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Books I’m Coveting: July Edition July 21, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Art, Emergent Church, Grace, Heaven, Nature of God, Pain, Poverty, Universalism.
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So many books, so little time! I probably will not get a chance to read the majority of these anytime soon, but I thought I would make a little list of what’s piqued my interest lately and why.

First up is “If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person” by Phillip Gulley and James Mullholland. I have long been kind of an informal, closet Universalist. I have never truly believed that the loving God I know would actually condemn anyone to eternal punishment. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in hell of any kind, but I’ve always felt everyone would be redeemed in the end. But I’ve never explored this private belief in a theological vein, and I’m very interested to see what evidence they come up with to support universalism, as well as what kind of universalism they are promoting.

“Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” by Kenda Creasy Dean argues that the faith that we are passing along to our young people is neither durable or sustainable. That we are teaching them a shallow, feel-good Christianity that does not hold up under the pressures and pain of the real worlds and does not provide a real hope for the future. I am interested in this both because I work with youth, and because I grew up in the church and my faith – just barely- held. I’ve love see what is the difference between those of us who stick with it and those who falter, and what we can do to change it.

“Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Right Questions” by Rachael Held Evans. A memoir of faith by a woman who grew up Dayton, TN, famous for the Scopes Monkey Trial regarding whether evolution can be taught in schools. Having a degree in Ecology and Evolution, I find anything to do with this fascinating (even if the trial itself was largely staged) and I’m interested to see what conclusions Evans comes to about faith in a “post-modern” world.

“Broke USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. – How the Working Poor Became Big Business” by Gary Rivlin is a journey in to the world of the American poor and the industry that feeds on them. Pawnshops, payday loans, check cashers, and rental centers all cater to those living paycheck to paycheck, ostensibly there to help when they fall behind but in reality just driving them further into debt and poverty and making it impossible to ever escape the cycle. One of Christ’s greatest commandments is to help the poor, but its hard to help without an understanding of the obstacles they are facing in our modern economy.

“Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife” by Lisa Miller is a history of the changing beliefs about the Judeo-Christian concept of heaven, from the earliest days of Judaism to the New Testament to popular culture. I really want to read this because I struggle with imagining heaven and am totally unsatisfied with any of the modern interpretations I’ve been given, from “endless church service” (boring) to “snowboarding with Jesus” (shallow). I’m curious about how our vision of heaven has changed through the centuries and what things besides Scripture have influenced it.

“American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon” by Stephen Prothero addresses the way various groups have co-opted and remade the image of Jesus to suit their own purposes over the years. This is something that has always been done to Jesus, but I think America is particularly and uniquely adept at it. And I have always wondered how we managed to get from poor, Middle-Eastern itinerant rabbi with a definite communist streak to a white middle class Republican.

“A New Kind Of Christianity: Ten Questions that Are Transforming the Faith” by Brian McLaren, is the closest thing one is likely to get to a manifesto for the Emergent Church. Part of the problem is the beliefs of the Emergent Church are difficult to codify because that’s what makes them Emergent, and if they have a leader (or more like founding father) at all, it’s McLaren. I’ve long felt like I identified with the Emergent Church in many areas of the faith, but haven’t really spent much time investigating it. I want to read this book to try and understand the basic of what they are preaching and whether it has merit to it.

In the same vein, “Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be)” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck attempt to deconstruct the Emergent movement, despite being its target demographic (generally young, hip, postmodern and engaged in social justice issues like poverty and descrimination). They argue that the Emergent movement is about more than it seems on the surface and is actual a dangerous form of heresy. While I do have reservations about some of the fundamentals of the Emergent church, I’m not sure I trust the guy who wrote this book to tell me them. Still, both sides of the issue deserve attention, so its worth a read.

“Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering” by Rob Bell, author of “Velvet Elvis” (and yes, another Emergent Church superstar). This book didn’t get as much positive attention as his previous ones, but I find the relationship between pain and art intriguing and would like to see how he handles it. I should probably have put “Velvet Elvis” or “Sex God” up instead, as I have not actually read either one, but the title of this one draws me more so I would prefer to start here if I can.

Sadly I am in no position to order nine books this afternoon and spend a week reading them all without stopping! Some of these I may never get to. But right now I can start with one off the list and see where that takes me. Which one of these titles would you choose?

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