Read and hear: recommendations from Presbyterian friends

January 20, 2017 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

What are you reading or recommend be read to survive and, even more, understand what’s going on today politically, economically, racially, and theologically?
I recently posted this question on Facebook, and received a tremendous number of responses from all across the country, from scholars, theologians, justice workers and friends. We have compiled below a list of books that they suggested below. People seem drawn the strongest to works that discuss racial division, class warfare and America’s treatment of the poor and oppressed.

Daily reading
For over a year now, I have been reading almost daily from theologian, pastor, and mystic Howard Thurman’s “Meditations of the Heart.” Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited is also formative for me.  You may remember Thurman as formative for Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m currently reading, and recommend, “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, a memoir about growing up poor in the Rust Belt, and “Blood Done Signed My Name” by Timothy B. Tyson, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and Grawemeyer Award winner.
I also recommend “Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader” co-edited by Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims. Sims recently described America as living in a post-11/9 world.  I couldn’t agree more. No matter where you are politically, we all woke up on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 to a different world with a new president-elect. The trauma was and is real and so is the need to recover and heal.

A healthy list
Here’s some of the input from the many, many who responded to my Facebook post and to the post on the Theological Education Fund Facebook page. Please tell us what is missing from this list and what you’d recommend.

  • MaryAnn McKibbon Dana, a noted author, says she’s reading Taylor Branch’s three-volume history of the civil rights movement, America in the King Years. “It will take me a year, probably, but this is a long-haul moment we’re in.”
  • Lander Bethel, pastor of Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church, Sherman, and First Presbyterian Church, Denison, Texas, is reading Thank you for Being Late by Thomas Friedman.
  • Jose Irizarry, vice president of education, Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), says, “Since you are asking recommendations from “those of us who still live in the reality-based community and must deal with a world convulsed by those who do not” (apt phrase from a review of the following book), I suggest the brief philosophical treatise by emeritus Princeton professor Harry G. Frankfurt fittingly titled “On Bullshit.” For a theological take go to Philippians 3:8 and read Paul assessment of his context when he states that for the sake of the Gospel of Christ he needs to consider those thinks worth dismissing as mere “skubala”…yes, he is pretty much in agreement with Dr. Frankfurt.”
  • Roy Howard, pastor, Saint Mark Presbyterian Church, Rockville, Maryland: “I’m reading “Race: A Theological Account” by J. Kameron Carter and “The Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection” by Rowan Williams. Our congregation will be reading “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” by James Cone in preparation for his presentation here on March 30.”
  • Vince Patton of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Louisville, Ky.: “In the past six or eight years I have made it a point to seek out books written by people who don’t think the way I do.”
  • Linda Jo Peters, retired PC(USA) pastor, Terre Haute, Indiana, tells us she is reading “Race in a Post-Obama America: The Church Responds” for a Presbytery-wide discussion. She is also reading, “God, Neighbor and Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good” by Walter Brueggemann, and “Politics the Wellstone Way: How to Elect Progressive Candidates and Win on Issues” by Wellstone Action.
  • Alison Wood, Site Coordinator, Tucson Borderlands Young Adult Volunteer Program and Coordinator, Unitarian Universalist Justice Arizona Network is reading “Dear White Christians” by Jennifer Harvey. She also recommends “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. “That book changed my life,” she says.
  • Michael Thompson of Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia: “We have a new habit at Columbia Theological Seminary of doing a “Big Read” together, followed up by discussion groups. This semester, we are reading “Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference,” by Warren St. John.”

We’ll share more with you in a future post as more suggestions pour in. Feel free to add to our list!