March 9, 2009
Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna
Where do church traditions like preaching sermons, the practice of Communion or even having a church building and a paid minister come from?
If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of these things, read this book to find out! Most of these practices are of pagan origin, absorbed from the broader culture or added in intentionally to increase the status of the church. Viola believes these practices should be rejected not only because of the non-Christian origin, but also because they are harmful to building Christian communities. He supports his claims with Biblical citations.
Before you pick up “Pagan Christianity” there are some things to keep in mind- it is focused on Protestant traditions, and aimed at an evangelical Christian audience. Despite this, I think it would be of interest to anyone curious about where various aspects of institutional Christianity come from.
Frank Viola is a prominent organizer in the house church movement, and he is upfront about that. George Barna, founder of the Barna Group,
The book was quite well researched, with plenty of footnotes. It may not go into as much depth on each as an academic work would, but I think it’s great that the authors brought this information to a mass audience.
March 17, 2008
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: a Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd
A traditional Southern Baptist wife and mother, Sue Monk Kidd had never really questioned her role as a woman in the church or society as a whole. Yet a series of incidents led her to realize all was not right, and that she needed to look for spirituality outside of mainstream religious institutions. Whereas before she was taught that authority was only in the Bible, she came to see her own experiences as valid- that she was her own authority. I found the book to be an inspiring source of ideas for developing one’s own personal spirituality- creating ritual, sacred spaces and concepts of Deity.
One thing I found refreshing about this book, is that Kidd does not bash men or blame them as a group for inequality. She acknowledges that both men and women are hurt by patriarchy- that men need the Divine Feminine as much as women do. Nor does she say mainstream Christianity is wrong per se, only that it has its limitations and needs to strive towards balance in matters of gender as well as between human beings and the natural world.
The main criticism I do have of Dance, is that I question the accuracy of some of the information on ancient religions and cultures she presents as facts. However this is a memoir, not a scholarly work so I’m going to cut the author some slack in that area.