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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Soong-Chan Rah9070UrbanFaith.com, my other blogging and writing home, has a new interview with Soong-Chan Rah about his book, The Next Evangelicalism, and why he still roots for the Baltimore Orioles. Also be sure to check out Soong-Chan’s new website, www.ProfRah.com.

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, everyone! Peace.

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CheckAll130x200Interesting timing. On the day that we posted an UrbanFaith.com interview with author Sundee Frazier about being “Multiracial in the Age of Obama,” this Associated Press report hits the circuit as well. The AP report says multiracial people have become the fastest growing demographic group in America.

Our UrbanFaith interview with Frazier, the author of an important IVP book titled Check All That Apply, explores the multiracial experience, what it has meant to have a mixed-race president, and some of the challenges that remain despite our nation’s progress on race issues. Please check it out and leave some comments; we need some action over there at UrbanFaith.

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As We Forgive coverOver the last week or so, I’ve been absorbed in Catherine Claire Larson’s new book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. If you’re interested in a deeper understanding of what happened in Rwanda in 1994, or a deeper understanding of the miraculous process of reconciliation, I commend this great book to you. 

Last month marked the 15th anniversary of the horrific Rwanda genocide, and the wounds are still apparent in the country. However, despite physical and emotional scars, something dramatic is happening among the Rwandan people. Survivors are forgiving those who killed their families. Perpetrators are truly repenting and doing practical acts of reconciliation to demonstrate their remorse, like building homes for those whose families they killed. God is moving.

In her gripping book, Larson shares seven stories about the genocide, its aftermath, and the spirit of reconciliation that is happening in a place that was once defined by inhumanity and death. What’s taking place in Rwanda today is instructive for all people, especially those of us who confess Christ. As Larson observes in my interview with her, now at UrbanFaith.com, “If forgiveness can happen in that country after such unthinkable crimes, surely it can also happen in the comparatively smaller rifts we face. In their hope, we can find hope.”

I highly recommend that you check out Catherine Larson’s compelling and well-written book, as well as the award-winning film that inspired it. Also, once again, don’t forget to read, link to, and pass along the UrbanFaith interview with Larson.

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nextevangelicalismIf you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly encourage you to check out my friend Soong-Chan Rah’s provocative new book, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. Today, African, Asian, and Latin American Christians make up 60 percent of the world’s Christian population. The United States and Europe will soon no longer be the center of evangelical activity in the world. With this in mind, the book calls the North American church to break free of its cultural captivity to a Western/Eurocentric/White American mindset and to embrace a new evangelicalism that is diverse and multiethnic. You can find out more here at the IVP site. 

For those of you who don’t know him, Soong-Chan is a brilliant theologian and pastor who for years led Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, a multiethnic, urban, post-modern congregation in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now a professor at North Park Theological Seminary here in Chicago, Soong-Chan has rattled a lot of cages over the years by calling attention to issues of racism and cultural insensitivity in the evangelical church and community. I included a story about the Rickshaw Rally fiasco in my book, Reconciliation Blues, and I blogged about Soong-Chan’s role in the Zondevan/Youth Specialities controversy a couple years ago. In addition, when I was the editor of Today’s Christian, I published an insightful interview with Soong-Chan about the Youth Specialities episode and his ministry of activism. Though he may have gained a reputation as a rabble-rouser in some quarters, I know him as a kind-hearted, passionate man of God who loves the church and lost people.

We’re planning to do an interview with Soong-Chan about his book for that other little blog that I’m involved with, UrbanFaith.com. If you have any questions you’d like to hear Soong-Chan address about the book or his ministry in general, please leave them in the comments area below, or send them to me directly through my website. We’ll publish the interview in the next couple weeks, so send your questions soon. Thanks!

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I knew actor/director Tim Reid from his roles as Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati and Ray Campbell on Sister, Sister. I knew Tom Dreesen from his frequent guest spots on The Late Show with David Letterman. What I didn’t know is that the two of them once comprised “the nation’s first black and white comedy team.” That is, until I saw this article in today’s Chicago Tribune and learned about a new book, Tim & Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White, that traces their unique history.

From 1969 to 1974 (several years before Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder teamed up for their first film together), Reid and Dreesen performed at black, white, and sometimes mixed nightclubs across the country. In an era when racial humor was still too hot to handle for most folks, the duo did satirical bits such as “Superspade and the Courageous Caucasian.” Unfortunately, their act was considered too dangerous and controversial for the socially turbulent climate of the early seventies, so the pair eventually broke up. Though they each went on to achieve individual fame, they were never able to break into the top ranks of show business as a tandem.

Still, for a brief, heady period in pop culture, Reid and Dreesen were out there using comedy to defuse and illuminate the volatile subject of race in America. In their own way, they were pioneers in racial reconciliation.

Update, Sept. 20: NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday featured a nice interview with Reid and Tom this morning.

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Over at his A Man from Issachar blog, Rev. Eric Redmond calls our attention to the release of an eagerly anticipated book from Duke Divinity School professor J. Kameron Carter. The book, Race: A Theological Account (Oxford, 2008), presents a fresh perspective on the social and theological construct of race in our world. Here’s an excerpt from the book’s product description at Amazon.com:

In Race: A Theological Account, J. Kameron Carter meditates on the multiple legacies implicated in the production of a racialized world and that still mark how we function in it and think about ourselves. These are the legacies of colonialism and empire, political theories of the state, anthropological theories of the human, and philosophy itself, from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the present.

Carter’s claim is that Christian theology, and the signal transformation it (along with Christianity) underwent, is at the heart of these legacies. In that transformation, Christian anti-Judaism biologized itself so as to racialize itself. As a result, and with the legitimation of Christian theology, Christianity became the cultural property of the West, the religious ground of white supremacy and global hegemony. In short, Christianity became white. The racial imagination is thus a particular kind of theological problem.

Sounds like a challenging—and likely controversial—thesis. Perhaps if we were more willing to confront race as a theological issue, it would change the cultural conversation for the better. What do you think? If you get a chance to read the book any time soon, please let me hear your thoughts.

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On Sunday I returned from the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Writing. What a great event! If you love books, writing, poetry, theology, the arts, intellectual engagement, etc., you’ll dig this biennial conference. I had the privilege of doing one solo presentation about my book, and I took part in two panel discussions–“Writing Toward Social Justice,” with Charles Marsh and Helena Maria Viramontes, and “To Tell the Truth,” with Cathleen Falsani, Dorina Lazo Gilmore, and Bruce Umpstead. I felt out of my league at moments, but God gave me sufficient grace to speak (or at least enough to not look like a Book TV wannabe).

I’m thankful for the gracious response of the folks who came to my sessions. Someone sent me this humbling review (though it sort of scares me now to realize that folks actually write reviews of conference sessions 🙂 ). Plus, I had the opportunity to meet or reconnect with several friends—L. L. Barkat, Llama Momma, Ragamuffin Diva, Dr. Joseph Daniels, Nikki Grimes, Hugh Cook, Victoria Johnson, Richard Kauffman.

I also enjoyed sessions and talks featuring authors like Rob Bell, Krista Tippett, Edward P. Jones, Haven Kimmel, Carole Weatherford, Carlos Eire, and many others. Too many to mention, really. This festival is like an overdose of inspiration for word addicts.

I returned home with a renewed appreciation for the artistic endeavor—and a desperate need to finish a big project that will soon be due. Which means I probably shouldn’t be blogging right now. In fact, noting that I’ve been blogging more often than usual lately, Llama Momma wondered whether I was avoiding finishing that “big project.” Busted! (If you read Llama Momma’s blog, it’s no surprise to you that she’s so keenly perceptive.)

Anyway, here’s something else I discovered while at the Calvin Festival. During a trip to a nearby Barnes and Noble, an enchanting combination of violin and voice wafted from the store speakers. The sound led me to the music section. “Are you wondering who that artist is?” the young woman behind the service desk asked; I suppose I wear my curiosity rather prominently. “Yeah, who is that?” I said. Turns out it’s an artist named Lili Haydn, a singer/songwriter whom P-Funk maestro George Clinton once called “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin.” I picked up a copy of her new CD, Place Between Places, and resisted my usual practice of never buying new music until I’ve thoroughly researched the artist. Every now and then, however, I’ll take a risk and try a new CD on a whim. It paid off with Norah Jones, whose first album I picked up and purchased months before she became a sudden superstar. I also got into Amy Winehouse before I knew how terribly lost she is (ah, but she’s enormously talented when sober). I don’t think Lili Haydn will rocket to fame like Jones or Winehouse; her music is a bit too eccentric and hard to categorize—it’s classical, pop, jazz, funk, with dashes of folk. Still, I’m drawn to the uniqueness of her sound and her diversity of influences.

So that’s what I discovered at Calvin: God’s sufficiency, warm fellowship, creative inspiration, and Lili Haydn.

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