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The Life of Meaning : Reflections on Faith, Doubt, and Repairing the World
PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, which Bob Abernethy conceived and anchors, has been described as "the best spot on the television landscape to take in the broad view of the spiritual dimension of American life . . ." by the Christian Science Monitor. "Finally," wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, "something intelligent on TV about religion." Now, together with his coauthor William Bole, Abernethy has turned his attention to making a book that asks all the big questions--and elicits the most surprising answers from a who's-who of today's serious religious and spiritual thinkers from across the spectrum of faiths and denominations.
In this thoughtful collection, extraordinary people give their personal and private accounts of their own spiritual struggle. Their insights on community, prayer, suffering, religious observance, the choice to live with or without a god, and the meanings that are gleaned from everyday life form an elegant meditation on the desire for something beyond what we can see and measure.
More than fifty contributors, including Jimmy Carter, Francis Collins, The Dalai Lama, Robert Franklin, Irving Greenberg, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Harold Kushner, Anne Lamott, Madeleine L'Engle, Thomas Lynch, Martin Marty, Mark Noll, Rachel Remen, Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Brown Taylor, Studs Terkel, Thich Nhat Hanh, Phyllis Tickle, Desmond Tutu, Jean Vanier, and Marianne Williamson.
Starred Review. Faith and doubt stand in loving tension in this splendid collection edited by Bole, a religion writer, and Abernethy, founder and host of the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. The book draws from the extensive interviews the series has conducted with religious luminaries and writers, some of whom appear more than once. The interviews are loosely arranged into themes of prayer; suffering and the problem of evil; encountering religious pluralism; preparing for death and the afterlife; and the varieties of religious practice. Not all of the contributors describe themselves as religious ("You know what an agnostic is?" asks the agnostic near-centenarian Studs Terkel. "A cowardly atheist"). Most of those profiled, however, have walked a long path of religious devotion, including Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Anne Lamott, William Sloane Coffin, Martin Marty, Frederica Mathewes-Green and Phyllis Tickle (PW's former contributing editor in religion). With such an amazing cast of characters, it's practically impossible to go wrong, and this collection doesn't miss a step. The section on suffering is particularly perceptive ("I know that where there is no suffering, nothing happens," novelist Madeleine L'Engle says). This is a rich feast of accumulated wisdom. (Apr. 3)
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Seven Stories Press
April 30, 2008
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