For the next few days we’ll be selling books at one of the coolest events we’ve ever done, at one of the classiest venues in country. The website I’ve sometimes mentioned (and written for) The Q Ideas is run by Gabe Lyons, author of the excellent book, first published by Doubleday, now just out in an expanded edition in paperback The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World (Multnomah; $14.99.) His organization–mysteriously just called Q— exists to inform, stimulate, encourage and network churches, Christian organizations, and leaders to be more creative in engaging the cultural and social issues of the day. They offer retreats with the likes of Eugene Peterson and storytelling workshops with Hollywood script writers; they bring together human rights organizations and network authors and activists, they participate in confabs on science and offer mentoring to humanitarian start-ups. They befriend significant cultural leaders—Christian and not—offering behind the scenes spiritual guidance to gatekeepers, rising leaders, artists and social entrepreneurs. And they keep their fantastic website updated, offering good pieces week by week. (See there this week, New York pastor Jon Tyson, and Steve Garber’s great lecture on vocation.)
Their annual national event is rather like a faith-based TED conference, with some of the best thought leaders and Christian scholars, activists, and reformers doing pithy, Power-pointed presentations which are then discussed in lively conversation. (In this regard they seem to me, for those follow these things, like a somewhat more youthful and edgy Trinity Forum, or as I sometimes say, a Jubilee conference for grown-ups.)
That we get to offer a book display at Q is a privilege and (I assume Gabe is too busy running this gig to read me writing this) not a little bit daunting. The stunning building itself—the federally-owned Andrew Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue in Washington DC—is enough to make us fret. The remarkable line-up of speakers whose books we are providing creates in us an extraordinary amount of anxious energy (I still love hearing great lectures and sermons and interviews and I am still charmed meeting authors.) And some fear and trembling. Friends, please pray for us.
STREAMING TUESDAY MORNING
Better yet, after praying, plan to join us. On Tuesday (April 9th) the programs of the first morning of the Q Gathering will be streaming live on-line, free.
Go here: http://www.qideas.org/live/
Starting at 9:00 AM -10:30 AM EST you can hear Gabe Lyons, founder of Q, speaking briefly about “Ideas for the Common Good” and Andy Crouch, ruminating on the good and bad uses of power. Andy’s Culture-Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP; $25.00) remains one of my all time favorite books and is a must-read as foundational to appreciate Qsters. I can’t tell you how important he is to follow (his latest project involved research into practices that enhance urban life called “This is Your City.”)
Popular author and DC pastor Mark Batterson will speak about “Church & Place” (perhaps drawing from his new book The Circle Maker, drawing on the legend of Honi the Circle Maker, inviting us to learn how to pray through are dreams and fears.) We have this new book (Zondervan; $19.99), a small paperback abridged edition (a sample, really; just $2.99) and a new DVD.
It will be really entertaining, and edifying, I’m sure, to hear New York Times columnist and PBS pundit David Brooks comment on his important 2011 book, now out in paperback, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (Random House; $16.00) and, mostly, offer some glimpses of his next project, a book on humility. We adored his Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive and hope you know them. We even stock a hardback edition called The Paradise Suite (Simon & Schuster; $28.00) that has both in one volume. These include incisive observations about America’s upper middle class and fabulously interesting social history. Bobo’s is the phrase he coined describing bourgeoisie bohemians, and his study of these liberal, wealthy communities that seem to hold to old hippie values but live in quaint upscale communities is genius. And funny as anything.
Q likes to mix it up—offering speakers from various channels of social influence (“spheres” the Dutch Reformed folks in the line of Kuyper would call them. There will be a speaker on Kuyper, by the way.) And there is the constant, big question of how we apply these visionary ideas, making the move from good ideas to new practices. So next, there will be a panel discussion about creative ways to think about reducing abortion, a goal both pro-lifers and pro-choicers claim to desire. Q leader Rebekah Lyons will host a remarkable gathering of thoughtful folks, which will include Jenell Williams Paris, the author of the provocative The End of Sexual Identity (IVP; $15.00)
The last speaker of the first streaming segment features Jonathan Merritt, author of Green Like God and the just released A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars (FaithWords; $19.99), who will give a brief overview of his story, a story of being raised in the heart of the Christian right and the Southern Baptist establishment, his family’s friendship with Jerry Falwell, and how, as a “next generation” evangelical, he struggled to affirm what was good about his conservative roots, and what was, perhaps, less than faithful. His work getting other religious conservatives to embrace Biblical concerns about justice for the poor and Earth-keeping and human rights, well, let us say it is a riveting read, and very very instructive for us all.
STREAMING TUESDAY NIGHT
You can join in again for a second free Q Gathering live streaming at 7:00PM until 8:45 PM, Tuesday night. Pray for good internet connection because you aren’t going to want to miss this.
Tuesday night’s schedule will start with worship music by the fantastic singer-songwriter, Sandra McCracken (she sings on the Indelible Grace CDs and sometimes with her husband, Derek Webb) followed by a must-hear message by Amy Sherman, whose book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (IVP; $16.00) offers one of the best-developed cases for taking faith seriously as it informs our view of callings and careers, vocations and jobs, using our talents not just to “bring home the bacon” but as a central way most of us serve our neighbors and enhance the common good. We named it as one of the best books of the year in 2011, even though it had just released. Not all of us, in fact most of us, can’t be full time social reformers, cultural creatives, starting organizations and interesting initiatives. Bu
t we can think more intentionally about how our workplace is in need of transformation, how our careers can be avenues of Christian service, how we can push for greater commitments to social responsibility in the marketplace. Excellent.
Ross Douthat is up next, and is interviewed by the exceptionally astute think-tank dude, Michael Cromartie. Ross is a conservative essayist and journalist and his insights into “Faith, Media and Politics” will only scratch the surface, but this interview will be great. By the way, we are the first place in the nation to receive his brand new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press) $26.00 Readers of the deeper end of the conservative pools will know this well, as it has already garnered some pre-pub buzz, but it is most urgently to be considered by those who have affirmed the need for looser doctrine and less demanding expressions of faith, whether they are classic 20th century mainline folks or emerging 21st century post-evangelicals. I’ll describe it a bit more, below, but do take in the live conversation with Cromartie if you can. It will be good.
We have long appreciated Rev. Joel Hunter whose book is bluntly called A New Kind of Conservative (Regal; $19.99) and tells his story of being fired shortly after being hired by the Christian Coalition for trying to shift that right wing political group to a more balanced, Biblical agenda (concern for the poor? the environment? peacemaking? Uh, not so much, they told him.) Hunter is also speaking Tuesday evening. His talk, “Government is Not the Enemy” illustrates a “third way” between the left and the right, it seems, and should be fruitful for the conversations happening later that evening, and into Wednesday.
There will be plenty of speakers from various viewpoints throughout the event, from Jim Wallis of Sojourners to Gideon Strauss of the Center for Public Justice, Mitch Hescox of EEN to Chai Ling, a hero of the Tiananmen Square uprising and author of the page-turner A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape and Her Quest to Free China’s Daughters (Tyndale; $22.99.) From the high-end fashion industry to inner-city education, practitioners making a difference will give brief testimony. Vibrant Christian authors on various topics are there, like artist like Daniel. A. Siedell whose rigorous book God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Baker; $25.00) we love to promote. Top shelf theologians like Miroslav Volf, James K.A. Smith, and Anthony Bradley will present, as will cultural critics like Sherry Turkle of MIT (whose recent book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other [Basic Books; $28.95] is urgent and fascinating!) It will be great to see the ever-eloquent Os Guinness (and, once again, promote his Case for Civility [HarperOne; $23.95]) and hear about his forthcoming IVP book on American freedom, and to hear NPR journalist Barbara Bradley Hagerty (who has a fabulously smart book on faith and science, through the lens of neurology, The Fingerprints of God (Riverhead; $17.00.) We will hear from, and promote the books of environmentalist Nancy Sleeth (her practical and clever new book is called Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler More Sustainable Life (Tyndale; $14.95) and Bread for the World Executive David Beckman (Exodus from Hunger (WJK; $15.00) and immigration advocate Jenny Hwang-Yang of World Relief (Welcoming the Stranger; IVP; $15.00). Those who curated this amazing array of speakers—and I haven’t mentioned them all—are genius and so very helpful to us all. I’m serious, we’ll will have a display of books written by some of the finest thinkers and social reformers in the land.
Do visit the streaming presentations Tuesday morning and Tuesday evening — again, you can sign up by clicking here.
OR AT LEAST BUY SOME BOOKS
We invite you to look at the speakers list for each day and if you see any authors whose books you may want to buy, let us know. We’ll offer to our readers the BookNotes 20% discount on any Q authors this week, while supplies last.
Here are four titles that may be particularly germane, each brand new, by authors who we will see at the Q DC Gathering. They are important titles, I am sure.
The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World Gabe Lyons (Multnomah) $14.99 This is the brand new paperback edition, with a new chapter added (on civility, lessons learned from last years Q event where they hosted the controversial “Ground Zero Imam” Feisal Abdul Rauf, who Gabe has befriended. This struggle to build bridges and offer a faith that is more generous and less divisive is hard for those of us who have deep convictions (it is easy to be civil if one doesn’t hold firm believes.) It is a great chapter, added to the other six characteristics of “next Christians” and those who want to be counted among God’s agents of restoration.
There is a good discussion guide in the back, too. In good Q fashion, it is hoped that this will be discussed together, used as a springboard for conversation, reflection, and new action. I know I’ve talked a lot about this book this past year, quoting from it in many presentations I’ve done, and showing it at nearly every book display we’ve done. The paperback is even better, and I hope you buy it from us.
A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars Jonathan Merritt (FaithWords) $19.99 I mentioned this above, noting that it is at once a fabulous story of one man’s journey to a more wholistic, culturally engaged, and less partisan faith, but it is also a call to conservatives and liberals to distance themselves from their ideologies and to be more truly Biblical, following the reign of Jesus wherever that may lead. He’s pretty sure it won’t lead to the political extremes, unless being courageously moderate and imaginatively counter-cultural is itself, these days, an extreme position. It is radical, but graciously so. It is wild, but joyful. It is prophetic, but heart-broken, not mean. And wise. And hopeful. And really interesting. As Sammy Rodriguez (President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference) puts it Merritt wants to “reconcile sanctification with service without embracing the extremes.”
I think the CNN religion editor Dan Gilgoff gets it right when he suggests just how important his work is: “The story of Merritt’s exit from a hard-edged political movement to a more centrists, more complex political place is a potent and timely symbol of the journeys of many young American evangelicals.”
Or, as Ed Stetzer (whose brand new book I de
scribe below) puts it, “If you want to understand the shifts among many younger Christians, this book is a must read.” You may have seen Jonathan’s essays and op-ed pieces in USA Today or seen him interviewed on TV. He shows up on line a lot, and remains an active, energetic writer and pundit. He’s an important guy. I’m glad to call him a friend.
I really like what Gabe himself writes of his friend’s book: “After a wearisome decade where younger Christians welcomed the downfall of the Religious Right, Merritt charts the way forward—helping us image a new, constructive way to advance the common good in the public square. A Faith of Our Own provides a roadmap for how Christians can engage the future.”
Here is a recent piece he wrote in the Huffington Post, replying to criticisms by the Family Research Council of an earlier piece he had written. It documents the unseemly way some churches are linked to partisan political advocacy, replying to their odd claim that such things don’t happen in their circles.
Thanks to our unsung sales rep, by the way, who helped us get this book before any other store in the country. Because of our connection with Q this week, we can sell it early.
Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics Ross Douthat (Free Press) $26.00 I trust you know that the Free Press is one of the nation’s most respected public affairs publishers, indicating that this is a serious book that will be discussed in somber tones on the important talk shows. Formerly a senior editor at The Atlantic, the author is the youngest columnist for The New York Times op-ed page, and author of several important books. Blurbs are from excellent, nuanced, careful writers and critics, such as Timothy Keller, Alan Jacobs, the upbeat, popular Jesuit James Martin, and “crunchy con” author Rod Dreher. We got the book in yesterday—the first place in the country, I believe—so I can do no better than to share these stellar blurbs. Wow, if they are even partially right, this is going to be a book that you should consider.
“Not only is Ross Douthat’s account of orthodox Christianity’s decline provocative, but his critique of today’s ascendant heresies is compelling. This volume is a sustained proof of Chesterton’s thesis that when people turn from God, ‘they don’t believe in nothing–they believe in anything.’ Everyone who is interested in why the church is faring as it is in U.S. culture today needs to get this book.”
–Timothy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
â€¨â€¨”Bad Religion is superb: sharply critical of the amazing variety of American religious pathologies, but fair; blunt in diagnosis, but just; telling a dark tale, but telling it hopefully. For those trying to understand the last half-century or more of American religion, and to strive for a better future, it is an indispensable book.”
–Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis
“Ross Douthat’s thoughtful, articulate, wide-ranging, sometimes contrarian and always provocative new book asks a tough question: Why has Christianity been so misunderstood, and so misused, in the past few decades? From those who (foolishly) watered down the most basic Christian beliefs, to those who (falsely) promised worldly success to the followers of Jesus, the values of orthodoxy (literally, “right belief”) have often been blithely set aside. With an impressive command of both history and contemporary social trends, Douthat shows not only how we ended up with a Christianity of our own making, but also how we can reclaim an adherence to the teachings of the real Jesus–not just the convenient one.”
–James Martin, SJ, author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
“Bad Religion is nothing short of prophetic. In a time of religious, political, and cultural upheaval, Ross Douthat tells the American faithful–liberals, conservatives, and everybody in between–not what we want to hear, but what we desperately need to hear. With this provocative and challenging work that no thoughtful Christian can afford to ignore, Douthat assures his place in the first rank of his generation’s public intellectuals.”
–Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons and senior editor of The American Conservative
Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation Ed Stetzer (Broadman Holman) $14.99 A few weeks ago I did a list of books about the missional church, about energetic new, culturally-savvy, future-facing church plants and “fresh expressions” of congregational life. I don’t think I listed any of Stetzer’s many book on congregational life and Kingdom-driven church planting, but I could have. He is energetic, upbeat, inspiration, and very wise, solid about how do to do this important stuff. He has been a fan of Q since it’s inception, and it is great that he will be there again this year. His brand spanking new book—it releases next week, and a few stores have just received them—is about this whole Kingdom vision, missional, risk-taking sort of radical discipleship. It revisits and updates teaching he gave in his very first book, a small paperback we have sold for years, Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living (New Hope; $14.99) It looks great, and we are happy to offer it now. If you need some help getting your juices flowing and rekindling your fire for faith in action, this could be just the ticket.
Q GROUP STUDIES
Here is another way to get into the Q spirit, even if you cannot be at the gathering. We have, in the past, promoted the great DVDs and study books (which include articles to read and discuss). These are grouped around themes, are presentations drawn from previous Q events, and are exactly the sort of culturally-engaged, big-picture, thoughtful faith-based stuff that we simply must be doing in our fellowships and churches if we are going to form people who are conversant and propelled to be involved in the world in distinctively Christian ways.
Here is a link to an older BookNotes page about these Q Group Studies and see our listing of the last batch of Q DVDs. We have them listed, at sale prices, too. We’d be happy to ship some to you, eager to keep this conversation going. If you know any small group facilitator, campus minister, social activist, or Christian leader who might find these helpful, do forward this along. I’m surprised at how few church folks know about these kinds of resources and we are eager to promote them. Thanks for your work in networking, evangelizing, sharing and promoting our efforts here.
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Looking forward to your review after you get to read it… I heard Ross Douthat on the radio just before the book released and was impressed enough to pre-order it… I have just finished it and am still in process mode… this seems to be the type of book and subject matter we should all be exposed to. Wonder if someone will come up with a study guide to go with it?