Direct, heartfelt religious essays that mostly preach to the choir.

BIBLE LETTERS TO THE PUBLIC EDITOR

A debut collection of letters addressing moral issues from a Catholic perspective.

This slim volume represents a compilation of essays, written by Dan Pryor and his father, Hal Pryor, from 1994 to 2016, and sent to the editors of various New Jersey and Pennsylvania newspapers, including the Newark, New Jersey-based Star-Ledger, and the Easton, Pennsylvania-based Express-Times. Although written by two different people, the missives are very similar in content and tone. The elder Pryor’s letters seem more associated with answering specific, published items, while the son’s most often discuss general issues in the news. They tackle such subjects as abortion, homosexuality, and suicide from a Catholic point of view, which the younger Pryor says is “the only view from which I am confident to write.” It’s a conservative viewpoint, including anti-abortion and antigay stances and a strong reliance on church hierarchy and teachings, and it seems aimed at readers who already agree with these stances. As Pryor notes in a page on “Getting Letters Printed in the Newspaper,” he found that “Explaining the intangible religion to society is difficult.” Over time, however, he realized that, “Earthly comparisons to moral/religious issues make the intangible religion a tangible acceptance.” Therefore, Pryor does effectively use comparisons to day-to-day life and simple analogies (such as the well-known metaphor of the frog in boiling water), as well as simple, accessible language. Both authors are straightforward and unapologetic in sharing their view that Catholicism holds the final answer regarding moral issues. The younger Pryor, especially, cites specific Bible verses to back up his points. The letters are sometimes choppy in style and often end abruptly, but they’ll be easily understood by any reader.

Direct, heartfelt religious essays that mostly preach to the choir.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4809-4535-7

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2018

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Worthwhile reference stuffed with facts and illustrations.

ROSE BOOK OF BIBLE CHARTS, MAPS AND TIME LINES

A compendium of charts, time lines, lists and illustrations to accompany study of the Bible.

This visually appealing resource provides a wide array of illustrative and textually concise references, beginning with three sets of charts covering the Bible as a whole, the Old Testament and the New Testament. These charts cover such topics as biblical weights and measures, feasts and holidays and the 12 disciples. Most of the charts use a variety of illustrative techniques to convey lessons and provide visual interest. A worthwhile example is “How We Got the Bible,” which provides a time line of translation history, comparisons of canons among faiths and portraits of important figures in biblical translation, such as Jerome and John Wycliffe. The book then presents a section of maps, followed by diagrams to conceptualize such structures as Noah’s Ark and Solomon’s Temple. Finally, a section on Christianity, cults and other religions describes key aspects of history and doctrine for certain Christian sects and other faith traditions. Overall, the authors take a traditionalist, conservative approach. For instance, they list Moses as the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) without making mention of claims to the contrary. When comparing various Christian sects and world religions, the emphasis is on doctrine and orthodox theology. Some chapters, however, may not completely align with the needs of Catholic and Orthodox churches. But the authors’ leanings are muted enough and do not detract from the work’s usefulness. As a resource, it’s well organized, inviting and visually stimulating. Even the most seasoned reader will learn something while browsing.

Worthwhile reference stuffed with facts and illustrations.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 978-1-5963-6022-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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