Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

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Rapture Ready

October 24, 2009

I have a list of about 20 books that I want to read but cannot find at the library. I finally got around to getting “Rapture Ready!” by Daniel Radosh, a book about Christian pop culture. I love it. First, I am one of the many cynics of the Christian sub-culture, which is probably why I was enticed by the book in the first place. Second, it’s remarkably non-judgmental of the culture. Third, I truly had NO idea about some of the insane things we so called Christians do, Bible amusement parks? Really? And finally, it’s enlightening. I have spent my life as a member of this Christian culture. I cannot see from outside the box, and what I like most about this book is it is opening my eyes to things I would never have realized before. The way we say things, the way we act, even, and perhaps especially, when acting in love, aren’t received that way. Granted, Radosh at least recognizes the intent behind things, but I have been blind to the fact that when we do things that are meant to be move inclusive of non-Christians we are alienating them further, or at least putting something else between us and them. Man, I cannot seem to do a decent job of explaining the impact of this book on me right now. I would highly suggest picking up a copy for yourself. You can buy it on Amazon marketplace for less than $2.

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A Little Bit Wicked

June 11, 2009

I love theatre- musicals, plays, comedy- there’s a liveliness to live performances that tv and movies cannot capture. I also really enjoy Kristin Chenoweth who is incredibly talented and hilarious. These two things combined to make me grab “A Little Bit Wicked” at the library the other day.  I did not expect a spiritual or theological book at all, despite having heard numerous times that Kristin Chenoweth is a Christian. But what I ended up getting was exactly what we need to do more of in the church- a person’s story about life where faith cannot be seperated from the rest of life.

The book is very easy to read and has many hilarious interludes making it enjoyable to read. Whether it was deliberate or not the book tells a story about a person- just like you and me- trying to figure out how to live as a Christian in the world. I do not agree with all her conclusions about what living as a Christian actually looks like, but what I appreciated was that she knew what she believed and she chose not to compromise on those things. She’s honest about mistakes and her motives behind doing things. She doesn’t take on a holier than thou attitude at any point, and she seems to have no problem admitting that she has done both stupid things and great things.

I enjoyed the book and think any one who enjoys Kristin Chenoweth would also enjoy the book. What I hope to take away from it is that it’s okay to admit when we mess up, it’s okay to admit when we are basking in victory, it’s okay to disagree, and no one is every going to have it all figured out. But in the midst of our journey we need to be willing to share honestly with others where we are, where we’ve been, what we believe, etc. We need to know ourselves enough to be able to stand firm when others are pushing us in a different direction but also be teachable at the same time.

I think our churches would be overflowing if we lived as genuinely as this book seems to be written.

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Twilight Religion

April 8, 2009

I’m way behind the times. Just over a week ago I read “Twilight” for the first time. I didn’t expect to like it- I’ve never really gotten excited about romance novels and I certainly have never enjoyed the weird science fiction type stories that I would characterize vampires as fitting into. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually really enjoyed “Twilight” and went ahead and bought the other three books. I often get caught up in a story and forget to go to sleep until my eyes won’t focus or stay open anymore. This happened as I read books two and three. I’m almost done with the last one now.

When I was in high school I had a truly frightening experience. My best friend started dating a Mormon guy, and she decided she wanted to be a Mormon. We wrote letters back and forth for weeks discussing theology. I talked to my youth leader about my worries. I talked to my Mormon friends about what they believed- a lot. Most lunches were spent discussing the differences between the Mormon church, the Episcopal church, and the protestant/Reformed church. I feel like I have a pretty solid idea what Mormon’s believe. I respect their stand even as I fiercely deny they are Christian. My friend and her boyfriend broke up and it didn’t take long for her to return to Christian teachings. Although, to this day she struggles with what she actually believes regarding the Trinity.

“Twilight” seemed like a nice story about relationships. But the more I read of the books the more I was bothered by the little things that seemed to creep in. The Mormon ideas influencing the story. I wanted to ignore them, and they are actually pretty easy to ignore. But as a youth leader I was bothered by the idea that these books might be planting the seed that would cause the youth in my life to turn away. I don’t think the books in and of themselves are bad. I just feel like ideas might be permeating their subconcious and making them more susceptable to these problems in the future.

I would love to take some of the ideas of the story and apply them to our Christian walk, at least when it comes to the girls in the group. But I worry that by taking these concepts and using them to illistrate ideas of the Christian faith I am actually opening the door to greater confusion because when you pull the idea all the way around as shown in the books it ends up becoming distinctly Mormon. Perhaps that’s the answer. Maybe I’ll do a “Twilight” series with the girls talking about Mormonism and Christianity and explaining the frightening similarities and even more troublesome differences.

What have you done with Twilight? Have you read the books? How are you addressing your concerns?

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Living Biblically

March 18, 2009

A while ago I finished “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. I loved this book because it wasn’t trying to be something predetermined- as in, Jacobs approached the book with the opinion that he was going to try to learn as much as he could from religion and living biblically. He admits to wanting to show how absurd it is, but he also admits to finding beauty in much of the things he practices. He talks about going from total agnostic to believing in a higher power to almost fully Jewish- sometimes all in a day. I think part of what I loved about this book was that instead of it being a Christian- or even a Jew- trying to live biblically to deepen their relationship with God and/or prove how great a thing it is, he was doing it because he wanted to see where it lead. Now, the evangelical part of me wanted him to end by becoming a Christian and some hard to explain part of me wanted to see the book end with no conversion but the desire to continue many of the practices.

What I enjoyed most was that this critical guy went into these absurd (even by Christian standards) situations with an open mind- expecting the worst, but not limiting himself to this. He visited a snake-handling church and a crazy uncle who acted like he believed himself to be the messiah and left with the opinion these people were crazy but he always seemed to find something worth walking away with. I wish that we could do the same as Christians- whenever we go into a situation being aware that there is something worth taking away even if everything at first glance seems insanely crazy.

I think pastors and church members alike should read this book because there are little gleanings throughout that hint at what those people who are not part of the church are looking for- and their impressions when they come through the church doors. Of course, the book is quite humorous and honest and worth reading on it’s own simply for the enjoyment of it.

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Church Ministry 3.0

January 4, 2009

I just finished “Youth Ministry 3.0″. I had read a lot of feedback about it and based on this decided my first read through was going to be just reading, no notes, no underlining or marking. I will definitely need to go back and re-read it taking notes and marking it up with thoughts as I go, but I was a bit surprised at how directly I felt it related to my ministry. Almost all books about youth ministry seem to be for big churches and/or big youth ministries. With a struggling group of 20 senior high and less than 10 junior high I honestly doubted how much this book would be truly useful in my specific ministry. But my frustrations and questions were put into concrete form as I read. I have been trying to figure out what it is we need to do to be more effective, and I have kept coming back to this whole church idea, but not really knowing what I was thinking- as I read I had an “aha” moment when I realized what I want to see is a church community that has a place for everyone- children, youth, singles, young families, empty nesters, grandparents, retirees, lonely elderly, rich, poor, etc.

Of course, the book skillfully avoided giving any how-to’s which is frustrating, but understandable. Any how-to’s that could have been given (if there are any) wouldn’t have related to my church and my ministry anyway. I wonder where we will go, but I feel like I have a springboard for discussion with the church leadership both because someone with a lot more experience is saying this, and because it has allowed me to put words to some of the tuggings I’ve been feeling.

What will the future look like? Who knows. But with the start of a new year, it seems as good a time as any to start working to better discern God’s calling for the church as a whole.

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