Making time to read feels like a luxury; after a long day of work and parenting, mindlessly scrolling is often more appealing. I’ll also admit that I’m not usually a nonfiction reader unless it’s a journalistic book. Still, I make an exception for progressive Christian works. My faith journey has been influenced by books that changed how I view God and the Bible. I read some of these in college when I was still attending an evangelical church; others are recent finds. I’m sharing the book descriptions here so you can learn more about them. I hope you find them as illuminating as I have.
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Written with poetic rhythm, a prophetic voice, and a deeply biblical foundation, this loving yet fearless book urges today’s church to move beyond man-made restrictions and fully welcome women’s diverse voices and experiences.
The description of this book couldn’t be more accurate. So much of traditional Christianity makes feminism a dirty word. I have often felt insecure about being loud and opinionated within the church. I’ve been a lot of things over the years, but meek isn’t one of them. This book gave me the confidence to be unapologetic about my boldness.
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals–church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.
I get emotional talking about how much Rachel Held Evans’s work has changed me. For those unaware, she died unexpectedly at 37 three years ago, and I am profoundly aware of how much the world could use her voice. Her writing style is captivating and honest, and this was one of the first books I read outside of my typical Christian bubble.
Beyond Shame by Matthias Roberts
Whether we grew up in the repressive purity culture of American Evangelical Christianity or not, we’ve all been taught in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that sex (outside of very specific contexts) is immoral and taboo. Psychotherapist Matthias Roberts helps readers overcome their shame around sex by overcoming three unhealthy coping mechanisms we use to manage that shame.
I’ve written before about the effect purity culture has had on me. I had a lot of guilt surrounding sex even after getting married. I know I’m unfortunately not alone in this. This book is an evidence-based look at how to overcome the stigma we attach to sex.
This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley
In her stunning debut, the creator of Black Liturgies weaves stories from three generations of her family alongside contemplative reflections to discover the “necessary rituals” that connect us with our belonging, dignity, and liberation.
I cannot say enough good things about Cole and her Black Liturgies project. I found her account during the summer of 2020 when I was grappling with Christianity and white supremacy; it was a breath of fresh air. She has a unique way of changing my perception of God and spirituality, and this book is so good.
A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations curated by Sarah Bessey
For the weary, the angry, the anxious, and the hopeful, this collection of moving, tender prayers offers rest, joyful resistance, and a call to act, written by Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and other artists and thinkers, curated by the author Glennon Doyle calls “my favorite faith writer.”
This book. Man. I have no words for how it completely changed my view of prayer. I found it when I was feeling burnt out on Christianity. Reading words from people who felt exactly like me — people who weren’t afraid to curse or get mad at God — was so meaningful for me.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the ones that stick out to me. Feel free to share your favorites below!