Review of Tom Sine’s Live Like You Give a Damn!

Tom Sine’s Live Like You Give a Damn!:  Join the Change Making Celebration is an introduction to social entrepreneurship and community empowerment for the moribund congregation unaware of these things.  The book is not for anyone already aware and involved.  Sine believes these movements are in differing ways expressions of God’s reign. Yet for a book that wishes to awaken within these congregations the alternative vision of reality of the kingdom of God, there is little critical analysis of what he presents in relation to a concrete theological vision of the reign of God., While I agree with the author a great deal both in the social entrepreneurial field and especially the community empowerment field are signs of the movement of the Spirit and movement towards the reign of God, but at times the author seems to believe that capitalism as such is the engine of God’s work in the world.

I can see that it would have been difficult for the author to balance his desire to encourage congregational engagement with social entrepreneurship and at the same time sustain a certain critique of the underlying system. Again, I’m aware this book wasn’t addressed to me, nor my own concerns.  However, even recognizing this the author seems to equate most any change with the reign of God, thus discerning what may or may not be of God and the spirit and sign of God’s reign in our midst is absent from his vision.

I was particularly encouraged by the authors various accounts of community empowerment.  And what he chose to recount in the realm of social entrepreneurship certainly bodes well for our future, and gives reason for optimism.  Yet, although he spoke of having an alternative vision of the reign of God, Sine is fairly vague about what the reign of God might look like and where it might lead us. Such that in the end the reign of God looks remarkably like reformist neo-liberal capitalism, in which for profit enterprise (now oriented towards making a profit while also working for the common good) and the need for investors who will get a return on their investment, remains the prominent engine for change.  As I see it the Gospel and the reign of God remain a challenge to both social entrepreneurship and community empowerment.  While Sine encourages a great deal of dreaming and expressing our vision for there is little talk about discernment, or any sense that that not all change is necessarily for the better or even that all change even if for the better isn’t necessarily the in breaking of the Beloved Community.  As I read I was seeking some clear articulation of vision of the Gospel and the reign of God, that Sine saw as what should form us as the people of God. The sense I get from the book is more the mind set of a reformist capitalism and that social entrepreneurship should form us as the people of God, because of Sine’s conviction that God was at work in these things (which I think he’s correct, but we only can know that if we have a clear sense of end goal of the reign of God, and some sense of who we are to be as the body of Christ.  I would assert that if we engaged in this sort of discernment the Body of Christ would be in a better position to recognize moments when the Spirit is at work in the world and when the reign of God pops up in the midst of the world.  From the perspective of the Gospel the people of God are called to not seek the benefit of others and change the world for the sake of our own monetary and material benefit rather the Gospel and the reign of God, challenges us to give up these motives, for the benefit of others at times at the cost of our own wealth and benefit.  This requires more than a desire to make a profit and make money in an ethical way, but the abandonment for profit and wealth accumulation.

For the moribund Christian congregation who desires something more but is stuck and unsure how to move forward and let go of past forms of congregational life that no longer makes sense, this book could be a good catalyst for getting out of a moribund rut.  Even for such a congregation the book is only a beginning point.  Yet, the book lacks one needed component, and that is the articulation of the mind of Christ, and vision of the reign of God, that even challenges the good of social entrepreneurship.  If you or your congregation are already aware of various movements of change in the fields social entrepreneurship and community empowerment this book is not for you.  If you or your congregation wish to become aware of these fields and desire some aid in thinking through orienting your congregational life towards such movements this book may serve that purpose and could put a fire into some in the congregation, but it would need to be supplemented with a good resource on the radical nature of the Gospel and some extensive theological reflection on the nature of the kingdom of God. Without these supplements I find Sine and this book caught up to much in a theology of Change that isn’t necessarily an articulation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

New Changemakers
Mustard Seed Associates
Tom Sine interview on the Future of the Church
Tom Sine on Facebook
Tom Sine on Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

The Intellectual Life of Bonhoeffer: A review of Strange Glory

A Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh brings to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography some previously unknown tidbits, and a well-documented and academic account of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the theologian.  The work is thoroughly documented and has extensive footnotes and bibliography.  If one is looking for a place to begin some research into the life and or ideas of Bonhoeffer, this biography is a great resource.  If , however, one is looking for a biography of Bonhoeffer that is engaging and a good read, as with many academic oriented writings, Strange Glory isn’t such a biography.

Strange Glory in keeping with its academic tone and thoroughness focuses upon Bonhoeffer’s intellectual and theological development.  Frequently, Marsh writes extensive summaries of theologians and other intellectuals with whom Bonhoeffer had contact of whom Marsh believes had influence upon Bonhoeffer.  This almost leaves portions of the biography feeling like an intellectual history of early twentieth century Western theologians, intellectuals, and activists. Thanks to this Life I have Marsh’s sense of Bonhoeffer’s place in 20th century Western theology.  Yet I feel this intellectual and academic focus misses a great deal of who Bonhoeffer was.

As Marsh admits Bonhoeffer was not only a person of ideas and intellectual pursuits but a social and extroverted person with many talents, music, sports etc.  Marsh takes little time to show us Bonhoeffer in his social environment, or to give us a sense of what it might have been like, for instance,  for Bonhoeffer to participate in ecumenical conferences just before and during the Kirchenkampf.  There are of course other Life’s of Bonhoeffer that give us these things, it’s just that without them Marsh’s life of Bonhoeffer is dull reading at frequent points.  Informative but dull.

After Reading Strange Glory: a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I feel ready to delve into the scholarship of Bonhoeffer.  This Life provides a way to ground research into Bonhoeffer’s theology in his development as a theologian and the climate at the time of those writings.  However, I don’t feel I know Bonhoeffer better as a person, nor did I find this life of Bonhoeffer inspiring or moving.  Strange Glory doesn’t even offer new insight nor further reflection on the person of Bonhoeffer.  This is a great resource for those outside of the academy (and Bonhoeffer scholarship) who may want some means to begin their own research into Bonhoeffer and have that research grounded in the sitzen im leben of any particular work of Bonhoeffer’s.  However, if one is looking for inspiration or deeper insight into the person of Dietrich Bonhoeffer there are far better biographies, and if you are willing to slog through a tome Bethge’s biography remains best read in this regard.

Interview with Charles Marsh

Charles Marsh is professor or religious studies at the University of Virginia and the director of The Project on Lived Theology

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.


Sacramental Politics: A Review

In Sacramental Politics: Religious worship as political action, Brian Kaylor explores the various ways religion and politics commingle, focusing on acts of worship and political activism.   The book presents a problem: Two things that don’t go together and we think of as separate and radically different things do in fact often come together, religion and politics. Religious worship can influence and affect politics and politics can effect religious worship.  Given the dominant view of religion and politics that they are two irreconcilable and separate realms, Kaylor offers a theory of how to account for the times that religious worship and political action and activism do come together and commingle.  His theory for how this occurs uses the doctrine of transubstantiation as a  controlling metaphor as he explores this commingling of religion and politics varying from prayers said at Democrat and Republican party conventions to Shane Claiborne’s 2008 Jesus for President tour.

At first Kaylor’s uncritical acceptance of our current beliefs and assumptions about religion and politics was disorienting.  At first it seems that Kaylor merely accepts the assumption that politics and religion are entirely separate spheres that have (or should have) nothing to do with each other while seeking to give an account of the many and varied ways religion and politics do in fact have a great deal to do with each other.  This apparent acceptance of this view, affirmed that religion and politics really were these two absolutely distinct substances that couldn’t naturally commingle, yet the author also seemed to want to give a positive or at last neutral account of the transubstantiation of politics in worship and worship in politics.  It was difficult to tell in the early chapters whether Kaylor was arguing that this “transubstantiation” was something to avoid that violated the clear and true realms of political and religious activity, or if the author was meaning that religious worship had a relevance to the world and politics and thus “transubstantiation” was the way this was allowed to occure.

The first four chapters given the acceptance of our general assumption that religion and politics should be and are separate and irreconcilable things, seems to critique the ways both the religious left and religious right make use of  transubstantiation.  Though, Kaylor’s stance is one of academic and scientific description of what occurs without judgement.  Also, I had the unease of if one accepts the absolute separation, then religion and worship are meaningless activities that can have no relation to any real action in the world political or otherwise. By the fifth Chapter “Religious Worship as Political Space” the transubstantiation theory begins to be an indirect critique of the assumptions about religion and politics the author seemed to accept as a given.

Chapters 6 and 7 get to the heart of Kaylor’s position: “Religious worship as inherent Political Action” and “Relgious worship as Politics.”  For Kaylor there is no way to actually separate out religion and politics, politics will at moments simply be transubstantiated in religion or worship and religion and/or worship will be transubstantiated in politics.  However, Kaylor believes we should be aware of how and when this occurs and shouldn’t accept all instances of this transubstantiation

Sacramental Politics offers a good and extended reflection on the various ways that religion and politics interact, mix together and influence and participate in each other.  His theory of “transubstantiation” is useful only in the rhetorical structure of the book that seeks to undermine our assumptions about the absolute and impenetrable “wall of Separation” between religion and politics that if it were true would render religion and worship to be a merely meaningless private individual subjectivity that would have no effect or consequence for how one would live their daily life.  And would render politics as a realm that any true person of faith couldn’t enter into as a person of faith.  What Kaylor in the end offers is a way to move beyond our current assumptions and dogmas about the separation of religion and politics offering a way to evaluate and critique any particular instance of the commingling of religious worship and political action. However, I’d argue since the “theory” presented in the book functions more as a rhetorical device to avoid a direct critique of our cultural and societal assumptions and dogmas, for Kaylor or anyone to move forward one would need to leave the author’s theory behind.

On the Web:

Brian Kaylor

Brian Kaylor on Twitter

Biran Kaylor on Facebook

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

A Nice Indian Boy: A Rich and Savory Play

Rasaka Theatre’s current production is the Midwest premier of Madhuri Shekar’s A Nice Indian Boy, Running through March 8 at Victory Gardens..  Full disclosure my wife Kate Setzer Kamphausen is the Costume Designer for the production

A Nice Indian Boy is a poignant family comedy that explore the meaning of love marriage, gender, ethnicity and the adaptation and transmission of tradition.  We the theater goer are simply dropped into an episode in the life of an Indian immigrant family.  The mother and father (Megha Gavaskar and Artchit Gavaskar) were born and married in India and then immigrated to the U.S where they had and have raised their two children (Arundhathi and Naveen) in the San Francisco Bay area.  We meet this family as the son  Naveen (the youngest of the two children) has met and is in a serious relationship with his boyfriend, Keshav.

On the day Naveen has planned to introduce Keshav to his parents his sister, who lives in New York, shows up unannounced and without her husband.  In this scene tensions mount in both hilarity and painful to watch misunderstanding and retrenchment.  Arundhathi, reveals that she has felt pressured into the marriage her parents arranged (as their marriage was arranged) and is resentful of how they now seem so accepting of her brothers not only choosing whom he will be with but that he is bringing home a boy.  the boyfriend is both more Indian than Indian and not what Archit and Megha expected.

As a comedy the rest of the play works out these tensions as characters wrestle with love, family acceptance and how to maintain ethnic identity and traditions.  Resolution comes as it becomes apparent that tradition and identity are more fluid, richer and more complex than we may at first perceive, especially when we feel that identity threatened by the unexpected.

A controlling trope through which the play works out these tensions is cooking.  Rasaka’s production of the play draws out how even the structure of the play progresses like a meal being cooked.  At the beginning of the play the members of this family are all very distinct and separate.  It was almost hard to see what their family life was like.  The distinct and sharp character traits of each individual character is up front, like the separate ingredients of a dish as one gather’s up all the ingredients for a meal or dish.  Over the course of the play the characters slowly blend and aspects of their characters that stood out against others blends with and heightens traits of other characters, like a well cooked dish where each ingredient is recognized but not as itself but in its interaction with other flavors and textures.

Cooking also is central to the story as both Achit and Keshav, love to cook.  Both are men, and slowly it is revealed that Megha doesn’t cook and hasn’t cooked for the entirety of their marriage except for the first week when she ruined every dish she cooked, and one night woke to her new husband cooking in the kitchen. She and her husband had a feast of food he cooked, and Megha hasn’t cooked since.  Archit though is very particular of following his mother and grandmothers recipes, yet when it came to the recipe of marriage and gender roles in marriage, Archit and Megha have already changed up the ingredients.

The play ends happily and with the family having become comfortable with the tensions and more aware of how one can play with the recipe and yet still have the same dish.  However, all isn’t resolved.  We leave them to live out their lives.  A Nice Indian Boy  leaves the audience savoring and ruminating upon the complexity and richness of ethnic identity and traditions.

Theology From Exile – Volume II – The Year of Matthew : A Review

Theology From Exile is a commentary series on the Revised Common Lectionary by Sea Raven.  Each Volume takes one year in the three year lectionary cycle.  Volume I goes through year C in the three year cycle or as the commentary calls it the “Year of Luke.  We are Currently in Year A, the year of Matthew so as I’ve read through this commentary I’ve been pay particular close attention to the entries for the end of Easter and this Sunday Trinity Sunday, as I’ve been preparing my sermons.

I begin with a caveat: I no longer make use of commentaries in my sermon preparation.  I haven’t for a number of years.  My disillusionment and eventual disregard for the commentary started in my seminary preaching courses.  At first I dutifully read the text, consulted the Biblical Scholarship and got ahold of as many commentaries as I could get my hands on.  This process my preaching professor assured me hindered my preaching, and I had to admit that for the purpose of preaching commentaries could always only provide the backdrop for my personal understanding of the text but not really enter into the sermon itself.  The problem with commentaries is that they are either too specific and detailed or too general, or they attempt to be both.  Now I only consult a commentary when I feel I need a refresher in the basic scholarship around the text, or have a particular problem or conundrum in the text relating to the topic of my sermon that I need help from a scholars in resolving.

Over all I like the idea of a commentary on the Lectionary.  Sea Raven in Volume II The Year of Matthew sets the texts, the scholarship and the choices of the Lectionary into the context of the Sunday and Season in which the Biblical texts are assigned.  Many I think will find such an arrangement and reflection helpful in preparation of sermons.  Also, for those who are seeking  a way that contemporary scholarship like that of the Jesus Seminary, and Dominic Crossan might preach, this commentary provides a possibility, (I’ve preached in conversation with Crossan and I’d have written a very different commentary).

In the end like all commentaries this one has it’s limits.  The limits of the Year of Matthew are it’s dismissal of most of historic Christian interpretation of the texts and the Dogma of the Church.  Not surprisingly as the author is a Unitarian/Universalists, trinitarian theology is dismissed.  Also exactly why I should be paying attention to Jesus of Nazareth and the texts of the Bible at all is never really made clear.  At moments one could read some entries as seeing some claims of incarnation, and “kenosis” is key to the interpretations provided in the commentary, but there seems to be shrinking back from any sort of actuality to the kenosis, which all remains a bit in the realm of ideas.  Like many commentaries one gets the views of the scholar but not always much insight into the meaning of the Scriptures themselves.

For a variety of reasons I’ve found the commentary disappointing. Though that is also not surprising since I long ago found commentaries a necessary but disappointing genre.  The Theology From Exile series and Volume II The Year of Matthew are particularly disappointing though because I feel that the idea of a commentary on the RCL engaging contemporary scholarship and Tradition could have produced something quite amazing.  As it is Sea Ravens narrow sense of contemporary scholarship that excludes a the opinions of a number of contemporary scholars who apparently are simply too close to traditional interpretations to be of interest or to be taken seriously.

If your looking for a commentary with the attitude of John Shelby Spong and that will show you how to preach from the scholarship of Dominic Crossan and the Jesus Seminar this is the commentary for you.  However, if your looking for a wider perspective or actual engagement with the history of interpretation of these texts, this is not the commentary for you.

Theology from Exile — Amazon

Theology from Exile — GoodReads

Sea Raven — Blog

Sea Raven — Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.



Compelling Atheists in a Flat World of Faith: Cross Examined, A Review

Cross Examined: An unconventional spiritual journey by Bob Seidensticker is a novel about a young man in his late 20’s who is a new convert to Christianity who has been taken under the wing of a pastor of a rapidly growing church, with a ministry for apologetics.  A series of events surrounding the great San Francisco earthquake that appears to have been predicted by the pastor, leads the protagonist on a journey of questioning and doubt partly bound up with a secret past.

The Novel begins some months before the  San Francisco earthquake on April 18th 1906, during this same period the Azusa Street Revival were beginning in Los Angeles.  It is also the time of prominence for Democrat populist politician William Jennings Bryan.  Yet the historic landscape is a world devoid these two very significant realities, the Azusa Street revivals and the life and political career of William Jennings Bryan.  One keeps waiting for some mention, some recognition that this would have been in the consciousness of anyone in this time in American history and yet, though this apologist pastor offers a sign and wonder, the forms of Christianity that actually lived in the realm of signs, wonders and prophecy’s don’t exist.  And the Democrat Christian Fundamentalist Politician of William Jennings Bryan and the Democratic Party of which he was a part also does not exist.  This compromises what is in other ways is a novel with some really compelling characters, the Atheist Emerson, and the Abbot of a Buddhist monastery in Near San Francisco.

When the pastor seeks to run for political office, the author seems to assume that a person of faith would seek out the Republican party, but this fails to take into account that the Democratic party was the home of the populist fundamentalist Christian William Jennings Bryan .   The other shortcomings of the novel is that the only believable and truly sympathetic characters are those who aren’t Christian or who are in the process of questioning or losing their faith.  The best characters in the novel are the atheist Emerson and the Buddhist Abbot.   I did not find a convincing description of anyone with what I would consider true faith.  No one with the exception of Mrs. O’Brien (who isn’t the most fleshed out of characters)  even comes close to being described as having a faith that is  a relationship with God.  I understand that an atheist author may interpret such an experience of faith and God as delusional, but to describe most faith as merely ascent to belief without an actual experience of having relationship with a god (even if that relationship isn’t real) is a failure of imagination and willingness to enter religious experience.   These two failures of imagination undermined the author’s tale.

In the end this novel would have been better written as a type of memoir of contemporary events and spiritual journey into and out of ossified Christian faith in the late 20th Century early 21st century.  The early 20th century was an odd setting for the sorts of Christianity that the author wished to take aim.  The late 20th century is really the Christianity he was seeking to describe, and the author of the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, seems to be the type of Christian pastor celebrity found in the novel.  The Author seems to project on early 20th century Christianity the ossified faith of the late 20th century and early 21st century American Religious Right.  This anachronism is compounded by the failure  to imagine compelling people of faith. The author fails to imagine that  people of faith actually experience a relation to divinity.  In Cross Examined faith is merely depicted as the adherence to a set of beliefs about the world,  Rather, than imagining  people of faith  who actually experience a connection with the divinity they believe in.  An atheist, may assume that such experience is some form of delusion, but to depict all people of faith as having no experience of a relationship to divinity is to fail to understand the nature of religious experience.  The author was unable to imagine both an accurate historical context and any person of genuine faith.

I suppose I found Bob Seidensticker’s novel about as believable and he finds Christian faith.  Which is disappointing since with a little imagination, he could have presented a very genuine and unsettling encounter between faith and atheism.   What we are left with though is the world of the novel as mere backdrop for his mostly flat characters, who are foils for his atheist heroes, whom I really liked as people.  If only the novel had been  populated with more believable human beings.

Bob Seidensticker’s Patheos Blog

Cross Examined on Kindle

An article on Bob Seidesticker in Seattle Met


Review of Juxtaposed : A Memoir that Offers Hope

Daisy Rain Martin’s memoir Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside, is brilliant, funny, hopeful, and heartbreaking.  Daisy Martin’s story is one of triumph over horrible abuse as a child.  Martin’s story can offer hope to those who come from similar situations of abuse and for those of us who have or are walking with survivors of abuse.

Martin’s story is one of survival and recovery from abuse as a child.  Her story is of how church, family and even her mother colluded with her abuser.   It’s also a story of faith and of how God can reach through even the most horrific of life circumstances.  Daisy Rain Martin’s faith shines through though she admits it unconventional.  Though from my perspective it is simply faith that is based not on the externals of churchiness and religious practice but one who is known by God.

Her story is how God and Jesus broke through the false religiosity of her home life, and lead her into an authentic faith. Martin in one point describes the world of her nuclear family and her abuser.  Satan and Jesus were prominent figures in that family as real as her siblings, mother and “stepfather” ( whom she calls throughout the book “stepmonster”, never for obvious reasons ever able to give him the name of father or dad.) Satan in this world is the one with the immediate and obvious power, Jesus is kind of a wimp, an all-powerful incompetent.  Oddly enough she doesn’t dismiss the existence of this Jesus, only suggest the imposter nature of this one named Jesus, very different from his doppelgänger with whom she has a heart to heart with about God’s and his lack of intervention.  God and Jesus never answer her question.  But the real Jesus lac of intervention is not one of incompetence.  The beauty of this as I see it is that it satisfies no one.  She refuses to play the game of theodicy.  Martin isn’t interested in doing God justice or seeking to defend or accuse God.  Nor does she ever let Jesus or God off the hook.  Her resolution is that God and Jesus aren’t her personal protection, and yet with God and jesus she is safe.

This is one persons story, told with authenticity and humor.  Juxtaposed is the result of a long journey much pain and much healing that has come in what many will consider unconventional and even unspiritual ways.  yet it is a story full of joy, hope and God’s love.  Daisy Rain Martin is a hoot, and her story gave me hope.  She tells of a moment when God met her in the words of stranger that one day from her would flow streams of water, she has taken that and speaks of pouring out hope.  Of course the words spoken to her were the words Jesus spoke to the Woman at the well, and is what Jesus speaks to all, the promise that from within us can spring a never-ending stream of living water.  If such a stream can spring up within the life of Daisy Rain Martin it surely can spring up anywhere, and there is hope.

I can’t give Juxtaposed the justice it is due in what I write here.  There isn’t anyone who shouldn’t read this book (except for children as a disclaimer says at the beginning of the book) Martin even warns the reader when she goes into details that one need not and may not want to read.  You will laugh.  You will cry. You will ask questions and find no answers.  You will see  in her story bits of the stories of so many you have known.  There are few answers but there is hope.  Through her story Martin offers us God who know us and the world we live in.  In telling her story there is the offer to be known beyond and within this world where truly and deeply shitty things happen.

Daisy Rain Martin’s Website

Daisy Rain Martin on Facebook

Daisy Rain Marin on Twitter

Review of the Enoch Factor: The sacred art of knowing God

Steve McSwain, wants to let us in on an amazing secret: you can know God.  The problem is it shouldn’t be much of a secret and many who think they know how (including the author at one point in his life even as a Baptist pastor) and can know God don’t know what Enoch knew.  Enoch is that character in the beginning chapters of Genesis about whom all we know  is that “He walked with God and was no more.”  Enoch for McSwain is a model for what it means to know God: we all can walk with God and overcome death.

While on one level McSwain’s book has the sound and focus of something quite esoteric oddly mystical, most of his book sounds like the revivalist and pietist faith in which I was raised in the Evangelical Covenant church.  The difference being that while I’ve always been fascinated by Enoch, few if any of my teachers in the faith talked about him.  However, McSwain’s emphasis on knowing God as being in a relationship with God and one that overcomes one’s fear of death, all sound very familiar.

In this I think The Enoch Factor is a great artifact of how Baptist and Evangelical congregations and leaders have in the past 20 to 30 years failed to pass on the central aspects of their tradition, teaching instead a legalistic, and doctrinaire religiosity replacing relationship with God for knowledge about God.  McSwain’s experience both being raised a Baptist and being a Baptist pastor were until his “conversion” recounted in the book, was such a walk of faith. One mediated by rules, doctrines and authority figures (in McSwain’s case his father who was a Baptist pastor and missionary).  Oddly enough McSwain’s account of the faith of his childhood and career as a pastor prior to his faith crisis, was the stereotype of Baptists I grew up with in the Evangelical Covenant Church: Baptist had only the forms of faith and relationship with God but not the substance.

McSwain in the Enoch Factor has some real wisdom.  Unfortunately in our context and the way in which McSwain writes it can appear to be a new discovery.  McSwain does attempt to connect up the wisdom he has found in the art of knowing God with a long tradition within the history of the Church.  However, his sense that this wisdom and art is all but lost in our time leads to some exaggeration that in my view makes him a poor spiritual guide.  The value of the Enoch factor is more as an example of how even in the midst of the failure of American Christianity in our time, God reaches out and in the midst of a desolate spiritual landscape, can enliven a soul.   I however recommend taking McSwain with a grain of salt, there are better guides to the Spiritual life out there both in our time and in the past.  If one can’t find one in your immediate context read for yourself Cynthia Bourgeault,  Richard Foster, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, St. Catherine of Siena, St John of  Cross, St Augustine, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers(and that’s a quick list off the top of my head, dig around and you’ll find more.)

Steve McSain on the Web:

McSwain’s Website

On The Huffington Post


McSwain’s You Tube channel

On Facebook

Review of Mending Broken: A Personal Journey Through Trauma and Recovery

In Mending Broken: A Personal Journey Through Trauma and Recover Teresa B. Pasquale presents her personal history of trauma and recovery in a compelling and at moments moving way.   I read the book as a pastor and spiritual director who has worked with parishioners and directees who underwent trauma and suffered from PTSD.  Much of what the author relates about her own story and journey of recovery fits with what I’ve experienced in working with individuals with related stories.  The book helped me tease out a number of my own failures in working with individuals recovering from trauma and PTSD.

Pasquale takes the reader through the PTSD and recovery by walking us through her own trauma suffering from PTSD and her recovery.  The book is divided  into Four Stages each associated with a metaphor of living with and recovering from PTSD.   Throughout the these sections she takes us through the trauma, PTSD, and recovery with the dual perspective of a sufferer from PTSD and a therapist.  This is both the strength and weakness of this book.  As someone who has worked with those recovering from trauma and PTSD as a pastor and spiritual director, her personal account helped me better understand those I have worked with in the past.

This is a good resource both for those who have suffered trauma and PTSD and friends of those suffering from PTSD and their pastors and spiritual directors.  Mending Broken  is a personal account of someone who has had PTSD and recovered, and who is a therapist.  This dual perspective offers a unique and helpful resource.  For those wanting or needing more than this limited account of recovery from trauma and PTSD there is an extensive bibliography and resources.   Pasquale has offered a needed and helpful account of PTSD and recovery.

Mending Broken: A Personal Journey Through Trauma and Recovery

Visit Teresa Pasquale’s blog Crooked Mystic

The Society for Young Christian Contemplatives