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    Editors’ Picks Issue 7

    By Sam Hine

    November 11, 2015
    • Conrad Goodwin

      But the book costs $16.00, several orders of magnitude greater than the $2.00 that it mentions.

    Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

    Nadia Bolz-Weber
    (Convergent Books)

    Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor, cares about people. That care shines through her book, in which she offers herself and her eclectic parishioners as evidence that Jesus indeed came for outcasts and misfits. A former alcoholic, she knows firsthand that “the power of unbounded mercy, of what we call The Gospel, cannot be destroyed by corruption and toothy TV preachers. Because in the end, there is still Jesus.” This Jesus loves everyone – addicts, teenage girls who cut themselves, overweight middle-aged white people, NRA enthusiasts, and Adam Lanza. She writes convincingly about taking part in a community in which repentance, confession, and absolution are real. And she leaves us with a challenge: do our lives and churches and friendships, in their breadth and boldness, bear witness to Jesus’ unconditional love for every person?

    Yet Bolz-Weber gets crucial things wrong. Not the tattoos, snark, and casual expletives that have, by design or not, made her a poster-pastor for hipster ­Christianity. The deeper problem is that, despite the countercultural packaging, her book actually sidesteps much of what’s truly subversive about Jesus’ good news – specifically, his challenge to “keep my commandments” and “take up your cross and follow me.” She hates it, she says, when Christianity gets sentimental. Yet isn’t that what’s happening when talk of freedom isn’t paired with a call to discipleship, or when, for example, she says she’s willing to marry Jim and Stuart? Too often, she ends up with an unthreatening, self-indulgent gospel that plays all too well in today’s culture.

    Despite these blind spots, Accidental Saints is a colorful reminder that, as Jesus promised, we’ll all be surprised at the sort of people entering the kingdom before us.

    book cover for accidental saints Accidental Saints
    Contributed By SamHine Sam Hine

    Sam Hine is an editor at Plough. He lives with his wife and five children in upstate New York.

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    $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

    By Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
    (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

    In 1996, with one stroke of the pen, President Clinton did away with Aid to Families with Dependent Children, effectively ending welfare as we knew it. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a US senator, had predicted that this would result in “children sleeping on grates, picked up in the morning frozen.” Dramatic words – but, as $2.00 a Day reveals, they are uncomfortably close to the truth, with 1.5 million American households, including three million children, now living below the two-bucks-a-day benchmark of extreme poverty.

    In the course of twenty years studying poverty, Edin began to notice just how many people were slipping through the safety net of government aid. In this book, she documents the desperate survival strategies of families in Chicago, Cleveland, Mississippi, and rural Appalachia who live a virtually cashless life, ineligible for, or unaware of, the emergency aid that is available.

    To take one example: after her marriage fell apart, Modonna, a high school graduate with two years of college, could only find a job as a cashier. She and her daughter were able to rent a one-room apartment and just get by. Then one day Modonna’s register came up $10 short and she was fired on the spot. The missing cash was later found, but Modonna wasn’t re-hired. Soon she and her daughter were homeless, going from shelter to shelter while she tried again and again for a job. (One thing people in this book have in common: they want to work but can’t find or keep a job.)

    At the end of their book, Edin and Shaefer offer practical suggestions for stopping this cycle of poverty. Let’s hope that enough of us are shocked and outraged by what they describe to take action.

    book cover with milk carton $2.00 a Day