While commentators right and left wring their hands over the decline in reading, here at B&C we have another problem. We know you're already converted. But there are so many books we want to tell you about, and not enough room in our pages (not to mention space in the editor's office). Hence the annual roundups of the year in books which we have offered for several Decembers now. This year, we are adding a new feature: a three-part midyear book report, beginning this week.
First, two books about marriage. Independently of each other, B&C and its sister publication, Christianity Today, planned a number of articles on marriage (the B&C package will appear in our September/October issue, now at the printer). No surprise there. The subject has been in the news. And books on marriage, of course, are a staple of the publishing industry, secular and Christian: there are literally hundreds to choose from just among the new arrivals.
It's remarkable, then, that from that enormous range of materials both B&C and CTagain, acting independentlychose to run excerpts from the same book: David P. Gushee's Getting Marriage Right: Realistic Counsel for Saving & Strengthening Relationships (Baker). Remarkable, too, that both publications interviewed University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands was published this spring by University of Chicago Press. Maybe those books are worth a closer look. Either or both, I think, could serve as the point of departure for a timely Sunday school class or book group.
In the churches I attended as a boy, we said the Lord's Prayer every Sunday. That seems to be less common in evangelical churches these daysand indeed, we rarely pray the Lord's Prayer in the church where Wendy and I have been members since coming to the Midwest ten years ago, Faith Evangelical Covenant in Wheaton. Wendy and I still say the prayer every morning and night, as part of the daily readings from the prayer book we use, The Divine Hours.
Three new books on the Lord's Prayer offer the opportunity to think more deeply about its riches. Lorraine Kisley's The Prayer of Fire: Experiencing the Lord's Prayer (Paraclete), is a wonderful introduction. As the subtitle suggests, this is a book that emphasizes practice. It would make a good gift for young Christians who have recently begun to practice set prayers, perhaps having come from a tradition where such prayers are regarded with suspicion or simply ignored altogether. A very different sort of approach can be found in The Lord's Prayer: A Text in Tradition, by Kenneth W. Stevenson (Fortress), which surveys the history of interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, not only in the Western church but also in the East. And speaking of the Eastern church, the last of this cluster is a new-old book, a beautiful little volume from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press: On the Lord's Prayer, gathering meditations on the prayer by Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen.
Switching gears with a lurch, we move to the realm of politics. If you are so sick of the rhetoric surrounding the presidential election and the issues allegedly at stake that you don't want to hear another word about it, I don't blame you. Otherwise, I hope that you will take a look at One Electorate Under God? A Dialogue on Religion and American Politics, edited by E.J. Dionne, Jr., Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Kayla M. Drogosz (Brookings). For starters, you might turn to Mark Noll's provocative contribution, "Voting Not to Vote," in which he explains why he hasn't voted for president in the last few presidential elections and probably (indeed, "almost certainly") will not do so this November, either.
This completes the first installment of our three-part midyear report. We'll be back with more books next weekincluding some strong candidates for the year-ending Top Ten, as well an early leader for The Worst Book of the Year.
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Books & Culture Corner appears every Tuesday. Earlier editions of Books & Culture Corner and Book of the Week include:
Rediscovering 'Husbandry' | What Colonial farmers have to teach us about living with the land. (Aug. 03, 2004)
China's Spiritual Hunger | The lessons of Falun Gong (July 27, 2004)
Ambiguous Redemption | A riveting memoir by the author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. (July 20, 2004)
Tending the Garden | Evangelicals and the environment. (July 07, 2004)
How the Monster Grew | A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian looks at the origins of modern media. (July 05, 2004)
Wasn't That a Mighty Fall | Martha Stewart, VeggieTales, and Narnia revisted. (June 29, 2004)
Insect Theodicy | Who sent the locusts? And who exterminated them? (June 22, 2004)
Telling Lies, Telling Stories | Lars Saabye Christensen's The Half Brother reveals imagination as escape. (June 15, 2004)
The Art of Political War | A veteran columnist urges his fellow liberals to take a lesson from those nasty conservatives. (June 07, 2004)
Thou Shalt Not Swap | The uses and abuses of copyright. (May 24, 2004)
Mystery and Message | Must they compete? (May 10, 2004)
Celebrating Faith in Writing | A dispatch from Calvin College's biennial event. (April 26, 2004)
Shabbos, Sheitels, and Yarmulkes | A novel set in the world of Orthodox Judaism. (April 19, 2004)
The Naked City | The story of the 1977 blackout in New York-the occasion of widespread looting and destruction-has some surprisingly timely lessons for America in 2004. (April 19, 2004)
A Curious Contingency | Confessions of a wordsmith. (April 05, 2004)