Saturday, June 01, 2019

DE Ponderings

by Kevin Kessler

Occasionally, I share a list of a few books that I recommend reading. The following are books I’ve read this year that I’ve found especially interesting and insightful.

The Paradoxes of Jesus by Ralph W. Sockman (Abingdon Press, 1936)
On occasion I receive a stack or box of purged books from a friend’s or acquaintance’s library. I rarely give much attention to older books, unless it’s a classic, but decided to at least read a few pages of Paradoxes. I finished it. Sockman has a wonderful grasp of words with the ability to imaginatively weave together contradictions that produce a thought-provoking conception. For example, he writes in a chapter entitled “Mammon of Righteousness” that “Jesus did not simplify living by demanding poverty of all. Nor did he urge an absolute equality of wealth. In the perfection of personality men must use ingenuity and imagination, discrimination and judgment, progressive sympathy and sacrifice. Nothing tests these more than does the mastering of mammon. But when mastered, mammon, the rival of God, becomes the servant to God.” 
Besides Sockman’s mastery of writing, his wisdom spans history. What he wrote in 1936 is as relevant today as it was in his lifetime. This is a gem in my library. 
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (Harper, 2015)
Zinn approaches history from the perspective of those “whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories" (Library Journal), including America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. When history is told by these groups of people, historical perspective shifts significantly. No longer are the conquerors of news lands and new systems viewed as heroes to be venerated, rather they are disclosed as exploiters of people for the sake of economic or colonial gain. The shift offers insight for reasons to uphold the rights of those held captive by such oppressive behavior. Zinn seems careful to call out these injustices regardless of political affiliation. All persons, regardless of political persuasion, may be complicit in oppressive behaviors by failing to pay attention to the needs of those experiencing injustices. I found this book to be an eye-opening read.
The Market as God by Harvey Cox (Harvard University Press, 2016)
The Market has deified itself, according to Cox. He takes the reader on a journey providing similarities of God and the Market, thus providing a substantiated argument of how the Market has reached deity status. “Only by tracing how the Market reached its ‘divine’ status can we hope to restore it to its proper place as servant of humanity” (from the book’s jacket). In addition to a well-researched and thought-full argument, Cox is superb, in my view, at Biblical interpretation and writing in a most relevant manner. Stories and insights throughout the chapters inspired me to write questions in the margins of the pages inquiring about current and relevant topics. Although scholarly in nature, “The Market” is written in a most comprehendible manner. 
Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time by MaryAnn McKibben Dana (Chalice Press, 2012)
The keeping of Sabbath is not a recommendation; it’s a commandment. However, in today’s fast-paced world, whether in the suburbs, or inner-city, or more rural setting, keeping Sabbath, or even practicing it, is an ongoing and, at times, overwhelming challenge. McKibben Dana and her husband, after visiting the Iona Community, decided to give Sabbath a more intentional focus for one year. Of the several books I have read on Sabbath-keeping, I found this one the most honest and refreshing of any of I’ve read. Some who write about and practice Sabbath make it sound easy and very doable. McKibben Dana makes the claim that it is doable but with constant maneuvering and adjusting and copious amounts of grace. Yet at the end of a one-year experiment, the McKibben Dana family found some rhythms in life allowing them to experience Sabbath in liberating and helpful ways for the long-term journey. The honest portrayal of this family’s experiment gives me hope that I may be able to find some Sabbath rhythms as I continue to struggle with the spiritual practice of Sabbath keeping. 
I’m glad to share these good reads with you. What are you reading? I’d love to have your recommendations. And if you would like to share recommendations more widely than with just me, I’m glad to include your suggestions in future district newsletters.

Keep on reading!!!