Measurement keeps things real.

Read and Removed 2023 to date (4)

Chomsky, Noam. How the World Works. Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, 2012. Added 01.01.2023 – starting the New Year. (2)

I liked this book – in a way. I thought I learned a lot, but I felt sad and challenged, not in an easy way, by all that. Chomsky is optimistic, at least in a way; the book – a compilation of a number of shorter books written over several decades – ends on a note of encouragement. But the courage and self-sacrifice required for popular action, and the prospects for its success, certainly in the short term, do not seem to me to support anything we could call “optimism.” Maybe what William Sloane Coffin called “hope.” But as Coffin himself said, “I’m always hopeful.” That doesn’t have anything to do with the empirical evidence. Anyway, it definitely raises the question of what a person ought to do with their time. And that is not a comfortable one, for me.

Jones, Robert P. The End of White Christian America. Simon and Schuster, 2016. Added 01.01.2023 – celebrating the New Year. (3)

I would probably have liked this book much better if I hadn’t read Noam Chomsky’s How the World Works just before. I had, however. For that reason, Jones’ demographic data and analyses, focused so much on voting behavior as they are, seem likely to miss much of what an analyst like Chomsky would say is going on in the recent history of the United States. As a record of what is happening to public opinion and religious affiliation, the book is interesting. What it really means for politics in the United States, insofar as politics involves more than voting behavior, is less clear. That’s not to say that the loss of cultural hegemony of white Protestantism in the US is unimportant. From a secular perspective, it probably is; from an ecclesiological perspective, it undoubtedly is. But one also has to wonder whether it is a “bad” thing. Maybe cultural hegemony is the undesirable thing.

Pluckrose, Helen and Lindsay, James. Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody. Pitchstone Publishing, 2020. Added 01.01.2023 – celebrating the New Year. (1)

I didn’t like this book much. Probably something to do with my identity. Or my standpoint. Or my experience. Or my perception that “social power” is pretty objective, albeit thoroughly socially constructed. Maybe aggravated by my annoyance at writers who make abstract nouns like “postmodernism” or “liberalism” or “capitalism” the subjects of verbs that refer to things it takes individual human beings to do, like “believe,” or “think,” or “know.”

Stone, Howard W. and James O. Duke. How to Think Theologically. 3rd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013. added 03.13.2020 – cleaned out the storage locker (4)

This was an extraordinarily concise and valuable presentation of the essentials of theological reflection; a clear set of useful concepts; plus a nice argument in favor of making theological reflection a more regular, intentional spiritual practice, for more Christians.

woman dressed in peasant garb reading a large book with a pencil in hand

Images: “Antiquariat saint pierre de clages valais,” Lysippos, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; An image in the public domain – Paul Serusier, “La Grammaire,” 1892, Wikimedia Commons