"The Ooze", Books, Kindle

A brief note on books

Did I ever mention that I read The Audacity of Hope? Let me say in short that anyone who complained they did not know what Barack Obama stood for, as well as anyone who is surprised by his actions thus far as President, clearly did not read this book, which sets out his thoughts on just about everything in very plain English. As a writer, his descriptions are evocative and his reflections on his own life honest and thoughtful. The policy portions are not riveting. I read this one on my Kindle, which I continue to enjoy using. (This book is out of order on my sidebar, but we'll call it #12.)

Book #13 was a speedy re-read of Persuasion, because sometimes the only place to go is Miss Austen's house.

Book #14 was also a re-read. In 2002, Snowman appeared as The Little Boy in a production of Ragtime. I read the book that summer and after listening to the CD for the first time in a long time, I wanted to read it again. It's wonderful. Doctorow weaves his fictional characters in and around dynamic historical figures. For me it brings back a happy summer in our family life, and I appreciated the opportunity to go into the book's world and my past, too.

Finally, I'm continuing to review books for The Ooze. The next book will be Bart Erhman's Jesus, Interrupted. If you would be interested, you may read sample chapters here, or you can watch the author talking about the book here.

"The Ooze", Books

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening to for “The Ooze”

I'm still getting Free!Books!! from Michael Morrell of "The Ooze." He's also sending music now, and I'll review a couple of CDs down below. Due to my RA limitations, some of the books have been a little heavy for me to hold in my hands; I passed along Saving Paradise to another blogger (and if she wants to review it, I'll link to it!), and I'm still hoping to read a book about mystics, and probably won't read a novel about Eve.

The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle — I like Phyllis Tickle. I like the way she writes. I like her grasp of history. If you want a sense of how what's currently happening in Christianity as compared to other great shifts in history, this is an excellent short course to put things in context. But (did you know there was a "but" coming?), as is so often the case with reporting about the emerging church, the role of women and the differences on social issues (acceptance of LGBT people, abortion) are brushed past. Why is this the case? Are these matters too radioactive? Or do they seem of only passing interest or importance? It hardly feels like "emerging" if it's possible we may turn back the advances we've seen in the latter part of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st. A long discussion of Rosie the Riveter was great, but let's talk more about the role of women in the new century and in the church, in particular.

(This is Book#6 for me in 2009.)

Parabola: Experiencing Jesus as Reality, by Kelly Deppen — This is a self-published book of prophecy and fervor that both seemed odd to me and also came up in my reading queue at a very appropriate moment. The author comes from a Pentecostal background, and therefore her way of approaching prayer, scripture and worship feel very different to me. I'm not saying bad, just different.

Deppen believes that advances in Physics prove Christ as a cosmic reality. I had Pure Luck (whose B.S. is in Physics) read what I would call the science-y parts, because while I know, for instance, who Einstein was and that he wrote the Theory of Relativity and that E=mc2, by which I mean "squared," I don't know much more than that.

I do share a sense with Deppen of wonder about the magnificence of creation down to its tiniest components, and I share a sense of God's presence in everything. I also agree with her belief that churches stuck on organization and tradition are essentially dead.

What I don't share is a sense that we are at the 11th hour of existence.

Look, things are bad, but when haven't they been in some way and for some people? I'm all for admitting it's time to change the way we do some things, but I'm not for abandoning the sense that we have responsibility for the Earth and other creatures and living things on it. While Deppen is not absolutely explicit on some things (while being very explicit about others), she seems to be claiming that we are so close to the return of Jesus that what we all ought to be doing is pretty much nothing but praying.

So it's a good thing someone else at her house earns a living to support her ministry.

(This is Book #7, all completed in January. Yes, I'm competing with myself.)

Music:

I wasn't expecting to get CDs as part of this deal, but I am listening to them. The first one that arrived was called, I kid you not, Toking the Ghost. (Click the link to hear the song I reference below streaming on MySpace.)

I really listened to it, I swear I did. I guess these guys are trying to reach a certain segment of the culture. God bless them. I am either too hold or way too non-hip to get this. Also? I don't want a "double portion of being whacked all the time." I want to live in this world while I'm alive. If we're after transcendence all the time, which frankly is what the Deppen book is about, too, I contend it does God's creation a disservice. Why engineer this miracle of creation in all its intricate wonder if only to want us to escape it?

"Lord, even when we die," they chant, "Let our corpses not decompose for hundreds of years." Um, okay. And please, enough on the lactation miracles. Grow the heck up. (Family members who listened to this in the car agree.) These guys are all over YouTube if you want to hear them giggling like stoners and telling kids the Holy Ghost is the best.drug.evah.

Zehnder
The next CD I received was Going Up? by Zehnder, an eclectic group that plays really nice Christian music. Light Princess (13) liked it, too. The music, written by people who REALLY know their Bible, might not be as accessible to a less-scripturally-literate audience. We understood what they were getting at in a song about "the Nicodemus in me," but would most people? I'm thinking not. But the CD gets a thumbs up from both of us.

"The Ooze", Books

Reviews for The Ooze: Tom Davis

After I joined CCBlogs, the webring sponsored by The Christian Century and moderated by Gordon Atkinson of Real Live Preacher, I got an email from Mike Morrell of The Ooze, asking if I would be open to reading free books and then writing about them.

Free books!!!!!

That was my first reaction, and then I wondered what sort of books they would be. Because, if you know anything about my reaction to Emergent people/churches/websites, etc., you probably know that I find the movement frustrating and/or puzzling. My own approach to discernment, both personal and corporate, does follow a path of trying to see the way opening, or what is emerging, if you will, from the particular place and time and gifts and talents of the individual or the community in conversation with the movement of the Holy Spirit, so I'd like to think I'm an open person who "gets" the notion of emerging. But what I don't get is–well, I don't get a movement that appears to be progressive in some ways but in this country, at least, seems to take a pretty old-fashioned view of women's roles in ministry and the family.

However, Free books!!!!!

I decided to see what might come my way, in part wondering if I would find by some Holy Kismet, some God-incidence, that I had been wrong or had more to learn about what's emerging from the evangelical churches. Because if Emergent people are ticking off Evangelicals, we must have something in common, right?

Mike sent me two books by Tom Davis, the President and CEO of Children's HopeChest, "a Christian-based child-advocacy organization helping orphans in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Africa," and both books reflect those interests and what Tom believes God is calling Christian people to do to help those in need in the world.

I first read Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds, and it's hip format and clear attempt to reach people who may not know what's really going on in the world was pretty appealing. I'll lay aside the differences in the way we were educated about how sure one might be that Jesus said all the things some Bibles print in red letters and say I liked the passages on which he focused and loved that he used "The Message," which is so accessible. He wasn't telling me anything about AIDS that I haven't known since the mid-1980's (general disease facts) or been aware of for the last ten years (the scourge the disease has been particularly in Africa). But his matter-of-fact and encouraging tone, directed at people who might still be stigmatizing AIDS as God's curse on gay people, really worked. The book ends with a long list of ways people can get involved in helping others. I felt much as I did when I finished reading Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis"–"Well, that's a good book, but it's nothing new to me." That doesn't mean it isn't a good book for people who are not aware, however, and its mixture of scripture and personal stories and challenge to the conscience works effectively.

I then went on to Fields of the Fatherless.

Well.

I'm glad I read the other book first. In Fields of the Fatherless, though his purpose is similar, Davis approaches the task very differently. This book is written for a churched audience, one very comfortable with "Father" language for God. I used to be one of those people, and I'm not anymore, and because I spent a long time (again, twenty years ago) working through my own fondness for Father God and my own resistance to suggesting God could be looked at any other way, I am sensitized to the subtle damage overuse of the Father metaphor can have to the place of women. Although the book is, again, devised to encourage faithful people to help those in need–and that is both clearly a good thing and a demand Jesus places on us and a goal for people of all faiths, as well as many with none at all–there is a subtle message throughout that women are lesser and more helpless. The example that stands out for me is the tragic story of Davis' wife, Emily, who lost both her parents. After her father was murdered, her mother sank into depression and eventually committed suicide. Davis stresses that Emily and her siblings were "fatherless," and I know he is getting at a metaphor about how we all feel orphaned or parentless and need to find that parenting in God, and oh, just changing the metaphor makes all the difference to me! Emily and her siblings were also motherless, probably in some sense from the moment their father was killed. To describe them as fatherless suggests that we still live in Biblical times, when losing your father meant a loss of status that no mother could redeem for you. And while single mothers today do face strains and challenges, it's not the same as it once was. It really isn't. And if it is in the minds of Davis' readers, then they need a corrective applied to that misbelief, too.

This book also supplies lots of references to help people plug in and help children on the margins throughout the world in a variety of ways. With the books I received a sample of Saint's Coffee, a Fair Trade coffee being used as a fundraiser for Children's HopeChest, which by the way has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator, not their highest, but equivalent to Heifer Project. (I'm drinking the coffee today, and it's very good, in case you're interested.)

Davis writes well and effectively in both books, in their varying styles, so he is clearly a versatile person. I was charmed to see he recently published a piece called "Why Christians Suck." I like a guy with a sense of humor who also has a sense of what matters. We're just coming at it differently. And I fear a world in which we begin to take for granted the strides women have made in ministry and in life in general by sliding back to old-school language. As our friend Barack is always telling us, words matter.

I'm glad to have read these books and look forward to the next shipment.

Edited to add: these are Books # 36 and 37 for the 2008 Book Challenge.