Two weeks ago, I did a shorter Instagram live where I talked about reading with discernment. How do we read an author we respect and disagree with some of what they say? How do we read people who have differing world views and come away with knowledge we need? I talked about those things in this video, but I’m always left considering the conversation later and I have two thoughts to add.
First, I take my questions about the faith to orthodox believers. They might not be in the same denomination or the same church circles, but I go to faithful believers who profess Jesus with my doubts and my questions. It might take a few tries to find some that are ok with doubts and questions, but I’ll stick around while I’m searching. Then I read deconstructionists to understand what they are experiencing and believe. To be honest, I think most of us have done some sort of deconstructing, even if we haven’t called it that; but there’s a different type who, after they tore apart their faith, never built anything back. Personally, I don’t look to them to answers.
Second, I also think it’s imperative that we have these conversations and that we equip people to deal with questions. For one thing, we can stop living in fear of everyone else if we are no longer scared of their ideas. For another, we cannot truly hide out from these ideas without living a cramped life. We send our college students off to school moaning about how they fall away from the faith, but did we teach them to dig in? To ask questions? To be unafraid of other people’s questions? Did we teach them to evaluate ideas and statement in light of the Bible? To wait in the tension of not knowing an answer? We cannot short-circuit this process and yet we often skip it entirely.
In the first few days of March, I devoured Icons of Christ by William Witt. He claimed to make a theological and biblical defense of women’s ordination and I think he did it. It’s easy-to-read and thorough. It’s easily topped the list of books I’ve read about gender. He points out in the very beginning that historically the church has refused to ordain women and people will often appeal to that in their refusal to ordain women or allow them to teach/lead. Then he tells us why the church held that position: “they repeatedly return to a single argument: that women cannot be ordained because they are less intelligent than men, emotionally unstable, and more subject to temptation.” In other words, almost everyone holds to a position that the church has not historically held simply by affirming the equality of women.
I picked up Dear Ijeawele because of 1) my love of Adichie’s writing and 2) Jasmine Holmes‘s recommendation. It’s a slim volume, written as a letter to a friend who has just given birth to a baby girl and wants to raise her as a feminist. If that word gets you all in bunches, chill for a bit, and read the book. It’s delightful and practical, and I’m glad to have it on my shelf.
Speaking of Jasmine Holmes, I also read her book Mother to Son. I loved reading it back-to-back with a book that she loves that is written in the same format. Jasmine wrote this book as a set of letters to her own son, and I found myself constantly reflecting on the type of human I want to be. It’s also a sometimes difficult look at living in America with a different skin color than I have.
Since I read Steal Like an Artist last month, I moved right on into the next book in Kleon’s trilogy, Show Your Work. He talks about how to show your work while you’re learning and engage people in the process without self-promoting.
The first of two fiction books in March was Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I’m still slowly working my way through a book of her non-fiction, so it was interesting to read a story of hers along with it. It was difficult to read at times, but a raw portrayal of life and how we learn to find our way.
Tara Beth Leach wrote her second book Radiant Church which is an insightful look at how the church can repair its public witness. Between a look at living in the kingdom to evaluating our evangelism tactics, she’s offered us a way forward if we are willing to take it.
My bookshelf subscription book was Brood by Jackie Polzin. This very unusual story appears to be about chickens–there is a lot of material about chickens–but is really about a woman’s journey with grief. Trigger warnings for miscarriage.
Every Sunday since the first week of January I’ve been reading a chapter of None Like Him by Jen Wilkin. Throughout the week, I’ve discussed the attribute of God in that chapter with the boys. You want to know if you understand a concept? Explain it to four boys ages 10 and under. It’s a great litmus test for your own understanding. I learned so much and they did too. We finished this and are rolling right into In His Image.
Delighting in the Trinity was our book club read for March and it was delightful to read again. I realized on this second read how much my views on our invitation to fellowship with God have been shaped by this book. Totally recommend.
KJ Ramsey recommended The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann. His premise is that prophetic work has always been spoken to the prophet’s own community, and both discomforts the status quo and reimagines a new way of living. It’s a slim volume that I think could be a helpful read for both people who write and people who serve in Christian circles.
I also read The Mestizo Augustine by Justo Gonzalez. I love Gonzalez’ work and this was no exception. It was an excellent introduction to Augustine and his life and how his theology was shaped. It especially focused on the intersection of his Roman and African heritages.
On Monday I shared some books I’m looking forward to reading in April, including this one which releases later this month. Reading is fun and I’m enjoying shaping each month’s reads more than I have in the past.