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    book shelf stuffed with books

    Editors’ Picks Issue 23

    February 3, 2020
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    Disability and the Way of Jesus

    Bethany McKinney Fox
    (IVP Academic)

    If God created each of us in his image, what does it mean to pray for healing for someone whom God made with a disability? How can the way Jesus healed guide churches today to truly become communities of inclusion for everyone? Acknowledging that misguided theology and healing ministries have often hurt more than helped people with disabilities and mental illness, Fox nevertheless believes a richer understanding of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ healing ministry can provide an answer.

    A seminary professor and pastor, Fox has also served people with disabilities in a L’Arche community. In this book, she combines perspectives from doctors, pastors, anthropologists, ethicists, and biblical scholars with personal experiences of Christians living with various disabilities.

    With this range of voices, Fox helps us read the stories of Jesus in their cultural context and to recognize the biases of our own. A Western, individualistic, biomedical perspective focuses on the cure of a physical disease. But for Jews of Jesus’ day, his miracles of healing are much more: they reveal God’s power and presence. When his kingdom breaks in, not only do the blind see and the lame walk, but demons are cast out, sins forgiven, and formerly shunned people, whether lepers or sinners, are restored to their places at the table. Maybe those we have labeled and excluded are no more in need of healing than those of us who placed them there.

    The Fruit of All My Grief

    J. Malcolm Garcia
    (Seven Stories)

    The frontispiece quotes William Goyen: “My eyes often open up when I see a limping person going down the street. That person’s wrestled with God, I think.” That’s how Garcia helps us see people in these haunting true stories of Americans living on the edge of survival: A trucker hauling drugs to pay for life-saving surgery for his son. An immigrant construction worker seeking sanctuary in a church, where he waits in limbo. Two sisters wrongly convicted of armed robbery, struggling to reenter society when they are finally set free after sixteen years in prison. A homeless-looking octogenarian who sleeps on the floor and gives away all his money to worthy causes. A Marine corporal, battling his own demons, on a road trip to check up on each of his men who made it home from Iraq.

    Garcia delves into the inner lives of his subjects, channeling each person’s distinctive voice, unfiltered. We can hope the fruit of all this grief, now shared, will evoke not just outrage but also empathy and compassion.

    Inconspicuous Consumption

    Tatiana Schlossberg
    (Grand Central)

    Most of us know we should be doing more about climate change. But what? Many books on the topic emphasize science and policy, blaming the biggest offenders and leaving our future in the hands of governments and corporations that have the power, but not the will, to effect change.

    Several new titles make it personal, focusing on practical choices we can each make to reduce our footprint. While the intent is ostensibly to empower, to help us escape that feeling of helplessness, some seem more intent on spoiling our pleasure in the occasional bacon double cheeseburger.

    On balance, Schlossberg succeeds in leaving the reader more hopeful than helpless, more stirred than shamed. A reporter rather than an expert, she skims across four areas directly related to our habits: technology, food, clothes, and fuel. Everyone will learn something. Did you know the electricity needed to power the internet contributes more carbon emissions than global air traffic, or that about a third of household electric use is by appliances in sleep mode? She calls out cows, of course (it’s cow burps, not farts: 95 percent burps, 5 percent farts), but also the industrialization of crop farming, and the appalling fact that a third of food produced is never eaten.

    Knowing the environmental impact of our consumption is a first step toward change. In a world where those least responsible are most affected, that is a matter of loving our neighbors as ourselves. But reading between the lines, it remains clear that personal change, while right and good, will never be enough. It will take more than better consumers to turn this tide. Together we will have to envision and create a society and economy that make it possible for everyone to live lightly on the land.

    Signals

    Tim Gautreaux
    (Knopf)

    It’s not every day you discover an unheralded master of the short story. Most of Gautreaux’s are set in the left-behind towns of his beloved Louisiana Delta, a tough place to live and make a living. His characters are gritty and intriguing: a junk dealer, a childless exterminator, a typewriter repairman, a cook who “died and went to Vegas,” a brain-damaged priest.

    Then there’s Mrs. Arceneaux, whose would-be thief made the mistake of trying to “rob me like the government.” Mrs. Arceneaux and her five decrepit neighbors foil the thief with someone’s double-barreled shotgun and her own top dental plate.

    But such rough edges are suddenly backlit by redemption if someone turns that way. Before he is busted for DUI, an incompetent priest hears a confession that frees a soul, but the reader suspects the priest’s own soul is better off for his hilarious bungling of a good deed.

    Stories like these can make us better neighbors, reminding us of the inherent dignity and goodness in even the most undignified people, just waiting to be drawn out.

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