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Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In a world full of moral and spiritual challenges, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones reveals a spiritual path open to all seekers who want real guidance through complicated issues that affect us all.

As the president of the Union Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is one of America's foremost theologians. In this bracingly honest and practical book, Rev. Dr. Jones takes us on
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Viking
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May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A few weeks ago, I had never heard of Serene Jones or Union Theological Seminary. I found out about both when Jones participated in a Q&A with the New York Times.

In that piece, she shared her doubts about the virgin birth and the resurrection, among other things. Her views weren't particularly shocking by themselves, but I was fascinated because of Jones' position as president of a theological seminary.

I was raised to believe that a "Christian" is someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an outstanding book– I'm glad I looked it up after listening to Serene Jones being interviewed by Krista Tippett on On Being. It's been a while since I read a book from the more academic realm of theology that captured me like this, probably because it so expertly weaves in narratives that are unflinching about the blend of sin and grace. At times her Calvinist background struck me as a bit harsher than what I grew up with, but in today's fractured national and global context I can see ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Had high hopes for this book...
After listening to a recent interview of Serene Jones on NPR, I eagerly looked forward to reading, Call It Grace. The book is part memoir, part reflection, part theological essay. I'm not certain it really succeeds. As memoir, Jones weaves in family history and memories of her Oakie childhood and racist relatives.

I'm not understanding how she excoriates her racist, child-molesting grandfather on the one hand, while also going on and on about how her background has
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Not bad. This coming from an atheist. I have more in common with SJ than I do some atheist friends. She clearly has an open mind and a kind, human spirit. It’s a bit lightweight in the way it handles other factors besides theology in approaching how one ‘should’ live a good life. There is an entire branch of philosophy (kierkegaard aside) devoted to this topic, not to mention scads that can be learned from various psychological fields (esp those dealing with motivation and loss). Yes, I know an ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well....if you want something besides Covid and politics to think about, this is the book for you. The author includes much of her life as she explores facets of faith that need to be explored personally by each of us. Highly recommend you read this alone first before you read it in a book group.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put it down. SJ is a gifted writer who made a theological memoir into a page turner. As it happens I land in the same theological terrain as she and found a kindred spirit here. ...more
David Guy
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first thing that strikes you about Serene Jones graceful memoir is its bold and unflinching honesty. She is President of the Union Theological Seminary, and the daughter of a minister who has fought all his life for civil rights and the rights of all people, but she lets us know early on that her grandfather—that wonderful father’s father—was an overt racist and was also sexually abusive to the young women in the family. Her mother, though she was a striking beauty and nominally a Christian, ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Serene Jones has written about the life of faith as a prominent theologian, combining personal and family stories and experiences with the intellectual concepts of the great theological thinkers. A beautiful exploration of how those of us who study Calvin, Barth, Kierdegaard, Cone, etc. make sense of our lives and integrate the intellect with experience. This book will be particularly good for those who don't understand theology, not because it is an intro to theological thinking for it is not, ...more
Judith McGee
I heard about Dr. Jones' "Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World" via my college Facebook page; I had heard of the Jones family over the years as they are somewhat of a family dynasty in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a denomination that I belonged to for many years. Thus I read it on a NOOK e-reader.

Dr. Jones is an excellent writer and I found the sections of the book dealing with her growing up process in Oklahoma "good reading" as an native of the state would say.

I t
I first found about this author through her remarkable book, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World, so I knew I wanted to read this one as well. Hard to imagine a memoir written by a theologian being a page-turner, but that is exactly what this was for me. I loved this book and was deeply moved by her honesty and humility in describing life events that challenged her theology and beliefs and how she struggled, and often fell short, in living them out. ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
The exploration of her Oklahoma and family roots and how those relate to her theological journey is very interesting. Particularly timely is her discussion of her connections to the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995.

And I don't really want to be that kind of person, but she says that the bombing happened the same day as her regular "Tuesday lecture," but April 19, 1995, was a Wednesday. I think the OKC Bombing has become linked in memory to 9/11's Tuesday morning. Small details like that j
David Harris
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I heard Serene Jones, the president of the Union Theological Seminary, interviewed by Krista Tippet on the podcast "On Being." She was articulate, thoughtful and engaging to the ear of agnostic like me. She is able to transcend the parts of organized religion that have always made me avoid it, and show how and why it's important to have a spiritual life, in whatever form it takes. I found this to be a very compelling book. ...more
Jaron Brandt
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith, memoir
"We so often, I later came to realize, find the version of theology that our life needs "
- Serene

"We are all children of light and children of darkness. You and me and those men, we are children of the same God... No lecture tonight, girls. Sometimes actions teach theology better than any theologian's words could. Just remember, the grace of God falls upon us all in equal measure."
- Serene's dad, Joe
Laura Kisthardt
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-read
Before I knew of this book, a classmate and I were speaking about the need for grace in our community. This book, part-memoir and part-theological reflection, was a great read! It gave me so much to think about. Jones doesn't shy away from telling challenging stories, some embarrassing, some sad, and many other emotions. Highly recommend! ...more
Apr 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-reads
The brutal, raw honesty in this book made me squirm a lot. I have a difficult time writing a description - it is autobiographical but at times reads like very personal sermons and at other times, a rant. I cannot even imagine writing something similar about my own life. Her openness about her family and her own struggles make her so human and relatable.
Vicky Haag
Aug 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book speaks of victimization with Calvinism as its backbone. I pray that Christian's can look past personal History to strive for God's TRUE work. We are to view our own lives, not dwell on others and their histories; that brings about judgement. ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Started this book and decided it was not the right time for me. It has 'haunted' me since then so I will try it again in the future. It was simple and deep. I usually give a book at least 50 pages but this one I failed to do so.

Curious to hear what others think.
Roger Kingston
Mar 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it.

The author demonstrates Grace through her writing. She is incredibly open about her own life using it to discuss how she sees many Christian concept such as Grace, Sin, Forgiveness, and many other parts of her faith that help enlighten these concepts for her.
May 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
Really just could not get into it at all. I guess I will stick with her op-eds.
John Back
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
God makes an appearance or two in this book about that.
Dec 05, 2019 is currently reading it
page 142
Katherine Pershey
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love this kind of book - whipsmart theology, unstinting cultural commentary, and personal storytelling all braided together just so.
Gerald H
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most thought-provoking and honest books I have ever read. It is excellent. With great skill and integrity, Jones explores life and relationships in our fractured world.
Linda Nichols
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the very best books I've ever read. It was for a class I was taking and we had great discussions about it. I can't recommend it enough! ...more
Amy Russell
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Great inside the mind of a liberal theologian...her thoughts on racial injustice and trauma were particularly thought provoking...great memoir
Scott Beddingfield
Oct 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Possible could have been a little less ‘wordy’ if that makes any sense but the last two chapters were powerful as were remembrances of the author’s early life.
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
An unexpectedly wrenching memoir that delivers a powerful theological message. This is not a lightweight treatise on the meaning of grace. It made me think, and I still reflect on the lessons it illustrates, and for that I am grateful.
Chuck Erion
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review appeared in The Waterloo Region Record, May 4, 2019

It was an interview with Serene Jones in “The New Yorker” that triggered my interest in this book. Jones is the first women president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, a 180-year-old institution. She is asked about human history as a story of people taking theology and constructing religion around it. “…[T]he more troubling side of that is—and this is where I would put the tendency of religion to overlap with sin—that
Luke Hillier
I found deep value in Jones's writing and theological imagination in Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World, 2nd Edition, so opted to give this a go when I found it on sale after Christmas. As a graduate of Denison University's religion department (known as a feeder into Union Theological Seminary) and a seminarian elsewhere, I'd say that I was most curious to read about Jones's experiences as the president there. In the end, there's literally only one chapter that actually focuses on th ...more
Jonathan Yao
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
More of a memoir, if anything, but she writes in a way that is refreshingly honest in comparison to other Christian existentialist authors I've read. It's extremely personal, and don't expect a theological argument to be made here. It's narrative and story. Take what you will (she also leaves an excellent reading list. ...more
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A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the 16th President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The first woman to head the 180-year-old institution, Jones occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is also currently the President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s lar ...more

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