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An interesting essay in the Atlantic discusses the end of liberal love for the Court, but first it explains why that love appeared in the mid-twentieth century: Fundamentally, though, many liberals loved the Supreme Court for the same reason they loved the law: a vision of universal harmony and justice brought about by reason and persuasion, not the brute forces of political power. Victory in the political arena is always incomplete and uncertain, not to mention grubby. Politics appeals to our baser instincts of greed and fear and competition—which, of course, is why it is so powerful. By contrast, law—whether... Continue reading
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On Thursday evening I heard my cell phone ringing and when I picked it up and saw that Harry Wooten was calling, I just knew what he was going to tell me. It's not that Harry doesn't call regularly, but it was an odd time of day for such a call. So I made sure to sit down and he soon told me that Ray had died that afternoon. And I cried and spent the evening sending condolence messages and texting with other people who loved Ray. And participating in that double grief we all experience in 2020--the loss of... Continue reading
Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare My rating: 4 of 5 stars Set in an Albania city during the Second World War that repeatedly changes hands between Italians, Greeks, Communists, and the Germans. Told from the perspective of a young boy and based on Kadare's own childhood experiences. This is a wonderful tale full of rich characters and a vivid setting. The second of his novels I've read, both a delight. View all my reviews Continue reading
The Book of J by Harold Bloom My rating: 3 of 5 stars I have read sections of this book over a few years as they were relevant to preparing a sermon or Bible study, and after recently using it a good deal while preaching a Genesis sermon series, I elected to read all the parts I hadn't yet. The book is full of profound, curious, and provocative insights as Bloom develops his idea that the author of the oldest parts of the Torah must have been a woman of the royal court writing during the reign of Rehoboam. What... Continue reading
The most splendid conversation with Sebastian just now. He walked into my office and asked, "Who Made the Earth?" "Let me finish this e-mail and then we'll talk." Finish e-mail. "Okay, what's your question again?" "Who made the Earth?" "God did." "How?" So I go over and crouch down beside him. "At the beginning of time there was an explosion [wide-eyed excitement] called the Big Bang. And that created space and time which then began to expand forming the universe and inside [I'm using hand gestures here] there was stuff forming and that stuff came together and built bigger stuff... Continue reading
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan My rating: 2 of 5 stars Maybe I would have felt differently if I had read it a decade ago, but I just didn't care much for this book and am surprised at its reputation. None of these characters are attractive and strangely they almost all lack any depth. I can imagine short stories or novels of some weight and substance with these characters and plots, but that's absent in this book. For example, in chapter 11 art professor Ted spends time admiring a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice. But Egan... Continue reading
Divine Self-Investment: An Open and Relational Constructive Christology by Tripp Fuller My rating: 5 of 5 stars Tripp has written a fine book. He's pulled together so many different theological threads and made sense of them. The first chapter conscisely and straightforwardly summarizes some of the key themes of Process thought. The second chapter is the best summary of the current state of historical Jesus research I've read. Subsequent chapters review major developments in Christology and places differing voices in conversation with one another developing from them the major themes that a contemporary theology should have. And the conclusion draws... Continue reading
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Sebastian and I have gotten into a decent routine this week, and I've been able to get more work done while attending Kindergarten than I expected, but generally only stuff like answering e-mails, but nothing that requires too much creativity or focus. Breaks are fun--light saber battles and tossing balls around. During bedtime this week we finished our first big boy book--The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I had tried the book once before when he was younger, but it was too early. He was really into listening to it this time as we've read it over a few... Continue reading
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So, last Friday, after I had already posted my thoughts for the day, we received an e-mail from Omaha Public Schools stating that parents had been listened to and that hours of online instruction for K-2 would be dramatically decreased. Other changes included more breaks, a longer lunchtime, and that specials would be optional. Some of these things our particular teacher had already been doing, but we had heard horror stories from other friends, including one couple whose son was online for seven hours the first day of Kindergarten! For our class the new schedule went into effect on Tuesday.... Continue reading
The Dark Years? by Jacob L Goodson My rating: 4 of 5 stars I first met Jacob Goodson more than twenty years ago when he was a brand new freshman just starting his pursuit of philosophy. He was eager to learn everything. Now he's an established professor with a few published books. In this volume Goodson discusses some predictions that the philosopher Richard Rorty made in the 1990's about America in the 21st century. Rorty predicted that from 2014-2045 America would through dark years--gun violence and racial unrest would proliferate, a populist strongman would be elected in 2016, we'd experience... Continue reading
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas My rating: 5 of 5 stars I learned so much about Bonhoeffer, about whom I thought I knew a decent amount. But what was best about this book was that it was encouraging, in the strictest sense of the word, in that it gave me courage. Right now, in the midst of our current crises, it was very good to read about how other people of faith grappled with their crisis and faced it with courage and a zest for life. "He saw it as an act of faith in God to... Continue reading
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Thank God it's Friday. The OPS iPads come with a built in hotspot. Ours didn't work this morning. We ended up using our own WiFi and were late getting out and had some connection issues throughout the day. As the week has gone on, I've tried to create greater physical distance from Sebastian's school space and where I was and what I was doing. I didn't want to hover either to distract him or dominate him. I wanted him to have his own experience, and, gosh, I can't imagine teachers teaching with all those adults hovering around the edges. As... Continue reading
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. . . It's only day three? So, I don't know that I'll blog every day this entire experience, but it is a strange, weird, unique time in human experience, so if I've got stories to tell and any time or energy to tell them, I'll keep sharing. Today I've been relatively unproductive on what I really needed to accomplish (sermon writing), so why not. What was good today? Morning routine with a nice walk worked. I decided to cut some fresh flowers for his work area. He can handle more of the technology, so I moved farther away (all... Continue reading
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Hey, that was better already. Plus, Sebastian's really enjoying it. First tweak to the day we did on our end--we got around early and fast enough this morning to go for a short morning walk before virtual class. It was a lovely 66 degrees outside. Will try to make that a routine as much as we can, though will also try not to sweat it when getting ready, eating breakfast, etc. uses up all the time. Already today required less parental involvement as he's already better with the tech and it seemed that many classmates were too. But he was... Continue reading
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Pour me a beer. Overall, it went well, and Sebastian was excited and seemed to have enjoyed himself. I like his teacher, and she did a marvelous job of understanding the limits of what the kids could do today and how to structure breaks. How weird to have parents and other adults hovering around the margins, aware of everything going on. I really feel for the teachers. The day began with having to instruct kids on how to use the technology. Something that wasn't mastered today. For some reason, particularly in the afternoon session taught by the computer teacher, she... Continue reading
Cross posted from my church column. Back in March the Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben criticized the approach to the virus then taking hold. He wrote, The first thing that the wave of panic that has paralyzed the country obviously shows is that our society no longer believes in anything but bare life. It is obvious that Italians are disposed to sacrifice practically everything — the normal conditions of life, social relationships, work, even friendships, affections, and religious and political convictions — to the danger of getting sick. Bare life — and the danger of losing it — is not something... Continue reading
Regathering Psalm 84 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 16 August 2020 [Sigh] So, here we are. A few of us, at least. For those of us who’ve been the faithful remnant here each week for the last five months, it is good to look out and see other faces, even if they are masked and distant. Today is a festive day. Even if our festivity is muted, but more especially because it is only a foretaste of the truly big party that awaits—the longed for day when we can all gather together again with... Continue reading
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi My rating: 4 of 5 stars A searing portrayal of how oppressed a woman can be by patriarchal society. Firdaus, the main character, will always remain conscious to me. From childhood she was a victim to predatory men and every attempt to develop her own agency was ultimately thwarted by another man, until she took the most extreme outcome in the end in order to find her own freedom. A powerful novel. View all my reviews Continue reading
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich My rating: 2 of 5 stars Louise Erdrich is arguably our greatest current American novelist. I feel that strongly about her novels that I've read and her power to reveal characters, develop stories, and shape words into sentences and paragraphs that delight. There is much I really liked in this novel and that was worthy of four stars. And I admire the attempt to pursue a unique structure, with a series of almost stand alone stories with a complex use of chronology and an array of characters. But I don't think the ambition... Continue reading
The Fetterman Massacre by Dee Brown My rating: 3 of 5 stars At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in the Nebraska Panhandle, the most exciting thing for me was the surprising collection of Native American artifacts that the family which once owned the ranch on which the fossils were discovered, had been given by their Native American friends. And the most surprising of those items was the war club American Horse used to kill Captain Fetterman. I distinctly went "Wow!" when I read the label posted by the club. Now, this volume tells a different story of Fetterman's end--that he... Continue reading
Normal People by Sally Rooney My rating: 2 of 5 stars The main characters Connell and Marianne are fully realized, with rich inner and outer lives, well narrated. Rooney also uses some creative structure in the ways chapters unfold the story, however, it feels as if a couple of structures become a form that then all the chapters must fit, so it came across as overly structured. I think my biggest complaint, however, is that almost none of the supporting characters (only Eric maybe?) is more than one-dimensional. Now, we mostly view these characters through the inner lives of the... Continue reading
The Magnificent Conman of Cairo by Adel Kamel My rating: 3 of 5 stars I recently read an announcement of the new appearance in English of this classic Egyptian novel and was intrigued enough to order it. I've greatly enjoyed the novels of Naguib Mahfouz and was excited to read this novel of another writer in his circle that he recommended. Much of the book was both enjoyable and funny, filled with satire, as we follow to young men, one poverty-stricken, the other a spoiled-rich university grad. The opening chapters, in particular, also were plotted in interesting and unique ways.... Continue reading
Inquiry and Essays by Thomas Reid My rating: 4 of 5 stars I first read Thomas Reid in preparation for my general exams and then completed this collection when I was done with the major work on my dissertation and reading philosophy not related to it. Now I returned to it as my now almost decade long project of reading back through the philosophical canon chronologically. I had forgotten how clearly, concisely, and with such common sense he responds to, or even takes down, key theories in modern philosophy. I felt the same about Reid that I did two decades... Continue reading
Preaching as Testimony by Anna Carter Florence My rating: 4 of 5 stars I first heard Anna Carter Florence preach at the Festival of Homiletics in Atlanta in 2006. Despite not being close to the most famous preacher in the line up at that event, she was, by far, the best preacher in the bunch. And since then she's remained one of my favourite preachers to hear preach or to lecture on preaching. Somehow I has missed this book before. But it is either the best or second best book I've read on my craft (Fred Craddock's classic Preaching being... Continue reading
Last night Sebastian wasn't listening. I was in a patient mood, so I sat him down to talk about it to see if there was some reason he wasn't listening. "Are you mad or something?" I asked. "I'm sad," he answered. "Sad? What about?" "The war." "The war?" As I probed further I realized he meant the Second World War. Why would my five year old child in 2020 be concerned about World War II? Two stories. Over the recent holiday weekend we watched the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which begins with the London... Continue reading