Friday, January 3, 2014

This week's recommended reading

Each week I try to write a weekly column to send out to my church's e-mail list.  In it, I try to include articles, interviews, etc. that I find meaningful or important that week.  I just realized I could have been posting them here, so I will try to do so from now on.
  • The unfortunate drama regarding KCMO public schools continues.  The KC Star had an editorial last Sunday calling for the state law to be changed which requires non-accredited districts to pay for student transfers to other districts.  Given that MO State Education Commissioner Nicastro refused to grant the district's accreditation as a part of what looks to be a pre-determined plan to privatize it, KCMO public schools are trapped between going bankrupt as they pay for students to leave and going with whatever plan Nicastro and her corporate allies choose to do with i
  • There is much to like about Pope Francis.  James Carroll (author of Constantine's Sword and other great books) has an article in The New Yorker about Pope Francis that is well worth reading.  Although I remain frustrated with Pope Francis' insistence that homosexuality is a sin and that women cannot be called by God to be clergy, I agree with Carroll that Francis' change in tone away from judgment is huge.  Also, his emphasis on the world's poor and critique of global capitalism in its current exploitative form is prophetic in the best sense of the Christian tradition.  If you prefer listening to Carroll share his thoughts on Francis personally, take a listen to his interview on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
  •  Speaking of radio interviews, here are two on the public radio program On Being (I liked it much better when it was called Speaking of Faith) which are worth listening to--an interview with Marilynne Robinson, author of two of my favorite books Gilead and Home;  and an interview with Walter Brueggemann, probably the most significant scholar on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the last generation--his book The Prophetic Imagination remains one of the most significant books on the Bible that I own.  We will be praying together one of Brueggemann's prayers in worship Sunday. 
  • We got a call here at church on New Year's day from a local TV reporter wanting to do a follow up story now that the Boy Scouts of America have lifted their ban on gay scouts.  Hopefully, you recall the national media coverage CCCUCC received from its protest of the ban on gay scouts and leaders.  Unfortunately, we didn't get the message until the next day and he had already done the story.  Thank God the ban on gay scouts is lifted, but the ban on gay scout leaders remains.  (Which means we could not host a troop at our church since the organization actively discriminates against our members.)  I certainly agree with the NY Times' editorial asking for the BSA to lift its ban on gay scout leaders.       
  • At the end of 2013 there are many "Best of. . . " book lists just as there are every year, but here's one you may have missed: Great Books on Religion 2013--a list of academic books on religion recommended by the folks at Religious Dispatches.
  • If you've ever wondered why young clergy quit the ministry or for that matter why young Christians quit the church, here's a good first-person account of church conflict that gives a reason why.  It's by Rev. Elizabeth Myer, a UCC-Disciples of Christ minister sharing about one of her negative experiences of church early on in her career as a minister.  
  • No matter what you may think about the January 1 legal sale of marijuana in Colorado, I encourage you to read UCC theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite's essay "Marijuana: A Theology."  She puts in theological perspective the effects of our country's failed war on drugs upon the "common body" of our culture.

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