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March Books

Well, a lot of things going on this month, so not a lot of book reading. Without further ado:
1. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus by Ched Myers.
This book is one that inevitably gets mentioned in any hermeneutics class, and seems to be treated as the example of a socio-political reading of Scripture. So, since I’ve been working my way (slowly) through the NT, with a different commentary for each book, I decided to use Myers’ commentary on Mk.
There was much that I enjoyed about this book, and there were several passages that jumped out at me, and quotations that I found to be very well-worded and thought-provoking (as reflected in a few of my recent posts). However — and I say this as a person committed to a form of “nonviolent direct action” that has many overlaps with Myers’ approach — I felt that Myers’ reading of the text was sometimes overly dictated by the particular means he, and those around him, were employing in contemporary subversive political activity. At points I felt that Myers was a little too concerned to make Jesus look like Gandhi, rather than exploring the ways in which Gandhi looked like Jesus… if you get what I’m saying here. Along the same lines, I found Myers’ substitution, and explanation, of the term “the Human One” for the title “Son of Man” (out of a sensitivity to feminist hermeneutics) to be deceptively inadequate — and, to be honest, it was a bit of a double-standard since Myers felt fine retaining male-based language when it was employed negatively. However, these things aside, I suggest Myers’ book for those who may not have explored the idea of reading the Gospels as subversive political literature.
2. The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry by Henri Nouwen.
Nouwen is always a breath of fresh air. Indeed, I would be inclined to suggest that Nouwen should be absolutely mandatory reading for those of us who are more involved in “social action” since we often distance ourselves from the more spiritual/religious/contemplative elements of our faith. We must be contemplatives in action if we are to hope for transformation.
In this book, Nouwen appeals to the Desert Fathers and Mothers and explores the ways in which the disciplines of solitude, silence, and prayer, transform our selves and our ministries. I especially appreciated the section on prayer. In this section Nouwen talks about how we need to move from understanding prayer as a conversation that occurs within our intellect, to understanding prayer as the place in which our being becomes rooted in God — and thus prayer goes on to define all areas of our life.
Like most of Nouwen’s books, this book is short and easily applicable. Highly recommended.
3. And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat.
This is Mowat’s account of his experiences in the Canadian Army in Italy during WWII. My Grandfather, who was a Canadian soldier during WWII, gave it to one of my brothers and said that this book, more than anything else that he had read, captured what he felt at the time. Essentially the book describes Mowat’s movement from optimism, bravado, and sheer ignorance, to overwhelming fear. Mowat suggests that, for men at war, fear is like a worm that becomes rooted in our gut and slowly grows until it devours us entirely. Next to The Wars by Timothy Findley (which is a fictional story of one soldier’s life in WWI) this is probably the novel that has moved me the most in its account of the world at war.

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