For instance, last weekend, with the help of some dear friends at Gordon College, we set up a display in Boston for those seriously interested in the relationship of faith and film studies, being "salt and light" amidst the "electronic campfire" for modern storytelling that is contemporary cinema. Speakers were as wide ranging as the very smart drummer from rock band Mae, to media executive and fantasy novelist Linda Rios Brook (check out her Lucifer's Flood [published by Realms; $13.95], part intriguing theological exploration and part swashbuckling adventuresome story of prehistoric heaven and earth) this prestigious gathering was exactly the kind of group we feel especially called to serve. Others who are savvy about ways to be engaged in "common good" kind of work within the entertainment industry spoke and debated and imagined greater influence for truly important things within this very strategic arena.
Barbara Nicolosi was perhaps the most significant speaker, teaching from her important, co-edited book Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture (Baker; $18.00.) What fun to have a speaker telling stories about the director of the X-Men movies, or the backstory of the provocative, short-lived TV show Joan of Arcadia. Interviewed here are the cultural creatives of Hollywood, but, more, there is theologically-informed wisdom for any of us living in this entertainment world. Whether you are film buff, a Christian movie critic, a parent trying to discern what to permit your teens to watch; whether you are a college student who is taking a film course, or are working in the industry, there are chapters here for you. I continue to ponder some of this, and agree with the blurb on the back by David McFadzean, himself a producer of Home Improvement, What Women Want and Where the Heart Is when he says, "Do yourself a favor---turn off the TV, skip the movie opening this weekend, sit down, make yourself a tub of popcorn and read this book." Here and here are good reviews of it and it's multi-layered, serious perspective.
A few days later we were part of a book launch in Philadelphia, celebrating the brand new release of a splendid pocket sized hardback prayer book, created by the Twenty-Fifth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Right Rev. Frank T. Griswold. As a former chair of the Episcopal Church's Standing Liturgical Commission, and a co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, he is deeply shaped by the devotional practices of high liturgy, and the personal practices of praying the hours, the Divine Offices, and such. Rev. Griswold---most just called him Frank---walked us through the various sections of his fabulous Praying Our Days: A Guide and Companion (Morehouse; $20.00) from the opening essay to the section of full-color icons in the back. What a treat to have him tell of his own boy-hood faith, reading prayers from an array of prayer books, and how the Vatican II renewal efforts lead to the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, a project in which he was involved. (God must have a sense of humor, by the way. Just a day before I had an email conversation with non-Episcopalian (PCA, actually) customer asking about the debate between those who favor the 1928 BCP edition and the more commonly-used 19'79 BCP. Little did I know that Frank, who I was about to meet, could hold forth on that very topic, if asked!)
Griswold was methodical and clear, calling upon us to experience the Triune God, without sentiment or excessive enthusiasm, but in ways that truly form us to be Christ-like disciples, carrying faith into the dailiness of this broken world. Praying Our Days includes short essays and a few poems (like the wonderful "Word" by Madeleine L'Engle, an Episcopalian whose art and writing and soul was shaped by her own love of the catechism and prayers of these sorts.) There are Psalms, litanies, prayers, prayers of the Bishop's own composition, and prayers both ancient and recent. Being with this gathering of older Episcopalians, laity and priests, hearing this leader tell of his own prayer life, and signing, then, this brand new book, was a thrill. Thanks to those at the Philadelphia Theological Institute for allowing us to participate.
The drive home was great, spending time in silence and prayer, and then listening to Bono's ironic rock refrain from the new album, No Line on the Horizon, "let me in the sound, let me in the sound." And switching to the new live Van Morrison, the celtic cowboy, who scat sings up and down the scale, over and over, growling out his incantation: listen to the silence. Praying Our Days: A Guide and Companion will help us to "the sound" and "the silence." We have more of these in the shop, of course, so do order one if you'd like.
Late last night I returned from a drive a few hours West, where I met up with ever faithful Scott, who is transporting books for us to the annual Byron Bitar philosophy lectures at Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, PA. These annual lectures in philosophy are growing in renown, and tonight they will feature Dr. James K.A. Smith (who teaches in the esteemed philosophy department of Calvin College) who will engage in conversation with his respondant, Eastern College prof R.J. Snell. Snell is quite the ecumenical Christian scholar himself, author of Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan & Richard Rorty on Knowing Without a God's-eye View (Marquette University Press; $27.00.) Jamie Smith is just about my favorite philosopher, if one can have a favorite philosopher, and his having studied the epic Dutch neo-Calvinist thinker Herman Dooyeweerd, as well as his remarkable work interpreting the "radical orthodoxy" movement and his thoughtful engagement with the postmodern emergent conversation, makes him a very important figure. That Snell will bring a Lonergraian bit of insight will make this a remarkable scholarly event. Kudos to Geneva prof Esther Lightcap Meek, herself author of the truly helpful, Polanyi-inspired lay-person's guide to epistemology (Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People; Brazos Press; $22.00) and others at Geneva College who pull of these wonderful, open-to-the-public events.
Just to note how significant this young scholar is, you should know that there is
now a book out that is a discussion of his work. Entitled The Logic of Incarnation: James K.A. Smith's Critique of Postmodern Religion edited by Neal DeRoo and Brian Lightbody (Pickwick; $28.00), it is a pretty high-octane theo-philosophical collection, with various colleagues and associates offering appreciative critique, response and evaluation. Jamie does a good reply as a last chapter, taking up some of the contributions and challenges, inviting us all to thinking more faithfully about the nature of the world in which God is incarnated, and how the implications of that doctrine can shape our engagement with post-modernity and the postmodern deconstructive project.
Jamie, by the way, has a new collection of more popular-level essays being released next month, and we are taking pre-orders for it. I am so thrilled partly because this isn't aimed at the scholarly guild, even as it brings a serious, thoughtful approach in chapters that are none-the-less aimed at a fairly ordinary reader. We are thrilled that it will be released in April. Dedicated to Fuller President Richard Mouw---perfect---it is called The Devil Reads Derrida--and other Essays on the University, The Church. Politics, and the Arts (Eerdmans; $17.00.) It includes previously published essays, articles, popular columns, speeches and sermons. Yes, may favorite "Teaching Calvinists to Dance" from CT is in there, his brilliant telling of how the embodied nature of his Pentecostal dancing days has shaped his more abstract scholarly work within the Kuyperian/Calvinist tradition. It is the perfect introduction to this guys robust and creative work in social action, cultural studies, theological reflection, and his admixture of his Pentecostal background, his complex Reformed worldview, and his contemporary concerns about how liturgy shapes life.
In fact, his next major work will be released later this summer, and will be called Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic; $21.99.) It will surely be one of the most important books of the year, perhaps of the decade! I suspect the Bitar lectures will be mostly drawn from this forthcoming volume. Here is the promo blurb about it: Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans--as Augustine noted--are "desiring agents," full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love. James K. A. Smith focuses on the themes of liturgy and desire in Desiring the Kingdom, the first book in what will be a three-volume set on the theology of culture. He redirects our yearnings to focus on the greatest good: God. Ultimately, Smith seeks to re-vision education through the process and practice of worship. Students of philosophy, theology, worldview, and culture will welcome Desiring the Kingdom, as will those involved in ministry and other interested readers. It is certainly a "Hearts & Minds" kind of book, and we are taking pre-orders for this one, too. If you'd like to chat about it, call 717.246.3333.
any book mentioned
**this month only**
(Pre-orders of James K.A. Smith forthcoming books included, to be shipped when released.)
Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313 717.246.3333