The Six Pack 2010 Edition

Blowing Smoke by Michael Wolraich – in this wonderful book Michael Wolraich takes Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh head on and traps them in their own convoluted stories, words, and scare tactics that only serve to whip up people’s fears rather than to serve their audiences rational (not to mention truthful) arguments.  He shows reasonably, though I don’t always buy his arguments, how those 3 (and probably the right in general) recycle the same type of stories and constantly filter them through the grid of persecution politics and the politics of fear.  This is an engaging, humorous and very thought provoking book that should be read by those on the right who are willing to have their notions and thoughts challenged.

The Bible as Improv by Ron Martoia.  I love Ron’s books.  Static was a must read from a couple of years ago.  Transformational Architecture was a good book as well (though not as good, in my opinion, as Static).  I felt Ron once again hit a home run.  Martoia dispenses with the idea that overall the Bible is just a “rulebook” or “principles to live by”.  It is a living, breathing story from which we get to extend our story into our time and culture.  He honestly deals with the issue of picking and choosing texts that seem to apply today but ignoring other texts that we feel don’t apply today (and the two different verses may be back to back!).  For Ron the Bible is narrative, it is story.  Great mind-stretching book.

David Dark is one of those writers who not only knows pop culture but tells us how our embrace or rejection of certain pieces of that culture is a rejection or embrace of true biblical story (albeit told and packaged in a very different way).  In his latest offering, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything,  he tells us that the ability to at least question things is not only good, but is expected.  This was just one quote from a book that all christ-followers and most church leaders should really read: “If we’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be bad language and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack. We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion. We aren’t as deeply acquainted with our religion as we might think.”

One of the series that I wanted to get through this year was the Cultural Exegesis Series.  It started off beautifully with the reading of Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends.  Again it seems that this book (along with others this year) is about studying culture and seeing how faith, life, theology, etc. intersects in everyday life (from movies, to tv, to music, to art, literature, etc.).  Someone made the comment about this book that I thought was very appropriate: “If theology is the ministry of the Word to the world, everyday theologians need to know something about that world….”  I thought what Vanhoozer said, himself, was very good to understanding why what he and others are talking about in this book are important: “TO BE A CULTURAL AGENT IS TO BE A PERSON ABLE TO MAKE HIS OR HER OWN MARK ON CULTURE RATHER THEN SIMPLY SUBMIT TO CULTURAL PROGRAMING” (p.55).

Blind Descent by James Tabor was one of those books that i never intended to read.  I was walking through our public library and the book was placed on the “new arrivals” shelves, I picked it up, read the back and found myself in line to check out this interesting book on a  topic that i really had no knowledge about.  The book is about supercaves, those that explore them, what they experience and what drives them to go into darkness for days and weeks at a time.  The highest peak has been conquered but the deepest place on Earth had remained elusive for decades (and even now there remains the possibility of a new supercave with untold depths) until around 2000-2001 when two contenders where explored.  In 2004 a cave that included drops, underwater diving, and tight squeezes became known as the “deepest place on earth” and that exact spot got tagged with a nickname that was both symbolic and ironic.

There were a couple of other books that could have made this list: Apprentice by Steve Chalke, What Americans Really Believe by Rodney Stark but this last book was a surprise find and a surprisingly good read.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester tells the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary came into being and how one of the main contributors to the dictionary was an American civil war veteran who lived 30 years in England in a mental institution.  It tells, also,  how the main editor and this american forged a friendship that would endure for many years. The story is wonderful on many levels….productivity in spite of crippling life issues; the sad tale of war and its effects; redemption and forgiveness; the troublesome and, sometimes, grotesque symptoms of mental disease.  It was a fast, easy read that opened light on the world-renowned, official standard of the English language.

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