Archives For Culture

 

Over the course of last year, I set aside a number of books that I wanted to read because I knew that they would make significant contributions to public conversations, but I knew that they would require some time and effort to read carefully and well.

I’m hoping to read a number of these 10 books over the coming year…

By ERB Editor, C. Christopher Smith

(In alphabetical order by author’s last name…)

PAGE 1 OF 5

The Faithful Artist: A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts

Cameron Anderson

Paperback, IVP Academic

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2017Watch

With 2017 almost upon us, here are the 30 new books that we are most eager to read…

Due to the nature of publishers’ catalogs, this list only spans the first half of the year.  We will do a similar list in June for the second half of the year.

[ Top Ten ] [ Fiction ]  [ Theology ]
[ Praxis ] [ Culture ]  

TOP TEN (Part 1):

These titles are arranged in alphabetical order by the author’s last name…

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The Human Desire to Love and Belong
 
 
A Review of 
 

Today Will Be Different: A Novel
Maria Semple


Hardback: Little, Brown and Co., 2016
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones
 
 
 
Eleanor Flood’s day is about to be different—but not in the proactive way she had committed to. Today she wants to be her “best self,” because “the other way wasn’t working” (7).

A writer and illustrator, Eleanor lives in Seattle with her eight-year-old son Timby (Timby?), a forgotten and forgettable dog Yo-Yo, and her husband Joe, well-loved hand surgeon to the Seattle Seahawks.

The book begins with the kind of vow busy parents will immediately identify with:

Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. (3)

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Places of Time, Attention and Togetherness
 
A Review of 

Come to the Family Table:
Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other, and Jesus

Ted and Amy Cunningham

Paperback: NavPress, 2016.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Janna Lynas
 
 
Looking back, it’s where I grew up: around a table, food the impetus that lured me in and fed my belly. But the people and the stories were what kept me there and fed my heart. Prayer first, food next, then a question asked or a memory shared.  The book cover condenses the main premise nicely: “The family table is where parents model Christ’s love, grandparents provide wisdom, children experience a sense of belonging and friends enjoy hospitality” And so Come to the Family Table, by Ted and Amy Cunningham shares personal experiences of a hurried lifestyle that caused an intentional slowing and time at the table with not only their children but the other people in their life that need their time and attention.

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Against Nostalgia

 
A Feature Review of
 

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in an Age of Individualism
Yuval Levin

Hardback: Basic Books, 2016.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Ben Brazil

 

“Make America Great Again” is Donald Trump’s slogan, but it conveys a sentiment that reaches far beyond his supporters: that our nation is diminished. The Right laments moral decline, while the Left bemoans rising economic inequality.  Everyone agrees that we have, somehow, lost what is essential.

Such pervasive nostalgia, however, is actually near the root of our problems, argues conservative intellectual Yuval Levin in The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in an Age of Individualism. Moving forward, he contends, requires that we focus on the achievements, the problems, and the possibilities of our current, fractured society.

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Shattering our views
of Criminal Offenders

A Review of

Where The River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners. 
Michael McRay

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ] 

 

Reviewed By Paul D. Gregory

 

In the documentary “What I want my words to do to you,” American playwright and activist Eve Ensler spoke of the metamorphosis in her thinking about incarcerated women in the Bedford Correctional Institution in Bedford Massachusetts. Similar to most of society, Ensler originally viewed these incarcerated women as “mistakes” saying:

 

“Everyone is here at Bedford because of a mistake. Some of those mistakes occurred within months—some within minutes. Most of the mistakes were dreadful, catastrophic. Now we [society] have frozen you in your mistake. Marked you forever. Held captive. Discarded. Hated for your mistake. You have essentially been forced to become your mistake, the walking daily embodiment of your mistake. Held in the monument constructed to punish mistakes. Before I came here to Bedford, I imagined you the women here—mistakes lying on mistake cots behind steel mistake bars. Mistakes do not have faces or feelings or histories or futures. They are bad. Mistakes. We must forget them—put them away” [ 1 ]

 

Most of the mistakes we make are forgivable. A young man fails to show up for his weekly coffee date with his best friend. A young woman breaks off her engagement to her significant other. We unthinkingly berate a coworker, causing hurt to her/him. Forgiveness is granted for a large majority of our own mistakes.

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Kierkegaard

Yesterday marked the birthday of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (b. 1813).

 
In honor of the occasion, here is one of his renowned essays:
 

The Crowd is Untruth

Søren Kierkegaard

Translated by Charles K. Bellinger

 
 
My dear, accept this dedication; it is given over, as it were, blindfolded, but therefore undisturbed by any consideration, in sincerity. Who you are, I know not; where you are, I know not; what your name is, I know not. Yet you are my hope, my joy, my pride, and my unknown honor.

It comforts me, that the right occasion is now there for you; which I have honestly intended during my labor and in my labor. For if it were possible that reading what I write became worldly custom, or even to give oneself out as having read it, in the hope of thereby winning something in the world, that then would not be the right occasion, since, on the contrary, misunderstanding would have triumphed, and it would have also deceived me, if I had not striven to prevent such a thing from happening.

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LEngle-Disturb

One of the great challenges of the publishing industry in the twenty-first century is that it is overwhelmingly dominated by white males. One small part of the necessary corrective measures is for all of us to buy and read more books by authors who are not white males. 

Toward this end, here is a list of ten women authors, whose work you should be intimately familiar with. For this list, we have chosen well-established writers, who either are still alive or who have died within the last 50 years or so. We will run a list of younger women writers next week.

Buy and read everything that these women writers have published!

 

Flannery O’Connor

A Roman Catholic writer from Georgia, whose stories defined the Southern Gothic style. 

*** Books by Flannery O’Connor

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Let’s Simply Tell Better Myths

 
A Feature Review of

At the Altar of Wall Street: The Rituals, Myths, Theologies, Sacraments, and Mission of the Religion Known as the Modern Global Economy
Scott Gustafson

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle

Reviewed by Alden Bass.

In the novel American Gods, Neil Gaiman tells the story of the transition between the Old Gods and the New Gods. The Old Gods – bearing familiar names like Odin and Thor and Aster – arrived in America as the patrons of Old World immigrants. They continued to fill the religious needs of the people in their new land, just as they had done for centuries before in Europe. In Gaiman’s fantasy, however, the Old Gods are losing ground to the New American Gods, portrayed as personifications of Media, Technology, Entertainment, and Finance (cleverly called “the Intangibles”). It is the last of these American Gods which Scott Gustafson tackles in his new book, At the Altar of Wall Street, though Gustafson utilizes anthropological tools to substantialize the truth behind Gaiman’s fictional narrative.

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The Death of Elite Culture?

A Review of 

Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society
Mario Vargas Llosa.

Hardback: FSG Books, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Jon M. Sweeney

*** This review originally appeared in our quarterly, print magazine ***
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T. S. Eliot wrote nearly seven decades ago: “Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith.” Eliot’s point was made again by European thinkers and church leaders in 2002-03 when the EU constitution was drafted without any mention of faith. Whenever such discussions arise, I always find it strange that the heritage of bloody violence, anti-Semitism and antipathy toward women and minorities that are also central to the cultural heritage of Christianity in the West go unacknowledged.

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