Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Summer Reading List: Theology and Activism

Whew. It does not seem like a year ago that I first posted my summer reading list on this blog. Actually, I'm surprised at myself that I've kept up this blogging thing for over a year now. But here we are: time for another list of books that I'm aiming to read this summer.

Alyssa and I will be in Liberty, MO, by the end of this month, done with our undergrad degrees and on hiatus from seminary for the summer. So I'm expecting to have a little more free time than usual on my hands, other than the time spent working for 2BC Liberty and in our new little ceramics studio, to get some reading done.

So here it is. My summer reading list. It looks like a fairly daunting sampling of literature, but most of the books are fairly short, so I think it's feasible. Look for a personal review on each of the books sometime toward the end of the summer.

Divine Rebels: American Christian Activists for Social Justice, by Deena Guzder. 2011. 320 pp.

This just came in the mail yesterday, and I can hardly wait to tear into it and write a proper review. It is the story of America's Christian activist giants: environmentalists, communists, anarchists, unionists, and radical priests alike who have fought for decades for the dignity and rights of the oppressed and overlooked.
Beyond Smells & Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy, by Mark Galli. 2008. 142 pp.

I'm already a few chapters into this one. It's a book about the power of liturgy: need I say more?
Money and Power, by Jacques Ellul. 1984. 173 pp.

I was first introduced to the works of Jacques Ellul a few years ago in the writings/literature associated with the Christian anarchist folk bands Psalters and The Illalogical Spoon (on a semi-related side-note, I have also recently been discovering the life of Simone Weil. Check out her wiki page and prepare to be amazed--and spend lots and lots of time wiki-surfing). Ellul was a French theologian and sociologist who wrote a lot about his suspicion of technology and our perceived notion of progress, but also about his rejection of our contrived efforts of government. In Money and Power, it looks as though Ellul tries to draw parallels between modern government and the warnings by Jesus against "having two masters." Mammon and political power go hand-in hand.
Tendril, poems by Bin Ramke. 2007. 130 pp.

I first heard of Bin Ramke a few weeks ago in a poetry workshop I'm taking part in at the university. We read a poem of his called "Birds Fly Through Us," and his dense but compassionate and empathetic imagery just blew me away. Ramke's are some of the most complicated and intricate poems I've ever read, at times confusing (if not utterly losing) the reader, but there is a definite beauty to his language and a genius to his poetic mechanism that speaks to your brain and to your heart.  Think of him as a more human John Ashbery.
Gandhi, an Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, by Mohandas K. Gandhi. 1927. 560 pp.

I'll be honest. This is not one that I plan to completely finish this summer--it's massive. I've wanted to dig into this one since about 7th or 8th grade, when my parents first showed me the film based on Gandhi's life, starring Sir Ben Kingsley. This semester, I took a wonderful course called Religion and Violence, and during the last week of class we all got together and watched the film and ate authentic Indian food at the professor's house. I hear that food plays a large role in the early development of Gandhi's spiritual "experiments with truth," and as someone who has struggled with his weight and the meaning of fasting for almost as long as I can remember, I hope I might find some sort of comfort in reading Gandhi's struggles, as well.
Bright Shoots of Everlastingness: Essays on Faith and the American Wild, by Paul J. Willis. 2005. 192 pp.

I bought this book at the AWP conference in Chicago a few years back and still haven't gotten a chance to read it. It's a shame, too, because it seems right up my alley.


  1. You guys are moving so soon! I look forward to joining yall in Liberty in a few months. (Is there an apostrophe in ya'll?) Bright Shoots of Everlastingness looks like a fun read. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Thanks, Jay! Looking forward to hanging with y'all soon!