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Tag: Ross Douthat

My Top Five 2021 Nonfiction Reads

More than half of the books I read in 2021 appear to be nonfiction (tracking and math are not precise) which kind of surprised me.  But I did have a goal of reading a great many books on Saint Paul of which more anon, as they say.  So what were my favorites?

Here are five of the non-Paul focused nonfiction that stood out to me from 2021 (books I read, not that were published last year):

A book that is hard to say “I liked it” given how depressing and challenging it is. I am far from an expert on these things but I found it all too persuasive in its underlying argument about decadence. The chapter Waiting for the Barbarians was particularly depressing. I wish I had a brilliant answer as to how to get out of the seeming cul-de-sac we find ourselves in but, alas, I do not. 

An insightful and challenging book that forces you to acknowledge the challenges our culture presents for people of faith and those who seek to pass on that faith to the next generation. While there is a tad too much jargon in places, and it is also earnest at times, it really is a great outline for thinking about encouraging and inculcating deeper faith in young people and adults alike. The idea of call, community, creed and hope for the future is something I will be chewing on and working out for some time. If you have an interest in youth ministry, church revitalization or just faith in the modern world, highly recommended.

A discursive, and sometimes elusive, meditation on freedom that touches on evolution, history, science, sociology, economics, and psychology, among other things. Thought provoking and a bit haunted.

A mix of personal and historical reflections centered on Juneteenth, this was an interesting read. As someone with a background in history, I appreciated her perspective and enjoyed the way she attempted to flush out her own feelings and approach to history and the complex and difficult issue of race and slavery in America. At times it felt too thin, like it could have dug a little deeper into the history. The arguments, such as they are, come tangentially and through a mix of history and family stories. When I first saw it in the bookstore I was hoping for a short history of the event and subsequent holiday but enjoyed this book anyways. A quick and thought provoking read that brings a personal element to this day and its context.

Honest, playful, melancholy, at times dark, yet hopeful Mackall packs a lot into this short volume. Wonderful exploration of family, history, stories and their impact on our lives. Both a book to read for the content and for the writing itself.

 

Senator Josh Hawley versus Simon & Schuster

What if they are both wrong?

Remember when I said I was going to leave politics to my personal site? Yeah, I lied.

Speaking of Senator Hawley, regarding his spat with Simon & Schuster

After witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Simon & Schuster has decided to cancel publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book, THE TYRANNY OF BIG TECH.  We did not come to this decision lightly. As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.

And the Senator responds:

What if they are both wrong? I think S&S, whose books I enjoy, should publish the book.  I think the last sentence above makes little sense.  Either you are open to a variety of voices or you are not.  Publishing the book of a politician doesn’t mean you support their election or their views.  I am not a fan of Hawley or his recent actions but canceling his contract will just make him a martyr to certain people and allow him to sell more books at Regnery or someplace like it.

Their emulation of Jesus proved fatally incomplete …

Here their emulation of Jesus proved fatally incomplete. In their quest to be inclusive and tolerant and up-to-date, the accommodationists imitated his scandalously comprehensive love, while ignoring his scandalously comprehensive judgement.  They used his friendship with prostitutes as an excuse to ignore his explicit condemnation of fornication and divorce. They turned his disdain for the religious authorities of his day and his fondness for tax collectors and Roman soldiers into a thin excuse for privileging the secular realm over the sacred. While recognizing his willingness to dine with outcasts and converse with nonbelievers, they de-emphasized the crucial fact that he had done so in order to heal them and convert them-ridding the leper of his sickness, telling the Samaritans that soon they would worship in spirit and truth, urging the women taken in adultery to go, and from now on sin no more.

Given the climate of the 1960s and ’70s, these choices were understandable.  But the more the accommodationists emptied Christianity of anything that might offend the sensibilities of a changing country, the more they lost any sense that what they were engaged in really mattered, or was really, truly true.

— Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

Their emulation of Jesus proved fatally incomplete …

Here their emulation of Jesus proved fatally incomplete. In their quest to be inclusive and tolerant and up-to-date, the accommodationists imitated his scandalously comprehensive love, while ignoring his scandalously comprehensive judgement.  They used his friendship with prostitutes as an excuse to ignore his explicit condemnation of fornication and divorce. They turned his disdain for the religious authorities of his day and his fondness for tax collectors and Roman soldiers into a thin excuse for privileging the secular realm over the sacred. While recognizing his willingness to dine with outcasts and converse with nonbelievers, they de-emphasized the crucial fact that he had done so in order to heal them and convert them-ridding the leper of his sickness, telling the Samaritans that soon they would worship in spirit and truth, urging the women taken in adultery to go, and from now on sin no more.

Given the climate of the 1960s and ’70s, these choices were understandable.  But the more the accommodationists emptied Christianity of anything that might offend the sensibilities of a changing country, the more they lost any sense that what they were engaged in really mattered, or was really, truly true.

— Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

Ross Douthat on Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

This week’s edition of Coffee & Markets features New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, author of Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, and a discussion of American religion and its impact on public life.  Listen here.

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