During a speech at the 29th World Youth Day this year in Vatican City, Pope Francis said, “To you young people I especially entrust the task of restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture…faced with old and new forms of poverty…we have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent.”. Tall order, huh? Below are just-in-time titles for all faiths to educate and inspire youth who prepare to organize for change from within their mosque, church, or synagogue. Topics discussed range from being an advocate for the poor, to ways to increase youth membership. If all this seems like a daunting task Monty Python appears at the end with their humorous take on religion!
1. From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace. Rabbi Amy Eilberg. Orbis Books. 2014.
The latest Gallup Poll shows that younger Americans are more open-minded about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Rabbi Eilberg states in the introduction to her book that it “presents traditional Jewish concepts of peace and conflict as a spiritual practice that can guide the lives of faithful people seeking to contribute to a more peaceful world”. In a section titled “Strange Commonalities”, Rabbi Eilberg describes participating in the Compassionate Listening project, where she stays in a Palestinian neighborhood. After a few days, she was able to go from a fear of Palestinians to realizing all she had in common with them.
2. Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World. Rev. Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel. IVP Books. 2014.
Are you serious about organizing for change in your town but would like the organizing to center around your faith? This book will show you how, as you learn such terms as “power mapping”, “moral dialogue”, “The Divine Pitchfork”, and “the other species dynamic”. Discusses unintended leadership and the concept that all generations need to be included in the change. This fascinating read also gives creative examples of organizing through jazz, poetry and liturgies.
3. Hope Rising: How Christians Can End Extreme Poverty in This Generation. Scott C. Todd Ph.D. Thomas Nelson. 2014.
Todd, the V.P. of Global Advocacy at Compassion International was inspired to write about how to end poverty by his work in helping those suffering from AIDS in Tanzania. Todd discusses how the various sectors (religious, public, social, business, and Mom’s) can get organized to end poverty. The book is an inspiring, philosophical plea to all to basically go for it relative to whatever change you wish to see in the world. He gives example after example of things the next generation is currently doing. For instance, Todd writes, “…Stephanie was 16 when she worked two jobs cleaning hotel rooms…to…sponsor two children with Compassion [International, the organization founded by Todd].”.
4. Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back. Naomi Schaefer Riley. Templeton Press. 2014
Riley describes creative ways in which Jewish, Mormon, Catholic, Evangelical, and Muslim groups can bring millennials (those reaching adulthood after the year 2000) back to these institutions. Millennials, Riley argues, are turned off from institutions in general, yet are looking for a sense of community. Different ways faith-based institutions can give more responsibility to those in their 30’s who are prolonging starting a family are discussed.
And finally, Monty Python. Because, really, any blog about any subject could, in theory, end with some sort of reference to Monty Python (and probably should). The latest title about the beloved British comedy troupe proves this, as it is called (here goes)….
5. Everything I Ever Needed to Know About _____* I Learned from Monty Python: *History, Art, Poetry, Communism, Philosophy, the Media, Birth, Death, Religion, Literature, Latin, Transvestites, Botany, the French, Class Systems, Mythology, Fish Slapping, and Many More! Brian Cogan and Jeff Massey. Thomas Dunn Books. 2014.
The book is part biography of Monty Python, their influences and background. It also patiently explains several of those skits you thought you understood. However for the purposes of this blog, we shall focus on Monty Python’s *unique* treatment of religion. “Monty Python has long been obsessed with religion” so begins the Theology/Organized Religion section. We learn that their religious-themed film, Life of Brian “is not about Jesus Christ or his teachings”.. According to the authors Cogan and Massey, “They are attacking mindless obedience to any kind of system.”. So, as you boldly take on the world through faith-based organizing, don’t forget to lighten up with Monty Python’s new book – a thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly educational read. “Ni!”.