Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice by Eric Mason

Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice by Eric MasonSummary: A Church that is asleep to injustice and racism is blind to the heart of God. 

Honestly, I do not understand the current movement today within the church that suggests that justice is peripheral and actually against the gospel. The Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel has united many  against it, from Al Mohler to the more traditionally justice oriented progressive Evangelicals.

I did not need to be persuaded that seeking justice is an important of what it means to be the church. There is, certainly, differences in method and strategy. What types of justice that an individual or church seeks after will matter based on calling, geography, demographics, etc. And, of course, the church should not be partisan in its approach to justice (although it will likely be political).

Eric Mason did not need to convince me of the biblical calling toward justice, or of the history of the church being on the wrong side of justice. But I am still glad that I read Woke Church. Woke Church is organized around four themes, ‘Be Aware. Be Willing to Acknowledge. Be Accountable. Be Active.’

Mason walks through awareness and acknowledgement. Blind spots are real. If we are blind to both injustice and how it works, and has work historically, we cannot even start to right injustice. The early historical and biographical sections of the book were strong.

The strongest section of the book for me was the discussion of the prophetic. Mason charges the church with being properly prophetic. He walks through the Old Testament prophets, both how they called the people toward justice and how they were received. Prophetic does not mean unaccountable and it does not separate the concept of prophetic from the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Done rightly, we are proclaiming the gospel and Lordship of Jesus Christ as part of a prophetic call.

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache #14)

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache #14)

Summary: Gamache, Myrna and a guy neither of them knows, are called to be executors of a will for someone that none of them knows. 

I am a huge fan of Louise Penny’s Gamache novels. Not all of them are perfect, but 14 books in, three of the five best books in the series are the most recent three books. That is impressive.

Part of what I like about the Gamache books is that they are about things. There is a mystery, The plot revolves around the mystery. But there is more to the books than just the mystery. There are ongoing characters. Those characters are smart, thoughtful, morally complex, flawed and generally likable.

The main theme moral question for the past several books has been around the idea of when it is acceptable to do morally and ethically questionable things, for a greater good. This is spoiler-y if you have not read the previous books, but in the last book, Gamache let drugs into the country so that he could lure in the higher up in the drug organizations and shut them down. He wanted to deal a fatal blow to the whole drug infrastructure. But in the process more drugs came into the country and some communities were harmed. Because of his unauthorized operation (because he was at the same time still smoking out dirty cops and politicians), he was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Reviewed Books on Sale

Links are to the reviews, which have links to the sales at the bottom. (Roughly in order from newest sale to oldest) I have a few that I highly recommend that I am putting an * to mark

Amazon has a ‘Great on Kindle’ promotion. If you buy on of the books on the list, you get 25% of the value of that purchase toward a future kindle book purchase. https://amzn.to/2NQsdqu

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (Prydain Chronicles #1)

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (Prydain Chronicles #1)Summary: Classic children’s fantasy. I think probably the best children’s epic fantasy series.

Reading the excellent Gateway Chronicles this year has made me a little nostalgic for the fantasy that I read in my youth, mostly Prydain Chronicles and L’Engle’s Time Quintet. (There is much fantasy that I read in my youth that I have no desire to revisit.)

First I picked up Black Cauldron when it was on sale for Kindle, then I saw that the audiobook for Book of Three was available at my library.

Revisiting Lloyd Alexander I am always struck by how short these books are. When I was reading them as a teen/pre-teen, they did not feel nearly as short.

Taran is a young sheltered early teen. He lives with two men that are the only family he can remember. Dallben, a very old wizard who teaches him and a blacksmith/farmer, Coll, who cares for the the farm he lives on and teaches Taran all of the practical things of life. Because he knows nothing else, he assumes the rest of the world is glorious. He wants to have adventures and glory.

Weight of Glory by CS Lewis

Weight of Glory by CS LewisTakeaway: Lots of classic Lewis here.

I went through a period when I was reading a ton of CS Lewis (either by or about). I looked today and if I counted correctly I have finished 19 of Lewis’ books, many of them multiple times and started but did not finish another 4. But it has been a little while since I read Lewis. Unless I missed something the last books I read about Lewis was the joint biography of the Inklings in Feb 2017. And the last books I read by Lewis was Screwtape Letters in Nov 2016.

I picked up the audiobook of Weight of Glory because it was super cheap and I needed something ‘light’ to off set a lot of other heavy things I have been reading/listening to. That is to say I was probably not as engaged as I should have been. Weight of Glory is the favorite Lewis book of several people I know. It is not that for me. Not because it is bad, but because it is near the end of Lewis’ library for me.

Not Reviewed Sale Books

I have not posted sale book that were not reviewed for a while. But because I still post books that are on sale in two private Facebook groups I thought I would post a handful of books that are on sale, but I haven’t read or reviewed. I am going to treat this like the Reviewed Books on Sale post, I will update this post, not repost. And I will just update the posting date occasionally to keep it on the front page of Bookwi.se. Because I have not read these, they may not be any good, but they are books that look interesting to me. All of these are kindle sales unless marked.

Roughly in order of being on sale:
Amazon has a ‘Great on Kindle’ promotion. If you buy on of the books on the list, you get 25% of the value of that purchase toward a future kindle book purchase. https://amzn.to/2NQsdqu

Imago by Octavia Butler (Xenogenesis #3)

Imago by Octavia Butler (Xenogenesis #3)Summary: The child of human and alien parents must find his own way.

One of my reading goals this year was to finished the final two fiction books that Octavia Butler wrote. In November I am just finishing the first of the two, so I am not sure I will get to the second.

Imago I think is a second tier Butler book. It is not bad. Butler is a good writer and creates intriguing worlds. This is not really complete series. It is set on earth, but an earth that an alien race has captured and rules. The alien world took over the Earth in the midst of a global war. The aliens capture the remaining humans in the world and for hundreds of years kept them in stasis while they were studied and the earth was restored after the war.

In the first book of the trilogy the first humans were awoken and that started a forced breeding program to create new species. The aliens are genetic manipulators that go from world to world collecting gene samples and creating new species, mining and using up the worlds until they are bare hunks of rock and then moving on. Butler at times could be a bit to on the nose with her imagery.

The conflict of the trilogy is about participation of humans in this breeding program and the ways that the new ‘constructs’ impact both the humans and the aliens. The three books are about three different characters, the human mother, her first construct child and then this one about another of her construct children, the first construct that is a genetic manipulator itself. (The genetic manipulators do not have sex or gender, they are the conduit through which the different genders connect for procreation.)

Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian by James H Cone

Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian by James H ConeSummary: Context to the why of Black Liberation Theology.

A few months ago I generally stopped referring to my posts as reviews. I am not really reviewing these books, I am trying to respond to them, give some thoughts and talk about what I have learned. That is especially true for a book like Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian by James H Cone. Almost exactly a year ago I read Cone’s 1985 memoir, My Soul Looks Back. That memoir was a mid-career memoir. And of course there are some overlapping memories and reflections, but it is interesting to me how different they are. The passing of more than 40 years does matter.

I could make this a post of just quotes from Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. I have 20 that you can read on my Goodreads review. But the important part of reading a memoir like this is that it gives context for his other writing. I read his The Cross and the Lynching Tree (which he says was his favorite book) this summer. And I have previously read a couple of his other books. Many reduce Cone to just a ‘liberal theologian’ as if he has nothing to say to most of us. But Cone has much to say to us and reading his story I think matters to how we receive the rest of his work.

Cone was an academic theologian. His dissertation was on Barth. He was strongly influenced by Reinhold Niebuhr. As a Black theologian, he felt he had to respond to the civil rights movement, especially after the death of MLK and the rise of urban riots in the US. His question, “What, if anything, is theology worth in the black struggle in America?”, mattered not just in 1967 but also today.

Where many will disagree with Cone is his adoption of Malcom X’s statement, “We are black first and everything else second” and that discussion has continue today. But Cone was not rejecting finding his identity in Christ or was he implicitly condemning Whites and others by embracing his created Blackness. He was, in a not dissimilar way, embracing the concept of Black Lives Matters 50 years early.

Cone was frustrated by his theological training (and I still hear this from many minority theology students today).

The real historical Jesus, whom scholars have been seeking since the eighteenth century, was not white. That much I knew. When it became clear to me that Jesus was not biologically white and that white scholars actually lied by not telling people who he really was, I stopped trusting anything they said. It was ideologically tainted. I began to trust my own black experience as a better source for knowledge about God and Jesus. The black religious experience was less ideologically tainted because blacks were powerless and could not impose their view of Jesus on anybody. (Kindle Location 378)

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Home by Marilynne RobinsonSummary: An imperfect prodigal returns home to an imperfect father.

Pretty much any time I hear someone answer the question, who is the best Christian author writing fiction that is not marketed as ‘Christian Fiction’, Marilynne Robinson is usually listed in the top 10. I am glad we have a category called ‘Christian Fiction’. But I mostly do not read it. Not because all of it is bad, but because so much of it is formulaic.

I first read Gilead, the first of this loose trilogy in 2012 and again in 2015. Lila, the third book in the trilogy, I read twice in the space of three months at the end of 2014 and then again in early 2015, just before reading Gilead a second time. I have been reluctant to read Home for a couple reasons. First, it means that I have read all four of Robinson’s books of fiction. And I wanted to have something to look forward to. Second, there were a lot of negative reviews of Home in Audible for the quality of the audiobook. And I have liked Robinson’s books in audio.

But Robinson has hinted that she will publish another book of fiction. And I eventually just borrowed the audiobook from the library so I didn’t have to be disappointed in the audio. In the end I was not disappointed in the audiobook. The narrator was Maggi-Meg Reed, who seems quite familiar.

The three books of the trilogy are told from the perspective of three different people with overlapping timelines and shared events told from different perspectives. I was predisposed to dislike Jack, the subject (but not the narrator) of Home because of the negative impression of John Ames, the subject and narrator of Gilead. Jack is a more sympathetic character in Home, although certainly not innocent.

I am not sure whether this was really the intention, but this felt like a broken retelling of the story of the prodigal son. Rev Boughton, John Ames’ best friend is the father of eight children and near the end of his life. His prodigal son and oldest child, Jack, has been gone for 20 years, but comes back home. Glory, the baby, after a failed relationship has returned to the town of Gilead to care for her father and heal her own wounds.

Kierkegaard: A Single Life by Stephen Backhouse

Kierkegaard: A Single Life by Stephen BackhouseSummary: Helpful introduction to both Kierkegaard’s life and work.

To the best of my memory I have never studied or read any Kierkegaard. I have heard several people commend Kierkegaard: A Single Life and when I saw it on sale on audiobook I picked it up.

This is a brief, but good overview of his life. And because Kierkegaard is important primarily for his writing, there is good context for that as well. At the end of the book, there was short descriptions of each piece (1-3 pages) which was much more helpful and interesting than I would have suspected going in.

In general I find biographies worth reading, if when I am finished, I want to either find another biography or pick up books written by the subject. I more want to read Kierkegaard than read more about him at this point. So I rate this as a helpful biography. Light, short, it feels a bit like one of the Very Short Introduction to X styled biographies. It is longer than that, about 300 pages. But this was clearly designed as an introduction.