Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)

It seems cliché or exaggerated, but I can’t think of a book that’s ever affected me this deeply. I’ve had emotional reactions to books before, but this was different. Several times I had to put the book down because I couldn’t stop crying. It felt so visceral I almost couldn’t breathe. If this wasn’t a library book, I might have actually thrown it across the room. The more I learn about America’s criminal justice system, the more baffled and frustrated and angry I become at how we* can fail people in such spectacular and cruel ways.

(*I almost put “it” here, but the point of this book is about recognizing humanity. When we pretend like we aren’t complicit in the system’s failings, we absolve ourselves of responsibility to change.)

Title – Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption

Author – Bryan Stevenson

Page count – 314

Rating – Buy. No question. This would be a great book to use for a discussion group, especially at church (Although, while his faith background clearly informs his worldview, it’s not the main point of this story – this is a lesson for anyone and everyone). Continue reading “Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)”

Stand Your Ground (Kelly Brown Douglas)

I feel a bit numb today. Check the political news for this date in history if you’re not sure why. Nevertheless, we persist. Plus I want to move on to a new book and don’t like to do that until I’ve finished my review.

This book is so important, maybe now more than ever. I’ve been very fortunate to have some friends who spontaneously started a book club to discuss each chapter. As we go along, if there are some really good discussion points I want to share with you all, I will update this post.

Title – Stand Your Ground: Black bodies and the justice of God

Author – Kelly Brown Douglas

Page count – 232

Rating – Buy (then read it again, make notes, and give it to all your friends) –> I’m trying something new with this section. Book Riot has a feature called Buy/Borrow/Bypass. I’ll still keep track of the star system on Goodreads, but I’ve found Book Riot’s more helpful in terms of whether/how to recommend. Continue reading “Stand Your Ground (Kelly Brown Douglas)”

The World Will Follow Joy (Alice Walker)

As promised in my review of milk and honey, I will continue to read more poetry this year. Here’s a lovely little collection from the legendary Alice Walker.

Title – The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness Into Flowers

Author – Alice Walker

Page count – 189

Goodreads rating – 3/5 (liked it)

(As a side note, I sometimes worry that if I give a book “only” three stars out of five, it will be seen as a negative review of that particular book. I’m especially conscious of that with this book because I also gave a 3/5 rating to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. For me, a 3/5 rating means that while I don’t necessarily want to read it again – if I did, that would merit a bump up to 4/5 – I am definitely glad I read it and would likely recommend it to a friend.)

This collection of poems started off a bit slow but grew on me as I got further along. Walker uses her spirituality and politically progressive voice to write about the collective human experience, about the good that comes from treating each other with empathy and the terrible consequences of forgetting to see our own humanity reflected in other people. Always in the background (and sometimes the foreground) is her grounded spirituality and love for the earth. Continue reading “The World Will Follow Joy (Alice Walker)”

The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James H. Cone)

It’s been fun carrying this book around with me and reading it between classes because whenever someone casually asks, “oh, what are you reading?” I get to hold up the cover and launch into a (brief) description of how the image of the cross and the image of the lynching tree have been interpreted differently in the black and white churches of America. (This is usually met with polite acknowledgement and probably a silent vow to never ask that question again.)

Hopefully there are some people who are intrigued, though, because this is going on the list of books that have been profoundly formative in my understanding of Christian theology! It is – dare I say – prophetic. And although it did take me awhile to read, I would still say the language is pretty accessible for such an academic topic.

Title – The Cross and the Lynching Tree

Author – James H. Cone

Page count – 166

Goodreads rating – 5/5 (it was amazing!)

As mentioned above, this book examines the parallels between the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross in Rome and the brutal lynching of black people in the United States, and how that parallel imagery has been interpreted by the white and black churches in America. Continue reading “The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James H. Cone)”

Searching for Sunday, or Where is the Jesus I used to know?

I did re-read Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, but I already wrote a review last year which you can find here. If you are interested in more of RHE’s writing, you can find that here. This post is going to be a little different than my usual book reviews. It is geared more toward friends and family who know me personally, but I hope it will help anyone else who is stunned, appalled, frustrated, grieving, and/or feeling hopeless about things happening in the Christian Church.

The tagline for Searching for Sunday is “loving, leaving, and finding the church.” It uses the sacraments as a structure to chronicle RHE’s relationship with a Christian Church that, instead of welcoming people into a place of hope and love, is leaving people broken, outcast, and feeling distinctly unwelcome. Over the past…couple years, I guess…I, too, have become increasingly distant from the faith I’ve always known, and I want you to know why. Continue reading “Searching for Sunday, or Where is the Jesus I used to know?”

Gospel According to the Klan (#40/50)

So…this was an alarming book. At first it was just weird with names for Klan leadership like Imperial Wizard, Grand Dragon, and Exalted Cyclops popping up like a bad sci-fi/fantasy novel. But this is no fantasy, and the Klan is not a fringe movement of the past. Like, I knew the KKK was still a thing, but I had no idea how deeply rooted and widespread the Klan’s beliefs were/are. If you are a white American of Christian faith, especially if you consider yourself patriotic (God and Country and all that jazz)…you need to read this book. Just know that what you’re going to hear will (or should) make you feel *very* uncomfortable.

Title – Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

Author – Kelly J. Baker

Page count – 264 (And it’s a heavy topic. I had to read pretty quickly because of library due dates, but I would recommend alternating with something light and definitely fictional.)

Goodreads rating – 4/5 stars (really liked it)

The author was incredibly non-judgmental throughout the book. Her approach was to present the beliefs, narratives, and documents of the Klan Continue reading “Gospel According to the Klan (#40/50)”

Good Christian Sex (#35/50)

Happy Sunday, y’all!

This title is definitely meant to be another eye-catcher. I’m not sure which of The Church’s current ways of talking about sexuality is worse – purity culture and Abstinence Only (the idea that sex is only acceptable as a means of procreation within a heterosexual marriage context); or simply not talking about sex and sexuality at all (if we don’t talk about it, it’s not happening, right?). So let me tell you, it was refreshing to 1) simply have the complexity and ethics of sex acknowledged, and 2) have that discussion center not on shame, judgment, and fear, but on grace, justice, and love.

Title – Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option – And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex

Author – Bromleigh McCleneghan

Page count – 223

McCleneghan addresses a variety of topics Continue reading “Good Christian Sex (#35/50)”