Must. Stop. Reading. Should. Be. Writing.

Ahh, if only I could write with my right side and read with my left. I’d certainly get more done on Prevailing Winds, albeit less done around the house. Now that I’m an official empty-nester, though, there’s a whole lot less that needs to get done here and, thus, a whole lot more time spent on reading. Which is not, then, spent on writing here, and so it goes.

But while I have a half-dozen or so books I’m currently engrossed in, most of them are flagged with arguments, points, observations, or errors I intend to eventually comment on here, and so I thought I should share my current, robust reading list as a heads-up to what you can expect from my own little corner of the blogosphere — you know, that corner where leadership and influence are gifts from God, not a function of genitalia; where bullies, bigots, and bishopric blusterers get called out; and where ideas aren’t wrong, or un-Biblical, just because you haven’t heard of them before. My reading list reflects that — but as long as I learn from it, speak truth through it, and become a better person by it, I’ll keep reading.

What’s most grabbed my attention is “The Evangelical Universalist,” by a pseudonymous Christian theologian who argues what I think Rob Bell might have tried to argue in “Love Wins,” which I finished when it first came out. On the other hand, I’m not sure, because I rarely can figure out what Rob Bell is trying to say. It’s an indictment of the Church Unthinking that Bell’s take on Christian Universalism will likely be the only one people read, and I’m not sure Bell’s elevation as a voice of the 21st-century church speaks well for evangelicalism universally, although it’s not nearly as lamentable as Doug Wilson’s evolution as spokesman for anything other than Doug Wilson. Still, as an annihilationist of some years’ standing, I have been intrigued by the idea that in Christ, the eschatological end will bring about the reconciliation of all humankind. “The Evangelical Universalist” is deep, well-presented, humble in tone and, thus far, pretty persuasive in argument. If you like Rob Bell, by all means read “Love Wins.” If you want to understand why so many Christians have believed that the Bible allows us at least to infer a theology of universal reconciliation, read “The Evangelical Universalist,” and then mourn a Christiandom so unable to discuss new ideas that purveyors thereof feel the need to write under pseudonyms.

Then there’s Kenneth Bailey’s “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” which is this theologian’s response to the filtering of Jesus through WASP-y, Middle-American eyes. Bailey has some fascinating things to reveal about the Christmas narratives in the Gospels, Jesus’ geneology, and his relationships to the sociological Other. Good stuff, well-argued.

I was born in 1960, so it was hard to pass up New York Times Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins’ “When Everything Changed — The Amazing Journey Of American Women From 1960 To The Present.” I wish every 20-something young woman I know whose nose wrinkles with disgust when she hears the word “feminist,” and who thus doesn’t know the battles her foremothers fought so that she could go to school, date, marry, and embark on a career without her father’s permission, had this book. Few things are as disconcerting as when people don’t realize that the security they enjoy now is only a few decades away from the gross marginalization she would have been destined for then.

The title — “Thumpin’ It” — is awful, but the subtitle makes sense: “The Use And Abuse Of The Bible In Today’s Presidential Politics,” examples of which aren’t too hard to come by. Jacques Berlinerblau, an associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown, deftly outlines how the Scriptures tend to be appropriated by the Right to defend what often is indefensible, while the Left’s clumsy handling of the Word demonstrates a robust connection to tired, Christian-ish platitudes and a tenuous connection to an understanding of the reality of faith in the lives of the electorate. I disagree with a few things, but so far find it interesting.

I’ve probably mentioned that I grew up Catholic, but not just a cradle Catholic; I was just about as devout and heavenly-minded as the skirt-wearing, guitar-picking nuns who ran catechism classes. Until I noticed two things: boys and the preponderance of nuns with facial hair. I didn’t leave the Church until a year or so after coming to Christ, and I somehow missed The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis. I’m on the mailing list of a Catholic supply company, saw it listed, and was interested in reading what the catalog said was, after the Bible, the most influential book in Christiandom. It’s unlike any devotional you’ve ever read, and I’m pretty sure, given the state of Christian publishing over the last 30 years, that’s a compliment.

Finally, my dear friend Geta, who was my English teacher way back in the mid-70s at Cholla High School in Tucson, gifted me with a wonderful novel by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa called “Daughters Of The Stone.” When I read fiction, which is not altogether common, I tend toward the mystery novels of John Lescroart and Stephen White, who keep me well stocked when I crave something with no mention of theology, history, or current events. After reading “Daughters,” though, I’m going to have to branch out; the thought that I could have missed this is distressing. It’s lyrical, magical, touching, and you don’t want to miss it, either. I’m glad I didn’t.

Rounding out the most immediate half-dozen of the volumes on my groaning nightstand,

Leave a Reply