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Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others

As an Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor (Leaving Church) spent years delving into the nuances of Western Protestantism. But after parting from parish ministry, she found herself ever more curious about--even envious of--certain elements of other faiths. She began teaching Religion 101 to undergraduates at Piedmont College in rural Georgia, which gave her the chance to explore along with her students. It was permission to learn the basic tenets of five major world religions, as well as to walk forward into the wonder and joy that might await them in a temple, a synagogue or a mosque. In Holy Envy, her 14th nonfiction book, Taylor chronicles two decades of exploration and struggle, as she took her students on field trips to new places and unfamiliar spiritual terrain.

In a time when religious differences are often the subject of polarizing arguments, Taylor offers another way: a gentle, holy curiosity laced with compassion and wonder. She urges her readers to ask questions, to stay open to encountering the divine in whatever form it may appear. Most of all, she encourages keeping a loose grip on certainty: "Once you have given up knowing who is right, it is easy to see neighbors everywhere you look." If this is heresy, it is the most joyful and thoughtful kind: a call to see all people, of all faiths or none, as fully human, and to accept that the divine may show up in ways we least expect. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams