The Taser's Edge


Tuesday Reading Wrap-up 1 (a.k.a. Tuesday Reading Roundup 11 (a.k.a. Tuesday Reading Retrospective 1))

Due to the 2-hit combo of shrill popular request and common sense (a dramatization of that conversation can be found here), I decided to change the weekly preview to a weekly retrospective.

1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller–This book is divided into four books.  It starts out very promising, but now at 3/4 of the way through, I wonder if there is too much going on.  This is why I hate talking about books before finishing them and judging them before I finish them.  But, so you know what the convolutedness is about, Superman has shown up; the Soviets have launched a nuclear war with a bomb which also had an electromagnetic pulse, knocking out all America’s electronics (and thus her own launch capacities); and Superman has almost died because of the fact that the blast blocked out the sun.  Oh yeah, Batman is still around, getting shivved by the Joker and then getting rescued by the new Robin (who’s a girl!).

2. The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person by Tom Smail–Smail is (was?) a Church of England priest who had some very real charismatic experiences and then felt the need to write about the charismatic world theologically, in order to correct both the excesses of the non-denominational charismatic movement and the shortcomings of the larger Church in speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–Ha.  I finished it…at least the bulk of it.  It has a rather lengthy appendix attached, which I am inclined to read.  It took me forever, but I would still suggest you read it.

4. Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage by Diana S. Richmond and David E. Garland–The selection for this week is the final chapter of the book, “What God has Joined Together.”  As you might guess, it is a chapter on divorce, a very good chapter, indeed much better than the other resources we read for this week, apparently Divorce Week, in Esther Acolatse’s Christian Marriage and Family Across Culture.

5. Ending Marriage, Keeping Faith: A New Guide Through the Spiritual Journey of Divorce by J. Randall Nichols–I actually read the selections from this book before the last book, and I was really disappointed by it.  Nichols, I think, is purposely trying to push buttons of conservative Christians with chapters titled “Divorce is Not a Sin” and “Forgiveness Has Its Limits” (which, while they may not sound provocative to you, they certainly do in certain circles).  He then claims to set out to see “what the Bible really says” on the topic of divorce, but fails to do any real exegesis.  While I think that most people need to be shown how complicated the difficult parts of life really can be, Nichols mostly talks in generalities while claiming to talk in specifics about various Scriptures coming into contact with modern life.  As I already said, it’s disappointing.  All caregivers need to problematize life to show how complicated it really is; pastoral caregivers need to take no less trouble in respecting the complexities of Scripture.

6. “Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Church” by Michael G. Lawler–Lawler digs into canon law, Church history, and Scripture in order to argue for inconsistencies in the Roman Catholic Church’s views on marriage, annulment, and divorce.  It’s interesting, but only so compelling to me as an outsider.



Tuesday Reading Roundup 10: Madeleine L’Engle Edition

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle–Already read it way back when.  Read it again, and it is fabulous.  Far better than Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass/His Dark Materials series.  I think I’m going to have some kids just so I can read it with/to them.  I have mixed feelings about the fact that it seems unfilmable (despite the existence of at least one cinematic attempt).  Disappointed, because more people would get to know L’Engle’s creation.  Kind of glad, though, because I can pretend it’s my little secret, despite the fact that it won the Newbery Medal, sold millions of copies, and is read in classrooms across America.  Also, check out this 3-d image of a 5-d tesseract (those of you in the know know):

2. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle–So I’m hooked and also already read this one, too.  Three cheers for kything and farondalae!  But I have to wonder at the lack of tesseraction.

3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle–Third in the series, it is in my sights this week.  For some reason, while the first two books are shelved in the children’s section at Durham Downtown Library, this one is in the Young Adult section.  I assume it must have frank, sexual discussion or a teenage angst-filled Charles Wallace.  (Holden Caulfield plus telepathy: a deadly cocktail.)  Maybe after I read all the Madeleine L’Engle that exists, I’ll return to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain as well.

4. Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–I think you’ve heard of it by now.  I couldn’t swear to having read a single page last week.

5. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank MillerIn my three years as a graduate student at Duke, I have only requested that Duke buy two books.  (You know Duke has some serious money, since this is an option, despite the fact that most books people want are at least available through Inter-Library Loan.)  And the two books are…<drum pum pum pum roll>…this one and Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, the two comics most responsible for the Heath Ledger version of the Joker in The Dark Knight.  At least I know that a collections librarian is one person on this earth who has no room to judge me for my nerdiness.  Then there’s the fact that I only thought about requesting that Duke buy it after my friend Dave successfully requested that Duke buy the second half of the third season of Entourage (which, I will admit, is a darn good show by that point in its run).

6. Helping People Forgive by David W. Augsburger–Haven’t started it yet, but the title sounds descriptive.  The readings for Acolatse’s Marriage and Family class are amazing this week.  Christian healing and forgiveness, non-violent communication of anger, getting the local church to start talking/dealing with sexual abuse.  Terrific articles.

7. Random stuff from Kant, specifically his discussion of virtue.

Truly I’m back from Spring Break.  And truly I am checked out even more than ever.  Addicted to graphic novels, children’s novels, and computer games from my childhood.  My friend Samara told me today that we have 5 weeks of classes left.  Let’s see, on my schedule that makes…15 days of classes left.  Not going to help me stay involved.  I just need to divert my energy toward constructivity around the house instead of toward my ancient English civilization (which is now building railroads in 400AD, while destroying the Aztec and American civilizations simultaneously).

And then there’s my Application for Holy Orders.  It’s less fun than it sounds.



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 8

1. Cane by Jean Toomer–The back of the book quotes somebody saying, “Cane is an important American Novel.”  Personally, at just over half way through, it may well be great, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a novel.  Unless I’m missing something, which is possible, it’s more of a series of prose and poetry vignettes.  I began reading it months ago, and stopped in the middle.  I would like to finish it.  We shall see.  Spring “Reading Week” (Duke insists on not calling it Spring Break) is next week after all.

2. Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–Still plugging away at it.  Marvelous book, but I have nowhere in my normal scheduling to place a book which is neither wholly for pleasure nor for school, and it’s getting to the point that the tag cloud to the right of my site is making it seem like I read a ton of Schmemann.  Not the case, visitors.  I have read very little of him over a very long period of time.  That cloud is also over-the-top with Hauerwas.  I’ve read less than a book by him, too.  Y’all will be hearing from Schmemann throughout Lent, just as I seem to be.

3. Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix–I was supposed to have read the first half for last week and then to finish it off for this week.  Clearly neither of those things is going to happen.  But, the tiny bit I have read is quite interesting.  The guy actually is a trained psychologist, after all.  That’s Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. to you.

4. The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord by T.D. Jakes–I said last week that I was surprised by how much I liked the book.  That ended at about 35 pages in.  Questionable biblical exegesis, overly conservative gender assumptions and gender role assignments, and terrible prose.  That’s not to say that there aren’t good points in it, because there are many of them.  And I’m still not finished with it yet.  I have to write a review on this or Hendrix’s book for Wednesday.

5. Upside Down: The Paradox of Servant Leadership by Stacy T. Rinehart–Rinehart (surprise: he’s a dude) is coming to speak at this month’s Anglican Missional Pastor training thing, at which I have to preach.  Eep.  At least if I don’t like his book and he doesn’t like my sermon, it will be a nice trade-off.  Self-psychoanalytical moment: Why would I be approaching this book with such a negative attitude?  For one, the president of Moody Bible Institute provides praise on the back.  What has Duke done to me?  I never even slightly considered Moody myself, but I have been good friends with a couple really good people who went there, and I never used to despise that brand of Christian conservatism.  It (this stance in me) is ideological, and I don’t like it.  And now returning to Tuesday Reading Roundup…I do have some hope–I’ve had good luck with the couple NavPress books that I’ve read, this book is with NavPress, and Rinehart was a vice president with the Navigators as of the writing of the autobiographical blurb.

6. Supreme: The Story of the Year by Alan Moore–This one’s as close to a normal superhero comic as I’ve read since I got a free issue of X-Men at BagelFest as a kid (actually, it might have been Zack’s issue, and I think it talked about the importance of recycling), or perhaps that Power Team comic in which they fought a gang with lots of paperclips in their faces, and in which the Power Team won over evil by wielding a bulletproof Bible (the same version, The Sword, that the Power Team would sell you).  Anyway, that’s not to say that it’s normal at all.  Apparently Supreme was an existing superhero (according to Amazon, a super-violent rip-off of Superman) before Moore took over in 1996.  Moore reinvented Supreme as a new revision of the old character who has to travel to his past in order to recover from his amnesia.  As a new version of an old hero, this Supreme doesn’t know about his past, because it’s not his past, but the past of a different Supreme.  As Moore tells the story, the book alternates between sleek and shiny computer-aided graphics and a retro look from the thirties or forties.



Bright Sadness

“A journey, a pilgrimage!  Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the ‘bright sadness’ of Lent, we see–far, far away–the destination.  It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom.  And it is this vision, the foretaste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sadness bright and our lenten effort a ‘spiritual spring.’  The night may be dark and long, but all along the way a mysterious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon.  ‘Do not deprive us of our expectation, O Lover of man!'”

-Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, p. 15



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 7

1. The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 3 by Neil Gaiman–Thankfully, after a somewhat disappointing second volume, this one is possibly as good as the first.  Check your local library, although this is really probably good enough to drop the $60-70 on Amazon.  It makes me hope that whenever they start making films, they do it right.  I vote Guillermo del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron to direct.  Courtney, you should get Max to grab Volume 1 from Lilly Library.  For some reason, I think you might like it.

2. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–This thin volume will soon be finished, although I now doubt it will be finished before Lent begins tomorrow.  I feel like I get Lent, but I still don’t get Ash Wednesday.  I’ve still got 10 hours to figure it out, I suppose.

3. Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters by Elie WieselI haven’t actually started this book, but I randomly hoped that writing down that I was reading it would encourage me to read it.

4. The Lady, the Lover, and Her Lord by T.D. Jakes–Despite some ridiculous phrasing on Jakes’ part, at 25% through, I am surprising myself, but I actually like a lot of what Jakes has to say.  The fact that I have to read this book is what’s great about Dr. Esther Acolatse.  She has you read from all over the place–Karl Barth, the US Council of Catholic Bishops, T.D. Jakes, and the next author.

5. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix–This is a book along the lines of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.  Marriage/Self-help from somebody who is actually a psychologist.  Haven’t begun it yet, but I have to get halfway through by this time tomorrow afternoon (circa 2:14pm).

6. On the Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther–Short and to the point.  This is, I think, the third time I have had it assigned at Duke.  But I’ve never read it as a work in the virtue ethics tradition, so we’ll see how that goes.



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 6

1. Night by Elie Wiesel–As I told Holly last night, I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read this yet.  It’s so short and so good that I read most of it in one sitting last night.  I also have to admit that I thought it was an autobiographical novel and not a memoir.  You’ll notice, as I did, that this is the only non-Christian book I’m reading this week.  That’s part of the reason that I chose to pick it up.  Of course, it still has to do with religion.

2. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–Yes, I have started it.  And you will start seeing quotes from it in about a week or so.  I think I’m going to post something Lent-y each week (Wednesdays, maybe?) during Lent.

3. De Trinitate by St. Augustine–Okay, I only have to read chapters 5 and 6.  But, as much as I want to hate Augustine (and I’m not sure why, but perhaps sex and predestination), I love the guy.  I do think, however, (pretentious alert) that he could use some work on his understanding of the Spirit.  Give me more, Augustine, please.

4. Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman–Such a fantastic and wise man.  Tomorrow I’ll give you a lengthy quote to chew on.  Having read less than half of this book, I would recommend it to almost anyone half-interested in psychology, counseling, or their personal interactions with their families.

5. Treatise on the Virtues by St. Thomas Aquinas–Got to love him.  So much brain grinding.  So much grace of God working.

Honorable mention: The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 3 by Neil Gaiman–I put this on here because I doubt I’ll be able to stay away from it this week.  Even though Vol. 1 was much better than Vol. 2, I’m still going to give this an honest try.  The chances of it being read are also helped by the fact that I somehow (!?!?!?!) finished all my school readings for this week today.



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 5

Sometimes I find myself planning out blog posts just for the sake of blog posts.  For instance, this afternoon I thought about posting a couple short essays I wrote for Happiness, the Life of Virtue, and Friendship.  Then I realized, “No, that would be boring.”  So I spared you.  Yes, you’re welcome.

1. Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer–You already know some about this book if you read my posts about it last week.  What has been great about reading it is that my imagination has never been fired by the idea of church-planting.  Now it is.  I’m finding that I do find a lot of the ideas exciting and that my imagination has some room to run around in them.  The question in my context now: Why liturgical Anglican churches?  Can such churches truly meet unmet needs in communities in the US?  Again and again, this book points me to the need for a robust ecclesiology (theology of the church) as a prerequisite for church-planting.  I think Stetzer falls short (and I think that’s because he’s Southern Baptist).  I’ll need to hit the books to develop that further.

2. Christians Among the Virtues by Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Pinches–A familiar favorite.  This week–reading about Aquinas.  This has been a really good read and a useful secondary resource.

3. Putting on Virtue by Jennifer A. Herdt–Again, a repeat.  Again, for the same class–Virtue, the Life of Happiness, and Friendship with Hauerwas.  It, too, is a secondary resource for this week’s reading of Aquinas, but I haven’t yet cracked it.

4. Treatise on the Virtues by St. Thomas Aquinas–The man himself arrives.  I’ll be reading this for the next two weeks.  Hopefully all this virtue stuff in my Hauerwas class will start making sense (and coming more directly from the primary sources, something which it has as yet failed to do).  I still remember how confused I was the first time I tried to read Aquinas, with absolutely no instruction as to his organizational method, in undergrad.  Derrida was an easier read.  Now somehow Aquinas doesn’t seem as difficult, at least once I get into the rhythms of his organization.  Of course, the fact that it is Tuesday night and I have yet to start reading probably bodes ill for my finishing the assigned portion for this week.

5. Deliverance by James Dickey–Famous poet writes lauded novel which is made into Burt Reynolds/Jon Voight film.  It’s always annoying to pick up movie tie-in edition paperbacks, but this is a new low–bare-chested Burt is never a good thing.  Four friends set out on a wilderness adventure in north Georgia.  Things go horribly, horribly wrong.

6.  Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–Okay, so it’s a sham.  I’ll never start it, and I’ll always make it look like I read Orthodoxers.

7. Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman–A modern classic on family systems (is there any other kind of classic on family systems theory?) within church and synagogue.  I’m told it’s good.  I’ll find out tomorrow before class.

And as for tonight?

1. Walk Pru.

2. Finish the rest of Stetzer’s book.

3. Quickly clean up some houseness.

4. Watch a yet-to-be-determined movie with Dave and possible more folks.