Hello, weary souls. Anyone else fatigued by the pandemic?
As 2021 closes, I just want to hold space for those of you who are in pain, physically and/or emotionally, in grief, in mourning, or in overall “this sucks” feeling. Life with Covid seems to demand a certain kind of resilience, one that knows not only to buckle down and survive something intense, but one that also knows how to bear a persistent chronic condition and yet… still… live. Each pandemic year calls to me to let go of the world we knew before and to embrace the unknowable and uncertain world that is coming and is already here.
For 2022, I wish for more grace for you and me. Grace to live and leave each day, and then start anew. Grace to be disappointed and grace to be soothed. Grace to leave nostalgia that brings pain and grace to embrace tomorrow. Grace to find bravery along with our anxieties. Grace for each other, whether near or far.
May 2022 bring some healing to your soul. Be gentle to yourself. Be gentle to those around you. And have a
Happy Better New Year.
Here are some books from the second half of 2021 that gave me life.
1. Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
Jesus and John Wayne is a follow-up read to a selection from the first half of 2021 on women and womanhood. I think it does a great job in traversing the history of how the idea of rugged masculinity developed in the Evangelical Christian subculture and pointing out the cultural moments that defined the idea. Honestly, some parts of this book made me want to throw up (literally), because some of the toxicity described in the book was very recognizable.
Special note for book people: I also appreciated some of Du Mez’s commentary on a number of religious books, many of which I’ve consumed in the past. You may find this aspect of the book enlightening too.
2. Working by Robert Caro
This beautiful and short book is a behind-the-curtain look on how Robert Caro, the master biographer whose hefty volumes on Lyndon Johnson are–after thousands of pages–still not done, approaches and does his work. The level of depth that Caro immerses himself in understanding his subject is so astounding. It goes to show that there is no shortcut to producing something great.
Brown’s articulation of the weariness one suffers from being the lone Black person, the lone minority in a White world is so poignant that I, though differing in circumstances, found great resonance. This is one of the books that brought me healing this year.
In this powerful book, James Cone parallels the two dreadful symbols–the cross and the lynching tree–in the experience and history of the African American community. From the publisher’s note: “For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era.” This is a powerful example of how the African American spiritual heritage is a tremendous gift for all faith traditions and deserves to be platformed more in mainstream Christianity.
I am very late in reading Rachel Held Evans, but when I was searching for something that could express my recent experiences with church, the joys and disappointments included, my thoughts on church–what I crave the church could be for me, my peers, and my generation, Searching for Sunday almost nailed everything on the head. It was almost like reading an epistle to the millennials.
I’ve had many conversations with friends who lament the performative aspect of going to church without authenticity. Where you really are not sure who to turn to talk about your struggles, questions, and doubts. Where the framing of ideas is more culture war than Jesus. And these are people who are in the church. Yet many churches are wondering why young people are not coming… I suspect I’ll have more to say on this later on. But if you’re someone who has been looking and not finding belonging at church, know that you are not alone.
Favorite Books Lists
2022: Best Books of 2022 Part 1, Best Books of 2022 Part 2.
2021: Best Books of 2021 Part 1, Best Books of 2021 Part 2.
2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.
2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.
2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.
2017: Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.
2016: Best Books of 2016 Part 1, Best Books of 2016 Part 2.
2015: Best Books of 2015 Part 1, Best Books of 2015 Part 2.
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