Perhaps like you, I experience some emotional and spiritual whiplash this time of year. Earlier today, for instance, I looked in the newspaper at 50s era vavoom pictures of Eartha Kitt (Santa Baby; Catwoman) who died on Christmas day, and I read a prayer to commemorate the Feast Day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, known for his fiery preaching and his service to the poor. We named our first daughter in part in honor of this great saint. Now, I enjoy silly seasonal stuff and Eartha Kitt tunes as much as the next guy, and yet know that isn’t most important. Like you, I truly long for Christ to be known, for joy to the world, and for God’s Kingdom to bring substantial healing for the poor of our sad world.
So in my holiday blend of pensive joy, I thought I’d tell you about a recent release, a book we were delighted to sell this month and have been wanted to announce for weeks. (We still have it right on the counter here at the shop.) Money & Faith: The Search for Enough is edited by Michael Schut (Morehouse Publishing; $20.00) and it is excellent. This is the third in a series edited by Mr. Schut, and both the first two (Simple Living Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective; Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread) and this new one are glorious anthologies of great writing. Each have nice designs, handsome graphics, and a great study guide in the back making them ideal for personal reflection or, better, small group use.
From authors such as Wendell Berry to Henri Nouwen, Bill McKibben to Frances Moore Lappe, these thoughtful short excerpts of books, essays or sermons are brought together to offer an alternative to the North American way of not seriously relating faith and finances, Christian principles and economics, spirituality and commerce, the so-called sacred and the secular. That is, they help us bring together what is often sequestered. Since they are mostly shorter pieces, they are perfect to dip in to, serendipitiously, even, or to study, carefully. This brand new one, Money & Faith, especially, is witty and insightful (where else to you find pieces by liberation theologians like Leonardo Boff and humorists like Dave Barry? Henri Nouwen and William Greider?) Walter Brueggemann’s classic sermon “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity” is here (and worth the price of the book, since you will want to re-read it regularly) as is the useful tool on writing your own money auto-biography created by Church of the Savior’s Ministry of Money. The late Christian educator, spunky Maria Harris, is represented with a piece on the Year of Jubilee and Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath, has an excerpt. It is a mature, wise, and challenging collection, useful and good.
We have a large selection of books on global economics and Christian perspectives on both personal finances and on the bigger picture of economic theory. One of my all time top five books in my life is Ron Sider’s still classic, recently updated Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Nelson; $15.99) which we still insist is a “must-read” which, then, naturally makes one want to know more about faithful economics and global injustices.
And there are a lot of good ones. For instance, one that has gotten very excellent reviews this year, written for serious readers, that seems appropriate to mention this week, is The Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in Christian Ethics by Kelly S. Johnson (Eerdmans; $20.00) She is involved in the provocative Ekklesia Project and has pondered deeply not only the obvious question—should we give to beggars?—-but the broader ethical issues of stewardship, property rights, economics and Christian social ethics. Christine Pohl (herself author of the brilliant Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition) writes “One does not necessarily expect a book on begging and reimagining property relations to sing with theological and historical insight, but Kelly Johnson’s book does just that. Her account is fascinating and beautifully written…” From Saint Francis’ “economic unilateral disarmament” to the medieval discussions of the poor, to good teaching about Wesley, to the 20th century Catholic Worker writings of Peter Maurin, this is lively scholarship that matters.
I don’t know how you’re feeling this week, of course. Perhaps you spent more money than you should have, and have concerns about that, practical or ethical. Most likely you are concerned about scary economic forecasts, and maybe even lost some of your savings this year. Maybe you don’t have as much as you need, and are worried. Maybe you wish you had a less consumerist lifestyle, but can’t get your family on board the simple lifestyle train. Maybe you’re yearning, amidst the whiplashes of this season, for a life of integrity, wholeness, integration. Surely we would all like our daily lifestyle choices–our shopping and spending and saving and giving, to reflect our deepest convictions. Although it may be hard to trust, we know the Bible invites us to a very different relationship with money than our surrounding culture and it’s myths and stories.
Maybe this new year you could convene a group to ponder and work through some of the important questions of how to best handle this large part of our lives, our money. We commend Money & Faith:The Search for Enough, now more than ever.
And, lastly: the gift giving tradition around this time of year (besides the wonderful image of the wise men bearing gifts that we celebrate at Epiphany, the 12th day of the Christians season) comes from the historical character of St. Nicholas. We have several good childrens books about this fine century man, but none as visually stunning as this one by classic childrens illustrator, Demi. The Legend of St. Nicholas (McElderry; $19.95) is done in a style of icons, giving it visual and historical richness. What a wonderful gift for any family wanting to recall the reasons for our holiday customs. The artwork is sumptuous, the writing accurate. Great!
FREE BOOK OFFER
Here’s a deal: buy any one of these mentioned above and we will give you—this week only—a free copy of Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution. (A $15 dollar value, free to you!) You may know that young Shane lives in voluntary simplicity, doing urban activism and justice work, living with and for the poor, in The Simple Way community. His exciting book has been one of our best sellers since it came out a few years back, and we’d love to share it as a reminder of these things, now, during this complicated season of giving and getting, money and faith, Eartha Kitt and St. Stephen.
r this offer until the end of the year. Merry Christmas!
Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313