Thursday, March 17, 2016

Colleagues List, March 20th, 2016

Vol. XI.  No. 30



Wayne A. Holst, Editor
My E-Mail Address:

Colleagues List Web Site:

Dear Colleagues:

Enhancing your reading experience is very
important to me. I am currently involved in
up-grading the layout and presentation of
Colleagues List, so please bear with me.

I am attempting to reduce the length, but
not the content and quality, of each issue.

Therefore I want to:

- remove the duplication
- improve the reading flow (and)
- sharpen the focus, of all material

Please let me know how I'm doing.


Introducing the Design of this Issue:

I begin with comment from two colleagues
who wrote me this week. Their letters appear
just after this one. Thanks Rob and Bill.

My Special Item is a notice for the new book
"Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion"
by Susan Jacoby.

Please continue to scroll through my blog to read
about the author, the book, and my thoughts.

Colleague contributions are provided by Doug,
Lorna, Jim, Elfrieda, Marty and Ron. Thanks to
all six of you for stimulating our thoughts.

Net Notes - offers global, ecumenical news stories
and links that caught my attention this week.

Wisdom of the week comes from James Baldwin,
Mahatma Gandhi, John Chrysostom, Helen Prejean,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton and
Wendell Berry.

On This Day - reminds us of two significant dates in
history from the archives of the New York Times

At the conclusion of the blog, and if you are interested,
I provide an update on our Winter/Spring 2016 Adult
Spiritual Development/ACTS Ministry programs at
St. David's United Church, Calgary


Welcome to a hopefully new and improved edition
of Colleagues List as we begin Holy Week, the most
important eight days in the Christian calendar.

Let me know if you are finding this letter more




Rob Fennell,
Halifax, NS

March 13th, 2016

Dear Wayne,

Thanks for the latest edition of Colleagues
List, and the link to the new Volf book.

I'll look for it - he is always so good.
I have edited a new book and wonder if
you might consider linking to it on the
Colleagues List.

The title is Both Sides of the Wardrobe:
C.S. Lewis, Theological Imagination,
and Everyday Discipleship.

There is a Facebook page, which one can
view evenif one does not have a Facebook
account; this has a variety of materials such
as the back cover, poster with endorsement,
and the introduction free to view:

There is also the publisher's page, but I
suspect most would be interested via
Amazon or Chapters:

Thanks kindly  - I hope you are keeping well.



The Rev. Dr. Bob Fennell, 
Associate Professor,
Historical and Systematic Theology
Atlantic School of Theology

Halifax, NS


Bob, I am happy to help promote the book
you have edited.



Bill Shantz,
Thunder Bay, ON.

March 17, 2016

Subject: Conversion


For your possible interest, I refer you
to pp 82-86 of the March 2016 edition
of Harper's Magazine, a review by Gary
Greenberg entitled:

"Beginning to See the Light:
  Religious Conversion Across the Ages." 

Greenberg addresses three new books:
(1) Strange Gods: A Secular History of
      Conversion by Susan Jacoby,

(2) Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist
      Extremism by Maajid Nawaz, and

(3) Islam and the Future of Tolerance:
      A Dialogue by Sam Harris and

      Maajid Nawaz.


 William Shantz, MD. Psychiatry


Bill, my Special Item, next up, is a book
notice for the Susan Jacoby book.

Thanks for this.


Book Notice -

A Secular History of Conversion
by Susan Jacoby

Random House Canada, Toronto
Hardcover, 464 pages. $35.00 CAD.
ISBN #978-0-375-42375-8.
(Released February 16th, 2016)

Publisher's Promo:

In a ground breaking historical work that
addresses religious conversion in the West
from an uncompromisingly secular perspective,
Susan Jacoby challenges the conventional
narrative of conversion as a purely spiritual
journey. From the transformation on the road
to Damascus of the Jew Saul into the Christian
evangelist Paul to a twenty-first-century
“religious marketplace” in which half of
Americans have changed faiths at least once,
nothing has been more important in the struggle
for reason than the right to believe in the God
of one’s choice or to reject belief in God altogether.

Focusing on the long, tense convergence of

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - each claiming
possession of absolute truth - Jacoby examines
conversions within a social and economic
framework that includes theocratic coercion
(unto torture and death) and the more friendly
persuasion of political advantage, economic
opportunism, and interreligious marriage.

Moving through time, continents, and cultures -
the triumph of Christianity over paganism in late
antiquity, the Spanish Inquisition, John Calvin’s
dour theocracy, Southern plantations where
African slaves had to accept their masters’
religion - the narrative is punctuated by portraits
of individual converts embodying the sacred and
profane. The cast includes Augustine of Hippo;
John Donne; the German Jew Edith Stein, whose
conversion to Catholicism did not save her from
Auschwitz; boxing champion Muhammad Ali;
and former President George W. Bush.

The story also encompasses conversions to rigid
secular ideologies, notably Stalinist Communism,
with their own truth claims.

Finally, Jacoby offers a powerful case for religious

choice as a product of the secular Enlightenment.
In a forthright and unsettling conclusion linking
the present with the most violent parts of the
West’s religious past, she reminds us that in the
absence of Enlightenment values, radical Islamists
are persecuting Christians, many other Muslims,
and atheists in ways that recall the worst of the
Middle Ages.

(With 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations.)


Author's Bio:

SUSAN JACOBY is the author of eleven previous
books, most recently Never Say Die, The Great
Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American
Freethought, The Age of American Unreason,
Alger Hiss and the Battle for History, Freethinkers:
A History of American Secularism, and Half-Jew:
A Daughter’s Search for Her Family’s Buried Past.

Her articles have appeared frequently in the op-ed
pages of The New York Times and in forums that
include The American Prospect, Dissent, and
The Daily Beast. She lives in New York City.

For more information, visit


Author's Words:

In this book, I focus on conversion in the Western
world - with forays into the Middle East as the
birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam -
because I am concerned primarily with places
in which the three great monotheistic faiths
converged (and continue to do so) with competing
truth claims...I have also concentrated on times
and civilizations...

In thinking about both the eternal and temporal
power of conversion in the history of the West,
the American idea of a free "religious marketplace"
- a phrase that strikes people in many other
countries as comical because of its economic
overtones - might be seen as the completion of
a full circle beginning with the potpourri of the
Roman Empire...

Even when forced conversion (which have occurred
throughout history) is not involved, intense
proselytizing by monotheistic religions asserting
that they represent the only "true" faith raises
problematic  issues throughout the world...

Christianity remains a forceful and successful
proselytizing religion mainly in the poorest
regions of the globe... (there is a connection
between successful proselytizing and poorly
educated, and by that I don't mean "stupid"

(Even in the USA some groups of people reject
any scientific or medical facts that they fear
will undermine their religio-political beliefs.)

Only in America do we speak with approval
about a religious marketplace... this leaves
many to assert "I'm spiritual but not religious."
What this statement often means is "I want
the consolations of faith without the obligations
of an organized religion..."

"I was blind, but now I see" is surely one of
the most powerful metaphor written into one
of the most beautiful songs of faith in the
history of Christianity. But there has always
been a disturbing unsung corollary for those
who are certain they possess absolute spiritual
truth: "You are blind, and now you must see
what I see..."

(This dualism about being 'converted' to the
'truth faith' is a very difficult matter for
thoughtful religious people to face and it
causes many to avoid dealing with it

- from the Introduction


Review of the Book by Gary Wills
New York Times Review of Books
February 26th, 2016:

My Thoughts:

Jacoby is unapologetically a "new
atheist" according to the current
parlance of religious understanding,
but she is a respectful scholar and
debater; providing many intelligent
arguments to support her case.

I like this book, even though I don't
always agree with the author.

In this volume, her main argument seems
to be that while many would see the term
"conversion" as a good thing, she would
beg to differ. Her book is specially
targeted at the true believers of any
faith, but particularly those who follow
one of the three great faiths of Jerusalem.

Jacoby is like other modern new atheists, in
that some of her criticisms are devastating.
This author is an historian of substance
and, as such, she challenges many of
the sacred cows of the faithful. She can
be counted on to pose some critical
questions that you may not have heard

But she does it with a certain grace.

As I read her substantial book of
500 pages, I am often left with a kind
of "yes/but" response to the points
she makes. In other words, she offers
some real critique to some of my own
unchallenged assumptions about being
a Christian and wanting others to be
Christians too. That is a mute point for
me because my theological specialty
is missiology, the study of proclaiming
the good news of the Christian Gospel
across the divides of faith or unbelief.

As a result, I can't think of a better way
to grow in my understanding of the faith
I devoutly claim and the discipline of
the religion that I follow.

Jacoby treats me and my faith with respect.
She does not try to demean or belittle me .
Yet, she leaves me free to question things
I have previously taken for granted as true.

If you want specific arguments, I suggest
you spend time with this book.

It will take me some time to adequately
respond with grace to some of Jacoby's
claims, but I need to "work with" some
of them, in any event.

"Blessed assurance?" - indeed. But that
should not come without a lifetime of
struggle and perseverance.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, but
if you want to grow your faith - even at the
risk of losing some comfortable assumptions
- this is a book I would highly recommend.

Buy the book from



Doug Shantz,
Calgary, AB.

Chair of Christian Thought Final Lecture
March 7th, 2016

"How Should We Study and Teach Religion?
  Some Reflections After 33 years"


Lorna Dueck
Toronto, ON

Globe and Mail
March 16th, 2016

"Doctor Assisted Dying -
  Why Religious Conscience
  Must be Part of the Debate"


Jim Taylor
Okanagan, BC

Personal Web Log
March 16th, 2016

"Epitaph for a Songwriter"


Elfrieda Schroeder
Winnipeg, MB

In Transit Blog
March 11th, 2016



Martin Marty,
Chicago, IL

March 14th, 2016

"Futures Projected"

Ron Rolheiser,
San Antonio TX

Personal Web Site
March 14th, 2016

"The Power of Fear"

It Dates to the Time of Christ

The Guardian, UK
March 17th, 2016


Pope Receives Ecumenical Leader

News from Taize
March 4th, 2016


Bishop Tells of Major Syrian War Losses

Christian Post
March 17th, 2016


Therapists Assess American 'Condition'

March 15th, 2016


Credible Commentary on American Politics

Religion News Service
March 16th, 2016


Announcement from Rome Made This Week

America Magazine
March 16th, 2016


He Advises Against Going Down That Road

Context With Lorna Dueck (Youtube Clip)
March 16th, 2016


"The Best of Times, The Worst of Times"

New York Times Video
March 13th, 2016


The Situation is Actually More Nuanced

UCA News
March 16th, 2016



Raven Foundation Website
March 16th, 2016


Provided by Sojourners and the Bruderhof:

Children have never been very good
at listening to their elders, but they
have never failed to imitate them.

- James Baldwin


Stoning prophets and erecting churches
to their memory afterwards has been the
way of the world through the ages.

Today we worship Christ, but the Christ
in the flesh we crucified.

- Mahatma Gandhi


These are two things: sin and repentance.
Sin is a wound; repentance is a medicine.
Just as there are for the body wounds and
medicines, so for the soul are sins and

- John Chrysostom


Writing is like praying, because you stop all
other activities, descend into silence, and listen
patiently to the depths of your soul, waiting for
true words to come. When they do, you thank
God because you know the words are a gift, and
you write them down as honestly and cleanly
as you can.

- Helen Prejean C.S.J


We pay more attention to dying than to death.
We’re more concerned to get over the act of
dying than to overcome death.

Socrates mastered the art of dying;
Christ overcame death as the last enemy.

There is a real difference between the two things;
the one is within the scope of human possibilities,
the other means resurrection.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


In the old days, on Easter night, the Russian
peasants used to carry the blessed fire home
from church. The light would scatter and travel
in all directions through the darkness, and the
desolation of the night would be pierced and
dispelled as lamps came on in the windows
of the farmhouses, one by one. Even so, the
glory of God sleeps everywhere, ready to blaze
out unexpectedly in created things. Even so,
his peace and his order lie hidden in the world,
even the world of today, ready to re-establish
themselves in his way, in his own good time –
but never without the instrumentality of free
options made by free people.

- Thomas Merton



From the archives of the New York Times:

"My Lai Massacre in Vietnam War"

"First Human Spacewalk Conducted by Soviets"



To hear of a thousand deaths in war is terrible,
and we 'know' that it is. But as it registers on
our hearts, it is not more terrible than one death
fully imagined.



Continuing Our Program Season -
Winter 2016 Adult Spiritual Development
ACTS Ministry at St. David's
United Church, Calgary


Theme: "The Other Two Religions of Jerusalem"
                Judaism and Islam

Books: "Chosen? Reading the Bible
              Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"
              by Walter Brueggemann

             "Islam: A Short History"
               by Karen Armstrong
A  ten-week investigation into the religious 
sources of modern global unrest centered
in the Mid-East:

Ten Monday evenings, 7-9PM
In the St. David's TM Room
January 18th - March 21st, 2015
Including Monday of Family Weekend

Books and Registration/Hospitality - $60.00
Books only - $35.00

Total book sets made available for sale: 33.
All sets have now been sold.

Now beginning seventeen years
of Monday Night Studies
Our thirty-second series of
(usually) ten week sessions!

Course design:

Check our complete archives
for all 46 book studies:



Theme: The Books of JOB and DANIEL
Hebrew Bible Wisdom and Apocalyptic
literature have meanings for our time.

Five sessions 10-11 AM
Gathering at 9:30AM
In the St. David's TM Room
March 10th - April 14th.

No charge.

Study resource -

The DK Complete Bible Handbook

(copy available in our church library)

The Bible Study Group provided the
service reflection Sunday, Jan. 17th, 2016
and it was well received.



A Good Experience Again This Year

Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre
Cochrane, Alberta

Took place:
Sunday February 28th
11:30 AM - 4:00 PM

Theme: "Opening the Jubilee Door:
A Focus on the Ecological Spirituality
of St. Francis of Assisi"

Registration, including lunch and
refreshments during the day - $35.00

Reflections were led by Susan Campbell
enthusiastic, qualified and new MSF director;
included a nature walk.

26 paid registrations. 24 attended



Our "Memories Project"  the Sight and Sound
Packet was supplied by persons who took the
"Jerusalem and the Lands of Three Great Faiths"
tour last October, and produced by Jock McTavish.
12,000+ pictures were offered and processed into
various electronic presentations.

Distributed free to all 29 people who participated
in our tour with additional packets available at
a modest price for those interested.


New Project Beginning This Winter --

"Where Would You Like to Travel Next?"

Beginning our process to find a destination
for a trip somewhere in the world in 2017.


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