For me, reading to be energised is not the same as reading to be relaxed. I do the latter in my fiction and (auto)biographical reading which make up the bulk of my monthly book reviews. Energising reading for me means books that stimulate me intellectually, and which are only tangentially related to all the processing we’re doing living cross-culturally. Here are some I’ve read in the last six months or so, in the order in which I read them.
Fathers and Daughters in the Hebrew Bible, Johanna Stiebert
Things are not as bad for daughters in the Old Testament as you might think. Father-Daughter relationships are complicated, with multiple dimensions. Must investigate the notion of ‘heterarchy’ more.
Love is an Orientation, Andrew Marin
People in the GLBT community want a relationship with God. When they ask Christians questions like, ‘is homosexuality a sin?’ it’s often a defense mechanism to shut down the interaction because they have been so hurt by us as a community. Includes fantastic tips about how to change yourself and the conversation. (PS Don’t read this in a cafe if you’re not comfortable with crying in public!)
The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage, Rob and Kristen Bell
A book about Christian marriage for non-Christians. It’s about the big picture of what it means to be one flesh in the glory and messiness of life. And how as we give ourselves up for one another, we participate in the divine Trinity.
Humilitas, John Dickson
A book about leadership and humility by a guy whose predisposition is to dominance and arrogance. Whether or not you’re a Christian, chances are if you’re an Aussie you think humility is a good thing. That’s because way back when, western societal ideas of leadership and humility were shaped by this Galilean peasant called Jesus of Nazareth.
Bribery and the Bible, Robert Langston
Bribery is unequivocally condemned in the Bible. However what we commonly refer to as bribery is more often extortion, where in the Bible’s view, the person giving the money is a victim of injustice rather than a perpetrator of it. Nevertheless, even when extorted, Christians ought still resist paying bribes, taking Paul’s conduct before Felix as the model. We are often presented with opportunities to practise these principles.
Mothers on the Margin?: The Significance of the Women in Matthew’s Genealogy, E. Anne Clements
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, ‘she of Uriah’ and Mary are not suspected loose women included to show God can use anyone (even them!), but examples of positive themes in Matthew’s gospel like faith and righteousness. The first three are marginal because they’re Gentiles, and the last two are disenfranchised Jews; it is here on the margins that God is at work. (I’ll be using this book as a base for some talks I’m doing in chapel soon, so look out for those posts.)
Made For More, Hannah Anderson
Combining a chatty style with super solid theology, Hannah Anderson argues that women are made to reflect and represent God on the earth. All about identity and finding it in Christ, it is at one level simple and foundational stuff; yet it is also nourishing and uplifting. I used several quotes from this in the mentoring material I wrote for us on campus this semester.
An Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb, Jessalyn Hutto
I want to like this book but sloppy exegesis leads the author to theodicies that are ultimately inadequate. Perhaps my quarrel is with an ossified Calvinism but despite her attempt to give permission to feel the emotional pain of miscarriage, the author’s insistence on God’s meticulous sovereignty and his orchestration of miscarriage for the mother’s sanctification left little room to rage at evil.
Aloof: Figuring Out Life with a God who Hides, Tony Kriz
A memoir of ‘adventures with God and hateful silences’. Honest enough to admit that even his most vivid encounters with God might be self-conjured as he strains and struggles to believe.
Overturning Tables: Freeing Missions from the Christian Industrial Complex, Scott Bessenecker
The western missionary movement has been shaped by corporate capitalist models which work for middle-class people but are inaccessible to those from the lower classes or the majority world. With the rise of majority world, missional Christianity, we need other models as well. (Obviously this one is also more than ‘only tangentially’ related to us in Tanzania!)
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.