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On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times by Michael Ignatieff My rating: 4 of 5 stars "To be reconciled we must first make peace with our losses, defeats, and failures. To be consoled is to accept these losses, to accept what they have done to us and to believe, despite everything, that they need not haunt our future or blight our remaining possibilities." I got a head start on my sabbatical reading with Michael Ignatieff's latest book. I felt after two years of pandemic and divorce that this would be a good place to start as I begin this season.... Continue reading
With the death this weekend of Rosemary Radford Ruether, I pulled my copy of Sexism and God-Talk off of the shelf to review. Here are some choice quotes: We have not choice but to go forward into a global community and shape a sustainable world together, if the human project is not to choke on its own toxic waste and bury itself by its own destructiveness. The expansion of the Biblical message to include the unincluded rests on the assumption that the point of reference for Biblical faith is not past texts, with their sociological limitations, but rather the liberated... Continue reading
Fullness Matthew 18:1-5 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 22 May 2022 Back in February of 2012, a full decade ago now, I traveled to the Claremont School o Religion in Claremont, California for a conference about how folks who were imagining and embodying new ways of being church for the 21st century might engage in conversation with Process theology. At the conference I led a breakout session entitled “Blogging, Social Networking, and Process: Adventures in Ministry.” In the early years of my ministry, I was often a pioneer, engaging new internet communication tools to... Continue reading
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé My rating: 3 of 5 stars An enjoyable imagining that fills in a life for Tituba, who should be more central in the story of the Salem Witch Trials. Instead of a focus on the Puritan angle, here we get a woman from the Caribbean, enslaved, and thus an exploration of gender, sexuality, race, and clashing cultures. And Conde imagines Tituba as a heroine for the modern world, a revolutionary spirit for our age that hasn't yet fully come to terms with the issues alive in the seventeenth century. View all... Continue reading
I go on sabbatical beginning on June 1. More in later post about this sabbatical, its development and delay over the past few years, and what the plans, themes, and goals are. Knowing that the sabbatical was coming, back in March I ordered a bunch of books for it. I also pulled out a few from my existing library I haven't yet read and plan to during this summer. Yesterday afternoon, I wrapped up the religion book I was reading, N. T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, so rather than immerse myself in something else for... Continue reading
Great Plains Weather by Kenneth F Dewey My rating: 3 of 5 stars A fun exploration of the crazy, extreme weather of the Great Plains. One thing I learned was that the wild swings of temperatures and conditions has always been a feature of this region. We all have our personal stories of weird changes of weather (like wearing shorts in the morning and snow boots in the evening), but the ones in this book are truly wild. View all my reviews Continue reading
Critique of Practical Reason by Immanuel Kant My rating: 1 of 5 stars I tried reading this Critique a couple of decades ago and just couldn't finish it, even though it's not that long. I did make it to the end this time, where you get some payoff, as the final pages are the best, including this great line, "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heaves above and the moral law within." But otherwise I found this particular work dense and... Continue reading
Time Fatigue Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 1 May 2022 Back in November I was having a rough time and my spiritual director said, “You need to a retreat.” He advised that I come stay at the Incarnation Monastery, a Benedictine community of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska that is housed in North Omaha near Miller Park. I responded, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need.” And so arrangements were made for early December. I felt decadent taking a little time in the middle of Advent for spiritual reflection and prayer. Which is,... Continue reading
Less by Andrew Sean Greer My rating: 4 of 5 stars I loved it. Not sure why I didn't read it much sooner? I guess I didn't have a clear grasp of what it was about. So funny, so sexy, and with a sublime ending. View all my reviews Continue reading
Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah My rating: 4 of 5 stars I was unfamiliar with Gurnah when he won the Nobel last autumn. Then when I tried to order one of his novels, they weren't available. And didn't become so until this spring. Glad to have now read one. This is a rich story. A coming-of-age story in the midst of turbulent social change, exploring questions of identity and existential meaning. No didacticism, simply rich characters and compelling narratives and settings. View all my reviews Continue reading
The Last Enemy 1 Corinthians 15:1-26 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 17 April 2022 “The last enemy to be defeated is death,” writes Saint Paul at the close of this proclamation of the resurrection. In all of his writings Paul viewed death as a malevolent power. Death was a force, often personified, which struck randomly and with abandon. Seven years ago in my Easter sermon, I contrasted the ancient view of death with our own. I preached, We do not share the ignorance of our forbearers that led to their fear of death as... Continue reading
Political Writings by Immanuel Kant My rating: 3 of 5 stars I had not previously read Kant's political works and there is good material here that I'm glad to be better acquainted with. I particularly recommend his essay on Perpetual Peace as a worthy read during this war in Ukraine. View all my reviews Continue reading
The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning by Justin E.H. Smith My rating: 3 of 5 stars A fascinating exploration of the roots of the internet and how we use it to see and engage with our world. My only real criticism is that I wanted a coda, some final chapter or statement that drew everything together and advanced the argument. View all my reviews Continue reading
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks by Benedicta Ward My rating: 2 of 5 stars Yes there were some helpful insights into the spiritual life, but overall the approach contained within the Desert Fathers is so different from my contemporary sensibilities that it was difficult to read this as anything more than an artefact or even what not to do. View all my reviews Continue reading
Works of Mercy Matthew 25:34-40; Micah 6:6-8 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 4 April 2022 In sixth grade I played soccer. We practiced on a field about a mile from my house that was part of the campus of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, close to the football stadium. When soccer practice was finished, our legs would be covered with a sticky, orange dust. When you showered at home, the orange would run off of your body in waves. Also your soccer shoes and socks took on an orange stain regardless of how many times... Continue reading
A Secular Age by Charles Taylor My rating: 2 of 5 stars I texted a friend, "Finished Taylor's A Secular Age. All 776 page of it." He responded, "Hope the trip was worth it." "Some stretches," I said. Moments of erudition, eloquence, and insight. But contained within long sections of analysis that feel too into the weeds, too repetitive, too much in need of a good editor. View all my reviews Continue reading
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann My rating: 4 of 5 stars I had been intending to read this book for many years, but was waiting around till I picked up a copy at a book sale or used bookstore. And finally did this year. While I had high expectations for the book, it exceeded them and really blew me away. Not only was my understanding of pre-Columbian indigenous societies in the Americas limited, much was incorrect or ignorant. What was most interesting was his emphasis on how indigenous people actively shaped and cultivated... Continue reading
The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith My rating: 3 of 5 stars "And hence it is, that to feel much for others, and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent, affections constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety." An enjoyable read--Smith is a clear thinker and good writer, even if he can go on too long about some points--mostly because it is a window on such a different age with quite different moral... Continue reading
Ash Wednesday Psalms 2 & 1 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 2 March 2022 A number of global Christian leaders have called upon the Church to mark this Ash Wednesday by praying for the people of Ukraine, for the end of the Russian invasion, and for peace instead of war. So, for our service this evening I have selected two psalms to read. I begin with Psalm number 2: Psalm 2 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel... Continue reading
Person and Eros by Christos Yannaras My rating: 3 of 5 stars An abstract and challenging read, yet a beautiful in its celebration of that the fullness, freedom, and truth of the human person is in mutual love as self-giving. Which made it a fitting read the week before St. Valentine's Day. View all my reviews Continue reading
Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams My rating: 4 of 5 stars After hearing a promo for Florence Williams's appearance on Fresh Air, I ordered this book, then listened to the interview. This was just the right book at just the right time. I'm almost 15 months since the end of my marriage, and I often feel stuck with emotions that I think I've processed through and yet remain. The book was quite helpful in discussing the physical, mental, and emotional effects of heartbreak. I realized my experiences were not unusual and some of them really out... Continue reading
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau My rating: 1 of 5 stars "I will none the less continue faithfully to set forth what Jean Jacques Rousseau was, did, and thought, without either explaining or justifying the singularity of his sentiments and ideas." Well, after working slowly through the two volumes of Rousseau's Confessions in the last year, my main takeaway is that he was a reprehensible human being. View all my reviews Continue reading
An interesting essay encouraging more reading of Puritan poetry. I read the poems of Edward Taylor last year, after first encountering them in an anthology of American religious poetry (edited by Harold Bloom for the Library of America) and being astounded at his metaphors and similes. Continue reading
The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age by Alain Ehrenberg My rating: 4 of 5 stars Why in the last fifty years has depression become such a widespread illness? Ehrenberg explores that question. While much of the book details changing understandings in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, particularly with the advent of anti-depressants, his question is much broader. He determines that the rise of depression is a result in a changed understanding of the self. We have emerged from traditional societies where our roles were often defined for us. Now we have almost complete freedom... Continue reading
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen My rating: 4 of 5 stars I've never grasped why people have been so impressed with Franzen's novels. I read The Corrections and it just didn't resonate with me (though I have wondered if I'd been middle-aged instead of in my twenties if I'd thought differently?). I eviscerated Freedom in my review of it. But Crossroads is the real deal. A big and engrossing book about faith, identity, family, mental illness, and more. Besides being puzzled by where it ends, I really enjoyed this book. There were even a handful of sentences I underlined because of... Continue reading