How to Be an Antiracist (Kendi)

Kendi weaves his own life story into the story of racism in our country in the present day. Each progressive vignette sets up a key insight. The unique feature of this book is that most of these insights are gained through self-reflection. Kendi does not just castigate the world around him, but remains methodologically open to the way racism has pervaded his own life and consciousness.

Laughing at the Devil (Hall)

I find with a lot of help from Hall that mysterious allure to these words and to Julian’s writings in general. So, I want to spend this review thinking about the difference between the words of a ninny and the words of a sage or a visionary. What turns “All shall be well” from a pithy bit of pious vomit into words that ground our consciousness and empower us to live in and through the joys and pains of life?

Is God Happy? (Kolakowski)

What do we make of a Marxist who criticizes Marxism? Of one not entirely at home in capitalistic systems either—fully aware that neither system has manifested in an equitable and just society that well? What do we make of a Christian theologian deeply critical of Christian theology and practice? What do we make of a leftist who defends the sentiment of the Berkeley riots in the 60’s but staunchly criticized aspects of them as well? What do we make of a conservative-liberal-socialist? We make of them what we want, or we let them disappear, not likely out of maliciousness, but more because we do not know what to do with them. We could call this exile.

Shameless (Bolz-Weber)

Nadia Bolz-Weber calls her book a reformation, I call it a renovation. Either way, it is high time that Christians learn that we have more choices than purity culture or ethical hedonism. This book does a great job at navigating the simultaneously sacred and mundane realities of Christian sexuality in general and in contemporary life in particular outside of those options.

Losing My Religion (Mills)

Ministers, pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, gurus, clergy, whatever you want to call them hold positions of authority in a community like any leader. . . . The special positions that clergy occupy can sometimes create the illusion in a religious community that they are above the fray of ordinary human imperfections, insecurities, cares, concerns, and anxieties. Nothing could be further from the truth.

William C. Mills’ new memoir is, to me, a heartfelt exploration through the all-too-human side of the life of clergy.

Reviving Old Scratch (Beck)

Some time ago I confessed to a group of fellow-ministers that I did not believe in the actual existence of the devil. Some of my doubts had to do with life experience—I had never encountered anything “demonic” that didn’t have at least five more compelling explanations. But mostly my doubt was instigated by the empty, superstitious, and often destructive theology in which angels and demons and “The Devil” take center stage.

Hoping Against Hope (Caputo)

John Caputo has been with me since my earliest days studying religion in college. And he’s always been an author that’s a few steps ahead of me—not in the sense that he knows more than I do (most authors can claim that title), but in the sense of articulating and advocating a theological vision that is a little beyond what I can accept, but not so far-fetched that it is not necessarily off my trajectory. He is compelling even when he says things or argues things that are almost contrary to the core of what I believe, and he does so with wit and rhetorical skill that makes reading him worth it if only because it was an enjoyable ride that I will remember even if I’m a bit scared to go back on it.

The Essential Rumi (Rumi/Barks)

What, one might wonder, is a poetic anthology of a 13th century Persian mystic, that is, a 13th century Persian mystic who is Muslim, doing on a preacher’s bookshelf? Especially one whose language is sometimes crude and sexually explicit; who mentions body parts most holy men don’t? Beyoncé and JAY-Z might name a child after him. Coldplay’s Chris Martin may find his way through divorce by reading his poems. But what is The Essential Rumi doing on a preacher’s bookshelf?

Enfleshing Freedom (Copeland)

The thing I want to focus on as a kind of conclusion is the fear and anxiety at work in this kind of engagement. There is a fear here that I will say something wrong and offensive, that my biases will be exposed, that I might be guilty of the blindness I am prone to see in others. The reality is that this may very well be true. I do not inhabit a morally or socially pure space from which I would be able to read what Copeland writes or respond in a way that will not be guilty of blindness or misunderstanding. The key is to admit that, to be honest, because the only way to overcome this is to go through it.

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