Library Haul: Religious Controversy Edition

I will confess something to you my loyal readership. I am having existential doubts about this whole blogging thing.  For a variety of reasons I won’t go into I have just been our of sorts and this has really undermined my blogging ability.  I just don’t feel like writing reviews. I rarely feel like I am having something unique and valuable to say.  I am distracted and having a hard time focusing.  I have been in a bit of a funk reading wise but haven’t lost my interest in reading nor have I stopped reading regularly.  I just haven’t been able to turn that reading into blog posts on any regularly basis.

So in yet another effort to get back in the groove, I thought I might go with the old style blog as diary style.  And in an ongoing effort to save money I am trying to buy fewer books and read the books I already own or utilize the library.  The off chance you might be interested in the books I am checking out at the library is the inspiration for this post.

As part of that effort to spend less money, and to be honest a certain weariness with the controversy, I resisted buying Rob Bell’s latest book What We Talk About When We Talk about God. But I happened to see it at the library when I was returning some books and so grabbed it.

What WeTalk AboutHow God is described today strikes many as mean, primitive, backward, illogical, tribal, and at odds with the frontiers of science. At the same time, many intuitively feel a sense of reverence and awe in the world. Can we find a new way to talk about God?

Pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell does here for God what he did for heaven and hell in Love Wins: he shows how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional and reveals a new path for how to return vitality and vibrancy to how we understand God. Bell reveals how we got stuck, why culture resists certain ways of talking about God, and how we can reconnect with the God who is with usfor us, and ahead of us, pulling us forward into a better future—and ready to help us live life to the fullest.

Unlike with Love Wins, which I read a couple of times but never reviewed here, I will be sure to post my thoughts.

A couple more books on controversial subjects after the jump.

Having recently read The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin (which I will post on soon) a book by an author I enjoy caught my eye: The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus.  I noticed it was at the local library and so reserved it. Which is why I was at the library tonight.


In this slim, engaging volume, McKnight (Protestant author of The Jesus Creed) makes the case that the real Mary of the Bible has been hijacked by theological controversies. He begins by noting that Mary has been seen by turns as a compliant “resting womb,” a damaging stereotype of passivity, a Christmas figure and a source of “reaction formation” by Protestants, as well as the mother of Jesus. “The real Mary is no offense to Protestants, but rather a woman for us to honor,” he insists, envisioning her as an impoverished, bold, gutsy woman of faith. He also portrays her as neither goddess nor supersaint, but as the mother of God. McKnight lends interesting cultural context to Mary’s simple and courageous words, “let it be,” and unpacks the Magnificat as a song of protest and revolution. He poignantly portrays Mary’s gradual knowledge that her son would not be the triumphant king envisioned as Messiah, and makes a somewhat controversial case for Mary having other children. His sections on the immaculate conception and Mary as mediatrix in prayer should help debunk some Protestants’ false impressions of Catholic belief. McKnight’s lucid, sometimes humorous, conversational style makes this an accessible book for a wide pool of evangelical readers.

I really know very little about Mary and have spent little time thinking about the issue so this should be an interesting read.

And to tie this all together, Rob Bell recently came out in support of gay marriage so we might as well round out the controversy with one last controversial topic: What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? (Philosophy in Action).

For the last twenty years, John Corvino–widely known as the author of the weekly column “The Gay Moralist” –has traversed the country responding to moral and religious arguments against same-sex relationships. In this timely book, he shares that experience–addressing the standard objections to homosexuality and offering insight into the culture wars more generally.

Is homosexuality unnatural? Does the Bible condemn it? Are people born gay (and should it matter either way)? Corvino approaches such questions with precision, sensitivity, and good humor. In the process, he makes a fresh case for moral engagement, forcefully rejecting the idea that morality is a “private matter.” This book appears at a time when same-sex marriage is being hotly debated across the U.S. Many people object to such marriage on the grounds that same-sex relationships are immoral, or at least, that they do not deserve the same social recognition as heterosexual relationships. Unfortunately, the traditional rhetoric of gay-rights advocates–which emphasizes privacy and tolerance–fails to meet this objection. Legally speaking, when it comes to marriage, “tolerance” might be enough, Corvino concedes, but socially speaking, marriage requires more. Marriage is more than just a relationship between two individuals, recognized by the state. It is also a relationship between those individuals and a larger community. The fight for same-sex marriage, ultimately, is a fight for full inclusion in the moral fabric. What is needed is a positive case for moral approval–which is what

Corvino unabashedly offers here. Corvino blends a philosopher’s precision with a light touch that is full of humanity and wit. This volume captures the voice of one of the most rational participants in a national debate noted for generating more heat than light.

This caught my eye as an interesting and engaging angle on the subject.

Question for the peanut gallery: do you go to the library and check out a bunch of books?  Do you read them all or eventually admit you grabbed to many and return a bunch?


Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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