Another random library selection, and a nice change of pace from history and theology. In Now, Cal Berkeley professor Richard Muller sets out to provide a layman’s-level discussion of the nature of time and how the domain of physics interacts with and helps explain it.
Muller provides an engaging discussion about relativistic time dilation, the big bang, quantum effects and “spooky action at a distance”, and his own thoughts about what it is that causes time to move only forward. It’s not entirely for the faint of heart, but he at least is good enough to leave his derivation of equations into appendices rather than embedding them within the body text. The Goodreads reviews of the book seem to be a bunch of physics nerds giving the author flack for his approach, but to this engineering nerd who isn’t deep into physics, it was just fine.
Now: The Physics of Time
The buzz on this one had been going around Twitter for a while, so I was glad to pick up a copy and read. Michael Wear is a young guy who, not even out of college, worked as the White House lead for evangelical outreach during President Obama’s first term. Reclaiming Hope is part memoir of those years and partly Wear’s suggestions for how to repair political engagement with religion.
On the whole, I think Wear did a good job of identifying points where both the right and left failed in opportunities to find common ground that could’ve made legitimate progress on issues important to religious conservatives. However, I think his admiration for President Obama causes him to pull his punches in the second half of the book.
In the first half of the book, Wear reveals himself as something of an Obama fan boy as he details all of the President’s speeches that reveal the depth to his personal faith. (I’m not disputing these – I have great admiration for Obama’s faith – but the tone is pretty fawning.) When Wear starts assigning blame in the second half of the book, though, the blame is never to Obama directly, but always to the “administration” or the “White House”.
Overall, it’s a good little memoir, and Wear has some good thoughts to share about how we might find progress forward on issues significant to people of faith.
Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America
Read this one on a business trip this week. Having nothing to do with actual nautical survival skills, this book is Martin’s personal confessional and memoir of the breakup of his marriage and leaving the pastorate at his church.
Martin is a very talented writer, and while some of the initial Scripture applications are a stretch (Paul, after his shipwreck, told the people to eat, therefore, when our lives are in metaphorical shipwrecks, we should be sure we eat via participation in the Eucharist), the book shines in the latter chapters when he focuses in on grace in a way that will sound familiar to readers of Robert F. Capon.
There’s a part of me that’s skeptical of the value of an author writing this instructionally when he was clearly still in the midst of learning the lessons he’s communicating, but it was still an encouraging read. My prayer for Jonathan is that he continues to heal and grow in grace in the days to come.
How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help Is on the Way and Love Is Already Here
I got sucked into Griffin’s Badge of Honor series years ago. This is book #13, and the hero is still only 27 years old, and opens the story still suffering from the wound he suffered in book #12. Hey, if Griffin is still making money cranking these out at age 87, good for him. But let’s not pretend they’re any more substantive entertainment than your average 1.5-star franchise action movie. Meh.
Found this on the library shelf and was a challenging read to start the year. Is Kendi making an effort to be super-even-handed? Nope. But he has enough facts on his side to make a compelling account. From the first white settlers colonizing through the beginning of the 21st century, he highlights the terrifying history of racism in the USA. It can feel like a stretch at times – King Kong subliminally picturing white’s fear of blacks? sure, but the Rocky movies continuing to do so with the white hero taking on black opponents? Maybe from a certain point of view.
Some progressive reading isn’t gonna hurt me, I guess. (I just borrowed Zinn’s History from the library the other day.)
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America