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2012-11-01 issue:

Books on community, work and guns

Mediaculture: Reflections on the effect of media and culture on our faith

by Gordon Houser

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In time for your Christmas shopping—or just for your own edification—here are some recent books to put in your bag.

Community: Christine D. Pohl points out that “human beings were made for living in community, and it is in community that we flourish and become most fully human.” In her book Living in Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us (Eerdmans, 2012, $20), she explores four practices that sustain community: expressing gratitude, making and keeping promises, living and speaking truthfully, and offering hospitality. The book is wise and practical.

Also practical is David Janzen’s The Intentional Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus (Paraclete Press, 2012, $17.99). While addressed primarily to those interested in intentional Christian community, there is much to learn for anyone wanting to strengthen their own congregational life. Janzen uses stories and draws on his many years of experience in intentional community.

Cultivating Sent Communities: Mission Spiritual Formation, edited by Dwight J. Zscheile (Eerdmans, 2012, $30), takes a more theoretical approach, even as it draws on case studies from Ethiopia, England, Leipzig and San Francisco. Zscheile calls the church “a product of and participant in God’s mission.” The book’s nine essayists emphasize the need for spiritual formation in congregations seeking to participate in God’s transforming work.

Work: Mennonites have long emphasized that our faith must be practical and apply to our daily lives. In Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture (Eerdmans, 2012, $16), R. Paul Stevens looks at stories throughout the Bible to develop a theology of work. He asks, What is good work? He finally answers that we work in faith, in fellowship with God; in love, in fellowship and interdependence with coworkers; and in hope, “engaging the powers that frustrate God’s life-giving realm on earth.”

How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it) by John C. Knapp (Eerdmans, 2012, $15) takes a critical look at the cultures of business and the church. Knapp writes: “Church priorities continue to tilt heavily toward private faith and away from ministries that might equip believers for a robust public faith.” He adds that “crucial questions about vocation and money … are met with indifference, confusion or even hostility.”

Guns: James E. Atwood claims that he had “not come across even one book written for the faith community that puts the 30,000 gun deaths we experience each year in biblical and theological perspective and calls on the church to speak up and speak out.” So he wrote America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé (Cascade Books, 2012, $27).
He is an avid hunter who owns guns but believes, like many members of the NRA, that they should not be exempt “from safety requirements, wise regulations and restrictions.”

When he speaks in churches, many criticize him for raising a political issue in church. He writes: “There are political dimensions whenever guns are discussed, but what happens in society because of guns makes them a profound spiritual concern that must be dealt with by people of faith.”

Atwood carefully describes the idolatry of “the Gun Empire” and addresses the violence in our culture, the Principalities and Powers, the Second Amendment and policies that perpetuate murder.

He ends with a wake up call for the faith community that includes 15 specific actions we can take to help save lives. 

Gordon Houser is associate editor of
The Mennonite.

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