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Capon’s Wager on God’s Love

I have on occasion paraphrased something Fr. Robert Capon wrote about God’s love as ”if God is a bastard, we’re all in trouble”. I went digging for the original quote today and came up short of any such choice phrase, but for reference, here’s the longer quote from Between Noon and Three which makes that point, if just a bit less colorfully:

…I have, in this parable, been working only one side of the street — in my effort to do justice to grace, I have neglected justice itself. I am fully aware that in doing so, I have laid myself open to the charge of granting not only screwing licenses but also franchises for far worse things: for pride and prejudice, for torture and exploitation — in short, for getting away with murder.

In my defense, let me point out that Scripture lays itself open to the same charge — and that the other side of the street has been worked so long, so hard, and so often that most people don’t even know there is a sunny side…

But there’s more to it than that. I have expounded Saint Paul to you as saying that not only are we dead to sin but that God is dead to it too — that he has put himself out of commission on the whole subject of blame. And so, indeed, he has: ”I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

I am fully aware that the Scriptures are paradoxical — that God speaks with a forked tongue — and that every lovely thing he says on the side of leniency can be matched by a dozen stringencies that will curl your hair. But I am also convinced that each of us has to make a decision about such utterances. When someone tells you many different things about his attitude toward you, you must first look at him long and long, and decide for yourself whether you care about him at all. But if you finally come to the conclusion that you do care, you must then decide which of his words you will take as his governing word. You ask me why I think God’s leniency governs his severity? Why grace is his sovereign attribute? Well, all I can say to you is that having been a father who has spoken out of both sides of his mouth to six children for twenty-six years — and having all those years believed in a heavenly Father who saves us not by sitting in his penthouse issuing edicts but by sending us the warm, furry body of a Son who drank the nights away with us and died obscurely of the foolishness of it all — all I can say is that I put my bet on the left fork of the tongue. It is my best hope that when my children think of everything I have said and done to them, they choose to remember the times of my severity when I just gave them a kiss on the cheek, poured myself a Scotch, and shut up. And it is my last hope that God hopes the same for himself.

So I really do make no apology for landing on the sunny side of the street. I am sorry if I have offended you; but to me there are some things that simply override everything that comes before or after. And I am sorrier still if you do not feel the same way. For without that ultimate cassation — without that final quashing of the subpoena, that throwing of the prosecution’s case out of court which is the only music there is for the ears of the hopelessly guilty — you and I, Virginia, are simply sunk.

— Fr. Robert F. Capon, Between Noon and Three, Chapter 17

On LGBTQIA+ Affirmation

June 2022 was quite a month for me. It started with the death of a long-time friend. It ended with my being on a phone call with my father while he experienced a stroke-like event. (Turns out: not a stroke. He’s home, and doing ok. Hallelujah.) In the middle was a thing called Pride Month, which had a little more visibility at our home than usual. Two of my kids identify as LGBTQIA+ and have embraced visibility more this year than ever before. (I got their permission to say this here.) So, one of these things is not like the other, but stick with me here and I’ll connect the dots.

Part 1: Online Community

Since Geof died last month, the online community he fostered for nearly 20 years (referred to as “RMFO” for reasons long since forgotten) has been renewed. I have hosted two Zoom “happy hour” calls, and both times 15-20 people have joined, chatted for 2-3 hours, and left with a request that we schedule another one. We have spent these hours catching up on life and recounting our own personal histories as they interact with the RMFO community: singles who met their future spouses in the group; couples once struggling to conceive who now have teenagers; marriages, divorces, job changes, moves, faith evolutions. Online friendships have led to “real-life” friendships, meet-ups, and job opportunities. At the end of the first call I realized that, while I had long considered many of these people meaningful to me, the call helped me realize that I was meaningful to them, too. My thought last week as I closed out the second call: this is the closest thing I’ve had to a healthy, functioning community in my adult life.

During last week’s call I talked about how my own personal views on some issues have evolved over the years, and how I have struggled to find an in-person community (specifically, a church community) where that evolution was welcome. Share those views too loudly and you will be welcome to find some other church to serve and worship at. Five years of quiet discomfort weren’t enough to dislodge me from my last church; their tepid COVID response was the straw that gave me the courage to break the proverbial camel’s back. Two years later I still haven’t found a new place to join. If I’m honest, I haven’t really looked too hard.

Part 2: My Dad

My dad is talking a little slower thanks to the medications he’s on after his health scare, but he’s not talking any less. When we talked last week after he got home from the hospital, we spent a while comparing current reading lists and discussing how some of the books I have given him over the years have helped guide his journey out of a fundamentalist faith into something much more open and gracious. That’s his story to tell, not mine. But what he said toward the end of the call stuck with me: that coming close to death now makes him unwilling to stay quiet on the topics important to him. And I thought to myself: that’s a lesson I should take to heart here in my 40s.

Part 3: Chuck Pearson

Chuck Pearson is a friend of one of the RMFO guys — someone I have never met but have followed on Twitter for years. Last week he posted a beautiful essay about his journey leaving a tenured professorship at a Southern Baptist university when he knew he would eventually be required to sign a “personal lifestyle statement” that would “[force] him to disown his LGBTQ+ friends and family”. Chuck ultimately found a post at another university, but still sat quiet about the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion:

Ultimately, it stayed private because I didn’t want to burn those bridges. Even as I made that realization that I had to choose between two sides I cared about deeply, I couldn’t bring myself to take that final step of declaring my choice.

In his essay, Chuck quotes from an Alan Jacobs essay from 2014 that argues for Christians to stand firm against the cultural evolution of views on sexuality. Here is Jacobs’ conclusion [preserving the emphasis from the original post]:

Either throughout your history or at some significant point in your history you let your views on a massively important issue be shaped largely by what was acceptable in the cultural circles within which you hoped to be welcome. How do you plan to keep that from happening again?

Clearly Jacobs has in mind a call to resist the desire to be welcomed by “the world” by accepting “worldly” views on sexuality. But for me his question takes the exact opposite orientation. How long have I been convinced about full acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people in the church but been afraid to say so, knowing that it would make me unwelcome in the evangelical church circles I have run in my entire life? Far too long.

Conclusion

So let me make a long-overdue statement as clearly as I can. I am a Christian, and I affirm those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual as they are, unconditionally, including their full inclusion into the assembled body of Christ known as the local church. I know there are those who would say I cannot hold that view and be a Christian. I reject that assertion.

There are multiple serious approaches to the Scripture on the topic which I will not go into here. Suffice it for now to say that you cannot read Scripture as a flat text. It is the product of thousands of years of God’s progressive revelation as understood and recorded by humans. In the end you have to come to some conclusion on which texts capture most clearly the essence of who God is, and use those as the framework from which to understand the rest.

And so, to quote Brian Zahnd:

God is like Jesus.
God has always been like Jesus.
There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus.
We have not always known what God is like—
But now we do.

Jesus taught these two principles in summation of all the teaching: love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself. He embraced the outsiders and rebuked the self-righteous. He called us to follow Him in lives of self-sacrificial love.

In addition to Jesus’ teaching, we have the witness of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters — so many dear, tender souls who consistently model what it means to follow Jesus, even in the midst of a church that rarely welcomes them. And to that I can only respond as the Apostle Peter did after first seeing the conversion of Gentiles to Christ: “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” (Acts 10:47)

Rachel Held Evans summarized it this way: “The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget—that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out but who it lets in.”

To this I say: Amen. May it be so.

Sympathy for Jesus

It had been a long time since I’d listened to this song. Then it came across my playlist this morning. Don Chaffer of Waterdeep in some strange alter ego called The Khrusty Brothers, with his own perspective on being angry at God…

I came stumbling into church with a hot gun in my hands
I was ready to talk to Jesus to tell him my demands
But Jesus ain’t no fool He’s seen this kinda thing before
And He had a couple angels stop me at the front door
I said “now come on that ain’t fair You should be accessible to all”
He said “everybody gets a secretary even just to take their calls”
“So address me to my face If you think you’ve got the balls
But I ain’t playin’ around  boy, at all”

This was not what I expected, so I stiffened in my stance
And I tried hard to remember every single shitty circumstance
Then I quivered like a victim with his predator in sight
I was ready now to vindicate, I was ready to start a fight
Now you can stand right there and judge me
Shoot, you can send me straight to hell
I know you got the power I know that fact full well
But before you do explain to me
Why suffering and why death?
And why did I pray all those years
And waste all that good breath?

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Well the angels sang it under their breath by the door
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
I give up, I can’t go on like this any more

“Well I appreciate your kind”, he said and then Jesus poured a drink
My face musta looked funny cause he said, “It’s not like you think”
“I’m saddled with the job you know of interpreting my Dad
To a bunch of frightened people, frightened or just mad
And most of ’em think they got it right” (and then he threw some ice cubes in)
“But most of ’em are just dead wrong about life and death and sin
And then I got my fiancée, she’s supposed to speak my mind
But sometimes she’s just chicken and then she messes it up other times…”

Don Chaffer, Sympathy for Jesus

Quick Thoughts after watching Top Gun: Maverick

Mild spoilers ensue.

  • This is basically the most 1980’s war film you could make in the 2020s. All the sunsets and American flags.
  • Owes plenty to Star Wars. Flying the trench to hit a 3-meter target without the use of your targeting system? Enemy fighters wearing faceless black helmets as they piloted their superior craft? Mobbed by jubilant crew members as you exit the fighter after returning victorious? The only thing missing was a princess to hand out medals afterward.
  • There was a little Tom Cruise greeting to moviegoers that played before the movie. Cruise looked much older in that greeting than he did in the film. He’s aging sort of Robert Redford style.
  • Movie relies heavily on slow, lingering golden hour shots of Tom Cruise and/or Jennifer Connelly in a medium shot. I mean, they’re both pretty people, so it’s not all bad.
  • Pretty sure if you took all those lingering shots out the movie length would cut down from 2:10 to something like 1:30. OK, maybe 1:45.
  • In the initial shot where Cruise is shown a roster of pilots he will train, Manny Jacinto’s (Jason Mendoza from The Good Place) face is in the top-left corner. Jacinto is nowhere to be found in the rest of the movie, though. Poor guy got left on the editing floor I guess.
  • I hadn’t realized that Val Kilmer was so ill. His whole plot line was weak – he is introduced as COMPACFLT who brings Maverick in, then his cancer is back but “nobody knows”, even though he’s an invalid and can’t speak, and then he dies and is buried within the next week? Plenty of the movie beggars belief, but that thread was the worst.
  • On the whole it was lightweight fun – worth watching on the big screen, not worth watching a second time.

Geof F. Morris, 1978-2022

Geoffrey Franklin Morris, 43, of Madison, Alabama, died today at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. He is survived by his wife Danielle, his parents, his brother Doug, his dog Lucky, and hundreds of friends around the world.

Geof was born in Knoxville, TN in 1978. The younger son in a military family, Geof spent time in San Antonio, Texas and Beavercreek, Ohio before eventually settling in Forest, Mississippi in 1990 after his father retired from the Air Force. He attended high school at The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, where his love for engineering and science led him not only to pursue a career focused on outer space, but also led him into the early days of social communities on the internet. Geof attended the University of Alabama Huntsville and graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and an undying love for UAH Chargers ice hockey.

Geof’s career started at Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE) where he designed equipment and managed projects building science equipment destined for the International Space Station. After a brief hiatus from the aerospace world to work for WordPress, Geof got a job at NASA where he eventually became a flight controller for the ISS. One of Geof’s great joys in life was being on comms with astronauts and walking them through daily procedures.

Geof had an amazing passion for online community. In high school he frequented online bulletin board discussions. He was fond of reminding friends that he had interacted directly with Tom Clancy in bulletin board discussions about Clancy’s novels. Later on, Geof’s love of the band Caedmon’s Call and their tight-knit fan community would prompt him to create and administer an online forum for them. “Rocksmyfaceoff.net” (RMFO to its regulars) was an active community for more than a decade in the early 2000s, and continues to this day in nooks and crannies of the social internet. Geof embraced Twitter when it was a new service and had posted over 100,000 tweets before many others were even aware of what Twitter was. He was a prolific blogger who was always looking to support the online communities he benefitted from. His website is full of thoughts on social sharing, technical advice, and concert bootleg recordings.

Geof was just as generous and gregarious in person as he was online. Whether you had known him for years or were just meeting him for the first time, he would put you at ease with his friendly conversation. He seemingly knew everyone, and would quickly introduce and connect you to others who he thought you should know. His meticulously-managed contact list included award-winning musicians, astronauts, internet tech royalty, an NHL goalie, and a whole bunch of normal mundane people. No matter who you were he would pay attention to personal details and important dates; mention your anniversary on Twitter one year and the next year he would wish you a happy anniversary, having captured that info about you the year before.

Along with wanting to work on space projects, Geof not so quietly wanted to fall in love with a pretty girl and get married. If she were a redhead, that would be a bonus. That wish came true for him in 2014 when he met a young red-headed NASA engineer named Danielle. Geof and Danielle married in 2015 and lived happily at their home near Huntsville until his passing.

Geof loved UAH hockey, the Boston Celtics and Bruins, Wilco, Radiohead, Caedmon’s Call, and The Big Lebowski. But mostly Geof loved people. Whether you were an astronaut or a random college kid, Geof treated you with respect and as an equal. He is mourned today by hundreds of friends and communities that are the product of his life-long labors of love.

Waiting for the Lightning

For a guy who loves music, I’ve never been the guy who finds and falls in love with an artist on their first album. From my youth I have tended to find bands on their second or third album – probably the popular one – then gone back and learned their back catalog.

In high school, this meant getting to know Michael W. Smith through Go West Young Man and then backing up to appreciate i2EYE; falling in love with Rich Mullins’ Liturgy, Legacy record and then going back to Never Picture Perfect, and bypassing my brother’s recommendation of Caedmon’s Call until their producer insisted on some highly uncharacteristic horns on the title track of Long Line of Leavers that sucked me in. (Self Titled or 40 Acres? I still can’t decide which is their best record.)

As an adult I wasn’t into Coldplay until X&Y and then belatedly recognized the brilliance of Parachutes and Rush of Blood to the Head. I met U2 via All That You Can’t Leave Behind and still probably don’t sufficiently appreciate Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree. And then there’s Arcade Fire.


I’m sure I’d heard of Arcade Fire from friends at some point early on. Neon Bible had a lot of buzz in my Twitter follows. Somehow it just never caught my ear. But then The Suburbs came out in late 2010, somewhere in the winter I picked it up on an AmazonMP3 $3.99 sale (remember those days?), and in spring 2011 when I trained for a half-marathon, it was my running music. (Somehow my initial download from Amazon missed the first two tracks, so for a long time I thought the album started with “Modern Man”. Not sure when I realized I was missing songs.)

The albums we really fall in love with are the ones we identify with somehow. When Rich Mullins sang “my folks we were always / the first family to arrive / with seven people jammed into / a car that seated five”, my heart ached in recognition of our own 7-member family adventures in undersized, well used cars. When Andrew Osenga sang “my tiny baby’s breathing / deeper every day / soon she’ll leave her crib forever”, I resonated with the heart of a kindred new father. And when Win Butler lamented “oh, this city’s seen so much / since I was a little child / Pray to God I won’t live to see / the death of everything that’s wild”, mid-30s suburban dad me felt it in my core. The Suburbs burrowed its way into my heart like few albums ever have.

Arcade Fire’s fire burns hot. Band leader Win Butler grew up in Houston. His wife, Régine Chassagne, is from Montreal but has roots in Haiti. He grew up Mormon and majored in religious studies at McGill. They aren’t a “Christian band” and say they don’t really practice religion, but their songs give voice to the Gen X disillusionment with and deconstruction of establishment Christianity that many of us have experienced. In “Here Comes the Night Time”, using the voice of Haitians to reject the legalistic strictures of white Christianity:

They say heaven’s a place
Yeah, heaven’s a place, and they know where it is
But you know where it is?
It’s behind the gate, they won’t let you in

And when they hear the beat coming from the street
They lock the door
But if there’s no music up in heaven,
Then what’s it for?

When I hear the beat
My spirit’s on me like a live-wire
A thousand horses running wild
In a city on fire

But it starts in your feet, then it goes to your head
And, if you can’t feel it, then the roots are dead
And if you’re the judge, then what is our crime?
Here comes the night time

Or in “City With No Children” where the young rebel starts to wonder if he is slowly becoming the establishment:

You never trust a millionaire
Quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them
But I’m beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you’re hiding underground
The rain can’t get you wet
Do you think your righteousness
Can pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

The rock is strong, the band is large, the music sometimes cacophonous, always intense, always pulsating with a righteous intensity.


The Suburbs was nominated for Best Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards. I remember the currents in my Twitter stream from those of us who knew and loved the band. They were up against Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum… there was no way they could win. Was there?

Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson announced the award and clearly had no idea, reading the award card, whether The Suburbs was the name of the band or the album. But there it was, Album of the Year.

The band had been backstage, getting ready to play a song to close the show. They came out, accepted their Grammy, then Win set it down on his amp and away they went with “Ready to Start”. Always live, always real, always ready to play.

In 2014 they went on tour with their new album Reflektor. The novelty for that tour was asking fans to dress up (think evening wear) to attend the show. One week in the fall of 2013, before the album released, I was on a work trip in Montreal and they announced a show at a small club nearby the hotel I was staying at. With only a $10 entry fee. I chose that night to go eat dinner with my co-workers rather than stand in line for a chance to get into the show. I’ve never forgiven myself for that decision. I finally saw them on that tour later in the year at the Target Center in Minneapolis. It was the first and likely last time I’ll ever wear a necktie to a rock concert.


Last week Arcade Fire released WE, their first new record in five years, and their first good one in nine years. (Can we just pretend Everything Now didn’t happen?) Where The Suburbs captured the frustration of 30-somethings realizing the unescapable strictures of the modern world, WE expresses the resistant hope of 40-somethings coming through the COVID era. The Suburbs Arcade Fire were parents of small children; the WE Arcade Fire now see their kids growing up and leaving.

Lookout kid, trust your heart
You don’t have to play the part they wrote for you
Just be true
There are things that you could do
That no one else on earth could ever do
But I can’t teach you, I can’t teach it to you

In “The Lightning I”, the strain of the past decade weighs heavily:

We can make it if you don’t quit on me
I won’t quit on you
Don’t quit on me
We can make it, baby
Please don’t quit on me
I won’t quit on you
Don’t quit on me
I never quit on you

This seamlessly transitions into “The Lightning II”, which brings a weary hope to the middle of tired frustration.

I heard the thunder and I thought it was the answer
But I find I got the question wrong
I was trying to run away, but a voice told me to stay
And put the feeling in a song

A day, a week, a month, a year
A day, a week, a month, a year
Every second brings me here

Waiting on the lightning
Waiting on the lightning
Waiting on the light
What will the light bring?

Once again my heart resonates with an artist. . Waiting on the lightning, yes. Hopeful that it will come. And yet shaken enough from the past 5 years of madness to have to ask the question – what will the light bring?

Essential Jams: ”Fugace” from Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio

So much to love about this. I wanted to find a recording that wasn’t the canonical Bolling/Rampal version… this one is pretty great. I love the way the flautist starts the theme and the trio looks at each other as if to say ”wow, this tempo is hot”. (I checked and they are playing it right at the tempo of the canonical recording.)

Such a joyful piece, and by the time they get to the final restatement of the theme as a swinging four-piece band (say, about 3:20 in the video), how can you not have a smile on your face?

In my best world I would have a flautist, drummer, and bassist I could play this with. So much fun. Enjoy!

Easter 2022

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

This morning Becky and I attended church in person for the first time since COVID struck. It’s been more than two years. It was our first time at this church—we left our last one during the pandemic. Even having watched services from this new place many times online, it felt odd to attend in person.

The oddest thing for me, though, was that I was only attending, not leading in some way. Absent from Easter for the first time in my adult life was any music rehearsal. I didn’t show up 90 minutes early. I didn’t play music for 3 services. I came, worshipped, shook the pastor’s hand on the way out, and was back home before 9:30.

Reporting my attendance back to friends on Twitter, I asked rhetorically: is it even Easter if I haven’t rehearsed and played music at 3 services?

That question led to a more sober line of questioning. How much of my understanding of service and worship has been formed, or malformed, by a lifetime of working somehow at church every time the door was open?

Every pastor will affirm that ministry is work. I can’t help but think, though, that something is broken when I leave church thinking was it even really worship if I’m not exhausted on the way out?

Two years of church non-attendance have led me to reconsider what faithfulness in the way of Jesus looks like in daily life. Restarting attendance now prompts a new exploration: what it looks like to meaningfully participate in a church without it regularly leading to exhaustion.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. — Jesus

Eerie Parallels

Last night I started reading Dr. Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Having not gotten any further than the introduction there are eerie parallels between the support the German church gave to Nazism and the support the American evangelical church is giving to the MAGA movement. A few samples:

The German Christian movement was faction within the Protestant church of Germany, not a separate sect, and eventually attracted between a quarter and a third of Protestant church members. Enthusiastically pro-Nazi, the movement sought to demonstrate its support for Hitler by organizing itself after the model of the Nazi Party, placing a swastika on the altar next to the cross, giving the Nazi salute at its rallies, and celebrating Hitler as sent by God.

The three ideological prongs of the German Christian movement within the Protestant church, as Doris Bergen has delineated, were its opposition to church doctrine, its antisemitism, and its effort to craft a “manly” church…

German Christians appropriated Nazi rhetoric and symbols into the church to give its Christianity a contemporary resonance.

Theological conclusions regarding Jesus’s teachings and his interactions with the Jews of his day were shaped into a rhetoric that endorsed Nazi ideology, making Nazism appear to be realizing in the political sphere what Christians taught in the religious sphere.

On to chapter 1….

My 2021 Reading in Review

With 2022 well underway (for the past 10 hours or so) it’s time to review my reading in 2021. As usual, my entire reading log for last year is over on Goodreads. This year my reading was influenced by a reading group I joined that focused on books by black, indigenous, and queer authors. (It was a fantastic group, and I’m sad to see it end.)

Running the numbers

I finished 79 books this year, which is in my usual neighborhood. Of those, 34/78 were written by women, but only 17/78 were written by non-white people. As a friend put it when posting his reading lists yesterday, let’s just say that leaves lots of opportunity for reading in 2022!

Top Non-Fiction

Hard to rank these, but some very good ones:

  1. All About Love, bell hooks (RIP)
  2. The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli
  3. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, Ilia Delio
  4. Redeeming Power, Diane Langberg

Of these, hooks spoke about love in beautiful ways, Langberg spoke truth about the mess in the evangelical church, and Rovelli and Delio made my mind hurt in the best ways talking about time and quantum theory and evolution.

Top Religion / Theology

This is a big enough chunk of reading to be its own category. Recommended here:

  1. A More Christlike Word, Bradley Jersak
  2. Jesus of the East, Phuc Luu
  3. Latina Evangelicas, Loida I. Martell, Zaida Maldonado Perez, Elizabeth Conde-Frazier
  4. The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Beth Allison Barr

The gentle Canadian Jersak again focuses us on Jesus; Luu explores the similarities between a Jesus-centered Christianity and the tenets of Eastern spirituality; Martell, Perez, and Conde-Frazier write a short systematic theology from a Latina perspective, and Barr writes a challenging history of “Biblical womanhood”.

Top Fiction

This is fiction that I read this year, not necessarily published this year. I always have catching up to do…

  1. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
  2. Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi
  3. The Just City, Jo Walton

I could order the first two either way. The Sparrow is broadly about Jesuits sending missionaries to an alien planet and more directly about outsiders assuming they know best and wrestling with what God really wants. Transcendent Kingdom is a stunning exploration of race, depression, addiction, and immigration. And The Just City explores what would happen if a city were set up based on the principles of Plato’s Republic. So much creativity and imagination, so little reading time.

Books that you probably won’t entirely agree with but will challenge you

How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi — Is there a more controversial topic the past couple years in this country than race? Kendi speaks strongly about the need to be actively anti-racist, in a “if you’re not actively with us then you’re against us” sort of way. Challenging.

The Inescapable Love of God, Thomas Talbott — Talbott (an ethics professor and theologian) makes his case for universal reconciliation in Christ. I found his arguments compelling. I read through the back-and-forth that he and John Piper had after the fact; I found Piper’s arguments much less compelling.

The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan — Sharp, wonderfully-written essays by a young woman exploring the dynamics and ethics of sex and power in the 21st century.

Queer Theology, Linn Marie Tonstad — I’m sorry to confess that I would’ve been highly unlikely to pick up a book titled “Queer Theology” if my book club hadn’t pushed me to do so. Boy am I glad I did, though. I hope that I have grown enough this year that I would not be put off again.

So that’s my 2021 reading sorted. Pretty sure I could read 80 books in 2022 and still not have my to-read shelf cleared off. Happy reading, friends!