Saturday, March 31, 2007

What I've Been Reading

* The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis

I actually just finished Gaddis' book and enjoyed it tremendously. Most of my undergraduate work at IUP focused on Cold War popular culture, so it was nice to revisit those roots, and Gaddis is one of the world's top Cold War scholars, a professor at Yale.

One of the things I ended up really appreciating about the book is what Gaddis said about leadership. He lifted up brave leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa, and John Paul II; he may not have always agreed with their politics or policies, but he attributed their courage in standing up to radical evil to contributing powerfully to ending the Cold War and liberating hundreds of millions of souls from bondage. In short, courage matters, and it's always right to take a stand against wrong, though the Church has weapons far more potent than guns and bombs.

* United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center by Scott J. Jones

I've admired Bishop Jones since he was elected to the episcopacy; he is one of the few real theologian-bishops of the Church (I'd include Timothy Whitaker and William Willimon on this all-too-short list). This book, which I'm still reading, is OK, but doesn't really present any new perspectives or insights. In fact, in my view, better summaries of Methodist doctrine were written by several others, including Ted Campbell, Randy Maddox, Thomas Oden, Albert Outler, Charles Yrigoyen, and even Nazarene Kenneth Grider. It's not bad, mind you; it's just not as well written or well presented as some other volumes. Maybe I'll change my mind before I'm finished with it.

* Standing in the Margin: How Your Congregation Can Minister With the Poor (and perhaps recover its soul in the process) by Mary Alice Mulligan & Rufus Burrow

I appreciate the basic approach of Burrow and Mulligan, even though I disagree with some of their theological assumptions. The truth is that we mainline Protestants have done a sinfully terrible job of ministering to and with "the least of these", a subject concerning which I post often. There is a radical disconnect between the Church (certainly in Western PA Conference) and those "on the margins"...the poor, minorities, the powerless, etc. In fact, I've found that the larger the congregation, the greater the disconnect, which is the opposite of what should be. We often do things for the poor without actually living with the poor in any meaningful way.

How do we minister in this area without either being too paternalistic ("Have no fear, the Church is here; we'll take care of you") or doing things that primarily make us feel good, while really making very little difference? Burrow and Mulligan have some ideas.

* The World-Shattering Ministry of Jesus by Anne Crumpler & John Gooch

I'm reading this to prepare spiritually for summer, especially for my summer preaching. Not a lot of new insights yet (which isn't surprising, given that it's a Cokesbury resource, which tend to be extremely safe, predictable, and bland...nothing like Jesus), but some good reminders.

1 comment:

Randy Roda said...

You are a scholar...I am a cold war buff as well and I think alot of credit should go to Ronald Wilson Reagan for winning the cold war without firing a shot. Standing up to radical evil is necessary even when militarism is involved. When confronting a irrational enemy, who shows no restraint, force must sometimes be applied.

Radical Islam is and continues to be a greater threat to world security than Soviet style communism. As Sting once sang, "I hope the Russians love their children too," they did enough to show restraint and rationality. If radical Islam ever obtains nuclear weapons...look out.

I think we need a return to the type of conservative foreign policy that Reagan brought. If we had that, the war with Iraq could and would have been avoided. you know of a good book clearly stating the doctrine of prevenient grace. If so, let me know. Good post.l