the rich history of received Christian tradition, bringing the Bible into conversation with historical and systematic theology. To that end, both theologians and biblical scholars–well accomplished in their fields and conversant in issues of sexuality and gender–articulate and defend each of the two views:

  • Affirming – represented by William Loader and Megan K. DeFranza
  • Traditional – represented by Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes

The main essays are followed by insightful responses that interact with their fellow essayists with civility. Holding to a high view of Scripture, a commitment to the gospel and the church, and a love for people–especially those most affected by this topic–the contributors wrestle deeply with the Bible and theology, especially the prohibition texts, the role of procreation, gender complementarity, and pastoral accommodation. The book concludes with reflections from general editor Preston Sprinkle on the future of discussions on faith and sexuality.


Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God” by Megan K. DeFranza

I found this book to be useful in understanding the very timely issues of intersex and gender, and how they relate to God’s view of us as stated in the Bible.

Amazon’s description: How different are men and women? When does it matter to us — or to God? Are male and female the only two options? In Sex Difference in Christian Theology Megan DeFranza explores such questions in light of the Bible, theology, and science. Many Christians, entrenched in culture wars over sexual ethics, are either ignorant of the existence of intersex persons or avoid the inherent challenge they bring to the assumption that everybody is born after the pattern of either Adam or Eve. DeFranza argues, from a conservative theological standpoint, that all people are made in the image of God — male, female, and intersex — and that we must listen to and learn from the voices of the intersexed among us.


Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding” by Lois Tverberg

Along with “Misreading Scripture,” I found this book to be a good reminder that how we see the Bible is sharply different from how the original audience of the Bible would have seen it. A good quote I’ve seen recently is this: God wrote the Bible for us, but not to us. If we’re going to understand it properly, we need to understand how those to whom the various books were written would understand it, so that we can transfer the proper lessons to our modern context, and not make cross-cultural mistakes in the process.

Amazon’s description: What would it be like for modern readers to sit down beside Jesus as he explained the Bible to them? What life-changing insights might emerge from such a transformative encounter? Lois Tverberg knows the treasures that await readers willing to learn how to read the Bible through Jewish eyes. By helping them understand the Bible as Jesus and his first-century listeners would have, she bridges the gaps of time and culture in order to open the Bible to readers today. Combining careful research with engaging prose, Tverberg leads us on a journey back in time to shed light on how this Middle Eastern people approached life, God, and each other. She explains age-old imagery that we often misinterpret, allowing us to approach God and the stories and teachings of Scripture with new eyes. By helping readers grasp the perspective of its original audience, she equips them to read the Bible in ways that will enrich their lives and deepen their understanding.


My Father! My Father!” by Sam Soleyn

This book sets forth Dr. Soleyn’s understanding of a proper scriptural model for the government of the Kingdom of God, which is based on the relationship between spiritual fathers and sons – but not in a gendered sense. It’s one of the first understandings of the Bible’s overall teachings that I have found to present a hopeful and encouraging and uplifting view for every Christian, to recognize our amazing part in the movement of God’s people throughout all of human history. Unlike many similar-sounding – but quite different – concepts of patriarchal organizational systems for the church, this one is squarely focused on the idea that the purpose of “rule” is for the benefit of those being ruled, not for the benefit of the ruler. It gives a Godly vision of how the whole body builds itself up, with each part working to fulfill its function (Ephesians 4:16).

Amazon’s description: In the Kingdom of God, each person’s destiny is the playing out of that person’s unique identity as a son of God, regardless of gender, race, or background. To embrace one’s identity as a son, one must change his prevailing culture. In this season, God is building His House in the earth, with the relationship of fathers and sons as its foundation. Effecting cultural changes requires a trans-generational effort, in which a change in the culture is but one of the first steps of a long journey to reestablish, fully, the House of God. This journey is meant to reposition man in the relationship with God as Father, as God intended from the beginning. The purpose of repositioning humankind as sons and heirs to God is to establish the family of God on the earth and to display the love of God, through his sons, to all of creation. Whereas the destiny of each son of God is vitally important, the entire purpose of God can only, ultimately, be accomplished through the corporate form—the House of God.

Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew about the Bible” by Michael F. Bird

This is a very readable walk through some nearly-but-not-quite-obvious things about the Bible, which if we knew and consistently remembered, would enable us to represent Jesus to the world more richly, more fully, and more accurately.

Amazon’s description: Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew about the Bible is a short and readable introduction to the Bible—its origins, interpretation, truthfulness, and authority. Bible scholar, prolific author, and Anglican minister Michael Bird helps Christians understand seven important “things” about this unique book:

  1. how the Bible was put together;
  2. what “inspiration” means;
  3. how the Bible is true;
  4. why the Bible needs to be rooted in history;
  5. why literal interpretation is not always the best interpretation;
  6. how the Bible gives us knowledge, faith, love, and hope; and
  7. how Jesus Christ is the center of the Bible.

Seven Things presents a clear and understandable evangelical account of the Bible’s inspiration, canonization, significance, and relevance in a way that is irenic and compelling. It is a must read for any serious Bible reader who desires an informed and mature view of the Bible that will enrich their faith.


On Earth As It Is in Heaven” by Sam Soleyn

As a long-time follower of Sam Soleyn, this book was no surprise to me, but I still found it to be extremely useful and a very thorough consolidation of his positions on the Kingdom of God and how the Lord is revealing Himself to humanity and His church in this day and age. It’s a voice I haven’t heard so clearly anywhere else in the church, but one which I think is prophetically critical to understanding our place in the Kingdom and God’s goals for His people.

Amazon’s description: The Body of Christ on the earth connects creation to God and to heaven. Looking into what it means to be sons of God will lead us to inquire about God’s very nature and character. It was God’s intention to establish creation in a way that His character and nature, the aspects of His being, could be seen. This was supported by the seven attributes, or Spirits of God. (cf. Isaiah 11:1-2) The task of understanding God as spirit, and by extension, human beings as spiritual beings, requires the discussion of the characteristics of God’s person by which He reveals Himself and His nature. In this sevenfold display, God shows the distinctiveness of His person and makes Himself knowable and available. Our own transformation into His image and likeness is to awaken our spirit that lives and functions in these characteristics. His essential nature is love and it was His intention to impart fully all the various aspects of love into one visible being: a corporate Man comprised of many peoples of the earth and across the entire spectrum of humanity. He calls the people to Himself and arranges them according to the divine order known as the Kingdom of Heaven. He intends to put Himself, His glory, on display through all those in the earth who are governed by His Spirit and rule themselves by the dictates of heaven, as displayed by Jesus Himself when He lived on the earth. The corporate Man, though comprised of many members, is capable of presenting the intricacies of the divine nature of God in one observable, functional


How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy” by Terran Williams

I found this book to be a stunningly solid analysis of the topic of complementarianism – the idea that God designated men as the authority and rulers in the kingdom, and that women are not authorized to lead or teach, specifically in the church, but (some believe) also in any public sphere.

The author was a member of a leadership team in a complementarian church, and his church set about to write a defense of its doctrinal position on men and women’s authority, and assigned the author as a key member of the team, due to his expertise and training. Much to his surprise, as he began to study and exegete the scriptures around authority of men and women in the church, he arrived at the conclusion that complementarianism is wrong and largely indefensible from a scriptural perspective. He wrote the book to carefully document his process and his findings. It’s extremely careful in its treatment of the subject, specifically covering every significant verse used to support the doctrine. He also spends a fair amount of time explaining the cultural perspectives of the writers of the scriptures, and the immediate audiences of the various epistles. He also traces out the flow of thinking through church history on the subject.

Most of all, he clearly shows how the complementarian viewpoint has harmed women – and robbed the church of a huge God-given blessing over the centuries.

(There is no real Amazon description, other than a handful of affirmations for the quality of this book.)


The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism” by Paul D. Miller

Read this book. Seriously. This is an essential exposé on Christian Nationalism in the US, and its deep and dark dangers to the entire American system. The author comes from a very highly experienced and scholarly position, and very carefully sources all his points and assertions. If you want to understand what’s happening in America today as parts of the evangelical church try to “take back America for God,” you really seriously need to understand this material.

Amazon’s description: Long before it featured dramatically in the 2016 presidential election, Christian nationalism had sunk deep roots in the United States.

Paul D. Miller, a Christian scholar, political theorist, veteran, and former White House staffer, provides a detailed portrait of—and case against—Christian nationalism. Building on his practical expertise not only in the archives and classroom but also in public service, Miller unravels this ideology’s historical importance, its key tenets, and its political, cultural, and spiritual implications.

Miller shows what’s at stake if we misunderstand the relationship between Christianity and the American nation. Christian nationalism—the religion of American greatness—is an illiberal political theory, at odds with the genius of the American experiment, and could prove devastating to both church and state. Christians must relearn how to love our country without idolizing it and seek a healthier Christian political witness that respects our constitutional ideals and a biblical vision of justice.


Why Do the Nations Rage?: The Demonic Origin of Nationalism” by David A. Ritchie

This is a pretty potent book that presents some scriptural understanding of principalities and powers, and shows how Biblical concepts like “the prince of Persia” translate into realities of demonic strongholds over modern “nations” – which are not political entities per se, but a broader category of political or ethnic or regional domains. It then begins to consider how people funnel religious energy into nationalism, and how this nationalism can usurp even a Christian world view. It’s not focused just on Christian nationalism; it uses plenty of illustrations and examples from other nations to make the case.

Amazon’s description: What if we understood nationalism as a religion instead of an ideology? What if nationalism is more spiritual than it is political? Several Christian thinkers have rightly recognized nationalism as a form of idolatry. However, in Why Do the Nations Rage?, David A. Ritchie argues that nationalism is inherently demonic as well. Through an interdisciplinary analysis of scholarship on nationalism and the biblical theology behind Paul’s doctrine of “powers,” Ritchie uncovers how the impulse behind nationalism is as ancient as the tower of Babel and as demonic as the worship of Baal. Moreover, when compared to Christianity, Ritchie shows that nationalism is best understood as a rival religion that bears its own distinctive (and demonically inspired) false gospel, which seeks to both imitate and distort the Christian gospel.


Not in It to Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines The Church” by Andy Stanley

This is a stunningly insightful book about today’s American church culture that turns everything into conflict and spends so much of its energy battling in the culture war. But Jesus showed something shockingly different – even to His own time – He choose to surrender, and He never once attacked or tried to overthrow or take over the government of His day. He simply loved people and surrendered His life, and His example changed the world.

Amazon’s description: Is it possible to disagree politically and love unconditionally? The reaction of evangelicals to political and cultural shifts in recent years revealed what they value most. Lurking beneath our Bible-laced rhetoric, faith claims, books, and sermons is a relentless drive to WIN!

But the church is not here to win. By every human measure, our Savior lost. On purpose. With a purpose. And we are his body. We are not in it to win anything. We are in it for something else entirely. That something else is what this book is about.

You’ll discover:

  • How to take a stand the right way. You’ll learn how to make your case with a posture of humility and understanding, rather than being fueled by the fear of losing something.
  • How to view politics through the lens of faith. Learn curiously, listen intentionally, and love unconditionally.
  • How the life of Jesus and his teaching applies to modern-day challenges in a fresh way. The “biblical” stand may not be what we’ve been taught.

Jesus never asked his followers to agree on everything. But he did call his followers to obey a new command: to love others in the same way he has loved us. Instead of asserting our rights or fighting for power, we need to begin asking ourselves: what does love require of me?


Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith” by Obery M. Hendricks

The words in Amazon’s description, including “galvanizing,” “scathing,” and “clarion call,” are certainly on point. This will be a “love it or hate it” book, for sure. I’d love to sit down with Dr. Hendricks some time and interview him. I’m absolutely certain that I would learn an amazing amount from him in a short time.

This book was chock full of factual historical details about the formation of evangelical thinking, like a number of other books described on this page. He methodically addresses all the hot-button topics against which modern evangelical Christians are up in arms right now, including social justice, abortion, workers’ rights and big business, gun control, homophobia, and more. He tears gaping holes in the justification for the right-wing position for every single one of them.

I was already familiar with almost all the ideas which Dr. Hendricks addresses, and I had read several reviews by conservative evangelical Christians railing against this book being supposedly filled with heresy and left-wing socialistic views. However, he provides reasonable and rational and inspired answers against the multitudes of right-wing and evangelical claims. There are certainly some areas where I take issue with his assertions, for example just one or two instances where I think the Bible translation he used results in a particular spin that the original Greek or Hebrew might not support. But on the whole, I found very little in this book that did not have a strong factual basis and scriptural support.

I appreciated that he was careful to distinguish between “evangelical” and “right-wing evangelical,” and to repeatedly emphasize that modern right-wing evangelicalism bears extremely little resemblance to its origins.

He was also scathing in his identification of the sudden downward spiral represented by the election of President Trump, and the evangelical church’s running after him as their darling, and I believe with good reason.

Perhaps the most shocking statement in the entire book was found halfway through the epilogue: “But their full possession by a spirit of antichrist can be considered to have occurred when their leaders made a devil’s bargain with Donald Trump to defend his avalanche of lies, hate mongering, blatant immoral indecency, and outright attacks on the democratic rule of law in return for his support of their agenda to dominate American society.” Ouch. If he is correct, this would explain a lot. And with the perspective available to me from spending much of the last year separating myself from both evangelicalism and right-wing ideology, I can see the truth in this stunning indictment.

Amazon’s description: A timely and galvanizing work that examines how right-wing evangelical Christians have veered from an admirable faith to a pernicious, destructive ideology.

Today’s right-wing Evangelical Christianity stands as the very antithesis of the message of Jesus Christ. In his new book, Christians Against Christianity, best-selling author and religious scholar Obery M. Hendricks Jr. challenges right-wing evangelicals on the terrain of their own religious claims, exposing the falsehoods, contradictions, and misuses of the Bible that are embedded in their rabid homophobia, their poorly veiled racism and demonizing of immigrants and Muslims, and their ungodly alliance with big business against the interests of American workers.

He scathingly indicts the religious leaders who helped facilitate the rise of the notoriously unchristian Donald Trump, likening them to the “court jesters” and hypocritical priestly sycophants of bygone eras who unquestioningly supported their sovereigns’ every act, no matter how hateful or destructive to those they were supposed to serve.

In the wake of the deadly insurrectionist attack on the US Capitol, Christians Against Christianity is a clarion call to stand up to the hypocrisy of the evangelical Right, as well as a guide for Christians to return their faith to the life-affirming message that Jesus brought and died for. What Hendricks offers is a provocative diagnosis, an urgent warning that right-wing evangelicals’ aspirations for Christian nationalist supremacy are a looming threat, not only to Christian decency but to democracy itself. What they offer to America is anything but good news.


Inalienable: How Marginalized Kingdom Voices Can Help Save the American Church” by Eric Costanzo, Daniel Yang, and Matthew Soerens

This was a very impactful book to me. It’s written by three very different US-born white evangelical men – a pastor, a missiologist, and a parachurch ministry leader. Each brings their own unique perspective and experience to the book, yet it’s a very coherent work. Its basic thrust is carefully assessing the struggles facing the American church, particularly the evangelical wing of the church, and frankly and openly considering its blind spots, particularly in how it has marginalized other communities and other worldwide Christians, cutting itself off from the insights and blessings that those communities bring to Christianity. The four themes of the book include the kingdom of God, the image of God, the word of God, and the mission of God. The entire book is deeply insightful, and well worth your time.

Perhaps the most valuable thing about this book to me was how it opened my eyes to the contributions from Christians outside the United States. It challenged a lot of my assumptions about the primacy and superiority of the American church’s doctrine and spiritual wisdom. Reading this book has put a new desire in me to begin learning about how the church in other cultures and nations understands the Gospel and God Himself; I am convinced that such study will give me great insight into my own faith and a new rich ability to connect with God at a deeper level.

Amazon’s description: With our witness compromised, numbers down, and reputation sullied, the American church is at a critical crossroads. In order for the church to return to health, we must decenter ourselves from our American idols and be guided by global Christians and the poor, who offer hope from the margins, and the ancient church, refocusing on the kingdom, image, Word, and mission of God.

The authors say:

We’ve written this book because we believe American Christians are at a critical crossroad, and the very soul of the American church is at stake. Jesus Christ promised that his church will endure until he returns again (Mt 16:18). He did not make that promise to the American church, however. If we are to stem this tide of decline and decay, it will take all of us—and it will take humility to listen to voices of the church beyond the White American evangelical stream of the faith which has long assumed leadership.


The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power” by D. L. Mayfield

Wow. I highly, highly recommend this book.

I’m really conflicted on how to write this review. It was a deeply, personally, painfully challenging book, on multiple levels. It directly poked at many things I grew up with in my life, and despite all the changes in my heart and actions in the last two years, it still found me jerking back as yet another nerve was touched, a fiery sting of recognition of my own shortcomings.

At the same time, it often felt like sitting in the therapist’s office as the author poured out her heart – her white, American, privileged, evangelical, self-sufficient, superior heart – over the injustices she became aware of, and became aware she was complicit in. There was constantly a tension between feeling my own discomfort and sometimes pain, and vicariously watching her intensely feel her own discomfort and sometimes pain.

And yet, despite this discomfort, I came away from each session feeling as if there was a deep hope and peace amidst the pain, a recognition of the amazing gift to which we Christians have ready access if we can just step back from our pursuit of affluence, of autonomy, of safety, and of power (her four major sections), and see the world – and “the least of these” among us – through God’s loving eyes.

Amazon’s description: Affluence, autonomy, safety, and power. These are the central values of the American dream. But are they compatible with Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves?

In essays grouped around these four values, D. L. Mayfield asks us to pay attention to the ways they shape our own choices, and the ways those choices affect our neighbors. Where did these values come from? How have they failed those on the edges of our society? And how can we disentangle ourselves from our culture’s headlong pursuit of these values and live faithful lives of service to God and our neighbors?


This Is the Word of the Lord: How the Bible Became Text and Why It Matters” by Dr. Bill Thomason

This was a very well-written and approachable book about the history of the Bible – not the history IN the Bible, but the history OF the Bible. The author is a retired professor of philosophy and religion. From the perspective of an evangelical who was taught for decades to not question the Bible or its history, it was a hard set of concepts to absorb, but a lot of what he presents is clearly factual, although some of it is interpretive – although no more so than the literalist/inerrant interpretations. I plan to read several more books about Bible research, based on this book.

Amazon’s description: “This Is the Word of the Lord”: How the Bible Became Text and Why It Matters is an overview of the evolution of the contents of the Bible from its earliest oral traditions. Why is it important to know this history? Because the evolution of this text and the way historical circumstances shaped its content and transmission affect how we understand the Bible today. When armed with such historical knowledge, believers can respond to those who insist the Bible is inerrant—and to those who insist the Bible is irrelevant.


Scapegoats: The Gospel through the Eyes of Victims” by Jennifer Garcia Bashaw

This book, to me, was both incredibly useful and somewhat frustrating. Using the word “scapegoat” to refer to what I would often simply call a victim or an oppressed person or group was sometimes jarring. But with that said, Girard insightfully exposes a number of ways in which people or groups are singled out for what amounts to ritual sacrifice on behalf of a society or another people group. Some of the stories, especially the analysis of a number of important Bible stories, was captivating and will stick with me for a long time.

Amazon’s description: Scapegoats are innocent victims who have experienced blame and violence at the hands of society. René Girard proposes that the Gospels present Jesus as a scapegoat whose innocent death exposes how humans have always created scapegoats. This revelation should have cured societal scapegoating, yet those who claim to live by the Gospels have missed that message. They continue to scapegoat and remain blind to the suffering of scapegoats in modern life.

Christians today tend to read the New Testament as victors, not as victims. The teachings and actions of Jesus thus lose much of their subversive significance. The Gospels become one harmonized story about individual salvation rather than distinct representations of Jesus’s revolutionary work on behalf of victims. Scapegoats revisits the Gospel narratives with the understanding that they tell scapegoats’ stories, and that through those stories the kingdom of God is revealed. Bashaw goes beyond Girard’s arguments to show that Jesus’s whole public ministry (not only his death) combats the marginalization of victims. These scapegoat stories work together to illuminate an essential truth of the Gospels–that Jesus modeled a reality in which victims become survivors and the marginalized become central to the kingdom.


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson

This book was a chance for me to learn something powerful about how “the other side” sees and experiences life. As an upper-class white male, I have a hard time identifying with the life of people in dramatically lower classes and disadvantaged people groups, but those experiences are absolutely critical to a comprehensive understanding of the Christian faith and the work that the Father of us all is trying to do on the earth and to make His people truly one.

In addition to those ideas, I found this book very important to help me understand how these artificial divisions between people groups are structured, how they operate, and how they’re reinforced by the systems all around us. Such things can be dangerously invisible until your eyes are opened to them, and I wish I’d read this quite some time ago.

Amazon’s description: In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their outcasting of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.


A Portrait of Jesus” by Father Joseph F. Girzone

This was a fascinating but easy book to read. Father Girzone wanders across the Gospels telling stories about Jesus and His life and ministry – and in many cases, a bit of dramatic interpretation of how Jesus might have been thinking, giving His social and historical context. It really does personalize Jesus in a way that provides a wonderful insight into the heart and character of the God/Man who walked among us for such a short time, yet had such a huge impact on history.

Amazon description: There are countless paths to follow when seeking spiritual guidance, but thousands of years of religion and theology cannot replace the premier example that Jesus himself set. In A Portrait of Jesus, bestselling writer Joseph Girzone recaptures the truth of Jesus that is presented in the Gospels and gives a compelling vision of the person Jesus’ contemporaries must have known. In his most powerful work yet, Girzone seeks to personify Christ in the minds of readers by asking some simple questions: “What did people see in Jesus as he walked down the street? How did he approach others and what would these people take away from meeting him? What do his actions tell us about how we can live our lives today?” It is Girzone’s empowering and loving understanding of the heart of Christianity that will make A Portrait of Jesus a groundbreaking classic in the tradition of his bestselling books, Joshua and Never Alone.


I’ll update this list as my reading continues.

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