News

On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Dangers of Christian Practice

The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin, by Lauren F. WinnerOn Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin

In The Dangers of Christian Practice, Lauren Winner challenges the central place that “practices” have recently held in Christian theology. She argues that sometimes, beloved Christian practices go horrifyingly wrong, extending violence rather than promoting its healing. Winner discusses concrete instances of when these practices can go bad, such as a slave-owning woman praying for her slaves’ obedience, or the connection between the Eucharist and the sacrament’s central role in medieval Christian murder of Jews.

Arguing that practices are deformed in ways that are characteristic of and intrinsic to the practices themselves, Winner proposes that the way in which Christians might best think about these practices is that of “damaged gift.” In this bracing book, Winner provocatively challenges the assumption that the church possesses a set of immaculate practices that will definitionally train Christians in virtue and that can’t be answerable to their histories.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Elegantly weaving together history and theology, Winner provides a needed constructive intervention that makes the turn to ‘practice’ in Christian thought more honest without leaving the reader in despair.”—Eric Gregory, Princeton University

“Does the church ever hurt those it means to help? This book is for those who worry that it does—those who may cause, feel, see, or seek to mend the harm that even baptism and communion can inflict.”—Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., University of North Carolina at Greensboro

“A fascinating analysis of how Christian practices can, and characteristically do, go bad ‘under the pressure’ of sin in this world. I highly recommend this to anyone who thinks that becoming a Christian is any kind of straightforward ‘solution’ to your problems, or to the problem that is you.”—Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia

“Lauren Winner, one of our most insightful Christian intellectuals, understands the ways Christian practice has been deeply involved in white supremacy, capitalism, and oppression. For everyone concerned about the future of theological education and the survival of the theological academy, this ground-breaking book is required reading.”—Willie James Jennings, Yale Divinity School

For more information on the publication, click here.

Lauren F. Winner is an associate professor of Christian spirituality at Duke Divinity School. Her interests include Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America and Jewish-Christian relations.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our contributors, click here, #PLTcontributors. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Outlaw Christian

Outlaw Christian: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the Rules, by Jacqueline BussieFinding Authentic Faith by Breaking the Rules

In Outlaw Christian, Jacqueline Bussie discusses the unspoken “laws” that govern modern Christian life: #1: Never get angry at God; #2: Never doubt; #3: Never question; #4: Never tell your real story; #5: Always speak in clichés about evil and suffering; and #6: Always believe hope comes easy for those who truly love God. Bussie knows that many Christians feel burnt out trying to follow these laws, and she believes that living according to these rules is killing real Christian life. In Outlaw Christian, Bussie proposes a rebellious, life-giving, authentic alternative.

Bussie uses captivating stories that are often brutally honest in order to give concrete, practical strategies to help readers cultivate hope, seek joy, confront grief, and more. She tackles difficult questions head on, speaking to progressive and conservative Christians alike in order to provide a new way to handle the difficult and troubling questions of life.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“There’s nothing fluffy about this book.  It is raw, sassy, and from the heart…This is a fresh invitation to the faith for skeptics, doubters, seekers, and even folks who like that old-time-religion.  Become an outlaw Christian. God likes holy rebels.” —Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible RevolutionJesus for President, and the new book Executing Grace

“While this is a Christian book, its gifts are available to anyone who has ever wrestled with the seemingly impossible task of making sense of suffering, loss, evil, inequity, and loneliness—including atheists like me. Reading Dr. Bussie’s call to reject clichés and sit with uncertainty, I found myself hoping this book makes its way into the hands of every Christian who has ever had their questions or pain shut down by a platitude or an easy answer.” —Chris Stedman, author of Faitheist and Executive Director of the Yale Humanist Community

“I served as a parish pastor for twenty five years.Walking with my people in times of crisis and deep pain I came to realize that some of their deepest struggles were not about loss nor about making sense out of what had happened, but finding the space within themselves and within their faith communities to speak honestly and openly about their doubt and anger toward God. Now Jacqueline Bussie, a theologian of the church, shares her experience and gives voice to all who have been caught in the belief that doubt is faithlessness and anger toward God is blasphemy. Quite the opposite, Dr. Bussie argues, doubt and anger are real expressions of a living faith. Outlaw Christian might break the rules but it opens up the possibility of deeper faith.” —The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Dr. Jacqueline Bussie is an award-winning author, professor, and theologian. An active servant-leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jacqueline teaches religion, theology and interfaith studies classes at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she also serves as the Director of the Forum on Faith and Life.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our contributors, click here, #PLTcontributors. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Safehold

Safehold: Poems (Dreamseeker Poetry), by Ann HostetlerDreamseeker Poetry

In Safehold, Ann Hostetler has collected and published her poems that communicate what it means to endure a crisis of security. The topics are varied, ranging from 9/11, to the death of both her parents, to the election of the 45th president, but all the poems speak to existential dilemmas Hostetler has dealt with in her life, and ways she has learned to cope with outcomes out of her control. Her poems respond to such  questions as, “How do you live your everyday life, treasuring what you love while embracing painful things that you wish hadn’t happened?”

While Hostetler does not consider herself a Christian poet or a Mennonite poet, which is the faith she was raised in, her poems are undeniably influenced by her upbringing, causing this book to be acclaimed as a “true work of Christian poetry.” This book, and Hostetler’s poems as a whole, invite a thought-provoking, spiritual outlook on dealing with a loss of assurance.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Hostetler, who has done so much for Mennonite literature as teacher and editor, now gives us a second collection of her own plainspoken poems. Their message? Refuse to be shunned. Breathe. Build an ark. Seek forgiveness not perfection. Write what you love. Again and again, she calls us to everyday mindfulness in the midst of our grief: failing parents, worrisome children, the world’s uncertain course. Honest and wise, this book is a tonic for our times.” —Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Author, Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields

“Hostetler gathers her living and dead into these poems, generations of seekers and travelers, and seats them at the table, telling stories that serve as a safehold against the confusion and violence of the world, while also using ‘the bellows of the breath’ to praise beauty, to comfort with a failing yet steadfast love. The poet confesses, ‘All my life I’ve tried to live as though / the body were the soul, ‘ and to that end Hostetler’s rich poems are incarnational meditations so very necessary for survival. —Todd Davis, Author, Native Species and Winterkill

“Safehold teaches what I never want to forget: that all people are my neighbors, that my mother is my original love, that any child shunned, slaughtered, shamed is my child. Hostetler has written a true work of Christian poetry: these poems incarnate Christ’s elegant, dark hand, unknowable and open, ready to carry us all.” —Rebecca Gayle Howell, Author, American Purgatory

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

CANCELLED: Faith and Doubt in the Modern World

Due to the emergence of COVID-19, based on the guidance and recommendation from UVA Health, the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC and other partners, we have decided to cancel our event with David Bentley Hart. Our top priority is the safety of the members of the University community, and we are taking all necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of infection.

Our mission at the Project on Lived Theology will continue during this time of uncertainty. We will continue to post resources and move forward to support our community in new and creative ways.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: On the Freedom Side

On the Freedom Side: How Five Decades of Youth Activists Have Remixed American History, by Wesley C. HoganHow Five Decades of Youth Activists Have Remixed American History

In On the Freedom Side, author Wesley C. Hogan argues that the future of democracy belongs to young people. In order to back up this claim, he cites multiple youth-led organizations throughout American history, starting with Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. He also includes more recent groups, such as the Dreamers who are fighting for immigration reform; the Movement for Black Lives that is demanding a reinvestment in youth of color and an end to police violence against people of color; and the International Indigenous Youth Council, water protectors at Standing Rock who fought to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and protect sovereign control of Indigenous lands.

Hogan reveals how the legacy of the civil rights movement has influenced young people, especially those who are often left at the margins of US society, to take a stand for the causes they believe in. This book centers their stories in an “activist mix tape” that provides lively, fresh perspectives on the promise of twenty-first-century U.S. democracy.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“At a time when too many of us are simply cursing the darkness, Hogan has shone the light of history on the often-invisible youth movements that fueled positive change in the past . . . and that continue to energize us today.”—Judy Richardson, SNCC veteran and coeditor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

“Hogan provides a way for us to explore the evolution of social justice movements, revealing how activists take what they learn from the ‘Movement Decade’ of the 1960s and build upon it.”—Tracy E. K’Meyer, author of From Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, 1954–2007

“An informed, passionate, and hopeful book that considers the cutting-edge movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Hogan introduces us to the multiracial, intergenerational, and intersectional activists at the heart of contemporary freedom movements, noting their own acknowledged debts to the egalitarian spirit of the Black Freedom struggle and its most egalitarian practitioner, Ella Baker.”—Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Religion as We Know It

Religion as We Know It: An Origin Story, by Jack MilesAn Origin Story

In this slender volume, scholar of religion Jack Miles explains the origins of the comparative study of religion, and how the concept of religion came to be thought of as being distinct from other human spheres of activity. In his essay, which was originally the introduction to the Norton Anthology of World Religions, Miles makes an eloquent case for the necessity of considering the worldviews of others with compassion and understanding. At the end of the volume, Miles explores his own faith, explaining how he understands religion’s place in the modern world.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Any student of theology will be enlightened by this deeply satisfying work.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This is an exceptional work that challenges and rewards careful reading and thought. It belongs in every library.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Jack Miles has written the perfect first book for religious studies beginners. He starts with the widely held American understanding of religion but ends arguing brilliantly that inescapable human ignorance creates the possibility of welcoming the new, the unexpected, even the religious. Our self-absorbed age needs this book.”—Mark C. Taylor, Columbia University
“The question of the origin of religion has rarely been addressed with the erudition and eloquence of Jack Miles. Drawing on a remarkable wealth of sources across time and place, he offers much for us to ponder in an essay that is at once highly learned and deeply personal.”—Donald S. Lopez Jr., University of Michigan

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Mississippi Praying

Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975, by Carolyn Renée DupontSouthern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975

In Mississippi Praying, historian Carolyn Renee Dupont challenges the prevalent notion that southern white evangelicals simply failed to support civil rights because they were carried along by the influence of the wider culture. Instead, she documents a link between their theological views and their hostility towards desegregation. These evangelicals rejected a notion of a corporate responsibility for dealing with racism, seeing such social causes as a distraction from pursuing individual salvation. Dupont’s work shows how such a religious worldview could easily end up sanctioning white supremacy.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“This is an inspired and sparkling religious history of the three major white denominations—South Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists—in the state of Mississippi for the three decades of the Civil Rights movement…This is not simply a tale about what happened in the struggle for black equality in Mississippi from 1945 to 1975.  It is a mirror, reflecting what is still happening in segregated churches all over America, not just in Mississippi, not just in the South, but all over this great republic.”-Baptist History & Heritage

“Dupont’s book is an essential companion to any study of the civil rights movement, not only for its treatment of how religion impacted the movement’s history but also for the way it exposes how easily oppression can be wrapped in a cloak of religiosity that blinds its adherents to injustice occurring all around them.” –The Historian

“Carolyn Renee Dupont’s examination of Mississippi white evangelicals’ fervent support of segregation during the 1950s and 1960s offers historians a fresh interpretation of the confounding paradox of God-fearing whites condoning and even participating in massive resistance. […] This book successfully challenges the reader to think beyond a variety of biases inherent in discussion of literature’s relationship with ethnic, regional, and national identities.”-The Journal of Southern History

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Opening the Gates to Asia

Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion, by Jane H. HongA Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion

In Opening the Gates to Asia, historian Jane H. Hong documents the struggle of Asian Americans and their allies to repeal racially discriminatory laws that excluded Asian immigrants from the United States. Hong reveals that this was not a singular campaign, but part of a prolonged movement. It was related, but distinct, from black civil rights efforts, and deeply intertwined with the United States’ interventionist policies abroad. Hong’s book shows how immigration to the United States has undergone a pivotal transition over the course of the twentieth century, ultimately rejecting the notion that the United States could only welcome white Europeans.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Jane Hong offers an impressive examination of the multiple forces that shaped America’s repeal of Asian exclusion, and adds depth and nuance to U.S. immigration history, braiding it with the history of U.S. diplomacy and civil rights. By investigating the dismantling of the Asian exclusion regime, Hong refines understandings about the United States’s growing internationalism and underscores its transpacific shift during the early twentieth century.”—Cindy I-Fen Cheng, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This book contains compelling analysis, astute observations, and a number of new and important sources. Hong makes intriguing and complex arguments while tracing the complicated transpacific struggle for repealing exclusion.”—Charlotte Brooks, Baruch College

Opening the Gates to Asia is a stunning and original work that offers a comprehensive analysis of how the United States liberalized its exclusionary immigration policy. Jane Hong emphasizes the significance of the global and the international by foregrounding U.S. empire (as it transformed from a formal to an informal one), the influence of Asian and Asian American political actors within an expansive geography, and a comparative understanding of civil rights and social movements. This book, based on extensive archival research, brings into conversation disparate fields of study to offer a transpacific analysis of the intertwining of U.S. imperial and immigration policies.”—Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, University of California, Irvine

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Book Award: Can I Get a Witness?

Can I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith & Justice has been selected for the 2019 Spirituality & Practice website’s 50 “Best Spiritual Books”. Discover the compelling stories of thirteen pioneers for social justice who engaged in peaceful protest and gave voice to the marginalized, working courageously out of their religious convictions to transform American culture.

These books are titles that have most impressed and inspired Spirituality & Practice during the year. Since they only review books that they want to recommend to their visitors for their spiritual journeys, this selection actually represents the best of the best. Through diverse approaches, drawing upon the wisdom and practices of the world’s religions, these titles explore the quest for meaning and purpose, wholeness and healing, commitment and community, contemplation and social activism.

Podcast

Can I Get a Witness? The Podcast is an audio companion to the book. In each episode of this podcast, we talk with one of our authors about the person they profiled for the book and about their writing process. The podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

For more on Can I Get a Witness?,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Natural Saints

Natural Saints: How People of Faith Are Working to Save God's Earth, by Mallory McDuffHow People of Faith Are Working to Save God’s Earth

There is a growing literature addressing the connections between American religion and environmentalism. In Natural Saints, Mallory McDuff, a professor of environmental education at Warren Wilson College, focuses readers’ attention on the specific case studies of religious people who have struggled to respond to climate change and ecological devastation. McDuff documents how churches, clergy, and laity have all found spiritual meaning in working to help save the environment. Using fieldwork and interviews, she chronicles how efforts as divergent as battles to end mountaintop coal removal in Kentucky and feed the poor out of church gardens in Wisconsin are deeply tied to the beliefs and theology of faith communities.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.