Wednesday, August 10, 2016

mini book review The Sex Lives of Cannibals

I listen to books in my car as I commute back and forth to work and have listened to some wonderful books.  Today I finished The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost, read by Simon Vance.  It is a wonderful book that I highly recommend.  It is hilarious but also plants some questions underneath your skin that you'll think seriously about.  And Simon Vance does an astoundingly good job of reading the book.  I'm sure it would be wonderful as a book book, but as an audio book it is really, really worth your time.  I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Book Review - Live Like you Give a Damn

I listen to books in my car as I commute back and forth to work.  I had just started through This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein for the second time when I received notice about Tom Sine's book Live Like You Give a Damn.  I was really excited.  Klein in her book tells us that the current economic system is not sustainable without destroying the earth (rightly I think) and talks a lot about what a new system might look like if we abandoned the kind of capitalist system we currently have.  The spiritual implications where everywhere.  I listened and kept thinking that her message fits so well with the demands of the gospel.  This Changes Everything is, I think, one of the most important books I've read in a long time.  I hoped that Sine would do a similar exegesis of the problems we face while providing that faith based understanding of what new directions we as followers of Jesus might pursue.  I was disappointed.

If I was to try to give you a condensed version of Live Like You Give a Damn, it would be this: "The world needs to change. We older folk in the church have stunted imaginations. Millenials want to make a difference.  Millenials have good ideas if we listen.  We should follow their lead.  Here are some examples of churches and/or millenials who are making a difference."  All well and good but what I was hoping to read was a diagnoses of those problems from a faith standpoint and some idea of what the big picture changes might be that we see manifested in those various examples.  I didn't get what I hoped and as I read Sine's book, I wasn't able to divorce myself from Klein's excellent analysis... and I was left wanting more... a lot more.

I don't want to be unfair to Sine.  He does provide some challenging analysis... but I wanted more.  He does call us to question the values of our culture in a personal way but I wanted that plus the corporate questioning as well.  He calls us to use our imaginations as foundations for faith as we devise a new narrative that leads us to our best tomorrows.  He does remind us that the gospel is always contextual but I still wonder whether there must be a larger narrative under which, those contextual ones fit.  It felt to me though as if he wanted the church to become a city on the hill kind of Anabaptist example for all to see while I wanted the Mustard Seed conspiracy that invades and changes everything.  Perhaps if I had read Sines first and then Klein, the book would have sat better for me and Klein would have helped to fill in the blanks.  Should you chose to read it, I'd recommend you do that.  If you only have time/energy for one or the other, I'd recommend Klein's book given the caveat that while I think the implications of her work have a lot to say for people of faith, she does not frame any of her challenges in spiritual terms.  In either case, you'll need to do some work... and that I guess, is a good thing.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Destruction of the Evangelical Witness

I wouldn't call myself an Evangelical these days... at least not in the conventional sense of that term but that movement plays a significant role in my background.  There was a long time when I would have identified myself as such.  My tradition - the Baptist movement - and my denomination - The American Baptist churches, USA - both include significant proportions of folk who would call themselves "evangelical."  I know the theology and have good friends who are evangelicals.  While it is a branch of the Christian Church that I no longer call home, I do have deep appreciation for the best parts of that movement and often tell my church and my more liberal friends that I and we have much to learn from our evangelical brothers and sisters.

All that said, I am very worried that the evangelical church is in serious danger of destroying its witness and damaging the Church perhaps permanently.  At the very least, they are convincing a lot of unchurched folk that they do not really believe what they say they believe and that they are more concerned about cultural influence and power than about following Jesus.  How so?  By endorsing Donald Trump and clothing it their faith.

I have no right to judge Donald Trump's faith or lack thereof, but if, as many evangelicals are saying, he has recently had a conversion experience, then somebody out to be helping him figure out what following Jesus looks like.  All of these big name evangelical preachers like Jerry Falwell Jr. ought to be sitting him down and telling him that a follower of Jesus ought not be making fun of differently abled folk, ought not to be lying almost as often as he opens his mouth, ought to think more carefully before denigrating women and/or treating them as sex objects, should not be inciting his followers to violence... the list goes on and on.  Of course, there is the problem of his past which seems to fly in the face of every value these evangelical leaders claim to hold... bad enough in itself, but he hasn't said a single word that shows any repentance from any of it.  Indeed, he said that he does not need any forgiveness.  These folk should be coaching him at the least or calling him out.  For years they questioned Barack Obama's faith and are doing the same to Hillary Clinton when both of them were/are good members of local congregations and speak squarely from the Christian tradition.  It is true that both Obama and Clinton are pro-choice... but as more than one person has argued, they both present policies that are more effective at lowering the rate of abortion than any recent Republican candidate.  See here and here.

Instead of calling him out, some very visable prominent evangelicals have doubled down arguing that voting Trump is the only moral option, that his behavior regarding the Khan family was appropriate, and even comparisons between Trump and Ronald Reagan (as close as conservatives have to a saint).  It is true that many evangelical leaders have spoken out in opposition to these leaders, it is these who have gotten the most press and the polls seem to indicate that white evangelicals are among the most faithful supporters of Donald Trump.

So... to my evangelical friends, distance yourself from Trump and from those evangelical leaders who are supporting him or at least call him on his behavior or forever be resigned to the fact that you have abandoned your values and sullied the cause of Christ.