The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus (Jossey-Bass, 2012) Oklahoma UCC pastor Robin Meyers reminds us that the Roman Empire saw Jesus as a dangerous subversive amd the earliest church was like an underground movement, unlike what today’s church has become. Read about Meyers’s book in the March 2002 Connections.

The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heartof Christianity, by Cynthia Bourgeault (Shambala, 2010) Bourgeault points out how Christians have been misled by the “master story” that is in their blood, causing them to overlook the unique role played by Mary Magdalene in the life of Jesus. Read more in the August 2011 Connections.

Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus, by Stephen J. Patterson (Fortress, 2004) In the view of Stephen J. Patterson, a historical-Jesus scholar, Jesus’s life is what makes his death and resurrection important. “To celebrate his death apart from the cause for which he lived,” says Patterson, “would be ridiculous and meaningless. Yet that is what we have done for the most part.” Read how Patterson sees early Christianity regarding Jesus as victim, martyr, and sacrifice, in the April 2009 Connections.

The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted, by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. (Doubleday/Three Leaves, 2006) Hendricks is an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a professor at New York Theological Seminary, and past president of the oldest African American theological institution in the U.S. This is a very compelling book, and it’s in a welcome non-academic style. It says some things I think the church and all of us who are Christians need to take to heart. Read about some of these in the March 2008 and April 2008 Connections.

The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem, by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan (HarperSanFrancisco 2006) I refer to this eye-opening book in the August 2007 Connections in giving examples of how Jesus actively opposed the Roman Empire.

The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, by Amy-Jill Levine (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006) Levine, a Jewish New Testament scholar, feels that if we ignore Jesus’s Jewishness and his Roman Empire setting, we miss the challenge in much of what we read in the gospels. Read more of her views in the October 2007 Connections.

Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman, David Morgan, editor (Yale University Press, 1996) – July 1999 Connections.

Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images, by David Morgan (University of California Press, 1998) – August 1999 Connections These two books of David Morgan, a Lutheran and chairperson of the art department of Valparaiso University, seem written mainly for an academic audience, but I found them fascinating. Morgan reveals the aggressive marketing that caused Sallman’s painting Head of Christ, which is in many of our church buildings as well as our heads, to become accepted by many Christians as if it were an actual photo of Jesus. These books are eye-openers about why visual images seem essential to many Christians but turn many others off. The books also make important points about our dangerous tendency to picture Jesus as Anglo-American.