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The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyable to read a science fiction novel where the Cultural Revolution is the background. Also one so full of actual science and not just a fantasy set in space. The long section during which the protagonist plays a video game that serves as exposition wasn't fully my cup-of-tea, but I did rush through the book, intrigued by where it was going. And I'll likely read the other two in this trilogy.

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I Am Abraham Lincoln

I am Abraham LincolnI am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this book at the Lincoln Memorial so ordered a copy for my son when I returned home. I read it yesterday and cried while reading it, moved by its story of compassion, kindness, and justice.

When I ordered I discovered that it is one of an entire series, and so I ordered two more and will probably order even more of them.

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Red Sorghum

Red SorghumRed Sorghum by Mo Yan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a small village surrounded by fields of red sorghum mostly during the Japanese invasion of China, this magnificent story is filled with rich characters and delightful episodes, all while detailing the horrors of war for the village people. The only reason I failed to give it five stars was because I thought the final two sections were confusingly organized (the entire book is non linear in its narrative style, which is fine until those sections) and seemed to me to get distracted by some minutiae instead of completing some of the main story. But that said, I still greatly enjoyed the novel. Among its unique features is a section narrated from the perspective of one of the village dogs. I've enjoyed the novel so much I intend to read more of Mo's novels in the years to come.

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The Power and Vulnerability of Love

The Power and Vulnerability of Love: A Theological AnthropologyThe Power and Vulnerability of Love: A Theological Anthropology by Elizabeth O'Donnell Gandolfo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gandolfo argues that vulnerability is not only a basic human trait, it is the source of anxiety that leads
to suffering and causes suffering in others. After an analysis based upon maternal experience, she discusses Christian theological and spiritual responding to vulnerability and then practices of dealing with vulnerability.

While I felt the first section was overly long and often redundant, sections two and three were quite good, in particular her discussion of incarnation and the natal experience of Jesus.

She also brilliantly draws from a great diversity of thinkers--Paul Tillich & Delores Williams, Alfred North Whitehead and Martha Nussbaum, Nicholas of Cusa and David Hume, Julian of Norwich and Edward Schillebeeckx, etc.

I also greatly appreciated her discussion of privilege as our attempt to control our vulnerability. This section will be quite useful to ministers because she gives a theological description. Remember just this week my denomination passed a resolution calling for ministers to receive ongoing training in their privilege. Since I volunteered to help organize that for the Nebraska conference, I'll use her work as a means to approach the topic.

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Truth Will Rise

Some Willimon quotes from Who Lynched Willie Earle?

Race is a socially constructed, psychologically rooted attempt to name humanity through human designations.  Christians defiantly believe that our identity and our human significance are bestowed upon us not by our culture, family, or skin color but rather given us in baptism.

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The origins of Southern fundamentalist Christianity have their roots in the creation of this disincarnate "empty space" sealed off from theological scrutiny.

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In a critique of how church often functions he writes "church is made into a font of positive feelings, a sabbatical for the soothing of anxiety, healing of stress, a place to receive placid balance, and a retreat where we go to pray for those in the hospital."

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In a society of racial denial, blaming and falsehood, rituals that enable repentance are great gifts that the church offers.  When so many white Americans adamantly maintain our innocence, our guiltlessness, it's a remarkable witness to be in a community where sin is admitted, confessed, and given to God.

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Much of my church family wallows in the mire of anthropological moral, therapeutic deism, a "god" whom the modern world has robbed of agency, an ineffective godlet who allegedly cares but never gets around to doing anything.  Such a "god" is an idol who is inadequate to the challenge of our racism.

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Christians answer to a theological vocation whereby we must demonstrate to an unbelieving world, by our little lives and in our pitiful churches that, in spite of us, nevertheless there is hope because God is able.

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We preach about race as those who believe we have seen as much of God as we hoped to see in his world when we look upon a brown-skinned Jew from Nazareth.

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His critique on much worship and pastoral care is spot on:

Should we be surprised that a racially accommodated church reduces Christian worship to the cultivation of subjectivity and interiority, presenting the Christian faith as a therapeutic technique for acquiring personal, individual meaning and joy in life?

Also,

Though moral, therapeutic deism takes the guts out of preaching, truth, smothered by therapeutic mush and self-pitying theodicy, will rise.

 


Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism

Who Lynched Willie Earle?: Preaching to Confront RacismWho Lynched Willie Earle?: Preaching to Confront Racism by William H. Willimon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard Willimon speak on this issue at the Festival of Homiletics in May. He was angry and sassy and is so in the book. This is a vital text for preachers. A clarion call to preaching as God's weapon to defeat white supremacy.

Willimon tells the story of a lynching in his home county when he was one and how one local pastor preached about it. He uses this to explore the ongoing issues of white supremacy and its corruption of the church and gives encouragement and advice for how preachers must respond.

I'll post some quotes and details later.

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Devil on the Cross

Devil on the CrossDevil on the Cross by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel was written on toilet paper while the author was in prison and is the first modern novel written in Gikuyu. Ngũgĩ is often mentioned as a likely Nobel winner plus I had read about this novel in a work of postcolonial theology. So I was looking forward to it and was disappointed.

The story critiques capitalism and colonialist exploitation but it does so in a heavy handed way that reminded me of The Man Who Was Thursday or The Great Divorce--novels that get too heavy handed and preachy in making their points.

There were engaging moments and the final chapter was searingly powerful.

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