Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Darfur: New Books

Just a quick word about some forthcoming books on an important issue in an important place in important times:

John Prendergast and Don Cheadle, Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond.

Prendergast will be speaking in Houston on Monday. I'll report on it later. In the meantime, read more about Prendergast here, here, and here.

Journalist Eric Reeves will publish A Long Day's Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide soon. Find out more here and read the Preface by John Prendergast.

Though published, here is another important book on Rwanda and Sudan.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

All About Books

Rod Garvin tagged me back in August, and so here are my responses -- finally:

One book that changed your life: Jim Marrs’s Crossfire:The Plot that Killed Kennedy. While some call Marrs’ work “conspiracy theory,” I read this book as a high school senior because I wanted to know more about the Kennedy Assassination. I wasn’t satisfied with the “official” story. Reading this book whet my appetitie for the inquisitive historical investigation to which I’ve devoted my professional life. Looking back eleven years later, it also oriented me to begin to read history from alternative vantage points, what you might call history from below.

One book you've read more than once: Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselevs to Death. The late Neil Postman helped me to better understand the powerful role media shapes and influences both individual and collective thought. I’ve never watched television the same since.

One book you'd want on a desert island, besides the Bible: James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, edited by Toni Morrison. This is what I’d call my “Baldwin Bible.” Reading James Baldwin I’ve discovered he knows me better than I know myself, many times, and his pointed honesty calls me to be more authentic.

One book that made you laugh: Anything related to The Far Side by Gary Larson and Paul Lewis’s Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict. I’m chuckling even as I write.

One book that made you cry: Timothy Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name. This powerful story of racial violence brought me to tears, while the redemptive end to the book prompted me to sob with hope.

One book you wish had been written: A solid social and cultural history, an ethnographic study of contemporary megachurch ministers – a book I’m working on right now with a fellow scholar. Also, a book that offers a template for race reconciliation that follows the traditional Christian year (Lent, Pentecost, Advent, etc.) – a book a friend and I are working on.

One book you wish had never been written: Hmmm…..I’ll have to think about this one.

One book that you've been meaning to read: Charles Marsh’s The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today. I've browsed some parts of it, but need to read it more closely.

One book that you are currently reading: Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder.

Alright, Jasie and LK, you are now it!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Remembering Emmett Till

In addition to an assignments on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carter G. Woodson, and several other activities, during Black History Month (and at other times during the academic year) I spend some time talking about Emmett Till. Since I teach high school students, I find that Till's story hits my students in deep and profound ways since they are around the age Till was when he was brutally murdered in August 1955.

The screening of Keith Beauchamp's stunning documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Till coincided with my unit on Till last year, and a number of my students went to the screening and later wrote critical essays on the film for extra credit. (Read about another important documentary here.)

I'll be showing Beauchamp's documentary in my classes this year, and will use Christopher Metress's The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary History to follow the story along through primary documents.

Here's a poem about Till, a great web resource and labor of love devoted to Till, and here Cornel West weighs in.

Till's blood still cries out for justice, and I hope my students will learn to listen. More later.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Western White Captivity of the Christian Church

On January 29, Soong-Chan Rah, the Milton B. Engebretson Assistant Professor of Church Growth & Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, spoke at Wheaton College's chapel service.

The title of his talk was "White Privilege," and out of Acts 15 he diagnosed the critical issue for the (evangelical) church -- western white captivity. Citing the demographic changes afoot in America and in the Christian church as a whole, Rah issued a critical wake-up call to those slumbering in the warm, cozy caves of Euro-American whiteness.

According to Rah, this white western captivity shows up in areas areas of biblical interpretation and understandings of the self and society, and thus, to borrow a phrase from Cornel West, adopt the "normative gaze" of white Euro-American culture.

The essence of the Christian message, Rah argued, is about reconciliation, restoration, and unity; the Cross reconciles division, restores dis-union, a draws all peoples together.

Listen here.

At his Xanga site Rah also mentions this about Urbana 2006:

"Easily, the most impressive talk I heard was by Pastor Oscar Muriu. Amazing. This talk is long, long overdue at a major mission conference. It's way past time to realize that "missions" in the 21st century is more likely to be the Christian South/East (i.e. Asia, Africa and Latin America) evangelizing the "mission field" of Europe and North America."

Rah then offers two quotes from Muriu:

1. "To drink from the cup of Western theology is to drink from a poisoned chalice."

2. "The African church knows that it needs the American church. How does the church in North America need the African church?"

Listen to Oscar Muriu's talk here. He is the pastor of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya.

I wish I heard more messages like this. I'm listening....