January 7, 2010
Andy Crouch (author of Culture-Making) recently wrote a review of Amy Julia’s book, Penelope Ayers: A Memoir:
The same words [funny, gritty, and strangely hopeful – just what a Christian memoir should be] could apply to the biggest surprise of my reading in 2009, a self-published memoir by Amy Julia Becker, Penelope Ayers. This book might seem to have everything against it. “Self-published” is usually another way of saying “self-indulgent.” The subject, the death of the author’s mother-in-law from cancer, is so common that … every editor has a pile of unusable manuscripts from people trying to capture the experience of accompanying a loved one through illness unto death. Usually they fall into unintentional clichés, sentimentality, and too much detail.
But Penelope Ayers is written with an unerring voice, a keen eye for hard and beautiful truth, and almost no false notes. Especially significant is the way that Amy Julia (whom I met this fall through a mutual friend) manages to weave honest reflections about faith into the story without in any way giving in to Christianese or insider platitudes. This is one book a Christian could give to a non-believing friend and say, “This is what it’s like to believe, from the inside.” We’ll be hearing more from Amy Julia Becker – perhaps, with any luck, in 2010.
To read the article in full, click here.
January 7, 2010
The New York Times reports this week that approximately six million Americans survive exclusively on the support provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps (Living on Nothing but Food Stamps). While scripture reminds us to “not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27, NIV), the records of the early church show that the apostles believed giving food assistance to those in need was a core component of the Christian life. Soon after Christ’s ascension, he apostles realized that they had been so busy distributing food to widows and children that they were neglecting the spiritual side of their ministry. Rather than ending their charitable work, they asked the group to “choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4, NIV). The legacy of these seven, known as the first deacons, persists in many Christian churches. May we remember that providing food to those in need is an essential witness of Christ’s presence in the world that is particularly needed today.
December 10, 2009
Jennifer Senior’s recent article, The Abortion Distortion assumes that all New Yorkers (or at least the vast majority of readers of New York Magazine) are pro-choice, and ardently so. She mentions the recent “devastating anti-abortion amendment to the House’s health-care-reform bill.” She lauds New York City as a place “where access to abortion is plentiful and unconstrained.”
It is because Senior assumes she is writing for a pro-choice audience that she goes beyond common pro-choice arguments to the complicated moral ground surrounding abortion. Senior interviews and observes real people dealing with the real, messy, heart-wrenching reality that having an abortion means ending a life. She relates that many abortion counselors and providers, “will tell you that the political discourse they hear about the subject, with its easy dichotomies and bumper-sticker boilerplate, has little correspondence with the messy, intricate stories of patients.”
It’s easy for the pro-choice movement to employ reductionist arguments that ignore the human cost of abortion. And it would be easy here to quote Bible passages to support pro-life positions. And yet, the article prompts similar reflection on the pro-life side of the debate. What are the complicated socio-economic, spiritual, and psychological realities that pro-life politics fails to appreciate? Psalm 68 declares:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families … NIV.
How might Christians, especially pro-life Christians, better understand the complicated, messy morality surrounding abortion? How might we be a part of God’s work to be father to the fatherless, to set the lonely in families?