Recent Reading Recs – 2018/02/13

Here’s a collection of blog posts, articles, podcasts, and books that I have recently found interesting, helpful, challenging, important, or funny. I don’t endorse everything I post, but I only post content I think is worth taking the time to consider. We all have to make choices about what content we “consume,” so I hope I can point you in directions that are worth your time.

Blog Posts & Online Journals

  • Circe Institute, “Creating Homes of Beauty” – Lindsey Knott argues that a home is perhaps the finest earthly work at which a man or woman can labor.
  • Sistamatic Theology, “Decolonized Discipleship” – Ekemini Uwan asks us to consider what sort of disciples we’re producing, those that reflect the image of the oppressor and the empire or the marginalized and colonized, urging us to incorporate decolonization into our approach to forming mature disciples.

Online Newspapers & Magazines

  • NYT, “What Teenagers Are Learning from Porn” – [CAUTION: THIS ARTICLE EXPLICITLY DISCUSSES PORNOGRAPHY AND IS NOT SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE.] As the ripple effects of the #MeToo movement continue, Maggie Jones suggests teens are watching more porn than their parents know, arguing that it’s negatively impacting their ideas about pleasure, power, and intimacy, but she offers very little in terms of helpful solutions.
  • NYT Opinion, “Let’s Ban Porn” – Ross Douthat makes a brief case for censorship of porn on the basis of the evident harms we are now recognizing it causes.
  • The Atlantic, “The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids” – Erika Christakus argues that today’s young children are working more but learning less.
  • Pacific Standard Magazine, “An Interview with Bryan Stevenson” – James McWilliams interviews the Harvard trained public defense lawyer about race, segregation, and listening to minority voices.
  • Fathom Magazine, “The Voice Evangelical Men Wish They Had” – Dr. Anthony Bradley, professor of religion, theology, and ethics at the King’s College in NYC, explores Evangelicalism’s pained search for healthy masculinity by examining the recent popularity of clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson.

Podcast Episodes & Other Media

  • Vocation & the Common Good, “Isaac Wardell” – Host Philip Lorish interviews the Director of Worship Arts at Trinity Church in Charlottesville, VA and leader of the Porter’s Gate Worship Project, discussing the missionary calling of the church for our neighbors, the hymns of the church, and the church’s relationship to the broader culture.
  • On Being, “Brené Brown” – Krista Tippet interviews the renowned University of Houston research professor of social work who has written and spoken extensively about shame, vulnerability, courage, and human connection.
  • Redeemer Ardmore Media, “Uncommon Family Panel Questions” – Giorgio Hiatt tackles a few basic questions on racism, bias, and why the church must pursue racial unity.

Books

  • Making Room by Christine Pohl – a survey and recovery of the great Christian tradition of hospitality
  • The Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch – a survey of the biblical commands to show hospitality
Advertisements

Recent Reading Recs – 2018/02/04

Here’s a collection of blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos, and books I’ve recently found interesting, helpful, challenging, important, or funny. I don’t endorse everything I post, but I only post content I think is worth taking the time to consider. We all have to make choices about what content we “consume,” so I hope I can point you in directions that are worth your time.

Blog Posts & Online Journals

Online Newspapers & Magazines

  • NYT Opinion, “What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party” – Duke Divinity professor Kate Bowler has been living with a stage IV cancer diagnosis and has some suggestions for all of us as we wrestle with the reality of death.
  • NYT, “The Follower Factory” – Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel Dance, Richard Harris, and Mark Hansen expose the mirage of fake social media profiles and the people willing to buy them to fake fame in order to gain influence.
  • Current Affairs, “Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture” – Brianna Rennix and Nathan J. Robinson ask and answer why the buildings built in the post-war era don’t appeal to regular humans, suggesting architects have moved away from small scale details and ornaments to a focus on large-scale form in reaction to what was considered bourgeois decadence and European imperialism.

Podcast Episodes and Other Media

  • Vocation & the Common Good, “James Davidson Hunter” & “Tish Harrison Warren” – Host Philip Lorish’s new podcast includes interviews with leading Christian thinkers and leaders, starting with the sociologist and author of the groundbreaking To Change the World and the Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary.
  • The Bible Project– Tim Mackie and Jon Collins host a non-profit, crowd funded creative studio producing animated short films to help people see how the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus, and they excel at demonstrating the literary genius of the Bible through beautiful and clear animated films great for adults and kids.

Books

  • Sex and Love in the Homeby David McCarthy – the ethical theologian reframes our understanding of the household with Roman Catholic social teaching that rejects modern Romanticism, Personalism, and a home grounded in the public/private distinction

Best of the Week – 2018/01/09

Here’s a collection of blog posts, articles, podcasts, and books that I have recently found interesting, helpful, challenging, important, or funny. I don’t endorse everything I post, but I only post content I think is worth taking the time to consider. We all have to make choices about what content we “consume,” so I hope I can point you in directions that are worth your time.

Blog Posts & Online Journals

Online Newspapers & Magazines

  • The Atlantic, “Low-Income Communities Are Struggling to Support Churches” – Patton Dodd profiles a pastor in a low-income community in San Antonio to demonstrate a steep decline of churches in distressed communities due to the economics of funding.
  • World Magazine, “Guilt Offerings” – Sophia Lee explores the Buddhist practice of guilt offerings by Japanese parents of stillborn, aborted, or miscarried children and profiles an American missionary in Nagoya offering true healing and hope.
  • Comment Magazine, “Choosing Church” – Marilyn McEntyre acknowledges there are lots of reasons to avoid church, but offers several reasons to look again.

Podcast Episodes

  • Scene on Radio, “Seeing White: Parts 1-14” – Host and producer John Biewen takes a deep dive into questions about whiteness, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017.
  • Waking Up with Sam Harris, “The Intellectual Dark Web” – Host Sam Harris speaks with Eric Weinstein and Ben Shapiro about the breakdown of shared values, the problem with identity politics, religion, free will, the primacy of reason, and many other topics.

Books

  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky – often considered the greatest novel ever written, the classic Russian novel about three brothers explores the biggest theological and philosophical questions of life with penetrating psychological insight
  • How (Not) to Be Secular by James K.A. Smith – a summary and application of philosopher Charles Taylor’s tome A Secular Age
  • Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith – a groundbreaking book from 2000 exploring Evangelicalism and the problem of race in America

Book Review: God Made All of Me

My wife, Sally, and I get a lot of questions about how we teach and train our children about sex, marriage, and gender roles. We also get asked about how and when we talk to our kids about their private parts and healthy touching. One book, which frames larger discussions about marriage and sexuality, that we have found immensely helpful in reading with our kids to help protect them from abuse is God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, illustrated by Trish Mahoney. Justin Holcomb, PhD, is a professor of theology and Christian thought at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary, and his wife Lindsey Holcomb, MPH, counsels victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

gmaom_medium.bnkfttwqcorjilnklpwjageuhrcqexohMany people grew up in environments where adults focused so much on trying to prevent unhealthy sexual activity that children grew up thinking sex is bad and their private parts are evil. Others have grown up in “body positive” or “free-love” environments that have failed to protect people from healthy sexual boundaries altogether. These errors have left many parents today ill equipped to deal with the danger of sexual abuse. God Made All of Me (GMAOM) will help children avoid unnecessary shame regarding their bodies and sex while also learning healthy boundaries.

The state goal of the authors is to help parents protect their children from sexual abuse, and they do an excellent job in their story by providing an age appropriate conversation between a couple and their two children. After a note to parents, the book begins with a family conversation in the family room about God’s good creation of all things, including our bodies. With colorful and fun pictures, the conversation that makes up the story covers topics including the parts of our bodies that we share and the parts that are private, healthy touches, communicating to others what touches we do and do not want, saying no, talking to trusted people when we are confused or being touched in ways we don’t like, contexts where people may appropriately touch our privates (i.e. the doctor’s office during an exam), safe people to whom we can go for help, and secrets versus surprises. The book ends with 9 tips for parents.

While the book has no recommendation for the age of its audience, I think it’s a great book for children who have not yet started kindergarten (2-5yr olds), though older kids will still benefit from it.

Parents cannot afford to neglect these conversations. Sometimes we fear we’ll spoil our child’s innocence or foster unhealthy fear if we talk about these issues. We may also avoid these conversations out of embarrassment or the fear of embarrassment, knowing children sometimes bring up concepts they’re learning about in the wrong settings. But a little bit of information and the freedom to discuss these things openly as a family can go a long way toward protecting our children and helping them develop healthy boundaries with others.

I highly recommend this book to parents, but anyone who is around children and wants to be a part of establishing healthy boundaries will benefit from this book.

Best of the Week – 2017/12/27

Here’s a collection of blog posts, articles, podcasts, and books that I have recently found interesting, helpful, challenging, important, or funny. I don’t endorse everything I post, but I only post content I think is worth taking the time to consider. We all have to make choices about what content we “consume,” so I hope I can point you in directions that are worth your time.

Blog Posts & Online Journals

  • Andy Crouch.com, “Sex Without Bodies” – In an article for Christianity Today in 2013, Andy Crouch discussed the church’s response to the LGBT (now LGBTQ) movement.
  • Mere Orthodoxy, “Faithful Extension and the Question of Human Origins” Chris Krycho writes a review of Evolution and the Fall, edited by William T. Cavanaugh and Jamie K.A. Smith.
  • The Point Magazine, “True Story” – Tish Harrison Warren offers an explanation to secular readers about why she belongs in the church and how it is making and shaping her.

Online Newspapers & Magazines

  • The Wall Street Journal, “Do You Know How Others See You?” – Elizabeth Bernstein explains that most of us are not as self-aware as we think we are and points to researching suggesting that people who have a high level of self-awareness make smarter decisions and have healthier relationships.
  • The Atlantic, “ADHD, or Childhood Narcissism?” – Enrico Gnaulati examines the increase in ADHA diagnoses since the 1980s and explores a richer social explanation for the problems children are facing.

Podcast Episodes

  • Harry Potter Book Club, “HPBC Episode 12: Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 13” – The group of friends respond to email questions and comments and explore chapter 12 of Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series.
  • Trinity Church Podcast, “S1 Ep6 – The Witness of the Church” – We discuss the problems with reducing the witness of the church to truth telling and suggest the church must proclaim the truth, exemplify goodness, and display the beauty of God.
  • Heavyweight, “Jeremy” – Host Jonathan Goldstein opens up and talks about his own experience with Judaism and his subsequent turning away from religion.

Books

  • A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry – a novel about Berry’s fictional town and the membership that lives, works, and loves in Port William, exploring change, absence, grief, and place
  • Evolution and the Fall edited by William T. Cavanaugh and Jamie K.A. Smith – an anthology by theologians and scientists reading the early chapters of Genesis assuming there are no conflicts with the discoveries of modern science

Book Review: The Tech-Wise Family

A headline here. A new study there. We’re learning more and more about the massive and rapid technological changes taking place right under our noses everyday. And we suspect these changes are impacting us in subtle and unseen ways. We feel like we can’t concentrate like we used to. Our memory doesn’t seem as good as it once was. Our kids seem hyper all the time, and we can’t imagine taking them to a restaurant without a device to keep them quiet.

Life for us and for our children is different than it used to be, but we aren’t sure what to do about it. Sometimes we wonder if we should swear off all new technology and go back to a simpler time. But it doesn’t take long before we realize that this isn’t really possible. We can’t avoid the changes that have come and will continue to come. So what can we do? Do we just surrender and hope for the best?

tech-wise

Enter Andy Crouch and his excellent book The Tech-Wise Family, a book aimed at helping us to put technology in its proper place so that our households can become places and communities where we can grow into wise and courageous people. Crouch refuses to deny the benefits and goodness of modern technology, but he insightfully warns us of unhelpful practices and habits that inevitably change us for the worse if we do not establish guidelines and disciplines that will nudge us in healthy directions.

Packed with research on the impact and use of technology, Crouch shares the 10 commitments he and his family have made over the years that have structured their life together. Each chapter unfolds the logic of each commitment, and encourages the reader to consider how they are facing the particular issues raised in the chapter. Studies have shown technology is the number one reason parents believe raising kids today is more complicated than in the past, so if that’s you, pick up this book. It’s written to parents, but it’s certainly not written only for parents. The insight and counsel of this book will benefit anyone looking for help in how to become a person of character.

The gracious and humble tone throughout the book is exemplified by his transparency at the end of each chapter where he shares the victories and the failures he and his family have experienced. There’s no condemnation here, only thoughtful reflection, honest evaluation, and hopeful counsel. Here’s how the book unfolds and the issues he addresses:

Section 1: Three Key Decisions To a Tech-Wise Family

1. Choosing Character: We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.

This chapter frames the whole book as Crouch ponders, “What is a family for?” He explains that he and his family have chosen to orient their life together toward the development of character. He distinguishes between knowledge, something readily accessible through the Internet, and wisdom which guides right action in a complex world. He also discusses the importance of developing courage, because the right thing to do is often scary and painful. The remainder of the chapter explores how modern technologies are good servants but terrible masters, especially as it relates to forming character.

2. Shaping Space: We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.

This commitment considers the space that is our home, and explores strategies for where our devices should be to help nudge us toward creativity, production, and beauty rather than mindless, banal consumption.

3. Structuring Time: We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play, and rest together.

Technology makes our work easier, but it also leads us take on more work and to rest in ways that aren’t restful. In this chapter, Crouch explores the difference between rest and leisure, the concept of Sabbath, and the empty promise of technology to relieve us of the toil of our work.

Section 2: Daily Life

4. Waking and Sleeping: We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.

In this chapter, Crouch explores our creatureliness by examining our sleep habits and bedtime rituals. He uncovers the anxieties and fantasies that both trouble and distract us from real life and the needed sleep we depend on to thrive.

5. Learning and Working: We aim for “no screens before double digits” at school and at home.

In one of the most important chapters of the book, especially for those with children, Crouch explores how modern technologies actually make us less able to think and learn. As it turns out, easy education isn’t better, and he offers the statistics and research to back up that claim. In a world where attention spans and the ability to concentrate are declining, Crouch shows that the less we rely on screens to entertain ourselves and our children, the more capable we become at entertaining ourselves.

6. The Good News about Boredom: We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together rather than using them aimlessly and alone.

In a chapter closely related to the previous one, Crouch explores how screens over stimulate us and rewire our brains, numbing us to the ordinary wonder of the world. It’s eye opening to learn how we’re training ourselves to be incapable of wonder.

7. The Deep End of the (Car) Pool: Car Time is conversation time.

The car is one of the older technologies discussed in this book, but the way new devices are built into modern automobiles calls for fresh reflection on how we drive. Crouch shows how his family has made the most of their car time by intentionally conversing while driving rather than leaning on the crutches of screens and digital music.

8. Naked and Unashamed: Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.

In another important chapter, Crouch tackles the issue of pornography and sexual activity, offering simple and humble strategies for helping one another live in the light. Pornography consumption is an epidemic with countless negative consequences for individuals, families, and society. This easily accessible, pervasive, and addictive content needs to be talked about with understanding and grace, and the strategies offered here can go a long way to break addictions and help curb unhealthy consumption.

Section 3: What Matters Most

9. Why Singing Matters: We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.

This is perhaps the one chapter some families might find difficult to embrace simply because not everyone is as musical as the classically trained, jazz piano playing Crouch. That being said, there’s still a lot to gain from a chapter than encourages families to sing and worship together.

10. In Sickness and In Health: We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.

This chapter explores the difference between phone calls, emails, and video chats and being present to others with our bodies, especially in the most important moments of life. We are limited creatures, and while technology can gives us the illusion that we can transcend those limits, our bodies are failing and will stop working altogether. In those moments, there’s nothing like the presence of other bodies that love us.

 

My words really cannot do this book justice. It’s beautiful, practical, accessible, and timely. Who are you becoming? How is technology shaping you right now? What habits are you adopting to help get where you want to be? This book can go a long way in helping you answer those questions.

Best of the Week – 2017/11/22

Here’s a collection of blog posts, articles, podcasts, and books that I have recently found interesting, helpful, challenging, important, or funny. I don’t endorse everything I post, but I only post content I think is worth taking the time to consider. We all have to make choices about what content we “consume,” so I hope I can point  you in directions that are worth your time.

Blog Posts & Online Journals

Online Newspapers & Magazines

  • The Atlantic, “Bill Clinton: A Reckoning” – Caitlin Flanagan recalls how Feminist leaders rallied behind Bill Clinton when he was accused of sexual harassment and assault in the 1990s and argues that the Democratic party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected him and his pattern of behavior.
  • Vox, “Bill Clinton Should Have Resigned” – In light of the wave of sexual harassment and assault accusations taking down prominent figures in Hollywood, government, and media, Matthew Yglesias reflects on the Bill Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinski while he was President.
  • NYT, “A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule” – Katelyn Beaty makes her case that the Pence Rule (also the Billy Graham Rule) isn’t actually Christian at all.

Podcast Episodes

Books

  • Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy Alsup – a book explaining why those wishing to embrace the inherent dignity of women and of womanhood can and should cherish the Bible which examines many difficult texts in both the Old and New Testaments