Archives For Christianity

 

Singing The Lord’s Song
in Our Homeland

 
A Feature Review of

Bowing Toward Babylon: The Nationalistic Subversion of Christian Worship in America
Craig M. Watts

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by James Matichuk
 

This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog.
Reprinted with permission. 
*** Visit his blog for many other insightful reviews!

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is living water for our dry, thirsty souls. Nationalism poisons the well.  For citizens of the Kingdom of God, our political, national affiliation is not the most significant thing about ourselves. And yet, America has a long history of co-opting Christian language and worship for nationalistic, political ends.  Craig Watts, the pastor at Royal Palms Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, FL,  probes the reality of American Civil Religion that has permeated our churches in Bowing Toward Babylon.

Several practices of American civil religion have permeated Christian worship in US churches: The placement and honoring of American flags in the sanctuary, celebration of national holidays, the singing of patriotic songs, etc. Watts makes the case that, “rather than being innocuous practices, expressions of nationalism in worship constitute manifestations of misdirected worship that lead to the spiritual malformation of worshippers” (11). In other words, the symbols and story of America (or any nation) is at odds with the Christian story, where Christ calls a new humanity from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  Drawing a long prophetic tradition, Watts calls America, Babylon— a metaphor for an empire or nation where God’s people are tempted to succumb to majority practices and the worship of national gods.

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Rediscovering Christianity’s Roots.

A Review of

Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World
Larry Hurtado

Hardback: Baylor UP, 2016
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson
 
 
If Christianity had died out like many of the other religious movements of late antiquity, would those studying the Roman past find anything distinctive about it? Or would it seem more like an unremarkable part of an already crowded religious landscape? This is the kind of question that intrigues me, and having read Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods, I think I know how he at least would answer it. In this book, Hurtado looks at the first few centuries of Christianity and sheds light on some of the major features that, he argues, “made it distinctive, noteworthy, and even peculiar in the ancient Greek and Roman setting” (5).

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From Myth to History
 

Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding
Steven K. Green

Hardcover: Oxford UP, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Michial Farmer
 
 
 

In March 2010, the Texas Board of Education found itself embroiled in a national controversy when it debated, and ultimately approved, a textbook that put a social-conservative spin on American history. (The national scope of the controversy was justified because Texas is one of the country’s largest purchasers of textbooks; what is held true in Dallas therefore is made truth a lot of other places.) Among the distinctive features of the new textbooks was the removal of Thomas Jefferson from a list of thinkers who inspired eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revolutions. He was replaced by Moses, Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin.

This decision makes more sense in the broader context of American social conservatism, a branch of which has focused for several decades on proving that the Founding Fathers were devoted to orthodox Christianity, or at least not as committed to secular government as the liberal consensus would have it. Jefferson—as a demonstrably unorthodox religious thinker who literally cut the miracles out of his copy of the New Testament—does not fit into this narrative. And since he coined the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state,” the proponents of the new curriculum thought it wiser to downplay his undeniable influence on republican politics.

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The Gifts of Vitality, of Community, and of Transformation

A Review of

Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports

Marcia Mount Shoop

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Bernie Schock
 
In Touchdowns for Jesus, Marcia Mount Shoop offers a unique perspective on the inside world of big-time college athletics, especially big-time football. She is a trained theologian (PhD in religious studies from Emory University), an ordained Presbyterian minister, and her husband has coached in the NFL and NCAA Division I football.

 

Even though Marcia Mount Shoop and I may not agree on all issues, I appreciate her efforts to find “God’s fingerprints” in the world of sports. She believes that God is involved in complex ways in the details of our lives—even our sporting lives—and she is on a “quest for truth that can both convict and transform us.”

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One of the most popular books at the recent Christian Community Development Association conference was:

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength

Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  Kindle ]

I knew this book was going to be popular at CCDA, and I had included it on our list of books to watch for at CCDA, but we still really underestimated the number of copies that we should stock, and sold it of it rapidly and had a continuous stream of people asking for the book for the rest of the conference!

[ Read an interview that the author did with Rachel Held Evans ]

If you don’t have a copy of Chanequa Walker-Barnes’s new book, you should get one now…

Read an excerpt of the book:

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Working Alongside Christ All the Way

A Feature Review of

Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the Holy Work of Parenting

Rachel Gerber

Paperback: Herald Press, 2014
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Ellen Painter Dollar.

 

I belonged to a church of overcommitted world-changers when I first realized that God was calling me to have a baby, or as it turned out, several babies. God, it seems, was calling my fellow church members to start medical clinics and supportive housing for Washington, D.C.’s homeless population, or to give up comfortable suburban lives and move their families to violence-ridden urban neighborhoods. And here I was, called to wipe noses and bottoms, launder tiny outfits stained by blow-outs and spit-up, and figure out how to get adequate plant-based foods into growing bodies. This did not seem right, and I struggled for many years to understand how God might be present, and how I might connect with God, while caring for small children instead of doing Big Things for Jesus.

 

Rachel Gerber’s Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the Holy Work of Parenting is a gentle invitation to mothers like me—firm in our faith but unsure how to nurture that faith while navigating the tedious, exhausting terrain of life with little ones—to notice and celebrate “the sacred mundane.” Her most natural audience is parents in progressive Christian traditions (Gerber is an ordained Mennonite pastor) that, like my D.C.-based church, more readily celebrate outward justice-oriented and pastoral work than domestic duties. Her message may also appeal to mothers in more conservative traditions, where a perception of motherhood as a woman’s highest calling can make it hard for women to confess that their days are more marked by fatigue, boredom, and even rage than joy and spiritual fulfillment.

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After perusing our print magazine and all the online reviews, etc. that we have published this year, here are our picks for the 25 best books from the first half of 2014, divided into four broad categories.

NOTE: Some of these books may have been released in late 2013, but weren’t covered by us until 2014.

ALSO, Watch for our list of 25 books to watch for in the latter half of 2014, coming tomorrow!

Fiction | General Non-Fiction | Poetry | Christian Theology/Praxis

Fiction Books:

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January 15 marks the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Mainstream American culture tends to have a narrow view of King’s work, limited primarily to his leadership in the Civil Rights movement. However, King’s vision was rooted in the desire for a beloved community in which not only were all people equal, but in which all violence, poverty and injustice were abolished — a vision that flowed from King’s deep faith in the life and teachings of Jesus.  In the following slideshow, we introduce the breadth of King’s prophetic faith, by means of 15 memorable quotes.

Please download and share these slides on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. as you see fit…

[ The Essential Box Set of King’s Speeches and Sermons ]

Martin Luther King

 

NEXT – QUOTE #2   >>>>>>

Which of these quotes from Martin Luther King
speaks to you most powerfully?

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Marked by Redemptive Suffering, Nonviolence, and Shalom

Review of

Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence

Preston Sprinkle

Paperback: David C. Cook, 2013.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Wes Magruder

 

It’s astounding how eagerly North American evangelicals have supported military operations in the recent past. Polls suggest that as many as 79% of evangelicals supported the Iraq invasion in 2003. That’s why Preston Sprinkle’s new book, Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence, seems so overdue. It’s astounding that it took this long for a book aimed at the popular evangelical Christian audience to hit the market.  Sprinkle became converted to nonviolence only recently; in 2009, as he claims, based on his own careful study of Scripture, he decided that “Christians shouldn’t kill or use violence — not even in war.”

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Consuming, Creating and Critiquing

A Feature Review of

PopCultured: Thinking Christianly about Style, Media and Entertainment
Steve Turner

Paperback: IVP Books, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Matt Miles
 
You don’t have to watch television or movies or listen to the radio to be exposed to popular culture. If you wear clothes, use social media or ever set foot outside your door you are, like the rest of us, immersed in it. For Christians, there are usually two choices: avoid as much of popular culture as possible since it is worldly and a waste of sacred time, or partake indiscriminately and categorize “good” and “bad” entertainment the same way non Christians do.  Steve Turner, a journalist, author, and poet argues that for Christians, neither of these approaches are acceptable. If Christ is Lord of the Christian’s life, He should be Lord of all of it, including recreational time. On the other hand, being unaware of pop culture can deprive the Christian of a common language many people share and the ability to connect with people who don’t share the same belief or background. More than this, as a journalist who had many a discussion on popular culture, he believes Christians can and should create within the culture, because we have something to say. He contends we should consume discerningly, critique faithfully, and create wisely.  The author’s insurmountable task in PopCultured: Thinking Christianly about Style, Media and Entertainment is to spark the Christian imagination on what engagement with pop culture could look like. At his best, Steve Turner does exactly that.

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