The Best Feminist And Interfaith Books For The Spiritual Seeker

Photo by Thought Catalog


A few folks have asked for recommendations of good progressive spirituality books. Naturally, I'm delighted to share. (Could talk about this stuff all day long.)

In no particular order, here are my favorites of 2019.

(This list is not exhaustive. I know I've missed many.)

Please add your favorites in the comments.




Christian-Ish
(AKA Interfaith or Perennial Philosophy)

Fr. Richard Rohr: Richard Rohr deserves a category of his own. This Franciscan friar singlehandedly gives me hope that Christianity hasn't gone completely down the tubes. There is something perennial, inclusive, holistic, and contemplative in mystical Christianity (aka not Mike Pence's version) to be retained. Read Rohr's new book, The Universal Christ (and all his others, too). Sign up for his daily meditations. You'll receive a smart, thoughtful email every day, inspired by diverse theologians from throughout history. It's one of the best ways to take a few minutes every day to nurture your spiritual learning. Listen to his excellent podcast, "Another Name For Every Thing," too.

Pete Holmes: Comedian Pete Holmes's new book is called Comedy, Sex, God. He's a wonderfully brilliant and thoughtful and self-effacing guy. His podcast "You Made It Weird" features interviews with comedians and many progressive spiritual thinkers (think Stephen Colbert, the aforementioned Richard Rohr, Nadia Bolz-Weber, etc). Super pleasantly surprised by the quality of his interviews.

Unitarian Universalism: Anything Unitarian gives me hope. Check out John Buehner and Rebecca Parker's A House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-First Century. You can also just dig around on the UU website for tons of great faith content, including their excellent Tapestry of Faith curricula materials.

Matthew Fox: Original Blessing. Former Catholic priest Matthew Fox's work is all progressive and excellent. Check out The Coming of The Cosmic Christ for an interfaith-friendly worldview. I love both Fox and Danielle Schroyer (below) for offering a powerful counter-narrative to the notion of Original Sin.

Danielle Schroyer: Original Blessing: Putting Sin In Its Rightful Place. She is also on Twitter. Life-changing stuff.




Recovering Christian
(AKA Exvangelical)

Cindy Wang-Brandt: Check out Cindy's book and podcast by the same name, Parenting Forward: How To Raise Children With Justice, Mercy, and Kindness. She is the curator of the FB group Raising Children Unfundamentalist, which is an amaaaazing resource if you have kids. (You can just search for it and request to join.) I am in love with this group; have had some wonderful conversations and made incredible connections there. If you're not content with sending your kid to racist VBS programs or teaching them they're responsible for that guy over there dying on the cross because they didn't eat their vegetables, go here. You'll find your people.

Lyz Lenz: Lenz's new book God Land just came out and I cannot wait to read it. I've read a few blurbs and nodded my head off the whole time. If you, too, grew up in the thick of Midwestern Christianity/Trump Country, you will appreciate it. Lenz writes from Iowa about how her marriage broke up in 2016 after her husband voted for Trump, her church kept her silent because she was a woman, etc. Lots of good media coverage of this one right now.

Linda Kay Klein: Klein's recent book Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free on purity culture (surviving it, and recovering from its body-negating messages) is a must-read, especially for women who came of age in the late 90s and early 2000s.




Progressive Christianity 
(Feminist, Liberation, Mujerista, Womanist, Ecofeminist)

Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether: Rosemary was my beloved grad school mentor. She is one of the godmothers of Catholic (and interfaith) feminist theology. Everything she's written should be your go-to. Don't miss her seminal work, Sexism and God-Talk, in addition to Gaia & God for a more ecofeminist perspective.

Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney: Rev. Dr. Gafney is a well-known divinity-school professor in Texas and an expert on the Hebrew Bible. Don't miss her Womanist Midrash and her regular takes on current-day events (via Twitter). I learn so much from her.

Rachel Held-Evans, Sarah Bessey, and Jen Hatmaker: These three authors are several of the most popular mainstream feminist Christian writers. They're a good choice if you're still committed to keeping Jesus and the notion of the Resurrection at the center of your theology. Rachel Held-Evans died tragically last May, but her books Searching For Sunday, Inspired, and more live on. All three are great choices to read if you are wrestling with whether to stay or go from your current (or more conservative) church.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber: Public theologian and ELCA Lutheran pastor. Former addict and bearer of fabulous tattoos. Love everything Nadia does. Check out Pastrix, Accidental Saints, and Shameless (especially the latter for writing on sex, the church, and a progressive 21st-century sexual ethic).

Church Clarity: They don't have a book out, but they do have fantastic social media work happening every day. Check out their website. Look for your church on their site. These folks offer an important service. Now you can check if a potential church is women and LGBTQ+ affirming or not. (So many are vague on purpose.) Follow them on IG and Twitter for more.

Austin Channing BrownI'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness came out last yearPowerful work on racial justice. Don't miss it!

Ivone GebaraLonging for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation

Meggan WatterstonMary Magdalene Revealed: The First Apostle, Her Feminist Gospel & the Christianity We Haven't Tried Yet

Dr. Marcella Althaus-Reid: Indecent Theology features both queer and Mujerista theological perspectives.

Dr. Ada-Maria Isasi Diaz: Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century. Another essential text.

Dr. James Cone: A renowned black liberation theologian who passed away last year. A Black Theology of Liberation. Read everything he's written! Or just start here and then go down the rabbit hole.

Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon: An equally-renowned founder of black Womanist theology who also passed away last year. Check out her writing in Black Womanist Ethics and more.

Sojourners Magazine: Nice social justice orientation in this regular magazine. Check it out for thought-provoking content. Progressive Christian.

Rev. Dr. William Barber: Leader of the Poor People's Campaign. Brilliant pastor and civil rights activist.

John Pavlovitz: Christian pastor who was fired for being too outspoken on inclusivity and critical of Donald Trump. Follow him on social, read his regular columns, check out his book.

Rev. John Shelby Spong: One of the first progressive Christian voices I ever heard or read, some twenty years ago. Check out his vast library of work. A prophetic voice.

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones: President of Union Theological Seminary. Feminist Theory and Christian Theology and Call It Grace: Finding Meaning In A Fractured World

Carol J. Adams: Adams is the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. She has written tons of profound work on the connections between eating meat and objectifying women, children, POC, and the planet. Don't miss this ecofeminist trailblazer.

You probably already follow Glennon Doyle, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brene Brown. They're using their platforms to introduce some long-held feminist theology (and Buddhist-inspired) talking points to mass numbers of readers. I'm glad to see these ideas gaining mainstream exposure. Keep following them.





Indigenous Spirituality Meets Christianity

Kaitlin Curtice: This thought-provoking Potawatami author was raised Christian and now works to make sense of how progressive Christianity fits with indigenous faith traditions. Check out Glory Happening, her regular columns for Sojourners, and her excellent Twitter feed.






Queer Theology

Queerology: This podcast curated by Matthias Roberts features interviews with so many fantastic queer theologians. Also check out Kevin Garcia's Tiny Revolution.

Mihee Kim-Kort: Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith. Mihee writes with an Asian-American queer perspective. Love her unique voice.

Jeff Chu: Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America. Also follow Jeff as co-leader of the Evolving Faith conference.

Marcella Althaus-Reid: The Queer God

Bishop Gene Robinson: Well-known as the first gay Episcopalian bishop. A powerful figure in the evolution of the mainstream church.

Bishop Karen Oliveto: Wonderful UMC pastor now at the center of the United Methodist Church's schism over marrying gay folks. She worked on faculty at my grad program, later at Glide Memorial in SF, and now is a Bishop. Admire her so.





Christianity Meets Hinduism

Russill Paul: Jesus in the Lotus reflects upon the parallels between Christianity and yogic spirituality. Love this book.





Bodies, Embodiment, and the Sacred

James B. Nelson: Wrote Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology way back in 1978. An early embodiment theologian.

Lisa Isherwood and Elizabeth Stuart: Isherwood and Stuart's book is a great introduction to Christian body theology.

Dr. R. Marie Griffith: Love all her work. Don't miss Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity, which came out back in 2004.

enfleshed: Check out their website and social media for smart takes on embodiment theology.

Hillary McBride: Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image: Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are




Women, Food and God

Geneen Roth: Women, Food and God. Geneen incorporates a lot of Buddhism, psychology and mindfulness into her work on emotional eating, gender, and learning to feel your feelings. She's fantastic.

Jenna Hollenstein: Eat To Love: A Mindful Guide To Transforming Your Relationship With Food, Body and Life. Jenna's new book is brilliant. She weaves together Buddhism, meditation, and intuitive eating to write a book that's long overdue. Don't miss this one.

Michelle Mary Llelwica: Starving For Salvation: The Spiritual Dimensions of Eating Problems Among American Girls and Women came out back when I was an undergrad. It's still excellent. On the relationship between eating disorders, asceticism, desire, and Christian negation of the body.

Roxane Gay: Read Hunger if you haven't already. Then follow her and read everything else she writes. So good.



Yoga and Yoga Philosophy

Sally Kempton: Awakening Shakti. Sally is the grande-dame of yoga philosophy. Read everything she's written.

Matthew Remski: Remski's new book, Practice and All Is Coming, explores the sexual abuse, cult dynamics and power imbalances in the Ashtanga yoga system. A must-read for any yoga teacher training.

Michael Stone: Read everything Michael wrote on yoga philosophy, Buddhism and psychology, but especially The Inner Tradition of Yoga.

Embodied Philosophy: Check out their podcast, Chitheads, and new (awesome!) animated yoga philosophy videos on their website

CTZN WELL: On all things social justice and yoga. Follow on IG, subscribe to the podcast.

Yoga Is Dead: New podcast. Smart stuff. Check it out.






Buddhism, Psychology and Mindfulness

Joan Halifax: Buddhist teacher and Zen priest with a fabulous activist and anthropologist backstory. Read her work, listen to her interviews.

Kristin Neff: Great work on self-compassion.

Marc Epstein: Wonderful melding of psychology and Buddhism. Check out Going To Pieces Without Falling Apart for a Buddhist perspective on wholeness.

Dan Harris: ABC news anchor who turned to meditation after experiencing drug addiction, PTSD, and panic attacks. His book and podcast are both called 10% Happier. Both excellent.

Tricycle Talks: Check out the podcast. Full of fantastic interviews with Buddhist leaders.

Frank Ostaseski: Founder of the Zen Hospice Project. Read The Five Invitations to start.

BJ Miller: This former director of the Zen Hospice Project has a new book out: A Beginner’s Guide to the End: How to Live Life to the Full and Die a Good Death

Sharon Salzberg: Another grande dame of Buddhism. Read everything she's written. Listen to her podcast, Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg.

Ethan Nichtern: The Dharma of the Princess Bride. And everything else! Follow him on Twitter for a great example of engaged Buddhism.

Lodro Rinzler: The Buddha Walked Into A Bar, Sit Like A Buddha, Love Hurts, etc. So good.

Adreanna Limbach: Tea and Cake with Demons: A Buddhist Guide to Feeling Worthy

Ruth King: Mindful of Race: Transforming Race From The Inside Out

Angel Kyodo Williams: Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation

Rita Gross: Buddhism Beyond Patriarchy and Buddhism Beyond Gender


Photo via The Chicago Reader, "The Twitter Rabbi"

Finally: Twitter

Following progressive theologians and spiritual writers on Twitter is my other favorite informal means of continuing education and everyday inspiration. I love reading their takes on the hot topics in politics, culture, and more. Build a strong Twitter list (you don't have to tweet anything, just read and be inspired) and you'll find it to be a great way to integrate a theological worldview into your day-to-day routine.

I love following these folks especially:

Broderick Greer
Serene Jones
Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg
Kaitlin Curtice
Queer Theology
enfleshed
Sharon Salzberg
Ethan Nichtern
Evolving Faith conference
Wil Gafney
Jes Kast
Lyz Lenz
Nadia Bolz-Weber
Jeff Chu
Cindy Wang-Brandt
Glennon Doyle
Brene Brown

Happy reading!


Rachel Meyer is an American writer and yoga teacher based in Switzerland. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com or @rachelmeyeryoga.

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