Leaving Christianity (Clarke & Macdonald). Resurrecting Religion (G. Paul). Faith, Life & Leadership: 8 Canadian Women. Business Simplified (M. Bell). Children of Blood and Bone (T. Adeyemi). Art by Annemarie Johnson.
Leaving Christianity: Changing Allegiances in Canada Since 1945
By Brian Clarke and Stuart Macdonald
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017. 304 pages. $32 (e-book $18, browse for free at Books.Google.ca)
HAS CANADA become a post-Christian society? In this important new book, two veteran Canadian scholars make a persuasive case that it has.
Drawing extensively on the Canadian census, the National Household Survey, denominational statistics and other sources, the book takes us on a tour of how Canadians’ involvement with Christianity has changed since 1960.
The authors expertly detail the numerical decline of the major Christian churches and demonstrate it has not been meaningfully offset by the growth of smaller denominations. They contrast this with the explosive growth of those who say they have no religion at all – now more than a quarter of the Canadian population. They also reflect on the importance of the 1960s as a turning point.
These findings will not shock most Canadians, who know from everyday life that meaningful involvement with Christianity has become unusual. But many of us might not realize how historically recent these shifts are.
The book does have shortcomings. It largely overlooks the role of immigration – a key driver of changing religious demographics in Canada for the foreseeable future. It also dismisses theological factors. Finally, it paints a glass-half-empty picture of conservative Protestantism, unnecessarily minimizing the growth and resilience apparent in the book’s own data.
Nevertheless, the authors’ interpretations are carefully thought out and reflect a firm grasp of the experts’ debates. Recommended for anyone wanting an informed, data-based survey of the trajectory of Christianity in Canada. –KEVIN FLATT
Resurrecting Religion: Finding Our Way Back to the Good News
By Greg Paul
NavPress, 2018. 240 pages. $20 (e-book $9.99, audiobook $14, audio CD $24.99, browse for free at Books.Google.ca)
"CHRISTIANITY IS not a religion" is a popular message on social media, embraced by some of Canada’s most successful pastors. Jesus came to save us from religion, we are told. But is this true?
Greg Paul, founding pastor of Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, is well aware of the damage bad religion can do. But that doesn’t mean all religion is bad. James 1:27 explicitly reminds us, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
Resurrecting Religion pushes back against those who attempt to contrast Christianity with religion. Christianity is not just a religion, writes Paul, although it does have all the beliefs in a deity, rituals and ethical systems usually associated with the word. True Christianity must also be the good religion James describes.
Resurrecting Religion is a meditation on the entire Epistle of James through the lens of Paul’s pastoral experience with marginalized people in Toronto. The stories Paul shares are both heartbreaking and inspiring.
His book is a powerful reminder Christianity may be more than a religion, but it is not less. When done well, Christianity means living as God always meant us to live. –STEPHEN BEDARD
Faith, Life & Leadership: 8 Canadian Women Tell Their Stories
General Editor: Georgialee Lang
Castle Quay Books, 2017. 149 pages. $19.95 (e-book $9.99, browse for free at Books.Google.ca)
THE EIGHT successful Canadians in this book are leaders with a capital L. Each is making her mark on society. Each exemplifies following God’s call to leadership with passion and commitment. And each models what it means to trust God and invite Him to guide the journey.
Readers should find at least one of the eight stories that resonates and inspires them in their leadership journey.
It would have been easy for these women to simply share their successes – a "do this and you too can be a successful leader" approach. Instead, because they share so openly and honestly, we learn how a deep faith in God can help a leader navigate not only the successes, but also the failures and disappointments.
We also learn how trusting in God’s will can help a leader take on new opportunities and challenges even when they aren’t confident they are ready.
Readers will be inspired and encouraged by each woman’s vulnerability and authenticity, and by lessons learned about the importance of hard work, prayer, mentorship and other relationships, humility and willingness to risk failure.
Overall, this book comes up a little short because it emphasizes Faith and Leadership at the expense of Life. While there were references to strong and supportive spouses (bless them, I have one too), I was sometimes left wondering how these women balance career and family life – a definite challenge for any leader, and one I wished I could have learned more about. –DANA ANTAYA-MOORE
Business Simplified: Serving People, Becoming Better Stewards, Creating Value
By Michel Bell
Lulu.com, 2017. 346 pages. $28 (e-book $9.99 or free in entirety at Books.Google.ca)
IN BUSINESS, a mentor can help employees understand the working environment, grow and learn on the job, receive career guidance and improve needed business and life skills.
Reading this new book is like sitting over coffee with a mentor. Some of the book is common sense, yet the author’s ability to distill it and present key ideas is refreshing.
Michel Bell’s extensive career with one organization clearly allowed him to have both deep and wide opportunities to hone business skills. Bell discusses such topics as hiring the right people, making effective decisions, organizational structures and effective governance, strategic management, operations management, marketing, finance and stewardship. His goal of simplifying business is especially evident in the chapter on accounting and financial statements.
Each chapter is peppered with examples from his 32-year career with Alcan, along with examples from other companies, and lists of tips. Bell convincingly weaves his experience with the writings of well-known business practitioners and academics.
This is exactly what a mentor does – shares experience, challenges and key ideas. Bell’s professionalism is evident, as is his Christian faith and ethical foundation.
This is a light but meaty summer read. –LAURIE BUSUTTIL
Reading the Bestsellers
Children of Blood and Bone
By Tomi Adeyemi
Henry Holt and Co., 2018. 560 pages. $12.77 (e-book $10.99, audiobook $30, audio CD $41, browse for free at Books.Google.ca)
This debut young adult fantasy novel is the first in a trilogy called the Legacy of Orïsha. It depends heavily on African mythology and religion in the same vein as the recent movie Black Panther. Adeyemi does a fantastic job of portraying the push and pull of different factions pitted against each other.
The author explains the book was written "during a time where I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men, women and children being shot by the police." Much like the real-life situation that inspired it, Adeyemi’s book offers no clear solution to the problems in her fictional world of Orïsha.
Zélie Adebola cannot cannot forget the night her mother was killed. The night magic left Orïsha forever. No longer were there Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Reapers, like Zélie’s mother, summoning forth souls. The Magi were dead. Magic disappeared. Hope was ripped from their hands.
In the book Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the ruthless king.
This novel’s rich language and timely topics have taken the world by storm. It shares the raw pain and anger percolating in African American communities today. When readers cry for the injustices in Orïsha, we are close to crying for the injustices in the real world killing of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.
More than that, Adeyemi calls us to action: "…let this book be proof to you that we can always do something to fight back."–KAREN DEBLIECK
“Prayers of Hope was created in 2002 during a difficult time, to encourage and give me hope as an artist. I am so thankful for the renewed hope that came. As a result I have had many rewarding years of creating, imagining – and even owning my own decorative wall-finishing business, Trompe L’oeil Studios Inc. Thank you, Lord.”
"Prayers of Hope" (36" by 48" acrylic with bronze and copper on canvas) by Annemarie Johnson. www.AnnemarieJohnson.ca