I hope you noticed that our October book review column over at the Hearts & Minds website was a reflection on a few new books dealing with college life, and then a bibliography of a handful of good books for students. One need not be a college student, or a campus minister, to appreciate this. Or so say I! There are too few of us book lovers that go the extra bit to forward reviews and essays, book lists or (dare I say it? Hearts & Minds stuff) to those who may find it most germane. Germane. Yesindeedie. Who do you know–a parent, pastor or professor–who might find helpful a book list of evangelical worldview resources for students? Please do check out and tell others about the monthly column. We really hope they help people.
And, more: the reason for that little listing was for an upcoming conference with Steve Garber, good, good friend and author of Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years. YADA, YADA, YADA (the Hebrew word to know) is the name given for this little gig, to be held Saturday at Messiah College (at Issachar’s Loft, if you’re in the region.) I will do an opening keynote, preaching about changing the world through discovering a sense of vocation, and re-thinking the theoretical, structural and institutional matters that must change if the emerging generation is going to truly bring healing hope to our sad world. Then, Steve will do some lectures, guide some discussions, engage in some interactive conversations with students as they try to know deeply that which they think they know. That is, Steve will prompt them (and we hope that the book display will help them, think through the moral implications and ethical trajectory for their academic years. Particularly for students who are followers of Christ, this is a huge and often untapped conversation.
I wonder if Steve will show clips from the movie Wit as he sometimes does (a woman dying of cancer, who thought she knew death because she was a expert on the poetry of Blake and a nearly uncaring doctor who though he knew health because he was an expert on oncology.) I wonder if he might talk about one of my all time favorite books Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed by Phillip Hallie, about the risk-filled ministry of Andre Trocme and his small, faith-filled, Protestant community in France who resisted Nazism and took in threatened Jewish families (Steve, too, loves that book.) I wonder if he will help us ponder Simone Weil’s final lines, that the most important task is life is learning what it means to know. The rich Hebrew word yada certainly implies a tender and wholistic embrace–think of Parker Palmer’s wonderful book on the spirituality of education entitled To Know As We Are Known–and a moral responsibility. I hope he shows the Numb video of U2, helping us once again feel the angst of our info-glut society which knows so much and feels (and does) so little. And I am sure he’ll tell of a short story or poem or essay of Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer-writer who embodies the kind of a life well lived that we want students imagine. The Hebrew prophets make it clear that people of faith, to be authentic in what they claim they know, must live out the radical implications of God’s care for creation, for history, for others. I’ve heard Garber quote elequant passages from The Prophets by Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a book we’ve long promoted. (Are you seeing why I love this guy?) Ahhh, what does all this mean for the formation of younger people, for the doing of education, for careers and callings as studied in colleges and universities? (Many standard ones teach students just to get a job–as if punching the clock, for personal happiness or to pay the bills, is the meaning of true knowledge, while the more expensive ones may imply that salvation comes from obtaining a lot of factual content. Learning for a job in the American workplace or learning to prove yourself an intellectual— can either of these approaches measure up to the profound and lovely implications of yada?)
Do please consider checking out the monthly column and seeing the descriptions of the books I will promote at this conference. And pray for us, if you’re the praying type, that this time with students will be fruitful for them. Pray for Steve and I, and the key organizers (big tip of the hat to Derek & Tim and their compatriots. And Lilly for helping to buy the meal.)
And if you haven’t, for crying out loud, get your mouse going and order Fabric of Faithfulness from us. It is one of the books I’ve reviewed on the website over the years and have actually re-run the review. Christianity Today even reprinted an edited version of it, as did some academic journal that goes out to the boards of colleges (who knew there was such a periodical?) So this is one of our H&M top books, one that is thoughtful, important, well-written and laden with insight. If you have it, read some of it again. Or give it to somebody who cares about higher education.
(Garber, by the way, also has two really, really fine sermons in the wild collection Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalogue edited by Raewynne Whiteley & Beth Maynard, put out by Cowley Press. One is the wedding sermon for two CCO friends; the other was a message offered at a campus-wide chapel service at Calvin College in Michigan. That one semon summarizes much of Steve’s insight about higher education, and, delievered on the heals of a meeting he had backstage with the boys in the band, it may be one of the best semons in the book! Brian Walsh’s two sermons, btw, are also rockin’ and extraordinary in their attention to Biblical text and U2 lyrics; these four–Garber’s two and Walsh’s two– make that book well, well worth it!)
My opening talk at the Messiah gathering on Saturday will summarize some of Steve’s points in Fabric. My title? Yada, Yoda and the Ya Ya Sisterhood. If you are familiar with his thesis, you might get my pun. Can you crack the code? Any comments?
The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years Steven Garber (IVP) $14.00