I will be giving this book to my mother and asking her to read it. I will be offering it to my PoD mentor if he's interested. I'll be recommending thi...moreI will be giving this book to my mother and asking her to read it. I will be offering it to my PoD mentor if he's interested. I'll be recommending this one generally.
I think it's the zeal of a convert: because when it first arrived I wasn't entirely certain about it. I felt like I was beyond it. I felt like because my church is mostly-sorta accepting, I wasn't the sort of person that Chellew-Hodge was talking about. But the truth is, I am. And I needed to read this book, and I will need the methods of maintaining mental and spiritual strength. This book, for me, is on the level of Stephanie Dowrick in terms of its importance to me, only this is written for people so much like me. This is written for those of us who "don't exist" - queer Christians. People who have to keep standing up and saying "Here I am" because so many people think we don't or shouldn't exist.
Like Susan Howatch's books, it's going on an annual rotation: I *know* I am going to need to re-read this regularly. This book has been key in my discernment and I think it will be key in my ongoing wellbeing. And God bless Candace Chellew-Hodge for writing it.(less)
I first heard of Parkminster when I watched the BBC show "The Monastery". Christopher Jamieson took his reality TV par...moreI loved this book in many ways.
I first heard of Parkminster when I watched the BBC show "The Monastery". Christopher Jamieson took his reality TV participants to St Hugh's to show them a more austere side of monasticism. And then I found this book in a discount book store.
I've written elsewhere and will likely write again of my fascination - healthy or otherwise - with monasticsm, and this book didn't change that one iota. Maguire follows five young men who join the Carthusian monks at Parkminster at the height of the "Golden Age" of Roman Catholic vocations in the early 60s, through their first five years of the noviciate to the point at which they must make their decision to take final vows or not. The Carthusians are often referred to as an "extreme" order: most of their day is spent in silence, and alone. Essentially, the monks have individual hermitages, from which they emerge only for prayer multiple times a day, and for their weekly walk (during which they may converse if they wish.)
As a good Benedictine, Joan Chittester (author of my current reflective reading book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, would disapprove of the hermit-like life of the monks of Parkminster, but I really enjoyed reading about them. The author, Nancy Klein Maguire, is the wife of one of the men that is followed through this book (he having not remained within the monastery, obviously). But there is the greatest respect given to those who remained, and to the faith of these men, and to their giftedness for that particular vocation. That's a detail Maguire never misses, the fact that some people have the gift for this life, and some don't.
It gave me a LOT to ponder as I read it, and although it's not going to become one of my automatic go-to books the way Clare Boyd-Macrae's or Joan Chittester's will be, but it's not about to be packed away in a box any time soon either. (less)
Writing this review a long time (about a month) after I finished reading the actual book, although on the other hand, I'm also writing this review aft...moreWriting this review a long time (about a month) after I finished reading the actual book, although on the other hand, I'm also writing this review after a week at the UCA Assembly, where we discussed various issues relating to what ended up being called "same-gender relationships/marriage". I kind of don't want to discuss the ins and outs of that debate in this review, but I will say this: I really am glad that I've finally read Venn-Brown's book.
I remember when this book was first released. Venn-Brown's situation had garnered a little press, the book got a hell of a lot more. It was a thing - naturally: a clergy-person from a conservative Christian group not only coming out, but coming RIGHT out. But reading this book in light of the UCA Assembly coming up, that kind of wasn't what I was focusing on.
I found Venn-Brown's dismissal of mainline (to borrow a term from the US Christian bloggers) denominations hurtful (as a member of one and adherant of another, technically), although I entirely understand that's where he comes from. (Doesn't make it less annoying, to be honest.) I found his lack of knowledge of mainline denominations throughout the book infuriating, but again, that's because of his subject position and mine. Which are significantly different.
I could have done with a trigger warning in the early stages of this book (damn specific triggers) and I know that doesn't form part of the standard marketing etc: I really do find it difficult. I acknowledge the honesty of Venn-Brown's writing, as much as it hurt me in myriad ways. I appreciate the perspective of a gay male, and particularly a gay male Christian who is willing to write about these things. I still think, however, that the "letter to all denominations" at the end shows an ignorance of the position of the Uniting Church, which although it is far from where I believe we ought to be as a church, is still far beyond where Venn-Brown seems to think any church is at all.
It was a valuable read, and I'm glad to have finally finished it.(less)
I watched the related documentary many years ago when it was shown on ABC's Compass program, and then a couple years ago I found the book in a discoun...moreI watched the related documentary many years ago when it was shown on ABC's Compass program, and then a couple years ago I found the book in a discount book store, and I snaffled it up.
I have to admit that I have skimmed the first two and the last chapters. Whenever Sue-Ann got into attempting to prove why all those with faith in God are wrong, my eyes glazed over, partly in self-protection, partially because she's not actually here to argue against, and in my mind, she's hellaciously wrong. She's denying a core part of my identity, and I guess that these days I just don't put up with that. More to the point, I'm so used to blogs and interactivity and etc and being able to argue back, and a book doesn't allow for that in the way that a blog might.
It was a good read. It was a frustrating read. It was a somewhat infuriating read (in part due to her narrow theological view, and Post's assumption that she knows the theology of ALL elements of Christian theology when she bloomin' well doesn't. For proof please see the pages relating to the World Council of Churches, and her apparent COMPLETE lack of understanding that the Roman Catholic Church is NOT part of the WCC.
All that said, without those three chapters, it's an awesome book. I'll go back and read those three missing chapters one day when I feel better able to deal with them without setting fire to the book or myself. And there was a lot in the other chapters that I read out to my GF as I was reading it, that I loved, that I chuckled over, that I tried to absorb and turn over in my mind and learn from.
When I picked up this book I wasn't expecting what I got. What I got was - in a number of ways, a treatise on prayer; not unlike, and yet diametricall...moreWhen I picked up this book I wasn't expecting what I got. What I got was - in a number of ways, a treatise on prayer; not unlike, and yet diametrically opposite to, CS Lewis' "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer". (The title of that book has changed multiple times: I stick with the one I first encountered.)
"Mistaken Identity" is the story of two young women involved in a fatal car accident in the midwest of the USA. One girl is identified as a survivor, and for a long time remains in a coma. While she is in the coma, and for a few weeks after she is once again concious, she is cared for by the family she is told she is hers. But she has been misidentified, and after five weeks she is properly identified and her actual family are informed. Meanwhile, the family who have been caring for her are informed that their daughter, sister, girlfriend in fact died in the accident more than a month ago.
What doesn't come across on the book jacket is the extent to which both families where evangelical Christians, comfortable with evangelical language, with extemporised prayer, with asking others for prayers. The girls were at Taylor University, a conservative Christian college where anyone involved with the University must sign a "life together covenant" that bans pre-marital and homosexual sex, drinking alcohol, smoking, and dancing (other than choreographed or folk dancing), which covers behaviour off-campus as well as on-campus.
This is not the sort of theology, the sort of ecclesiology or the theology of prayer that I am comfortable with. What the Cerack and Van Ryn families were willing to post on the blog and publish in their book about Whitney and their prayers and the way they viewed God's actions in their lives are things that I simply don't express in the same way. And yet reading this book not only gave me a non-terrifying insight to this approach to life, but a sense of the strength that this approach gives to some. I know that if you looked in my private journal entries from various points in my life, you would see similar emotions, although not expressed in quite the same way. But seeing the way that these families appealed to the strength they saw in God's love and care for them: there's something really important in that.
I've grown up in a different environment to these families. It really is very different in the US, particularly in communities that are particularly Evangelical (which doesn't even describe my own home town in the USA.) As much as I identify as an American, I've been brought up in Australia, and as much as people here think that there are too many religious conservatives around, they ain't seen nothing like it can be elsewhere.
The language isn't the same, and my language certainly isn't theirs. But I think there's value in understanding where that language comes from, and the value it has for those who use it, and that's what I really value about the fact that I picked this book up from the returns and decided to read it.(less)
If I ever find this book for sale, it will be really tempting to buy it.
Anita Ganeri is a British-Indian woman who mostly writes educational books for...moreIf I ever find this book for sale, it will be really tempting to buy it.
Anita Ganeri is a British-Indian woman who mostly writes educational books for children. Junior non-fiction, basically. (I also have a book about Diwali and possibly also one about Hannukah by her.) I borrowed this book from the library some time ago, found it recently while cleaning up my desk, and thought today a good opportunity to sit down and read it.
I have to admit that I found it odd/amusing/a tad irksome? that the book refers to Khadijah as the Prophet's wife, as though she was his only wife. I get that it's a picture/children's book, and that the publishers probably don't want to get into that, but... it leaves out a couple of his other wives who, as I understand it (as an outsider) were actually also pretty influential in the founding of Islam.
I was reading the story of Ibrahim and Isma'il for a while before my brain clicked in and reminded me that I know the story with the other son involved. I mean, I was just nodding along with my usual Abraham and Isaac thoughts (such as the Easter morning when I broke down in church while reading that passage, and stopped mid-reading and had to go home) before I went 'hang on, in Islam, it's the other son.' Which makes perfect sense, really. (Also, I really hope that Abraham wasn't asked to sacrifice /both/ boys. Poor dear man.)
The library is way way overstocked with Christian books. We're trying to weed them back to something more approaching sensible. I'm very glad that someone at least made the token effort to buy this one. Now we just need to get enough books that the Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and other religious books are equal in numbers and quality to the Christian books (instead of being far better quality but totally outnumbered!)(less)
The points that weren't made in that post: Chris is a friend and mentor of mine
W...moreFor my reflections on this book, see the post at my discernment blog.
The points that weren't made in that post: Chris is a friend and mentor of mine
While he was writing this book, he and I were working together on another, related project
In reaction to this book, I decided that I needed to pick up Dorothy McRae-McMahon's Everyday Passions A Conversation on Living to get a queer, feminist perspective from another member of the same denomination as Chris. (And me.)
Hearing Archbishop Tutu speak in person at the 2006 World Council of Churches Assembly has to rank as one of the highlights of my life. He is an utter...moreHearing Archbishop Tutu speak in person at the 2006 World Council of Churches Assembly has to rank as one of the highlights of my life. He is an utterly remarkable man. And this book – this totally deserving of five stars book – tells a remarkable story.
Appointed by Nelson Mandela to be co-Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa following the transfer of power from the Nationalist Apartheid Government, Desmond Tutu writes in this book about the history leading to the Commission, the progress of the Commission itself, and his thoughts on forgiveness.
This is simultaneously an easy and a very difficult book to read. Tutu writes engagingly, and in a manner that keeps you reading. However, he also describes some horrific moments in the history of South Africa, and talks about horrific attitudes. I was reading this while at the National Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia, where I was an elected member. At the Assembly we had a number of pieces of business relating to the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, which were highly emotional, and to which I tended to connect much of my thinking while reading this book. Although I tried to think about how what Tutu was writing about could be applied in the Australian context, the two contexts are so very different that I have so far found such thinking quite difficult.
However, I will certainly be pondering the contents of this book for some time to come. (less)
On the back of the edition I read, one of the review quotes, while praising the book as important, well-written, thoughtful, and pretty much required...moreOn the back of the edition I read, one of the review quotes, while praising the book as important, well-written, thoughtful, and pretty much required reading for Australians of conscience and thoughtfulness, noted that thinking it's a fabulous book doesn't mean agreeing with every word.
Which is pretty much my feeling. There is a hell of a lot to respect in this book: Aly writes very well and puts his arguments very clearly. From my perspective, the book suffers just a little from being a tad too scholarly (and it's exceedingly rare that I'd say anything of the sort) - particularly in Quranic scholarship, an area in which, contrary to the late lamented Reading Rainbow, you pretty much do have to take Aly's word for it - and I know I'm better educated on Islam than a lot of Australians of my vintage/background/etc. Where this was particularly a problem was in his chapter long critique of Irshad Manji's "The Trouble with Islam A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" - at the end of it, I was still on Manji's 'side', because he had failed to convince me, and Aly is a speaker and writer who generally manages to convince me in his newspaper columns and etc.
Aly, btw, is one of a group of authors of whom I feel more than a little jealous - Aly, as it turns out, was in my class at Law School. He's my contemporary and yet has written this incredibly important book - a book that, for all my issues with it (see eg my status updates), I would still recommend highly, particularly to Australian (or Aus-dwellers.)(less)
Well, I'm in the process of typing out swathes of the text that I want to have on hand to keep contemplating (no pun intended) once the book goes back...moreWell, I'm in the process of typing out swathes of the text that I want to have on hand to keep contemplating (no pun intended) once the book goes back to the library. I've also decided that I need to, at minimum, read more Merton, The Cloud of Unknowing and some of the work of St John of the Cross in the not-too-distant future.
So those two things are both positives.
At times this book went over my head. But at other times it hit me right in the gut, and even the heart.
In the end, it's one of those things where I think it is important that I've read it, even if I haven't yet quite processed it all, yet.(less)
Comment #1: The problem with GoodReads is, you can fairly easily see other people's reviews. And with a guilt complex the size of mine, that means fee...moreComment #1: The problem with GoodReads is, you can fairly easily see other people's reviews. And with a guilt complex the size of mine, that means feeling awkward or defensive when you disagree. And so I'm stating this up front: I can only review this book as _me_. A Christian, half-American white girl who can't even remember where she first heard of this book, nor what reminded me to look it up on the library catalogue once 50books_poc came up. (When I did my Gender and Islam subject, this book hadn't yet been written.)
Comment #2: my (well, the library's) copy of this book is called "The Trouble with Islam", *not* "The Trouble with Islam Today." It's from *before* the book was renamed. And that has somehow become quite important to me.
It's difficult to review a book that is controversial and mostly disliked in your regular circles, especially when the fact is that you actually liked it. Which I did. The tone was exceedingly readable - once I picked it up I just kept on going, which I really hadn't expected. I liked her sassiness, her offhand way of writing. Does everything have to be in an academic style? Sure, at times I would have liked footnotes, but there's a different way of reading footnoted documents, and I appreciated just being able to read this.
She said a lot of things that I agree with - most of which I'm reluctant to *admit* that I agreed with them, which proves at least one of her points: that Islam has become one of those uncontradictables. (Major flashbacks to LJ RaceFail discussions, here.)
I've heard that her theology has been criticised. Granted that I don't know the first thing about Islamic theology, and maybe this is the liberal/progressive Christian in me, but the idea that there are different interpretations of texts? Seems to be fundamental truth to me. I'm not enough of a postmodernist to say that no one interpretation is inherently better than another, but if Manji is right and there is a stream of Islamic thought that says you can't interpret the Koran, well, that line of thought needs to do some lit theory.
I found a lot of food for thought in this book. Next on my list is Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel, and after that Waleed Aly's People Like Us, so I'm at least sampling more than one view on the topic. (Need to keep digging through library catalogues to find the el Sadawi and Mernissi books, too.) (less)
Summary: Deep beneath the land is the Rainbow Spirit or the Rainbow Snake, the eternal source of life and spiritual power. [The au...moreETA - Revised Review
Summary: Deep beneath the land is the Rainbow Spirit or the Rainbow Snake, the eternal source of life and spiritual power. [The authors:] identify God the Creator with the Rainbow Spirit and they see in Christ the incarnation of the Rainbow Spirit in human form, which for them is Aboriginal Australian.
My first comment is related to authorship. I puzzled initially over whether this book "counted", even though my gut feeling is that it does. The people who physically wrote the words down are white: Rob Bos and Norman Habel. But the group who came up with the words, whose work is behind this, and who have (as the introduction states) approved the final version of the words, are all Indigenous Australians: George Rosendale, Nola Archie, Dennis Corowa, William Coolburra, Eddie Law and James Leftwich. Jasmine Corowa was the group's artist. (I know Dennis and James a little, and hugely respect both them and George - of whom I've heard - and have been on a committee with Rob for the past three years.) In the end, I think saying that this *doesn't* count would be infantilising the Rainbow Spirit Elders; essentially saying that they didn't "really" participate in this work.
The model - I love the model they've come up with. The image of the strangler fig, a parasitic plant that eventually entirely replaces the host plant, that introduces the section on "The Necessity of Rainbow Spirit Theology" is vivid and gut-wrenching. And then there's the general model of theology; centering on the land as the heart of indigenous spirituality, and using Indigenous ways of orientation (East being the most important of the compass points, rather than North, as it is for European-originating cultures) in a compass-point organisation of influences and directions.
(The image chosen for the North, for church history and the Bible, is the sheep. As the Elders say, "We were introduced to Jesus as the Good Shepherd, an image that has no meaning for us, as we had no feeling for sheep. Furthermore, the landowners who herded the sheep did not give us a comforting image of shepherds!" An important reminder.
This model of theology really does speak to me. But I need to think about whether I'm able to use it for myself, or whether that would be the dreaded 'appropriation'. I need to read this book again, and particularly closely. And to reflect on it and probably to speak with others about it.
There are parts of this book that pain me deeply, not just that are hard to read, but that are painful because I believe they are untrue: for example, when I read sentences like "Sadly, few in the Christian churches have supported the rights of indigenous people" what I remember is the number of times the UCA has bent over backwards for the Congress, by riding roughshod over queerfolk. However, as I checked the copyright date, this book was published in 1997, and the text was being put together in 1994 and 1995, before the sexuality debate got going in the UCA, and before the many examples I know of where the Congress and their wishes were placed in paramount position. So while the words hurt, my reaction isn't fair.
Ultimately - this book is a way that I can listen to the Elders, and I need to view it in that light. I will benefit greatly from re-reading this book and contemplating it further. Of that I am absolutely certain.
Original Review This one needs some thinking; some pondering.
For starters I'm not sure whether to include it in 50books_poc or not: the person who wrote the actual words is white, but they were approved by all six indigenous theologians who were working on the project.
I love the model they've come up with, and I need to think about whether I'm able to use it for myself, or whether that would be the dreaded 'appropriation'.
I did get rather annoyed through the process of reading this that yet again it was all complaints and no solutions. Which may be harsh but true or harsh but entirely untrue, but when I read sentences like "Sadly, few in the Christian churches have supported the rights of indigenous people" what I remember is the number of times the UCA has bent over backwards for the Congress, by riding roughshod over queerfolk.
So, yeah. This was a painful read, and there's more thinking needed ahead.(less)
The Cloister Walk is not a linear book, although it has some organisation by date. In many ways it is like an incredibly reflective journal: not a dia...moreThe Cloister Walk is not a linear book, although it has some organisation by date. In many ways it is like an incredibly reflective journal: not a diary or a daybook, but the journal of someone who sits down to write and simply lets their thoughts go.
I felt an initial connection to this book because of its major setting: the Benedictine Community of St John's Collegeville, Minnesota. It's a town I've driven through; I've seen their belltower from the car. I've read stories set in the University in Collegeville, and each September 11 I re-post a prayer written by one of the monks at St John's.
St John's also hosted a short-lived experimental Methodist monastic community, one whose Short-lived-ness was a huge disappointment to me. In some ways, Norris has managed to do what I wish I could do: have close links with a Benedictine community, and yet still remain a Protestant.
Despite the immediate ties I felt to this book from when I first picked it up, it took me two goes to read it. I kept getting hung up on various things, sometimes the author's attitudes (for example, a chapter I read as being an attack on the teaching profession), sometimes by the subject matter (a chapter on the Virgin Martyrs, for example).
But ultimately, I've both enjoyed it and *appreciated* it. It is now on my "want my own copy" list, because I think this is the sort of book that I could re-read frequently, and get a lot from each time.
I keep trying to be nice about this book, and yet I keep failing. It isn't just that I experienced severe genre-clash with the previous book I'd read...moreI keep trying to be nice about this book, and yet I keep failing. It isn't just that I experienced severe genre-clash with the previous book I'd read ( Behind the Exclusive Brethren); it wasn't just that I'd expected an entirely different book.
I simply think this book wasn't ready to be published. It's incoherent; riddled with internal inconsistencies, and what I came to refer to (reluctantly) as "authorial schizophrenia". By which I don't mean that the author suffers from schizophrenia, but that... she changes her position (particularly on who/what is the target of her ire) every five pages or so; which exacerbates the incoherency of the book. Like the book "Justice Delayed", which simply didn't work, as it was sloppily structured and would have been better read from back to front, it didn't have the editing it needed. (An interesting quibble is that in the final chapter she mentions - in an email - that the publishers are Allen & Unwin. The book was actually published by Black Inc, an independent publisher that I usually have high respect for.)
I'm going to try to write more on this later today, but had to get this initial reaction down here.(less)