About March 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in March 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2006 is the previous archive.

April 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

March 2006 Archives

March 1, 2006

Jubilee not-so-big sellers

SHOULDA COULDA WOULDA

If you've followed my posts from last week, you know how much this big JUBILEE event means to us. (Don't even ask how many of the boxes we've re-shelved or how many of the crumpled notes in my pockets we have deciphered or how many bills we've tried to collect; it takes weeks for us to dig out from under it all.) JUBILEE is important and strategic as its intent is to invite college students to surrender their whole lives---their whole, daily, mundane, studying, working, playing, lives--to Christ, so that God can use them to bring about His Kingdom "on Earth as it is in HeavenÓ thereby bringing honor to God and gladness to people in need. When such serious-minded and good-hearted faith emerges in a new generation, the hope is that they will begin to "think Christianly,Ó re-learning their studies in Kingdom perspective. Then, (forgive the military metaphor) they will invade the secularized, post-Christian culture to do true good everywhere. Poor schools, warring nation-states, shallow art galleries, dishonest media, unhelpful therapists, greedy businesses, unjust lawyering, vulgar TV, unethical science, boring churches.... the list goes on. And this generation of robust Christian young people will--if they learn the habits of heart to connect belief and behavior AND develop a faith thoughtful enough to allow for both personal piety and institutional reform---take from this past weekend a dream to make a difference. Some of the books that were bought will reinforce and further explain this hope; these printed pages are seeds sown, some which will be read, pondered and will bear fruit in months and years to come.

Last night I posted a few Jubilee best sellers. Here are a few that we displayed, promoted and imagined that they would fit well the theme of our gathering, but, uh, didnÕt do so well. We were disappointed that we didn't sell more of these, so, here, we present the shoulda coulda woulda list of those which are still sitting in dirty cardboard boxes in our damp basement. They are in good company, at least, fine titles all:

Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning & Living Neal Plantinga (Eerdmans) $15.00 I am encouraged to push this title every year, but the great quote on the back from John Ortberg saying that this is a great book written so well that every college student should read it didn't win the day. The first chapter is on that sense of longing that all younger folk feel--the desire to know what to do with ones life, the need for a sense of vocation. The middle of the book is a beautiful explication of the CCO shorthand for the gospel (creation-fall-redemption) and then comes a final invitation to fight the good fight wherever one finds oneself, taking up a post in the Kingdom coming. What a great book. We shoulda sold a bundle.

Creation Regained: The Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview Al Wolters (Eerdmans) $12.00 This new edition, I explained from up front, not only has a crisp new typeface and cover, but a great final chapter, linking Al's seminal teaching on worldview to the recent writings of Lesslie Newbigin and N.T. Wright. That young folk don't know these names is a shame. That their older friends didn't say "Holy creation-regained, Batman, this is a must-have" is an even greater shame. This is one of the top two or three books in the history of the Jubilee conference, and Professor Wolters played a pivotal role in the CCO explaining the Biblical basis for the wild-eyed prophetic talk of Pete Steen, the one who nearly single-handedly re-framed the Jubilee conference in the 70's to be what it became, even if many were perplexed by his nearly apocalyptic energy. Praise God for this new edition. Coulda promoted it better.

The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen (Baker) $19.00 Up front I preached that any philosophical talk or political posturing or seminar wisdom at this content-heavy event needs to be measured by how well it lives up to the worldview of the Scriptures. This book, I said, was the best one-volume overview of the grand Story I've yet seen. Shoulda sold dozens and dozens instead of two or three. Or, at least, we should have sold the much thinner re-issue (yeah!) of Lesslie Newbigin's A Walk Through the Bible (Wipf & Stock; $9.00) which were his final radio talks on the BBC before he died a few years ago. Newbigin was the Anglican Bishop of the Church of North India and one of the finest missionary thinkers of the 20th century. His overview of the basic plot-lines of the Biblical story is sweet and simple and very helpful. While I'm on a roll, there should have been more of a buzz about Walsh & Keesmaat's spectacularly important postmodern reading of Paul, found in the most exciting Bible study book in years, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (IVP; $22.00.) I sold quite a few last year when I pointed out my name on the back. Ha! Didn't want to use that ploy again this year, and now I regret it. Woulda if I coulda.


Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace Miroslav Volf (Zondervan) $12.99 Maybe younger folk aren't ready for this kind of serious reflection on the Cross, written by a world-renowned theologian (who teaches at Yale Divinity School and did his first theological work reflecting on the Bosnian genocide in his homeland a few years back.) Still, given that this generation watches Hotel Rwanda and kids were wearing Invisible Children tees, this should have been more popular. I blogged about it a few weeks back, noting that it is the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lenten book, so people are reading it this season all over the world.

Adventures in Missing the Point Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo (Zondervan) $16.99 What a fun and rowdy book, two amazing thinkers, funny and thoughtful men who care deeply for the broad church and the evangelical tradition spout off their concerns about how the gospel has become "neutered" by a cultural accommodating church. These two best-selling guys (Campolo was there, remember) shoulda been seen as a Lennon-McCarthy, Laurel & Hardy, dynamic-duo, one-two-punch that can't be beat. New in paperback, complete with study guide, I shoulda pushed this harder, told more people about it, inviting people to read a page or two. A few short paragraphs would show off the brilliance of these guys together, the issues they raise, the differences they debate. Don't miss the point---this kind of feisty banter will help us get it right.

Not Just Science: Questions Where Christian Faith and Natural Science Intersect edited by Dorothy Chappell & E. David Cook (Zondervan) $24.99 What a great collection, with wise, introductory chapters on math, computers, engineering, chemistry, agriculture, biology, geology, environmental science, neuroscience...Jennifer Wiseman, a lead astronomer at NASA who works at Hubbell was the science speaker at Jubilee and she has a very nice chapter in here. So does Vincent Bacote, who brings his theological mind to bear on the relation to theology and the natural sciences. This has basic stuff that any collegiate (or anyone who reads the popular science magazines or watches PBS) would find helpful. And there are some unique treasures---a bit of Christian insight about science in various cultures, for instance, and a good piece on health care (not the only piece that swerves towards the social sciences a bit.) The forward by Harvard historian of science (himself a devout Mennonite Christian), Owen Gingerich, shows this to be a pretty significant work. It is a grand, a good collection, and we loved showing off its bright orange cover. Unless one is majoring in poetry at a school that demands no math or science, this kind of a resource could be a lifesaver.


Talking the Walk: Letting Christian Language Life Again Marva Dawn (Brazos) $22.99 Marva was a huge hit at this event a few years ago, when she did three keynote presentations. She was willing to return a year later to do a smaller workshopÑshe was that thrilled with this exciting event so laden with potential. Her Sabbath book was popular, and her one on sexual ethics is standard. We even sold a few of the one that critiques the ideologies of affluence and the subsequent hopelessness of our times. This new one contains elegant and brief meditations on words that are demeaned, theological concepts that have become commonplace but misunderstood, all suggesting ways to recover the kind of mature theological language that will sustain radical discipleship.

How do you speak of the significance of such things under the blare of the loud band, after the salsa dance, between students asking for books on dating or a book to give to a disbelieving roommate? What is the place of explaining the meaningful importance of these good books when the first question a sophomore asks is if we have books to help her recover from the broken heart she has from her parents divorce? Amidst all this personal need, between TonyÕs exciting call to missional service and the workshops serious call to think Christianly in the classroom, somewhere, we shoulda raised the question of theological integrity. This book coulda helped.


Here I Am: Now What On Earth Should I Be Doing? Quentin Schultze (Baker) $11.99 My, my, what a lovely little book, powerful, clear, compelling and full of Godly good sense. I think Q should be a Friday night Jubilee speaker, offering this nice teaching that takes us beyond Purpose Driven Life. I gave it a pretty quick shout-out in my Saturday morning promo, but to no avail. Still better, deeper, wonderfully written, is one of our all time favorites: The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness (Word; $17.00.) You know I think it essential. I shoulda tried harder. That is a classic to read and re-read. I think I first heard Os at an old Jubilee in the mid-70Õs. I woulda been sweet to sell a bunch of that one. That would have made Jubilee nearly perfect.

March 6, 2006

A wonderful book story

Every now and then I get these blessed reports of people who use the books we sell to minister to others, or have found, somehow, some insight or inspiration in them. These notes keep us steadfast in our calling and remind us that this book reviewing and bookselling stuff really can be worth it.

After the post-Jubilee post last week, when I suggested that a few really good books didn't sell as many as we might have wished, we got this kind note. I share it with you not at all to toot our own horn or to suggest that everyone should go out of their way to send us these stories (although occasionally it really does boost the spirit.) I share it to remind us all that a little paragraph read here, a page copied there, a book devoured by eager readers or a section shared with those who otherwise wouldn't buy the book, all, in their own way, can make a difference. Thanks to the friend who sent this in. Kudos to you for your good and creative work. Note not only how she used the book with the leaders in her college dorm, but the writing excercise and the passing out of roses. Now that is a cool program.


Even though Free of Charge wasn't a big seller, I happened to be one
of the patrons who did purchase a copy. Periodically I get to do stuff
with the RA staff in my building. Last semester I read a chapter to
them from Blue Like Jazz (the one on community--living with freaks)
and facilitated a discussion with them.

Well today I had the opportunity to work with their team again. All
week long I've tried to figure out what to do and I couldn't make up
my mind. Well this morning I read the prelude to Free of Charge and
instantly knew that I would use it with them.

I've noticed that aside from school books the students I work with
aren't "big readers" so I've thought, "well if they won't read then
I'll read to them." I read them the prelude and then did a 20 minute
guided writing activity with them( kinda like Lauren Winner did in

her memoir workshop). It was fantastic!

I'm not sure I've ever been with them when they've been that quiet. I
didn't have folks turn in their writing to me, I wanted to have the
freedom to write what they "really" wanted thought. And they all
seemed to write for the majority of the time. I ended our time
together by giving them a rose to remind them of the gifts they've
been given and the gifts they have to give. As I was leaving the lobby
I noticed that one of the cleaning ladies had a rose in her hand, I
wonder who passed it along to her. :)

All that to say I'm looking foward to reading all the other gems that
Volf has to offer. Thanks for sharing your love of books! It is
infectious!

March 7, 2006

Four Brand New Books

On the heels of the seasonÕs biggest gig, our big book display at the CCOÕs JUBILEE conference, we packed up some books, scribbled notes on a yellow legal tablet, fetched our out-of-date NYC map and trekked to Manhattan. We were honored and thrilled to be sponsored by InterVarsity Christian FellowshipÕs alum program, an innovative effort to track young college grads and see how they are doing, particularly around discerning vocation, work-world faithfulness, maintaining the vision of making an impact in the marketplace or in their ongoing efforts in advanced higher education. Ed Miller of the New York/New Jersey region hosted us well and convened a gang of sharp young adults to help us lug the books up from the freight elevators into the Trinity Place building and prepare us for a day long conference on mentoring, staying connected, maintaining the vision and seeking to make history in the New York region. Thanks to the mentors who came to encourage the younger workers and thanks to everyone for allowing me to do a plenary talk, to do a workshop, and to have great conversations around books, integrating faith and life, and equipping young Christians to live out the implications of GodÕs care for the city in their callings and careers.

So, now, I am finally able to tell you about some books that have arrived in the middle of all this book-sellinÕ caravaninÕ. Each deserve lengthy reviews and I am confident you will see them listed in many a Òbest of the yearÓ lists 11 months from now. These are important, top-drawer titles so you should cut and paste this post, forwarding it to anybody who cares about serious Christian books. I will be brief.

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life Eugene Peterson (NavPress) $16.99 Even if you only remove the jacket, frame the cover with the skyscraper buildings forming a cross, it is worth the price of the book. More importantly, one of our generation's finest pastoral theologians here gives us more insight from the teaching he did in his award winning Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Our church is going to form aSpringtime adult ed class around this book, a study of the post-resurrection narratives in the gospels. What a joy to think that in the ordinary stuff of real life we can experience the same power as rose Christ from the dead, and live into the mystery of the New Creation breaking in. Transformation teaching plain and simple.


The Word Than Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $25.00 Serious essays from the pen and preaching of our times most significant Old Testament scholar. Those who follow this blog may recall my talking about selling books for him at an Episcopalian gig last December. He was at his best, prophetic, interesting, pastoral, challenging, fascinating. These various articles, essays, and journal pieces have been compiled under three sections: ÒThe World Redescribing the World,Ó ÒThe Word Redefining the PossibleÓ and ÒThe World Shaping a Community of Discipleship.Ó Take a deep breath and dive.


To Own A Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father Donald Miller & John MacMurray (NavPress) $13.99 When we got back from Jubilee and found that this had come right after we left, I almost cussed; Miller, you must know, is the hottest writer among college age folks we have ever seen. This long-awaited memoir piece about his personal journey of redemption through the crisis of fatherlessness is important and will surely be darkly funny and really interesting. Hey, it isnÕt every evangelical book that has an endorsing review from The Washington Post and Jeff Foxworthy. Uh-huh. This is it.

Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons Frederick Buechner (Harper) $24.95 A handsome hardback collection of various sermons from the writer/memoirist/theologian. Most have appeared in some of his smaller paperback collections but there are also some new ones. The introduction by Brian McLaren is exquisite, really exquisite. Speaking of back cover blurbs, this is graced by wonderful endorsements by John Irving, Annie Dillard, John Ortberg, Will Willimon, Max Lucado, and Rob Bell. Nice.

March 10, 2006

Doug Pagitt

Whewie--- what a day! Getting to sell books at a one day event billed merely as a "day apart" with this emergent church leader was a fun thing, even if I did strain my back (again) lugging the boxes. Thanks to Russell Hart of the Central PA conference of the United Methodist Church whose Center for Spiritual Formation hosted this gig with the guru. Fun stuff---hello to any participants who came home and looked us up here on the postmodern network. (Like he said, we can all be connected in these inter-locking circles.) Those who follow these things know that the emergent conversations---nearly five years old and counting---has spun off oodles of experimental churches, nifty new ways of doing things, postmodern theology and participatory, "post-contemporary", ancient/future worship experiences. There have been a handful of key books in the movement, but now there are plenty. From McLaren and Webber (elder writers) to hipster guys like Doug or Dan Kimball, they have been appreciated, questioned, debated and now there are books that evaluate and critique them. This isn't a goofy little trend but a fairly significant bit of paradigm shifting that isn't going to go away.

For what it is worth, Doug grabbed off the book table and waved around the recent work by Eddie Gibbs & Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Culture (Baker; $19.99) which he assured us is the best introductory volume to read (he's correct, I think, for any number of good reasons.) He also promoted The Church in Transition: The Journey of Existing Churches into Emerging Culture by his buddy Tim Conder, with a forward by Dan Allender. (Zondervan $15.99.) It looks like a real "bridge-building" book and one that we will want to promote here.

But yesterday, in this conversation in the round, there were few young folk there, hardly any body piercings (or even anyone complaining about the very bad coffee); nobody seemed too fluent in how film studies can shape church life, seemed too interested in counter-cultural voices for fair trade, say, or noting how Walsh & Middleton use Foucalt to do their study of Colossians---you know, the tone in a gathering that seems, to illustrate pomo sensibilities. Older mystics like Russell and his Center for Spiritual Formation folks and fairly ordinary smaller-town pastors and members, though, all wanted to hear what this free-range, post-evangelical with a church called Solomon's Porch had to say. From their fairly ordinary middle-class settings, it seemed, they were very, very interested and engaged in good, pastoral questions. Thank goodness that ordinary churches have good-hearted folk who are willing to stretch into new arenas of mission and buy a few books on new stuff.

Paggitt made it clear, happily, that he (nor most others who have planted postmodern community churches) do not want to set forth a grand plan for others. They were just following their noses, creating a space---granted, an artsy place that sounds more like an organic coffeehouse than a typical church---where Christian faith seemed plausible. Straight-rowed pews with authoritarian lectures called sermons organized around majority-rule business meetings just didn't seem to be able to cut it with Pagitt; it didn't make sense and it didn't seem all that Christian; he and his companions felt compelled to try to new ways of being faithful to the spirit of Christ. Holy-moly, it was interesting; he has read up on quantum physics and network theory, talked about his multi-racial family, and my hunch is he has checked out the best deconstructive literary critics. Whether he has or hasn't, I have rarely been around anyone who so naturally breathed the good insights of cultural studies and who so regularly asked the big questions---what does it say to have the pews all in a row, facing one direction. Facing one direction for crying out loud! I don't know what my Russian Orthodox friends would say, and one Pentecostal pastor there was revved up, but I am sure that standard denominational folks, the proverbial person in the pew (ha!) wouldn't quit get how he could get all worked up and speak theologically for so long about such a simple architectural feature. Educational wings for our buildings? Calling the worship gathering a service? Don't even get him started.

I could go on and on telling of the interesting and important and fruity things he said. And I could nearly cry about the things that went unsaid. I remain pretty vexed by the whole movement (as I wrote back on our monthly review when I first reviewed an early batch of books that branded this emergent name.) Still, for a good-hearted effort at doing church in a way that makes sense in this context, and which tries to capture the New Testament struggle--the old way of Jewish exclusion doesn't seem right, according to the Spirit as the story is told in Acts, and others get to get in on the good news, now, too!---and develop a set of practices that open up folk to live into 21st century questions in light of this grand Story, well, it is pretty exciting.

Here's the skinny on Doug Pagitt's three books. The new little prayer book, Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God ($15.99), speaks volumes about his anti-Gnostic and non-dualistic spirituality. With a couple of good mediations and poetic prayerful notes, it really is a guide to different body postures that themselves become prayer. Complete with little line-drawing sketches. We love it.

His hardback one on participatory preaching, Preaching Re-imagined ($18.99) makes most sense when you feel how deeply he believes that every person counts and that spiritual formation should be communal and dialogical. No hogging the center stage (for The Porch that would be a stool in the round) for him---sermons are created in community and are delivered in a multi-voiced, dialogical, free-form way. His first book, now retitled, Church Re-Imagined ($16.99) lays out an example of emergent thinking by showing a typical--typical?---week at Solomon's Porch.

We have some of these last two left over (I almost always over-order for author appearances, not wanting to let anyone down.) We need clear out a few of these, rather than send 'em back. Here is my blog-special, good for all of the month of March (or until supplies run out.)

BLOG SPECIAL
2 for $20

Buy both books for $20.00 and save $16.00.
That is $7 off the paperback and $9 off the hardcover.

Email us at read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or call 717.246.3333. Or use the webpage order form. Please don't place orders on the comment section---although would love to see commenty type feedback there. Thanks.

March 13, 2006

Athanasius, Owen, Machen

For my Sabbath reading I had a wonderfully blessed experience reading the new fourth volume in John Piper's collections of character studies in short biographies called (from a line about Augustine) "The Swans Are Not Silent." In each volume he looks at three heroes of Christian faith, illustrating how they taught and lived out a particular truth. For instance, the first, called The Legacy of Soverign Joy looks at the understanding of saving grace in three church greats; the next one, The Hidden Smile of God, looks at the role suffering played in three church leaders; it is not surprising that it is very moving. The third is on keeping up your ministry despite all opposition and struggle, called The Roots of Endurance (the chapter on anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce is splendid, and important, but all three are exceptional.) All three of these books are informative, moving, brief and make significant contributions to our pracitical piety today. Although they come out of a conference designed for pastors, and would make an excellent gift for pastors you know, I think they are great for anyone, since most of us know little about the lives of these previous theologians or Christian leaders. I've been waiting for a fourth one for a while.


Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J. Gresham Machen is a great book on why we must sometimes take a vital stand to defend orthodox theology. I will admit that I sometimes worry that the ever passionate Piper sometimes verges on being to self-assured of his positions, too bombastic, too strong. But, as I have often said as I commend his many books, it is rare to find such generous care, pastoral desire, clear joy and a strong call to sacrifical service. If he errs on the side of being too sure of his views, my hunch is that it doesn't matter too much---most of us will only apply a portion of his teachings, anyway. So even if he overstates a bit, I love and respect and have been helped by his solid guidance and Christ-centered passion.

Readers of my blog or monthly column know that I enjoyed and had sympathies with McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy so you might understand that I worried whether Piper would be promoting harshness or needlessly strict dogma. I was happy that he addressed this on the very first page. Here, he starts off his study of the fight for orthodoxy by insisting that we ought not be prideful, but humble. It is a paragraph worth reading slowly:

Some controversy is crucial for the sake of life-giving truth. Running from it is a sign of cowardice. But enjoying it is usually a sign of pride. Some necessary tasks are sad, and even victory is not without tears---unless there is pride. The reason enjoying controversy is a sign of pride is that humility loves truth-based unity more than truth-based victory. Humility loves Christ-exalting exultation more than Christ-defending confrontation---even more than Christ-defending vindication. Humility delights to worship Christ in spirit and truth. If it must fight for worship-sustaining truth, it will, but that is not because the fight is pleasant. It's not even because victory is pleasant. It's because knowing and loving and proclaiming Christ for who he really is and what he really did is pleasant.
I learned quite a bit about all three of the characters in each of the three chapters. I had no idea that the Council of Nicea (325) created such ugly battles in the generation following its formulation of Christ's divinity. Although an Egpyptian Bishop and Middle Eastern theologian, Athanasius was most beloved as a pastor; I had no idea how he suffered exile and how his flock cared for him. (The famous desert fathers and mothers cared for him, too, a fascinating sub-plot of its own.)

John Owen, too, the 17th century British Puritan, was a serious scholar who took a firm stance for a high view of Christ and his saving work, and his writings propelled him into international politics. (Local Pennsylvania tidbit: William Penn studied under Owen and learned of religious toleration from him) He is the giant of Puritan theology, a dense and deep writer, yet all the while sweetly communing with the Christ that he theologized about.

And Machen. What a character, ceaseless in his reasonable defense of historic faith amongst those that denied the classic forumaltions and truths (you know, little stuff like the bodily resurrection.) Piper's take on him--including some concerns and questions--was very moving for a Presbyterian like me. Machen was kicked out of the church and left his position at Princeton, yet turned down opportunities to teach at more fundamentalist institutions. How he helped evangelicalism grapple with the forces of modernity---between the extremes of liberalism and fundamentalism--is as relevant now as in the middle days of the 20th century.

All of the Swans books are worth having. This one struck me as very relevant, illustrating Piper's passion for truth, his conservative bias in standing for traditional theological forumulations (it is no surprise he takes a shot at the emergent folks) and yet his truly kindly writing and desire for grace and peace is evident. He ends, I'm glad to report, with a reflection on a small book that had a huge, huge impact on me years ago: Francis Schaeffer's The Mark of a Christian. There, you should know, Schaeffer, at the height of his work on cultural apologetics, his defense of historic faith admist nihistic existentialism and worse in the 60's, insisted that the final apologetic, the last defense, the truest compelling arguement, was love in the life of the believer. To start a book like this with a mediation on humility and end it on love is as it should be. As is usually the case, Piper gets it right.

Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen John Piper (Crossway) $17.99

March 17, 2006

N.T. Wright's Simply Christian


Most serious contemporary readers and certainly those familiar with religious writings of the last 50 years know the acclaim of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Originally spoken on the BBC, and then published as smaller booklets---The Broadcast Talks---this book is one of the wiser, deep yet popular cases for the Christian faith in our lifetime. It is widely read and widely cited. Happily, a new book was recently released which documents Lewis's turbulent rise to broadcast fame during the war years. Pretty interesting.

Most serious readers of Christian books today know that certainly one of the most brilliant, popular and influential writers of this generation is N.T. (Tom) Wright. Beloved known by some as "The Bish" he is an evangelically-minded, progressive, erudite and prolific writer. He has done major, major work in Jesus scholarship, published popular-level Bible commentaries, a few collections of sermons and essays, a daily devotional and has written scholarly work on the authority of the Bible, the writings of Paul, the echoes of Hebrew scriptures in the New Testament. He is interested in these postmodern times and yet is resolutely committed to being an Anglican church leader and a Biblical theologian.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense is his sterling call to do popular level, thoughtful and compelling apologetics. It is, in a phrase, his version of Mere Christianity. With rave reviews from diverse authors---the fiction writer Anne Rice, the Reformed theologian J.I. Packer, Walt Brueggemann...It is a remarkable book that has this many important leaders commending it.

I have started this wonderful introduction to Christian faith and it is characteristically Wright.
He starts off with the big question of where our desire for justice comes from. These first chapter invite us to realize that we have dreams, here "echoes" of a voice. The second part is called "Staring Into the Sun" which looks at an overview of the Bible, the culmination of the story of Israel found in Jesus, and how Christ's inaugurates the kingdom. The final third of the book illustrates ways that church folk can be agents of this new Kingdom, this realization of our echo, our desires for the world made right.

I've jumped ahead--I'm so bad--to see how he handles the big ending of living in beauty, as a step entering the new creation brought by the resurrection. It is a wonderful, wonderful ending.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense N.T. Wright (Harper SanFransico) $22.95

March 19, 2006

excerpt from N.T. Wright's Simply Christian

In Simply Christian, N.T. Wright's brillant, new introduction to the Christian faith, an apologetic work somewhat like Lewis's classic Mere Christianity, he starts with our longing for making the world right, our desire for justice, wonders what to make of these echoes we hear of a better world. In the next substantial section, he walks readers through an overview of the Bible story, with the unique take that his scholarly work has developed. With pleasant illustrations and thoughtful argument, he writes about God, Israel, exile & homecoming, and Jesus. From the final pages of the chapter "Israel":
...we can see at last the multiplicity of ways in which the Israel of Jesus's own day was able to think and speak about the coming together of heaven and earth. We noticed in the previous chapter how the Temple functioned this way. The Glorious Presence of YHWH, dwelling in the tent, and then in the Temple itself, was referred to as "the tabernacling"---that is, the Shekinah; it was a way of the God of heaven being present on earth with and for his people. By Jesus's day similar ideas were being developed in relation to the Torah, God's gift to his redeemed people; if you kept the Torah, it was as though you were in the Temple itself--that is, at the place where heaven and earth met. We saw a moment ago another strand that points in the same direction: God's "word," the word by which all things are made, will go out once more to make all things new. Similar things could be said about God's "wisdom," an idea which begins, it seems, with the notion that when God made the world he did so wisely, and develops until "Wisdom" becomes a figure in her own right ...Finally going back once more to Genesis, God's powerful wind, his breath, his Spirit (all three are ways of translating the same original word) is let loose in the world to bring new life.

Presence, Torah, Word, Wisdom, and Spirit: five ways of saying the same thing. The God of Israel is the creator and redeemer of Israel and the world. In faithfulness to his ancient promises, he will act within Israel and the world to bring to its climax the great story of exile and restoration, of the divine rescue operation, of the king who brings justice, of the Temple that joins heaven and earth, of the Torah that binds people together, and of creation healed and restored. It is not only heaven and earth that are to come together. It is God's future and God's present.

It's a wonderful dream. Rich, multi-layered, full of pathos and power. But why should anyone suppose that it---or anything else that might be built upon it---is anything more than a dream? Why should we imagine it's true?

The whole New Testament is written to answer that question. And the answers all focus, of course, on Jesus of Nazareth.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense N.T. Wright (Harper SanFransico) $22.95

March 22, 2006

The Irresistible Revolution

Here is how I start the long review--mostly positive, with a few qualifications--that I did for the monthly column over at the website. I hope you read it all and catch our enthusism for this book.

I have been eager to tell you about a wonderful, fun, challenging, interesting and provocative book written by a young Christian who is getting some publicity these days; it is a guy weÕve come to know a bit, that weÕve heard of for several years, and are very encouraged to know of the release of his new book. Shane Claiborne is a hoot of a guy---radical in his commitment to evangelical social action, delightful in his lack of guile, inspiring in his show of guts and goofiness. I have a few reservations about the book, a pages-long backstory about my own journey (which I will try to tell only briefly) and more enthusiasm about selling this new book than anything that has come along in ages. It is called, if you donÕt know, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and is published by Zondervan ($12.99.) This in itself is a story that is curious since most evangelical publishers wouldnÕt risk telling the tale of a young man who lives with the poor, protesting the role of the military and who has been regularly arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience. Martin Luther KingÕs famous words to the more cautious status quo Reverends in his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" are still pretty needed today, since most mainstream folks tell our idealistic social activists to cool down and go more slowly. I am overjoyed that Zondervan took a risk on this guy, and trust that the integrity and wholeness of ShaneÕs life, and the Biblical basis for his human rights activism, will become plain. For now, though, the release of this book is a huge thing. This is Zondervan, not Orbis Press! Shane came out of an evangelical Christian college, for crying out loud, not Oberlin or Koinonia Farms! He has spoken at Willow Creek! How did he even hear of the Berrigan BrotherÕs at his college? That is itself quite a story. I thought we were the only bookstore in the world that carries Max Lucado and Ammon Hennacy; Chuck Colson and Howard Zinn; Rick Warren and Dorothy Day. But IÕm ahead of myself...read more

March 27, 2006

I missed that memo.

A funny saying making the rounds these days---I missed that memo--suggests that sometimes we feel out of the loop, missing something, unaware.

Well, this time, it isn't your fault. Our automatic notification "subscription" went a bit hay-wire and somehow the thing got, to use the proper term, xed out. Or maybe disabled is what they call it now.

It has been re-enabled and you now can see that I've posted a couple of really important book annoucements in the past week. Please scroll down and check them out, since I've got a few more up my sleeve, coming down the pike.

Sorry about the inconvenience. It is gratifying to know that some of you missed these reports (well, just a few) although it is weird to think that you thought I'd have any idea how to fix it.
As always, kudos to Scott the Ubiquitous Cyber-Man who can fix these things and to fellow blogger Denise Frame Harlan, who told us how. You should subscribe to her blog of lovely and powerful prose because she is going to be a famous author someday. Enjoy.

March 29, 2006

Born Again in Baghdad

I hope that readers took me up on the invitation to read my long reflection on the wonderful and important new book by Shane Claiborne and his pals at The Simple Way community in Philly. You will not want to miss Shane's punchy and powerful reflections, The Irresistable Revolution and I hope my mild critique didn't dissuade anybody from taking him seriously. His book, I believe, deserves to be discussed and debated.

I would like to suggest another book, a parallel book, in which, interestingly, Shane makes an appearance. (His broken arm episode from the wreck while doing peace work in Iraq is quite a story, and I was glad to read more about it in this new book.) It is calledTo Baghdad and Beyond: How I Got Born Again in Babylon, written by another formner student from Eastern U., a thoughtful young man involved in their best classes: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Not unlike Shane, young Jonathan came to college with a conservative, evangelical faith intact, a sharp mind and a desire to take his discipleship seriously. He ended up embracing a pretty radical tradition, seeking to embody faith by following ancient practices, and thinking through social issues in light of the primacy of loyality to Jesus.

The title alludes to the heart of the narrative---a peacemaking expedition with CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) to be a Godly presence and international nonviolent witness to the possibilities of peacebuilding ways of solving international problems. You may know about CPT due to the recent news reports of a recent delegant (a Candadian Quaker named Tom Fox) who was murdered after being kidnapped there. There has been much right-wing sputtering about the military-led rescue of the remaining captured peacemakers and this book is a wonderful window into some of what goes on in these trips. It is by turns frightening, funny, theological and a great travelogue, all in the genre of spiritual memoir. It allows us a glimpse into the soul of one who would put his life on the line for peace and helps us understand the Christain basis for peace activism in the manner of Voices in the Wilderness or the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Our family has been aware of the history of the CPT movement (my sister-in-law went on an early, dangerous, version of this, Witness for Peace, into the war zones of Nicargua during the Contra war there.) Jonathan's book means very much to us for any number of such reasons.

Upon returning home---especially with a tender recollection of being rescued by a Muslim doctor in the town of Rutba, where their hospital had just been bombed by coaltion forces---Jonathan and his wife helped start an intentional community, living among the poor and trying to flesh out a more overtly and prophetically Christian way of life, here, amidst the underbelly of the American empire. The Rutba House community is in Durham NC. (Learn more about their work at www.newmonasticism.org.)


As contemporary American Christians read the book of Revelation within the dominant societal system in which we live, we must ask ourselves whether or not our own nation-state has become the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire. We must ask "Has America become Babylon?" That is the question that Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrave endeavors to answer.

Tony Campolo from the Preface

For those who may want a more detailed study of the Christain Peacemaker Teams and their work, see the new collection Getting in the Way: Stories form the Christain Peacemaker Teams edited by Trician Gates Brown (Herald Press) $17.99 From Hebron to Haiti, Iraq to Columbia, these brave folks are doing what we all know needs to be done if the faith-based peace witness is to have integrity: sacrifice for peace as much as others sacrifice for war. Highly recommended.

To Baghdad and Beyond Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Cascade Books) $16.00

March 1, 2006

The Irresistible Revolution

I have been eager to tell you about a wonderful, fun, challenging, interesting and provocative book written by a young Christian who is getting some publicity these days; it is a guy we’ve come to know a bit, that we’ve heard of for several years, and are very encouraged to know of the release of his new book. Shane Claiborne is a hoot of a guy---radical in his commitment to evangelical social action, delightful in his lack of guile, inspiring in his show of guts and goofiness. I have a few reservations about the book, a pages-long backstory about my own journey (which I will try to tell only briefly) and more enthusiasm about selling this new book than anything that has come along in ages. It is called, if you don’t know, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and is published by Zondervan ($12.99.) This in itself is a story that is curious since most evangelical publishers wouldn’t risk telling the tale of a young man who lives with the poor, protesting the role of the military and who has been regularly arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience. Martin Luther King’s famous words to the more cautious status quo Reverends in his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" are still pretty needed today, since most mainstream folks tell our idealistic social activists to cool down and go more slowly. I am overjoyed that Zondervan took a risk on this guy, and trust that the integrity and wholeness of Shane’s life, and the Biblical basis for his human rights activism, will become plain. For now, though, the release of this book is a huge thing. This is Zondervan, not Orbis Press! Shane came out of an evangelical Christian college, for crying out loud, not Oberlin or Koinonia Farms! He has spoken at Willow Creek! How did he even hear of the Berrigan Brothers at his college? That is itself quite a story. I thought we were the only bookstore in the world that carries Max Lucado and Ammon Hennacy; Chuck Colson and Howard Zinn; Rick Warren and Dorothy Day. But I'm ahead of myself.

Here’s the short, short version of this hard-to-put-down memoir (you will want to read the whole story in the book, of course, since I cannot do it justice here.) Young Shane was a Confederate flag-wavin’, football-playin’, Bible-believin’, good old Christian boy when he met Tony Campolo and other advocates for a Christ-centered, Biblically-based, evangelical radicalism. Care for the Earth, solidarity with the poor, a critique of the arrangement of power and privilege, combined with a deeper spirituality which took the Bible more seriously (he actually read the prophets and Sermon on the Mount, a rare thing in some evangelical circles) and which eschewed easy formulaic answers to tough social and theological questions. This, of course, led to an awareness of the church’s complicity in social sins of racism, classism, sexism, and consumerism. Heady and important stuff for a nice guy in his late teens.

And, so, he moves in with the poor, literally under bridges and on the back streets of Philadelphia, listened to Rage and Bob Marley, and there was no looking back. His story and understanding of how Christianity is meant to be lived is told here with great charity and clarity. It is a book that is on fire with good zeal and is wise beyond its years. The Irresistible Revolution is, in fact, pretty irresistible, and calls forth a desire to want to be more Christ-like, more prophetic, more engaged in the simple joys of trying to make the world a better place, in God’s own ways. It is, as I said, a book we are very excited about.

And--here’s the backstory for me--man-o-man, young Mr. Claiborne is a posterchild for what in the mid 70’s journalists were calling "the young evangelicals"---Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Nancy Hardesty, Tom Skinner, Radix magazine, The Other Side community, counter-cultural evangelicals who came of age reading Jacque Ellul, William Stringfellow, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Albert Camus and Malcolm X and who insisted that the lack of a comprehensive social vision amongst soul-winning evangelicals simply wasn’t Biblical. I can’t tell you how proud I am to know of a guy like Shane, to tremble as I read his story, to laugh and shake my head, thinking this could have been me 35 years ago. I remember getting Campus Crusade for Christ classmates to read Martin Luther King, to pass out leaflets about the plight of farmworkers as we protested local grocery stores who supported agribusiness giants who wouldn’t give grape pickers a fair deal; it was a stretch to get them to even think about the aftermath of the Viet Nam war; I recall waving that first issue of The Post American with it’s controversial cover of a pieta wrapped in an American flag (Post American is now a considerably tamer mag called Sojourners.) I recall late night talks and prayer meetings--some held briefly in jail cells, I’ll admit---wondering where all this would lead. What does it mean to be one with the dispossessed, to try to build a new world, to be Christ's agents of social transformation?

Shane has similar talks, but his are done more seriously than mine ever were: he literally has lived with the homeless (which brings to mind Brennan Manning’s stint as an anonymous prisoner in a Spanish jail so he could minister to the forgotten prisoners there.) Shane has huddled with Iraqi children as the bombs fell around them in Baghdad; he really lived in Calcutta for a while, hanging out with his new friend, who he affectionately calls "Momma T." And he still lives in an intentional community (a very important part of his story)--a good experiment for us until we moved here to open our store and adopted a more typical small-town lifestyle. You’ve got to read this book, and although it resonates deeply for me, to even suggest that this is the journey of Beth and I would be a significant overstatement. Still, we want you to know how much this means to us…if you trust our judgement about books at all, if you like our mix of flavors and perspectives here at Hearts & Minds, you should jump on this one right away. Get a few and give "Ëœem away. Beth and I are glad for witnesses like this, even it is not exactly our own. We hope God will raise up others with such energy for social change, for this particular gift into this particular lifestyle. If it inspires you even a little--to volunteer at the local battered women’s shelter, say, or to write to congress to protest social service cutbacks, to join a local group working against toxic wastes or suburban sprawl, if you talk more deeply with friends about community, if you give a bit more away and live on just a little less, then our cheerleading for this book will have been well worth it.

Happily, The Irresistible Revolution is not the kind of book that uses manipulation or guilt mongering. It is not harsh or self-righteous. It is informed by the personalism of St. Francis or the Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day. He does tell of some pretty daring episodes of public witness, creative (and always nonviolent) civil disobedience, of actions to dramatize the call to repent. It is clear, though, that Shane is in love with Jesus, is a follower of Christ, and is generous towards His church. He is passionate about being a conduit of God’s love and is therefore gracious.

Years ago, Sojourners editor Jim Wallis--who writes a great forward to Shane’s book, where he calls it "the best evidence so far that a new generation of believers is waking up and catching fire with the gospel again"---wrote a very important piece warning of the dangers among "radical Christians" of a new legalism, a counter-cultural self-righteousness that measured faithfulness not like the old school which counted souls won or movies rejected or Bible verses memorized but a legalism nonetheless (how many protests, how many One bracelets, how much fair-trade coffee, how many anti-war bumperstickers, how much voluntary poverty…) Maybe you have not been drawn to circles where just such standards were held; maybe the More With Less Cookbook is not de rigour in your house church and ignoring the latest legislative update from Bread for the World brings you no shame.

That piece from Wallis left a major mark on my soul, remembering that we can all too often substitute one extreme for another, fall into a similar narrow-minded lifestyle and cramped imagination whether one is a rich Republican, a liberal democrat or a protesting "pox on both their houses" radical Christian. I say all this to note that Shane and his buds seem not to worry about this; his book is winsome and gracious and exciting. It is one of the most radical calls to Christian living I have read in years but it in no way made me feel inappropriately crummy. Crummy a little, maybe, but that may be called for. Apathy and distraction (Jesus called it, I believe, "the cares of this world") plagues many of our best intentions and this book’s irresistible call to a life lived with integrity and passion for justice may be just what the doctor ordered. It does not, though, intend to pound us into a new lefty legalism or shame us into giving away all our income. It is instructional and inspiring; prophetic and yet winsome.

And, The Irresistible Revolution is packed with stories. From the ways the Mafia helped them while encamped in a closed up church to his lavish Jubilee money give-away on Wall Street, Shane is a raconteur like his famous professor, Tony Campolo. Where does he get this stuff you will think as you wipe away the tears (from laughter or sentiment or both.) Preachers or campus ministers will find his illustrations custom-made for swiping (I am sure he doesn’t believe in copyrighting, so go for it!) and the story of The Simple Way is a great example to tell and point to. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what it might look like to live out radical discipleship in our broken world. And I recommend it to those of us who may feel stagnant in faith, perhaps on autopilot, committed yet complacent. You may not feel particularly called to resist materialism with such rigor and consistency. (I am not about to start sewing my own cloths as he does to avoid the problem of complicity in sweatshops.) We are deeply grateful to read and re-read his invitation to a genuine faith and an authentic church and pray that it creates communities who talk about this stuff, who free people up to take risks, who at least imagine that some of us are called to bold and robust and to zany efforts at protest and service. Rent the movie about Dorothy Day, Entertaining Angels (and especially enjoy Martin Sheen’s zesty portray of her mentor, Peter Maurin) and then think of Shane. I am confident that many of us will be helped to take more seriously the politics of Jesus even if we do not adopt his unconventional lifestyle.

***

I mentioned some reservations. After my full-tilt, utterly sincere recommendation---I really do hope this book sells well and that the publisher doesn’t regret investing in it--- I wonder about the wisdom of trying to fine-tune my accolades. We want to do our part to get it out there and sell well.

(I sometimes wonder: is my column mostly a way to cheerlead for the many good books that are out there, or a space for critical discourse, like, say, Books & Culture or venues where one would just as commonly see a negative critique as a rave? I usually prefer to use my limited time and space to signal and suggest, celebrate and affirm.) Still, my respect for Shane, my appreciation for the Simple Way community, and my own somewhat similar journey to the one he tells here make me want to be fully honest in my appraisal. So, my friendly word-to-the-wise. Please buy the book, catch the irresistible call of Christ to follow with such abandon, and then think it all through with others…

My concern, for those who follow our Hearts & Minds BookNotes blog or who have read these monthly reviews, may be predictable. Shane seems to stand in the tradition of what one might call Christian anarchism. Like Dorothy Day or St. Francis, he calls for serving the poor while articulating orthodox, simple love for the gospel. He is nearly an evangelical Jerry Rubin---a Christian version of Wavy Gravy (if you don’t catch that reference, just skip it.) But that seems to me to be too simple. We need ordinary radicals, as he says. The gospel is revolutionary, this idea of a regime change on the planet. But ordinary radicals take up their subversive vocations and callings as artists and chemists, stockbrokers and storekeepers, IT techs and veterinarians, public health researchers and school administrators, stay-at-home dads and urban gardeners, farmers and poets, citizens and sports fans. They go to work in government and media and they serve God in science and schooling. Of course I am referring to those who are the likely market for this book---middle class folks who have the blessing of exploring careers and serving in various spheres in our (over?) developed Western culture, unlike subsistence farmers or refugees in the two-thirds world. And even here, nearby your home and mine, many are too poor or beaten down or confused to explore using their gifts in callings and careers.

Nonetheless, to bring true healing to our disordered society we need some of our best and brightest to not drop out and live with the homeless, but rather to infiltrate the corporations and think-tanks, research centers and engineering firms, political parties and school boards and hope to make an impact there. Like Daniel in Babylon---or like the critical letter Jeremiah sent to the first batch of exiles living in captivity there, famously recorded in Jeremiah 21---we are not called to resist our culture at every point or feel squeamish about taking up tasks within the empire. Shane would not disagree, I am sure, that we are to "seek the peace of the city" where we find ourselves. I think, though, that this means in our day, a renewed focus on the reformation teachings (nearly exquisite in Luther and Calvin) that ordinary folk serve God best in their workaday offices. We need to shout from the rooftops the mandate that Vincent Bacote has called "The Church’s First Great Commission" to steward the Earth and its possibilities. It is an emphasis that doesn’t come through in this book, rendering it, in my view, not too radical, but not radical enough.


God’s compassion for the poorest of the poor presents a moral imperative for us all. No one can claim to follow Christ and not love their needy neighbors (I still cringe and ponder how best to live out verses like I John 3:16-17 about sharing one’s assets.) Shane’s example in this is powerful and compelling. But I believe we must attend to re-thinking the foundations of our culture and strive to construe a Christian perspective across the history-forming, culture-shaping curriculum of colleges and universities. (College students are no more important to God’s heart, obviously, but there is little doubt that those preparing to enter strategic gate-keeping positions in socially-influential careers are called to broker those positions in Godly ways for the sake of justice and cultural reformation.) If we don’t raise up a generation of Christian scholars who will intentionally re-think "the social question" we will at best provide band-aids to gaping wounds.


As band-aids go, the Simple Way community, which Shane so colorfully tells of in The Irresistible Revolution, has come up with some pretty good ones. Shane’s attention to the prophetic tradition---protesting in the middle of the Republican convention, say, after sneaking in with a business suit reminds me of Jeremiah, to name just one Hebrew prophet who disrupted prestige events---has allowed him to make the move from offering safe charity to provocateur for social justice. The commitment to doing this together in concert with a community is instructive (even though I fear that monasticism--new or old--tends to pull people’s energies and visions away from the world.) Christians are called, as the Catholic Workers put it, "build a new world in the shell of the old" and young Shane would agree with Jim Wallis’ claim in the forward that faith is "always personal but never private." But what, exactly, does this radical, public discipleship have to say to the worlds of bridges and buildings, sonograms and catscans, garages and grocery stores, turnpikes and television studios, kindergartens and colleges, nursing homes and prisons, suburban sprawl or urban design…you get the picture. In such a complex world, where institutions and organizations and the built environment are shaped by philosophical (often idolatrous) ideologies, which then in turn shape the culture and those of us within it, we need a truly revolutionary revolution that encourages thinking that is, as Abraham Kuyper put it, "architectonic." The dream of God is to have Christ’s followers "in but not of" these fallen systems and committed to re-thinking things at the roots. The radix of "radical" is Latin for "roots." If we are going to be radical, we have to rethink the roots of our social structures; for instance, we must re-think the very theories of society and economics that have given rise to consumer capitalism, not just pick up the battered ones that are abused by that market-driven worldview. We need college professors and business folk re-imagining new models for economic development and how we actually do economics--from banking to business, advertising to questions of wage scales, corporate ethics and how we organize labor/management disputes, etc. etc.--- all to the glory of the Christ who cares for the Earth and the poor. In every field we need vibrant Christians who have thought things through, read the literature, taken a stand and take up their role as subversives within the enterprises and institutions that form the webs of influence in the modern world.

Justice will flow down, in better streams, when everyone in the Body of Christ who is able lives with greater gusto an integrated faith that honors Christ’s way in every zone of life, connecting faith to redemptive practices in the workplace, marketplace, artistic culture and worlds of media and information and so on--obviously, also, in church and home. (In one of Ron Sider’s important books, Living Like Jesus, he says we need to think Christianly "in the bedroom and the boardroom.") What does Christian spirituality have to say to inform our use of computers? Our involvement with popular entertainment? Our relationship to political parties? Our duty to pay taxes and the privilege to help determine how they are best used, even at a local level? Our role in school districts? How ought we to think about nutrition and health-care, home building and heating, zoning laws about recycling and such? What does it mean, as one Christian book on new urbanism puts it, to build "sidewalks of the Kingdom"? When the Bible says to "take every theory captive" how does this impact our theories about work, technologies, efficiency, leisure? Could we imagine young Christian journalists making a redemptive impact at Fox news? Could evangelical leaders encourage young Christians to enter the highbrow world of contemporary art? What would it look like for a radical Christian to work to transform thinking in the science journals about genes and genomes?

Shane’s zany story about their great vehicle which runs on recycled grease that they get for free from fast food joints is a great example of how even his personalistic and anarchistic vision does lead The Simple Way to think through the vast implications of their revolutionary faith. They’ve come up with new car designs, for crying out loud, and are using even their transportation choices to illustrate a new world coming. He says, specifically, they we must "get beyond the rebellious and reactive counter-cultural paradigm." More practical stories like this, of positive initiatives and creative solutions to complex problems, are bound to be told by those who are invited to deeper discipleship by The Irresistible Revolution. This first book by young Shane Clairborne reminds me to live my all for Christ, to continue to seek God’s way in matters of relationships and community, and to always recall that the poor and oppressed are to be the first beneficiaries of our leavening influence within the institutions and bureaucracy of modern culture.

If this generous book makes anything clear to me it is that my convictions about the importance of the Christian mind, the need to attend to worldview formation, that lasting social change comes from within the structures of culture that have been disclosed in God’s world, must always be connected to those on the underside of such institutions. Marketplace ministries, academic discipleship on college campuses, Christian engagement with the arts, support for Christians in philosophy and academia as well as the move to dignify all common labor--street-sweepers doing their very best, as Martin Luther King put it---all of this must have some relationship to the call to justice, the mandate to be peacemakers, and the very overt teaching of Jesus about possessions and servanthood. And must have some relationship to joy. We want the revolution of God to be, after all, irresistible.

I thank Shane for his passion, his prayerfulness, his witness to the struggles of community and his bold willingness to get out there and do something important and joyful and hard and good with his life. I thank Zondervan for pushing out of their comfort zone within the evangelical bookselling sub-culture and publishing such a book. (I hope those of us that care buy it and tell others to buy it so it doesn’t languish unsold, making it that much harder for a shift within the evangelical publishing empires to imagine doing important and controversial books like this next time.) And I am thankful to God, that the Holy Spirit continues to draw folks into unique ministries that can inspire and motivate us all to live more faithfully. Some will--I hope!--drop out of their boring jobs or schools and form new ministries on the front lines of service. Others will read this book, disagree with much of Shane’s style and approach, but will still be inspired to give more away, to serve more caringly, to take faith more seriously. Agree with this book or not, nearly everyone who reads it will be glad they did. It will make you think, make you laugh, and, I hope, make you reflect and live differently. Shane is surely right that we need a revolutionary faith. And he is also right that this is, finally, an ordinary thing to do. Those that read this book may find the call of the Kingdom to be irresistible.

****

NEW IRRESISTIBLE TUNES FOR REVOLUTION

Three new albums that mean a lot to me are the perfect soundtrack to Irresistible Revolution. I have no idea if Shane likes this stuff (although I’d guess sp.) They are three releases that you really should know about and that we recommend. The first for the powerful social message, the second for the sheer artistry and excellent playing, and the third for the multi-cultural/poetic educational value.

Mockingbird Derek Webb (Provident) $13.97 This is, without a doubt, a signal sign within the sub-genre of contemporary Christian music, historic, even. There has never been a record so blunt about social justice, so passionate about God's counter-cultural values, so clear that following Christ with integrity involves thinking about the arts, social change, contemporary issues. One song uses a recording of Martin Luther King, another asks about flags in our churches. Still another invites us not to simple or formulaic answers ("just tell me who to vote for", "just label my music") but to thoughtfulness and nuance. Acoustic singer-song writer with a bit of rootsy influence, this is a great, great disc. One customer recently told us how this one recording has driven him to explore the whole social justice tradition, and, inspired by these great tunes, bought--guess what?--Shane Claiborne. Natch.



Blues & Ballads Brooks Williams (Red Guitar Blue Music) $16.95 If you follow this column, you know that singer-songwriter Brooks is a friend of ours and a supporter of H&M. He played our "tenth anniversary gig" over a decade ago, and he’s shopped here often, when passing through this way. More importantly, he is truly the best guitar player I’ve ever seen. (His last all instrumental album, Guitar Player on Solid Air Records, is still in heavy rotation here in the shop.) Williams has gotten exceptional critical acclaim and we think he is the scene’s best kept secret. His playing is pleasant and smooth, he’s so incredibly talented that serious musicians adore him, and he is a very sweet singer making him a gracious interpreter not only of his own folksy ballads, but of traditional blues, world music, old jazz and a gumbo of fun and sometimes funny stuff. This new album is his long-awaited cover album, doing blues, jazz, bluesy Irish stuff and an interesting array of funky, archival stuff. He isn't the kind of blues player, though, that brings you down, not gritty or gross. If it is possible, it can be said that this is an upbeat collection of blues. One highlight for me--and it should be for you---is his marvelously lovely remake of a very early Bruce Cockburn song, "One Day I Walk" where his guitar recording just pops with clarity and his bluesy vocal outdoes the original by a long shot. Support indie artists and order this today!




Out Beyond Ideas David Wilcox & Nance Pettit (What Are Records?) $17.98 We love the soft pop, James-Taylor-esque sound of this great lyricist and fine songwriter. For years we’ve been happy to stock all his stuff. This, though, is an unusual recording, a fund-raiser for the "songs for peace project" which benefits Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding. These are acoustic-driven simple tunes that make songs out of prayers and poems, parables and stories from around the world. From Sufi prayers to Indian poems, these are rare glimpses into a common hope for faith-based peacemaking. Produced by Ric Hordinski, well-known not only for producing other Wilcox albums, but for his work with Over the Rhine. Very interesting.