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The renowned and beloved New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark recounts her moving discoveries of finding the sacred in unexpected places while teaching the world’s religions to undergraduates in rural Georgia, revealing how God delights in confounding our expectations. Barbara Brown Taylor continues her spiritual journe The renowned and beloved New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark recounts her moving discoveries of finding the sacred in unexpected places while teaching the world’s religions to undergraduates in rural Georgia, revealing how God delights in confounding our expectations. Barbara Brown Taylor continues her spiritual journey begun in Leaving Church of finding out what the world looks like after taking off her clergy collar. In Holy Envy, she contemplates the myriad ways other people and traditions encounter the Transcendent, both by digging deeper into those traditions herself and by seeing them through her students’ eyes as she sets off with them on field trips to monasteries, temples, and mosques.  Troubled and inspired by what she learns, Taylor returns to her own tradition for guidance, finding new meaning in old teachings that have too often been used to exclude religious strangers instead of embracing the divine challenges they present. Re-imagining some central stories from the religion she knows best, she takes heart in how often God chooses outsiders to teach insiders how out-of-bounds God really is. Throughout Holy Envy, Taylor weaves together stories from the classroom with reflections on how her own spiritual journey has been complicated and renewed by connecting with people of other traditions—even those whose truths are quite different from hers.  The one constant in her odyssey is the sense that God is the one calling her to disown her version of God—a change that ultimately enriches her faith in other human beings and in God.  


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The renowned and beloved New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark recounts her moving discoveries of finding the sacred in unexpected places while teaching the world’s religions to undergraduates in rural Georgia, revealing how God delights in confounding our expectations. Barbara Brown Taylor continues her spiritual journe The renowned and beloved New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark recounts her moving discoveries of finding the sacred in unexpected places while teaching the world’s religions to undergraduates in rural Georgia, revealing how God delights in confounding our expectations. Barbara Brown Taylor continues her spiritual journey begun in Leaving Church of finding out what the world looks like after taking off her clergy collar. In Holy Envy, she contemplates the myriad ways other people and traditions encounter the Transcendent, both by digging deeper into those traditions herself and by seeing them through her students’ eyes as she sets off with them on field trips to monasteries, temples, and mosques.  Troubled and inspired by what she learns, Taylor returns to her own tradition for guidance, finding new meaning in old teachings that have too often been used to exclude religious strangers instead of embracing the divine challenges they present. Re-imagining some central stories from the religion she knows best, she takes heart in how often God chooses outsiders to teach insiders how out-of-bounds God really is. Throughout Holy Envy, Taylor weaves together stories from the classroom with reflections on how her own spiritual journey has been complicated and renewed by connecting with people of other traditions—even those whose truths are quite different from hers.  The one constant in her odyssey is the sense that God is the one calling her to disown her version of God—a change that ultimately enriches her faith in other human beings and in God.  

30 review for Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn Beaty

    I’ll start by saying that the aims of this book are admirable, given Western Christians’ general ignorance of what people of other faith traditions believe and/or their unwillingness to learn. I absolutely think there’s so much good that other traditions illuminate and that Christians can honor without feeling threatened or that they have to give up their own beliefs and practices. I am very much on board with the premise of this book! Having said this, it struck me that HOLY ENVY provided a sur I’ll start by saying that the aims of this book are admirable, given Western Christians’ general ignorance of what people of other faith traditions believe and/or their unwillingness to learn. I absolutely think there’s so much good that other traditions illuminate and that Christians can honor without feeling threatened or that they have to give up their own beliefs and practices. I am very much on board with the premise of this book! Having said this, it struck me that HOLY ENVY provided a surface treatment of the four non-Christian faiths it sets out to honor. Taylor spends little time explaining the beliefs of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. Instead, the book explores each through field trips taken by Taylor’s Religion 101 class. I love the idea of learning about religions through spending time with its adherents. But the overall effect seems to suggest that beliefs—core truth-claims about the nature of God, humanity, reality, the material vs. spiritual world—don’t really matter, as long as you are becoming a good, loving person adhering to them. The effect is that Taylor fails to seriously grapple with the *particularity* of other religions—which, in my view, is not honoring its adherents. The notion that all religions are several paths up one holy mountain does not honor the exclusive truth claims of many of the world’s religions, including those observed here. It doesn't make sense, for example, to claim that Hinduism and Islam are two streams leading to the same ocean; so fundamentally different are each’s teachings, they are more like separate oceans unto themselves. Ironically, by finding much to honor in other religions, Taylor in my view doesn’t really *see* other religions for what they are. The result is a kind of diminishment of the uniqueness of other religions in favor of more generalized practices of love and kindness that happen to accord well with a white educated Western worldview. Finally—and this highlights why I’ve never been a huge BBT fan, although I know and respect plenty of people who are—throughout this book, references are made to a *type* of Christian over and against which Taylor defines her own spirituality. Those Christians are too dogmatic; they haven’t done enough higher criticism so they are thus ignorantly literalist when reading the Bible; they’re just a bit too obsessed with Jesus and the cross. They are too fearful. Taylor recounts several anecdotes in this book of Christians who serve as a foil to a more enlightened Christianity, one the author claims as her own. I kind of want to say: Do your thing, Barbara! No one at this point in your career is going to confuse you for these other Christians. Why the need to define your faith as over and against? To be fair, toward the end of the book Taylor grapples with her own impatience with other Christians; I guess for someone of Taylor’s clout and eloquence, I’d expect a bit more love and tolerance—the very qualities she admires in other religions.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Austin

    Barbara Brown Taylor is perhaps the best thinker and writer that I ever blew the chance to hear live. Several years ago, I attended a conference at which she and Miroslov Volf were the featured speakers. Volf was the opening plenary speaker, and Taylor was the closing plenary speaker. I was not familiar with Taylor at the time, and I had a fairly small menu of flights to choose from when I booked the flight. So I chose an evening flight back home that required me to miss the closing session. To Barbara Brown Taylor is perhaps the best thinker and writer that I ever blew the chance to hear live. Several years ago, I attended a conference at which she and Miroslov Volf were the featured speakers. Volf was the opening plenary speaker, and Taylor was the closing plenary speaker. I was not familiar with Taylor at the time, and I had a fairly small menu of flights to choose from when I booked the flight. So I chose an evening flight back home that required me to miss the closing session. To make up for it, I bought An Altar in the World and read it in the flight. By the time I landed, I realized what a mistake I had made. Since then, I have come to see Barbara Brown Taylor as an indispensable Christian writer. She combines depth and clarity, which are two traits that are rarely found together in any kind of writing. Other Christian writers I admire are deep without being clear (Miroslov Volf, for example) and clear without being particularly deep (Rachel Held Evans fills this category for me). Taylor is both. She has enough theological sophistication to write profound--and unread--treatises for fellow academics. But she writes like, well, a writer. And a really good one. Even though I knew this about her--her book Learning to Walk in the Dark was one of the best things that I read last year--I was fully prepared not to like Holy Envy. I don’t much like the term to begin with. Almost every time I have heard it used, it describes a sort of religious tourism that either 1) overly romanticizes distant religious practices (“look at all those noble savages worshipping God in their state of nature”) or just assumes that everything that another culture does is inherently superior to our own (“why can’t my Church look like the Sistine Chapel and have music by Bach?”) . Both of these attitudes drive me nuts. Not only does Taylor not adopt these attitudes. She tackles them head on and talks about the ethics of learning from other people’s religions. We cannot simply appropriate other people’s beliefs into our own--lifting them from their original context and adding them to our spiritual practice to show how open-minded we are. I mean, we can, but it is not a very ethical way to treat others. Holy Envy is not the same thing as spiritual imperialism. Taylor calls this "spiritual shoplifting," and it is not a good thing. Brown works out a much more nuanced approach. She grounds herself firmly in the Christian tradition, while, at the same time, acknowledging that this tradition is not uniquely or exclusively representative of God’s will. This is a very tricky position to occupy, since it involves reading against a fair bit of that tradition itself and very carefully interpreting its sacred texts. But she pulls it off and says something like (and I am paraphrasing here), “I am a Christian, and this is the context in which I experience God. It is a beautiful tradition, and I believe that it can lead me to God. But it is a tradition that works for people who have a specific set of experiences--and there are equally valid traditions that can lead people in different who experience the world differently to the same God, who is too big to be captured in any particular aspect.” Learning from other traditions, then, requires empathy, understanding, respect, and a lot of effort. It requires us to learn what other people believe, why they believe these things, and what aspect of God they address. When we do this, we can see some of the gaps in our understanding that grow out gaps in our experiences. A religion is basically a set of narratives that help us make sense of our relationship to things that are outside of ourselves--including divinity, nature, history, the universe, and other people. These are such big things that no set of narratives can say everything (or even most things) about them. So there is value in understanding the ways that other people, and other cultures, try to grapple with the “big questions.” They are big questions precisely because they support many answers. Perhaps the best metaphor for how Taylor sees religion is language. We all learn a language, and most of us are more comfortable using our own language than one we learned from others. However, learning another language can help us see things differently and understand concepts that we could never quite make clear in our own language. And usually, understanding another language teaches us things about our own language. (I never really understood how the subjunctive worked in English until I tried to learn how it works in Spanish). As Taylor puts it, “As natural as it may be to try to translate everything into my own religious language, I miss a lot when I persist in reducing everything to my own frame of reference” (34). Learning from the faith of others is very similar to learning from the language of others. And neither one can really be done without going to new places and meeting new people. The main body of the book is highly reflective memoir of Taylor’s experiences teaching a Survey of World Religion course to students at Piedmont College. A typical semester involved teaching five major world religions: Hinduism Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. She documents her experiences with mainly Christian students encountering these religions for the first time. She addresses some of the aspects of these religions that have helped her supplement blind spots in her own point of view: the Muslim relationship to prayer, for example, or the Hindu embrace of multiple spiritual paths. But she presents this as real work, not a tourist's vacation. We have to understand, not just the religions, but the people who practice them. She also flips the lens at the end of the book and shows the things about Christianity that can teach things to people of other faiths. Because this really isn’t a book about learning from other religions at all. It is a book about learning from other people who have religions. It is part of having humility and learning to love other people and to see them as fully human moral agents whose interactions with the divine are as valid and important as our own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charity

    If you want to have some aspects of Christian elitism challenged, read this book. If you want to face up to the fact that we are not always right, read this book. If you want to find more understanding for other religions, read this book. If you want examples from Barbara's Religion 101 class, read this book. If you want to take an interest in other religions, read this book. But I expected to learn more than I did. If you want to have some aspects of Christian elitism challenged, read this book. If you want to face up to the fact that we are not always right, read this book. If you want to find more understanding for other religions, read this book. If you want examples from Barbara's Religion 101 class, read this book. If you want to take an interest in other religions, read this book. But I expected to learn more than I did.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melora

    I haven't been "wow-ed" by all Barbara Brown Taylor's books -- some of them have seemed a bit fluffy -- but this is a good one. While I don't agree with everything she says, I do agree with her mostly, and she makes me think about why I believe as I do, which is always a good thing. I haven't been "wow-ed" by all Barbara Brown Taylor's books -- some of them have seemed a bit fluffy -- but this is a good one. While I don't agree with everything she says, I do agree with her mostly, and she makes me think about why I believe as I do, which is always a good thing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) After she left the pastorate, Taylor taught Religion 101 at Piedmont College, a small Georgia institution, for 20 years. This book arose from what she learned about other religions – and about her own, Christianity – by engaging with faith in an academic setting and taking her students on field trips to mosques, temples, and so on. The title phrase comes from a biblical scholar named Krister Stendahl who served as the Lutheran bishop of Stockholm. At a press conference prior to the dedicat (3.5) After she left the pastorate, Taylor taught Religion 101 at Piedmont College, a small Georgia institution, for 20 years. This book arose from what she learned about other religions – and about her own, Christianity – by engaging with faith in an academic setting and taking her students on field trips to mosques, temples, and so on. The title phrase comes from a biblical scholar named Krister Stendahl who served as the Lutheran bishop of Stockholm. At a press conference prior to the dedication of a controversial Mormon temple, he gave a few rules for interfaith dialogue: “1. When trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies. 2. Don’t compare your best to their worst. 3. Leave room for holy envy.” Taylor emphasizes that appreciating other religions is not about flattening their uniqueness or looking for some lowest common denominator. Neither is it about picking out the aspects that affirm your own tradition and ignoring the rest. Of course, the divisions within Christianity are just as noticeable as the barriers between faiths. This book counsels becoming comfortable with not being right, or even knowing who is right. A lot of Evangelicals will squirm at this relativist perspective, but this book is just what they need. Releases March 12th. Some favorite lines: “To walk the way of sacred unknowing is to remember that our best ways of thinking and speaking about God are provisional.” “Once you have given up on knowing who is right, it is easy to see neighbors everywhere you look. … when my religion gets in the way of loving my neighbor, I will choose my neighbor.” “I asked God for religious certainty, and God gave me relationships instead. I asked for solid ground, and God gave me human beings instead—strange, funny, compelling, complicated human beings—who keep puncturing my stereotypes, challenging my ideas, and upsetting my ideas about God, so that they are always under construction.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    “Holy envy” is what author and Episcopal priest Barbara Taylor Brown calls the appreciation of the best of religions other than one’s own. While so many fear that learning about other major religions might shake one’s religious commitment, Taylor Brown found that it made her realize the commonalities among the world’s great faiths and caused her to appreciate all adherents. A wonderful read. Special thanks to Lucy Waterbury for introducing me to a fabulous Sunday School and this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I really love this book. Here are some of my favorite quotes: “Ask anyone what she means when she says 'God' and chances are that you will learn a lot more about that person than you will learn about God.” "Love God in the person standing right in front of you, the Jesus of my understanding says, or forget the whole thing, because if you cannot do that, then you are just going to keep making shit up." “Religions are treasure chests of stories, songs, rituals, and ways of life that have been handed I really love this book. Here are some of my favorite quotes: “Ask anyone what she means when she says 'God' and chances are that you will learn a lot more about that person than you will learn about God.” "Love God in the person standing right in front of you, the Jesus of my understanding says, or forget the whole thing, because if you cannot do that, then you are just going to keep making shit up." “Religions are treasure chests of stories, songs, rituals, and ways of life that have been handed down for millennia - not covered in dust but evolving all the way- so that each new generation has something to choose from when it is time to ask the big questions in life. Where did we come from? Why do bad things happen to good people? Who is my neighbor? Where do we go from here? No one should have to start from scratch with questions like these. Overhearing the answers of the world's great religions can help anyone improve his or her own answers. Without a religion, these questions often do not get asked.” "Existential dizziness is one of the side effects of higher education, and it affects teachers too.” "The only clear line I draw these days is this: when my religion tries to come between me and my neighbor, I will choose my neighbor. That self-canceling feature of my religion is one of the things I like best about it. Jesus never commanded me to love my religion.” “I asked God for religious certainty, and God gave me relationships instead. I asked for solid ground, and God gave me human beings instead—strange, funny, compelling, complicated human beings—who keep puncturing my stereotypes, challenging my ideas, and upsetting my ideas about God, so that they are always under construction.” “The problem with every sacred text is that it has human readers. Consciously or unconsciously, we interpret it to meet our own needs. There is nothing wrong with this unless we deny that we are doing it, as when someone tells me that he is not 'interpreting' anything but simply reporting what is right there on the page. This is worrisome, not only because he is reading a translation from the original Hebrew or Greek that has already involved a great deal of interpretation, but also because it is such a short distance between believing you possess an error-free message from God and believing that you are an error-free messenger of God. The literalists I like least are the ones who do not own a Bible. The literalists I like most are the ones who admit that they do not understand every word God has revealed in the Bible, though they still believe God has revealed it. I can respect that. I can respect almost anyone who admits to being human while reading a divine text. After that, we can talk - about we highlight some teachings and ignore others, about how we decide which ones are historically conditioned and which ones are universally true, about who has influenced our reading of scripture and how our social location affects what we hear. The minute I believe I know the mind of God is the minute someone needs to tell me to sit down and tell me to breathe into a paper bag.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    I found this book to be incredibly enlightening. I don't agree with everything the author writes, but I find her goal honorable because for the most part her entire narrative is based around this precept: "to find the bridge between my faith and the faith of other people so that those of us who draw water from wells on different sides of the river can still get together from time to time making the whole area safer for our children." (part 1 of 8, 47 minutes) As a teacher and librarian in a midd I found this book to be incredibly enlightening. I don't agree with everything the author writes, but I find her goal honorable because for the most part her entire narrative is based around this precept: "to find the bridge between my faith and the faith of other people so that those of us who draw water from wells on different sides of the river can still get together from time to time making the whole area safer for our children." (part 1 of 8, 47 minutes) As a teacher and librarian in a middle school that includes students from 47 different countries, I value this global perspective as I look on these children through the filter of their culture, trying to bridge any gap they may have that would impede their education. Any help I can get to see better into their world is welcome. My favorite quote comes near the end: "The unity of the Creator is expressed in the diversity of the creation." (part 7 of 8, 32 minutes). What a beautiful philosophy and one to which I personally prescribe: UNITY!! And the beauty of diversity. To anyone who wants to grow spiritually, I heartily recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    2.5 stars Read for my book club. I found this book to be interesting, but from an academic viewpoint and from the view of a Christian who isn't afraid to analyze and look at things in a different way. I think that Taylor does go a bit far to categorize Christians as being one certain way, when I know for a fact there is a huge spectrum and I don't even consider myself the same as how she was describing Christians. I just found myself hoping throughout this book that she would bring humanity into 2.5 stars Read for my book club. I found this book to be interesting, but from an academic viewpoint and from the view of a Christian who isn't afraid to analyze and look at things in a different way. I think that Taylor does go a bit far to categorize Christians as being one certain way, when I know for a fact there is a huge spectrum and I don't even consider myself the same as how she was describing Christians. I just found myself hoping throughout this book that she would bring humanity into it all and she really doesn't delve into the HEART of different religions, just the practice. And that is a huge missing portion. Glad I read it though, as I've been on a bit of an examination journey.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elyssa Gooding

    An open message This book is well written and expansive. I find the message to bring more questions than answers and that is a good thing. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in living peacefully in an interfaith world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julianna

    Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 star" Holy Envy was our latest book club pick. It’s part memoir as Barbara Brown Taylor details, to some extent, her time as a professor of world religions at Piedmont College. But really, as the sub-title says, it’s more of a discussion about how we can find God in the faith of others. The author has an interesting background, having grown up in a secular environment and not regularly attending church until she was a teen. Yet she ended up becoming an Episcopal prie Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 star" Holy Envy was our latest book club pick. It’s part memoir as Barbara Brown Taylor details, to some extent, her time as a professor of world religions at Piedmont College. But really, as the sub-title says, it’s more of a discussion about how we can find God in the faith of others. The author has an interesting background, having grown up in a secular environment and not regularly attending church until she was a teen. Yet she ended up becoming an Episcopal priest. That later dovetailed into her becoming a professor of world religions which took her on yet another spiritual journey. During this time, she found much to appreciate in other religions, but still kept coming back to Christianity as her foundation. But along the way, she also discovered a healthy case of holy envy. What is holy envy, you may ask? Well, it’s all about finding those things in the religions of others to which you can relate to and appreciate, things that perhaps you wish your own faith did better, and then allowing those things to help transform your own beliefs. If you think this sounds like cultural appropriation, it really isn’t. It’s more about finding common ground with those of other faiths and allowing it to deepen your own. I think that many of us are pretty ignorant of other faiths besides our own (if we adhere to one at all), and so by learning about what others believe, we can be more accepting of them. Since Rev. Taylor taught at a church-affiliated college in a predominantly Christian area of the country, many of her students identified as Christian. Some of them were bothered by her teaching methods, which included field trips to other religions’ houses of worship. But there were other students who drank it in as not only an educational, but a spiritual experience as well. In fact, through her teaching experiences, Rev. Taylor herself learned much and grew spiritually. Rev. Taylor gives some background on each of the five major world religions she taught: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I learned a number things myself merely by reading this book, not just about other faiths, but also my own. I have to admit that there were some things that surprised me and maybe even made me a tad uncomfortable. Rev. Taylor said that happened to her as well, but over time, she’s worked through those issues. I think that’s where I am, as well, working through it all and figuring out exactly what I believe. But I love learning about all the ways in which the beliefs of other religions intersect with my own. I also enjoyed seeing certain Biblical passages interpreted in a different way from what I’m used to, offering fresh, new, valuable insights. As Rev. Taylor demonstrates through one of her metaphors, the reality is that, whatever our chosen faith, we’re riding just one wave in a much bigger ocean, and even within our chosen faith, there are so many divergent beliefs that it is pretty much impossible for one sect, denomination, or even an entire faith to have all the answers and be the only game in town. So for that reason, I highly recommend Holy Envy to anyone who is open to learning about other faiths or who might be searching for a way to peacefully co-exist in our religiously pluralistic society.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna Craig

    Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest, a World Religions professor, and an accomplished author. This is the first book of hers that I have read. I read and discussed it with my husband. Holy Envy, as Dr Taylor explains, is seeing the practices of other religions and wishing you had them in your own. Roughly. She shares her journey as a professor, and how it led to the opening of her mind and heart to the practices of other faiths. She describes many odd little moments when she would see Go Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest, a World Religions professor, and an accomplished author. This is the first book of hers that I have read. I read and discussed it with my husband. Holy Envy, as Dr Taylor explains, is seeing the practices of other religions and wishing you had them in your own. Roughly. She shares her journey as a professor, and how it led to the opening of her mind and heart to the practices of other faiths. She describes many odd little moments when she would see God, or Jesus, in the practices of their faiths. I loved her descriptions of those moments. And her prescription for being a neighbor. This book is sometimes profound and sometimes angering, but it is never boring. I get the feeling she doesn’t mind if I disagree. And I loved the ending.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    I got this as a delightful gift from a church member, who went to the trouble of getting it actually signed by Barbara Brown Taylor...and as a bookmark, provided a picture of Barbara Brown Taylor signing the actual book I was reading. Which was 1) just so danged nice, and 2) perhaps peak Barbara Brown Taylor. One can't go wrong with her writing, which is gracious and inviting and as warm as a hearth in winter. It's a thought provoking meditation on faith and the interplay between faiths, told fro I got this as a delightful gift from a church member, who went to the trouble of getting it actually signed by Barbara Brown Taylor...and as a bookmark, provided a picture of Barbara Brown Taylor signing the actual book I was reading. Which was 1) just so danged nice, and 2) perhaps peak Barbara Brown Taylor. One can't go wrong with her writing, which is gracious and inviting and as warm as a hearth in winter. It's a thought provoking meditation on faith and the interplay between faiths, told from the perspective of one who teaches and explores with an open soul. It's a funny thing, though...I don't really feel that holy envy. Not really much at all. I mean, I'm in an interfaith marriage, and as a Christian pastor raised Jewish kids. I have Muslim and Buddhist and atheist friends, and have been known to chat happily with Wiccans. But I'm not really envious. I feel no sense of lack, no desire to be other than I am, no particular discontent with just following Jesus and being fine with that. Perhaps it's that as I've grown more and deeply aware of the wild polycultural variety in Christian faith, it feels like there's enough richness and complexity in my own tradition to fill well more than my meager lifetime. I've got enough work to do on the Jesus front, eh? It's not that I don't see commonalities, and don't find value even in the difference. I'm just not feeling that what I have isn't enough. "Daiyenu," as they say at a pesach seder. "It's enough." Even though I don't really feel that same yearning, this was still a delightful book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dnicebear

    One of Ms Brown Taylor's students answered the question on the final exam like this: "When the imam told us...is my holy envy. He told us how he doesn't wish to convert us to Islam. He just wants us to be the best people we can be, regardless of religion. This was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, and it's my holy envy because I wish Christianity was this way." I love to look at each religion Ms Brown Taylor taught to students at Piedmont College in Georgia, and, because I also follow Ch One of Ms Brown Taylor's students answered the question on the final exam like this: "When the imam told us...is my holy envy. He told us how he doesn't wish to convert us to Islam. He just wants us to be the best people we can be, regardless of religion. This was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, and it's my holy envy because I wish Christianity was this way." I love to look at each religion Ms Brown Taylor taught to students at Piedmont College in Georgia, and, because I also follow Christ, I am especially enlivened by her looks at particular scriptures. The Tower of Babel, for example: "For reasons no one may ever understand G-d decided it would be helpful for people to be different instead of the same, if only because it would slow them down a little bit. G=d decided it would be good for them to have to stop on a regular basis and say, 'Could you say that a different way, please? I don't understand what you mean,' or 'Could you show me with you hands?' G-d decided it would be GOOD for them to stop taking their communication for granted and work a little harder at trying to understand each other." I feel like this book makes it even more possible to understand and value that there are many ways to say something important, beginning with HASHEM, BRAHMAN, SUNYATA, HOLY TRINITY, ALLAH.... I would add the many Indigenous ways too.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Jordan

    As an enthusiastic reader of all this author’s work, it isn’t even a little surprising that I love this one as much as I do. Brown Taylor’s spiritual journey is reminiscent of my own, and I found much to appreciate in the way she describes her devotion to and preference for the Christian faith in which she has flourished, while simultaneously expanding her knowledge of and appreciation for other religions and their means for attempting to define and worship a dine being. The broadening of her re As an enthusiastic reader of all this author’s work, it isn’t even a little surprising that I love this one as much as I do. Brown Taylor’s spiritual journey is reminiscent of my own, and I found much to appreciate in the way she describes her devotion to and preference for the Christian faith in which she has flourished, while simultaneously expanding her knowledge of and appreciation for other religions and their means for attempting to define and worship a dine being. The broadening of her religious mind that has come as a result of her interaction with people of radically different religious faiths (even other Christians) has allowed her to appreciate and envy the most meaningful and beautiful aspects of others’ devout faith. It’s a wonderful book that is encouraging to the evolving faith of the contemporary Christian who wants to be more “authentically human” in the experience of receiving and sharing the life-changing love of God. This is one of those titles that will stick with me as I attempt to exemplify the values of the generous Christian in a multicultural, multi-religious, and ever changing spiritual world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A thoughtful and reflective journey through teaching a class on world religions, Barbara Brown Taylor's book offers insight and wisdom into the process of exploring the world of faith with open eyes. Having benefitted as a student from a similar world religions class in college, hearing her reflections brought those experiences back to life and reminded me that holy exists all around and within us, and exploring the faiths of others can only deepen our understanding of our own. Wonderful book. A thoughtful and reflective journey through teaching a class on world religions, Barbara Brown Taylor's book offers insight and wisdom into the process of exploring the world of faith with open eyes. Having benefitted as a student from a similar world religions class in college, hearing her reflections brought those experiences back to life and reminded me that holy exists all around and within us, and exploring the faiths of others can only deepen our understanding of our own. Wonderful book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mmetevelis

    Rather than a stale recounting of the tenets of the major world religions Taylor has crafted instead a memoir of her time teaching world religions in Piedmont College, a small liberal arts institution in Georgia. The work narrates her interactions with the variety of students she meets reared in the Bible belt and her own spiritual searching in the midst of her instruction. She speaks at times with amusement, surprise, wonder, disappointment, frustration, and most of all honesty. Stories are tol Rather than a stale recounting of the tenets of the major world religions Taylor has crafted instead a memoir of her time teaching world religions in Piedmont College, a small liberal arts institution in Georgia. The work narrates her interactions with the variety of students she meets reared in the Bible belt and her own spiritual searching in the midst of her instruction. She speaks at times with amusement, surprise, wonder, disappointment, frustration, and most of all honesty. Stories are told of trips to synagogues, temples, and mosques and interesting interactions between her students and the faith leaders there. She relates the transformation in students that she witnesses and is always engaging when using them to reflect on her own spiritual views. The book, like her class, is mainly a narrative of encounter and reflection. The title of the book “Holy Envy” is taken from famous (Lutheran) New Testament scholar Krister Stendhal. When we look to other religions Stendhal argued we should not compare our best to their worst but actively look for the best in other religions and covet those aspects for ourselves. While the things Taylor envied in other religions are not the same things I would envy I really enjoyed the principle. In order to look at another’s religion with envy means that we see that religion enriching the life of our neighbor. Taylor’s use of this concept is rich and helpful against other responses usually given to the problem of other religions. Practicing “holy envy” means actively searching for things that are unique and distinct about every religion not insisting that every religion is really the same. It involves deep listening, paying attention, and heroic levels of intellectual and spiritual humility. Sometimes we hear things more clearly from the perspective of an outsider. Taylor takes things she hears from faith leaders and practitioners of other religions and uses them to hone her understanding of her own religion. Taylor is at her best in analyzing stories about Jesus and speaking about them in new ways given the wisdom of these encounters she has had with other faith traditions. Jesus, under these new eyes, holds himself before us as utter mystery and all our attempts to clasp onto him as Truth (capital intentional) show that we don’t have him at all. Taylor squares this with her own experience: “I asked God for religious certainty, and God gave me relationships instead. I asked for solid ground, and God gave me human beings instead. I asked for solid ground, and God gave me human beings instead – strange, funny, compelling, complicated human beings – who keep puncturing my stereotypes, challenging my ideas, and upsetting my ideas about God, so that they are always under construction. I may yet find the answer to all my questions in a church, a book, a theology, or a practice of prayer, but I hope not. I hope God is going to keep coming to me in authentically human beings who shake my foundations …” While your foundations may not be totally shaken by reading this book you will appreciate this honest work by a noted Christian author which ends in a confession and closes on a note of gratitude and wonder. You might walk away with more questions than answers but this is entirely the point. Jesus gives you freedom so that the faith of your neighbor is neither an error nor a threat. You are free to practice “Holy Envy” so that aspects of their faith become a gift to you as you give thanks for the many ways it imparts life to them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    "...(Holy Envy) is the story of a Christian minister who lost her way in the church and found a new home in the classroom, where the course she taught most often was not Introduction to the New Testament, Church History, or Christian Theology, but Religions of the World. As soon as she recovered from the shock of meeting God in so many new hats, she fell for every religion she taught. When she taught Judaism, she wanted to be a rabbi. When she taught Buddhism, she wanted to be a monk. It was onl "...(Holy Envy) is the story of a Christian minister who lost her way in the church and found a new home in the classroom, where the course she taught most often was not Introduction to the New Testament, Church History, or Christian Theology, but Religions of the World. As soon as she recovered from the shock of meeting God in so many new hats, she fell for every religion she taught. When she taught Judaism, she wanted to be a rabbi. When she taught Buddhism, she wanted to be a monk. It was only when she taught Christianity that the fire sputtered, because her religion looked so different once she saw it lined up with the others. She always promised her students that studying other faiths would not make them lose their own. Then she lost hers, or at least the one she started out with. This is the story of how that happened and what happened next." Biblical scholar Krister Stendahl shared three rules of religious understanding: "1. When trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies. 2. Don't compare your best to their worst. 3. Leave room for holy envy." "(British theologian John) Hick argues that it is past time for a Copernican revolution in theology, in which God assumes the prime place at the center and Christianity joins the orbit of the great religions circling around."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Izette

    I will be honest, I was hesitant to read this book. I think if you have grown up as a Christian you will have similar 'warning signs' going off that tells you....don't go there. Yet there was the overpowering urge to read it as I question my thinking. The thing is, my thinking has been challenged and changed over the last 5 years and what I know and grew up with is not congruent with I believe now. Holy Envy however brings a new perspective on the verses and passages I have learnt over the years. I will be honest, I was hesitant to read this book. I think if you have grown up as a Christian you will have similar 'warning signs' going off that tells you....don't go there. Yet there was the overpowering urge to read it as I question my thinking. The thing is, my thinking has been challenged and changed over the last 5 years and what I know and grew up with is not congruent with I believe now. Holy Envy however brings a new perspective on the verses and passages I have learnt over the years. It challenges me to review my lens and perspective and in doing that, upgrading it. Man! I love how this book is making me think about 'how I love others as I do myself'. I would encourage you to read this if you're questioning your beliefs. It has not changed my beliefs, it has in fact brought back my faith and given a new frame. Regarding my rating - I rate it based on the impact it's had on me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    I came to this with high expectations: have enjoyed other books by Taylor, enjoyed hearing her speak, and anticipating hearing stories about her teaching experiences at a small rural Georgia college. I was not disappointed. She writes well, she is thoughtful and inspires thought in others, and has meaningful stories to share. Book is about her experiences & frustrations teaching World Religions course & some of the things about other religions that inspired envy in her, that she wished she had I came to this with high expectations: have enjoyed other books by Taylor, enjoyed hearing her speak, and anticipating hearing stories about her teaching experiences at a small rural Georgia college. I was not disappointed. She writes well, she is thoughtful and inspires thought in others, and has meaningful stories to share. Book is about her experiences & frustrations teaching World Religions course & some of the things about other religions that inspired envy in her, that she wished she had in her own Christian faith. Very nice to hear about the hospitality shown to her & students as they made visits to Hindu & Buddhist temples, mosque, and synagogue in the Atlanta area. This book is not about saying one faith is better than others but does say that there are many paths to God. And sometimes, she says, one realizes how radical Jesus really was when looking from outside the Christian Church.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    I need to issue an apology, a public one. Sometimes I’ve thought of Barbara Brown Taylor as a lightweight, but this book shows otherwise. I have been wrong and I’ll never malign her name again, even if her books don’t delight. In this book, se gives words to my experiences of other religious traditions. She helped me hear myself in my own preaching. She helped me want to again engage in interfaith dialogue, and reminded me of this passion which has been for the last few years dormant in myself. I need to issue an apology, a public one. Sometimes I’ve thought of Barbara Brown Taylor as a lightweight, but this book shows otherwise. I have been wrong and I’ll never malign her name again, even if her books don’t delight. In this book, se gives words to my experiences of other religious traditions. She helped me hear myself in my own preaching. She helped me want to again engage in interfaith dialogue, and reminded me of this passion which has been for the last few years dormant in myself. I even sent the book to my best friend, a Jew. I loved it. What a delight filled read!

  22. 4 out of 5

    ashley seng

    I'm obsessed with Barbara Brown Taylor, so this is a bit biased, but this book was excellent. I loved thinking about how Christianity falls amongst other religions, and how we should be existing amongst one another. I listened to the audiobook and there were so many truth nuggets, I think it's something I'd want to go back and reread so I can grasp it all. Really helps answer some of my questions about world religions. I'm obsessed with Barbara Brown Taylor, so this is a bit biased, but this book was excellent. I loved thinking about how Christianity falls amongst other religions, and how we should be existing amongst one another. I listened to the audiobook and there were so many truth nuggets, I think it's something I'd want to go back and reread so I can grasp it all. Really helps answer some of my questions about world religions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Smith

    I was expecting something a little more academic on comparative religion. However, Holy Envy is one of the most important memoirs I have ever read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Over the years I have had the opportunity to experience from time to time the worship styles and expressions of faith of other religions. In each instance, I have left feeling much richer for the experience - and there have been times when I left feeling the impacts of these experiences quite deeply. I couldn't put words to it at the time ("holy envy" wasn't a phrase I had heard), but Barbara Brown Taylor does - magnificently - in this book. If I tried to pull a few quotes to represent the beaut Over the years I have had the opportunity to experience from time to time the worship styles and expressions of faith of other religions. In each instance, I have left feeling much richer for the experience - and there have been times when I left feeling the impacts of these experiences quite deeply. I couldn't put words to it at the time ("holy envy" wasn't a phrase I had heard), but Barbara Brown Taylor does - magnificently - in this book. If I tried to pull a few quotes to represent the beauty of this book, I would end up simply quoting the entire thing. If I tried to summarize it, I would cut out something important. So I will simply say this: read this book; reflect on this book; and discover how this book enriches you - both in a deeper appreciation of whatever faith or traditions you have and of the gifts we can receive from our neighbors.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Kramar

    I found this book fascinating. The questions the author has struggled with mirror many of the ones I struggle with. I am not sure I agree with all her conclusions, but she has certainly opened my eyes further to the perils of interpretation of holy scriptures. The emphasis of action over belief -- or belief that leads to action -- is of critical importance to me, and something I need to ponder in more depth. If you want a different perspective from which to view Christianity, and other world rel I found this book fascinating. The questions the author has struggled with mirror many of the ones I struggle with. I am not sure I agree with all her conclusions, but she has certainly opened my eyes further to the perils of interpretation of holy scriptures. The emphasis of action over belief -- or belief that leads to action -- is of critical importance to me, and something I need to ponder in more depth. If you want a different perspective from which to view Christianity, and other world religions, then I highly recommend this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I went into this book knowing I might not agree with some of the author's conclusions, but I was trying to keep an open mind as I was interested to learn about other religions. I really wished I had liked this book more. However, I felt that this book was more of a memoir of the author's spiritual journey as she learned about other world religions (shockingly learning at the same time she was teaching a class about them!) Describing herself as a Christian, I felt she was very hard on Christians I went into this book knowing I might not agree with some of the author's conclusions, but I was trying to keep an open mind as I was interested to learn about other religions. I really wished I had liked this book more. However, I felt that this book was more of a memoir of the author's spiritual journey as she learned about other world religions (shockingly learning at the same time she was teaching a class about them!) Describing herself as a Christian, I felt she was very hard on Christians (and did make some valid complaints about them), while being much more positive towards the other religions, which just didn't feel like a fair comparison. She also seemed surprised to learn about the differences between denominations within Christianity (which surprised me because she was a Christian and pastor for so many years). I found this to be very naive and it made me distrust her. I also did not agree with her Biblical interpretations and her seeming insistence that loving others and believing there are many paths to god are mutually exclusive. I do not feel that I need to agree with others on everything - or even really big things like who God is - to love, respect, and care for them.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    The title Holy Envy seriously caught my eye after I had first heard of [Krister Stendhal's three rules of religious understanding]. Someone else had taken the idea to heart and written a book about it. Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest who wrote the book after teaching a world religions course in the southern US. Engaging with the ideas of other religions changed her experience with her own, and this book is the result. Growing up as a Latter-Day Saint, I saw very little incentive to en The title Holy Envy seriously caught my eye after I had first heard of [Krister Stendhal's three rules of religious understanding]. Someone else had taken the idea to heart and written a book about it. Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest who wrote the book after teaching a world religions course in the southern US. Engaging with the ideas of other religions changed her experience with her own, and this book is the result. Growing up as a Latter-Day Saint, I saw very little incentive to engage with other religions. After all, we were the one "true and living" Church on the earth: why try to sift through "philosophies of men mingled with scripture"? God Himself seems to have a low opinion of other religious persuasions when he says to Joseph Smith in the First Vision that "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." The portrayal of the young Joseph being bullied by the protestant minister gave you the impression that other religions were even potentially hostile. I would like to think that started to change on my mission in Germany when I encountered others from different faiths up front. I attended an apostolic church with my companion when time, when my mission president asked us to find creative ways to find new investigators, as going door to door wasn't yielding much. I was curious, but it seemed so foreign to me, even though many of the elements were the same-- congregation members would approach the sacrament table instead of the familiar trays being passed around the room. Afterwards, I did talk to a few church-goers, but I was very self-conscious as my missionary nametag stuck out like a sore thumb. I automatically assumed it labelled me "the enemy." The members were gracious though. I asked one woman if they viewed baptism like a covenant with God, and she seemed intrigued by the idea. However, most experiences with other faiths on my mission were more of the Bible-bashing variety. It wasn't until I got home from my mission that I began to seriously engage with other faiths more. The thing that did it for me were the works of G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis. I had first read Lewis's Screwtape Letters in high school, and it spoke to me more than any religious text from my own tradition did on any given day. Lewis asked hard questions of his faith, it was a part of his whole being, he didn't feel the need to tread lightly. This is what I wanted in my own faith. This, I would say, was my first experience with holy envy. Taylor writes of similar experiences in her class when teaching about other religions. I like her list of four ways that learning about other faiths changes you: They get to think much more deeply about where their beliefs come from and how well they fit together. They get to figure out how to explain their beliefs to people who are not already committed to them. They get to discover points of contact with neighbors of other faiths along with points of irreconcilable differences. They get to engage those who are different without feeling compelled to defeat or destroy them. That last one is powerful, and it has completely changed how I interact with others. I no longer feel a sense of confrontation when talking about religion with other people. But she also talks about the hard things too. This change in view doesn't come easily. Without judgment but complete understanding, she talks about how some students couldn't let their guard down: If you really are Christian, then are you going to help us see what is wrong with these other religions? From what you have said so far it doesn't sound like it, and if that's the case, then I don't think I can stay in this class. and They are so lost, and they don't even know it!...It is just so sad to me seeing people worshipping statues when they could be worshipping Jesus instead. It just breaks my heart. I for one think my own religious tradition has room for engaging other faiths, and that our inward-ness is a later development. Joseph Smith taught in the 13th Article of Faith that "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." I interpret this as giving me free reign to seek truth where I find it. Joseph Smith was constantly reading and working with material outside of his tradition; we like to think it all came directly downloaded from heaven, but that's not the case. While he was working on his translation of the Bible, he was getting inspiration from commentaries on the Bible by Protestant ministers. And if the 13th Article of Faith wasn't clear enough, he states: Have the Presbytarians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc, any truth? Yes. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons. I an ideal world, that would be all well and dandy. But some don't feel that such an approach to faith is a weak faith, or worse, a wolf in sheep's clothing, just like those examples above of Christians being taken way out of their comfort zone. I like that Taylor acknowledges these challenges. Near the end, she quotes Richard Rohr on what it is like to live at "the edge of the inside" of the faith, but the goods and the bads: When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious and advantageous position. You are free of its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. But on the other hand, David Brooks explains some downsides: You never lose yourself in a full commitment. You may be respected and befriended, but you are not loved as completely as the people at the core, the band of brothers. You enjoy neither the purity of the outsider nor that of the true believer. This book is so good, because it leaves things unresolved. These tensions are still there and have to be worked through, and to me this is where faith is.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Coming from an ultra-conservative, Protestant, Christian upbringing, BBT has expanded what I’ve read by Fr. Richard Rohr, Carl McColman, and Christine Valters Paintner, and offers hope that the Christianity I grew up with can look and feel something other than angry and punitive. I have found so much freedom in coming to my spiritual roots from a perennial wisdom standpoint, and the more I read from this tradition the more it saves Christianity for me and helps me find peace with this particular Coming from an ultra-conservative, Protestant, Christian upbringing, BBT has expanded what I’ve read by Fr. Richard Rohr, Carl McColman, and Christine Valters Paintner, and offers hope that the Christianity I grew up with can look and feel something other than angry and punitive. I have found so much freedom in coming to my spiritual roots from a perennial wisdom standpoint, and the more I read from this tradition the more it saves Christianity for me and helps me find peace with this particular branch out of the whole tree. Taylor has done her part with offering a refreshing take on old stories that shaped my early religious view, but now I am more equipped and ready to hear her perspective. She’s rubbed off the mold from the windows and allowed fresh air into a dark space of my belief. Thank you, Barbara Brown Taylor, for showing us your ideas, sharing your struggles, and opening up another way to experience Christianity that is loving, compassionate, and interested in learning from other faith traditions, so we can be united in our diversity.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Juliann

    I had read reviews that made me wonder if this book was going to be a good read but I loved it and am grateful to have a name for that holy envy I have experienced. This book doesn’t make me lose my faith, it give me a new frame.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    A truly remarkable and necessary book. I'm adding this one to my "everyone should read it" shelf (along with Being Mortal). Taylor's approach to finding God and appreciating ALL the faiths is such an important message, especially right now. A truly remarkable and necessary book. I'm adding this one to my "everyone should read it" shelf (along with Being Mortal). Taylor's approach to finding God and appreciating ALL the faiths is such an important message, especially right now.

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