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December Books

Well, I have been away for a little while visiting family and friends and checking out a few job options in Toronto; thus, my December books are a little late. Here they are:
1. The Liberation of Christmas: The Infancy Narratives in Social Context by Richard A. Horsley.
This here book was my Advent reading. One of my plans, as I try to begin to follow the Church calendar more closely, is to structure some of my reading around that calendar. I figured this would be a good place to start, and I wasn’t mistaken. Horsley provides a great socio-political read of Lk 1-2, and Mt 1-2 (a reading, it should be noted, that the texts themselves legitimise and prioritise). Now, although I don’t agree with everything Horsley has to say (for example, I think he is too quick to relinquish the category of ‘eschatology’ to his opponents), I actually ended up concluding that this is some of his best material (which rather surprised me given that nobody seems to have heard of this book, and that it is now only printed on demand). I highly recommend it to any for the Advent season, and for pastors in particular as they lead their churches through Advent and into Christmas.
2. A Biblical Theology of Exile by Daniel L. Smith-Christopher.
This book is a fantastic blend of biblical theology, hermeneutics, postcolonial and refugee studies, as well as disaster theory and continental philosophy. I loved it and think that it was one of the best that I’ve read this year — not least because it provided me with a great lens through which to view all of the Old Testament (that lens, of course, is the lens of exile). There were many things that I found to be thought-provoking and exciting. For example, the author argues that the exilic redactors rewrite the narrative histories of Israel’s monarchy and prior military prowess in a deliberately negative manner and thereby espouse a narrative theology that is premised upon an embrace of exile and a refusal of national (and other worldly forms) of power. Damn good stuff.
3. Against the Stream: Shorter Post-War Writings, 1946-52 by Karl Barth.
As the title suggests, this book is a compilation of material from Barth written after WWII. It mainly deals with issues involving the Church and the State. Certainly there is a great deal of material here that lays the foundation for a postliberal theology (indeed, I forget who said it, but Barth might well be classified the first postliberal theologian) but there are also significant points of difference. Barth, for example, ends up being much more positive about the State, and seems to offer a position between the Niebuhrians and the Hauerwasians (even though I suspect he is closer to the Hauerwasians on Church/State issues). Thus, I found this book to be both encouraging and challenging — which makes it just right.
4. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen.
I don’t usually have much time to completely reread books that I have already read, but when I do so I usually find myself rereading Nouwen (both because his books are so poignant and so short). My wife and I worked through this book in our devotions in December. I always find Nouwen to be a wonderful reminder of some of the core issues of faith and living.
5. A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart by Martin E. Marty.
After reading Wolterstorff’s Lament last month, I figured I would read Marty’s lament (this book was written after he had lost his first wife to cancer) as one of my professor’s tends to mention these books in tandem (and as this book was on sale for 25 cents in my school library). I can’t say that I enjoyed it all that much. I had some trouble enjoying Marty’s voice, which I found to be rather journalistic, as well as his content — he essentially made the same main point over and over (i.e. not all Christians have to be happy and feel good all the time — thanks!). I don’t know… it seems like a lot of people have really been touched by this book, so maybe it’s just me (maybe I lose track of the fact that the freedom to be unhappy can be a big deal in certain Christian circles). I guess part of my problem was Marty’s use of the Psalms, which I have always had trouble getting into and enjoying, so I guess that probably suggests the problem was more mine than Marty’s. Oh well.
6. In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver edited by Leslie Robertson and Dara Culhane.
This book presents the stories of seven women from the neighbourhood in which I live, as they told those stories to the editors of this book. It is always a challenge to tell such stories because one desires to be honest, yet one fears romanticisation, exploitation, and so on and so forth. However, these are the stories that these seven women want to tell, and they seem to negotiate the tensions of story-telling quite well. If you’re interested in learning more about my ‘hood, and the people there, this is probably a good place to start.

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