November Reading List: On Faith

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now, writes, “In the West, religion became preoccupied with telling people what to know more than how to know, telling people what to see more than how to see… it has been like trying to view the galaxies with a $5 pair of binoculars.”

For many people, from diverse backgrounds and of diverse identities, “faith” is neither a comfort nor a promise. Religious spaces are too often the context for trauma, emotional injury, and oppression, primarily for people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and women.

By telling people what to know, religious traditions drain faith of mystery and rob communities of liberating, inclusive, compassionate possibilities. “What to know,” usually means learning false dichotomies, like good/bad, us/them, holy/evil, saved/fallen…from childhood. To the ears of children, these teachings sound like the word of God.

Some describe the process of learning how to see differently as deconstruction and reconstruction. Richard Rohr and other contemplatives would argue that “contemplative epistemologies,” or in other words contemplative ways of knowing, teach us non-dual consciousness – how to see with the eyes of the heart, or how to drop the mind into the space of the heart, or how to see doctrine as paradox.

For the month of November, we suggest texts that help us see theology and religion differently. We hope you will find some inspiration here and a voice, a perspective, a body of work (or several) to add to your nightstand.

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About the author

Sarah James

Sarah James is the founder and director of Clerestory. A graduate of Middlebury and Yale, she identifies as a biracial South Indian-American woman of color and studies contemplative religion at the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Her writing appears elsewhere in Darling, Relevant, The Porch, and others.

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