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This book is fabulous. It’s great for young people about to go out into the world. It’s wonderful for soon to be parents as they set their goals and plans for parenthood. It’s a balm for parents who are already riding the roller coaster of parenting reminding them to get back to basics, encouraging them, and assuring them that they are on the right track, or at least there is a track that fits them. 

I will be sharing this book not only with parents, but also, with graduates. 

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After reading this book, I now deeply respect Bruce Reyes-Chow more than I did, if that is even possible (we are bordering on mancrush, here), he was able to articulate things in a clear and concise way that does not end the conversation but helps build a framework to begin the conversations, I feel like now I have at least something to start with when conversations about race, or the other, come up in my very white, very Midwestern context.

I self-identify as a white, Appalachian, male, I am married with two kids, I have two masters degrees, and was raised very comfortably in the middle class. I was born in South Carolina, went to elementary school in Georgia, and went to middle and high school in Texas. I am a person of privilege.

The first person I have recollection of hanging out with was T.J., my dad was his mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in the late 70s. In elementary school, my friends were Peruvian, Indian, Greek, Anglo, Korean, and African-American. When I was in middle school I played on the basketball court at the play ground with mostly black dudes from government housing, with all that diversity and with all that experiences you’d think I’d know how to talk with folks who were different or of a different race than I. You’d be wrong, for a large portion of my teens and early twenties I was an out and out racist. Slurs, bigotry, and condemnation were the name of the game. I used all the previous information to argue that I wasn’t, I was lying.

Luckily through many interactions, confrontations, and soul searching I realized, I remembered where I had come from and what I had been taught, that we are all God’s children worthy of respect.

Last summer I attended a gathering of religious types in Corvallis, Oregon called Wild Goose West. During my preparation for that gathering I read that Bruce, a friend and someone I’ve long admired, was going to lead a session on race I thought, “Well, not going to that.” I thought I already knew about how to talk to people about race, I’m good. That’s not for me, maybe a more timely issue.

Then I began reading another book called, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander and my pretty, little bubble of liberal, white privilege was shattered. About one chapter in to Alexander’s book I thought, “Damn, should’ve gone to that session with Bruce.”

I then heard through the social media grapevine that Bruce was writing a book on race. I think I was one of the first few peoplethat donated my meager sum to the project. I couldn’t wait to read it, because…1) I deeply respect Bruce, 2) Bruce often is able to articulate things in a way that I have been unable to (see # 1), and 3) I felt a lack of knowledge on how to approach people when talking about race without sounding like a blowhard, a bleeding heart, or an idiot.

This book is, providentially, timely in my own world and the in the larger community with the conversations revolving around the George Zimmerman verdict, DOMA, Immigration reform, and institutional racism being batted around on social media, in coffee shops, and on street corners.

Just this past week, I was at a gathering of religious folks, mainly Presbyterians, where I heard many comments that began with “Well, you know those [insert group here]…” (The groups ranged from Africans, African-Americans, Hispanics, and, even, Catholic priests.) Now I don’t believe that any of these people were racist or malicious, but I do believe that they were unaware of how their language was being heard by others. I was thankful that I had read this book because I noticed my own language issues and I could then steer the conversation into a more productive place or at least acknowledge that we were in headed down a dangerous path.

I would encourage anyone, young and old, religious or not, well versed in conversations about privilege and those that don’t think it exists to read this book. This book will not answer all your questions, it might not answer any of them, but it will begin the conversation and, hopefully, provide you an opportunity to make amends, to move forward, and to begin the healing work of reconciliation that is much needed in this world.

 

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ImageA few weeks back the power of social media became apparent to me…again. I got an email from a person I’ve known online a little and met in person once or twice asking if I would be willing to review a liturgical resource by Timothy Matthew Slemmons, that she was working with. My first thought was, “Liturgical Resource? I’m in!”

The resource is called Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship…I know catchy, right? The volume I have had a chance to look at is called “When Heaven Stands Open: Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship, Year B

I have had some time to read this resource and I can say I am excited to have a resource on my shelf that I can turn to for solid, scripturally based, and Reformed prayers and liturgical pieces. I find myself at a dearth of that kind of resource and as a new member of the solo pastor club I find it refreshing and helpful to now have a go to book from which to round out worship on a weekly basis.

I know that I will use other resources but the prayers and other pieces in this resource I believe will become key elements in the rotation of worship leadership. Many of those other resources, especially the Book of Common Worship, seem to provide prayers that don’t seem to fit in the contexts that I have served. They don’t feel right. The prayers I have been able to read feel right. They feel like they speak to me and will speak to my community. 

I was especially drawn by this quote from the Series Forward regarding the nature of this resource, why it was created, and my belief that in order to move a more complete God-consciousness we first acknowledge our weakness.

It is from this point of deep conviction that this series of liturgical resources is sent forth, not because every element will necessarily do justice to the sense in which perpetual repentance is the most frequently overlooked and distinctive “essential tenet” of the Reformed tradition (and because the most distinctive, therefore the most essential, so to speak), but for the simple fact that repentance, self-examination, confession, and the good news of forgiveness deserve far better than to be reduced to the formulaic.

I hope this resource will give voice to my Reformed roots as well as open up those roots to growth as I, as a pastor, seek to shepherd those in my care to follow Christ and share the Good News of the Gospel.

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ImageEvery once in awhile, I review a book for Speakeasy.  The description for this book intrigued me, “Cross Examined challenges the popular intellectual arguments for Christianity and invites the reader to shore them up  …….. or discard them.  Take the journey and see where it leads you.”

Enticing for sure.  And the book does what is promised – it definitely challenges some intellectual arguments for Christianity.  But Ican’t say I recommend it, for several reasons.

First, it’s an apologetics text masquerading as a novel.  The writing is fair if not eloquent, but the story is pretty simple and the long stretches where the story is interrupted for teaching are awkward.  Second, the biased nature of the story is not helpful.  The atheist is good.  The Christian pastor is bad.  The Christian parents are old-fashioned tyrants.  The Buddhists are nice.  There is no nuance, every character is fairly one-sided.

Finally, I find the apologetics to be tiring.  Full disclosure, I am a Christian and a minister.  But the intellectual debate around Christianity has never held much sway for me.  I’m not interested in proving my faith, I’m interested in living it.  There is enough in following Jesus, trying to love as he loved and proclaiming resurrection – light in the midst of darkness for me.  Arguing philosophical points doesn’t make or break my faith.

Maybe this book is for others for whom these arguments are energizing.  I had hoped that the novel would help to make the process less annoying for me.  Unfortunately, I did not find that to be the case.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/

Beloved

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