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The Place of Imagination: Wendell Berry and the Poetics of Community, Affection, and Identity

The Place of Imagination: Wendell Berry and the Poetics of Community, Affection, and Identity by Joseph R. Wiebe

The Place of Imagination: Wendell Berry and the Poetics of Community, Affection, and Identity
by Joseph R. Wiebe

Wendell Berry teaches us to love our places—to pay careful attention to where we are, to look beyond and within, and to live in ways that are not captive to the mastery of cultural, social, or economic assumptions about our life in these places. Creation has its own integrity and demands that we confront it.

In The Place of Imagination, Joseph R. Wiebe argues that this confrontation is precisely what shapes our moral capacity to respond to people and to places. Wiebe contends that Berry manifests this moral imagination most acutely in his fiction. Berry’s fiction, however, does not portray an average community or even an ideal one. Instead, he depicts broken communities in broken places—sites and relations scarred by the routines of racial wounds and ecological harm. Yet, in the tracing of Berry’s characters with place-based identities, Wiebe demonstrates the way in which Berry’s fiction comes to embody Berry’s own moral imagination. By joining these ambassadors of Berry’s moral imagination in their fictive journeys, readers, too, can allow imagination to transform their affection, thereby restoring place as a facilitator of identity as well as hope for healed and whole communities. Loving place translates into loving people, which in turn transforms broken human narratives into restored lives rooted and ordered by their places.

For more information regarding The Place of Imagination, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

 

Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic: Tuskegee, Colonialism, and the Shaping of African Industrial Education

Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic by Andrew E. Barnes

Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic: Tuskegee, Colonialism, and the Shaping of African Industrial Education
by Andrew E. Barnes

Many Europeans saw Africa’s colonization as an exhibition of European racial ascendancy. African Christians saw Africa’s subjugation as a demonstration of European technological superiority. If the latter was the case, then the path to Africa’s liberation ran through the development of a competitive African technology.

In Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic, Andrew E. Barnes chronicles African Christians’ turn to American-style industrial education—particularly the model that had been developed by Booker T. Washington at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute—as a vehicle for Christian regeneration in Africa. Over the period 1880–1920, African Christians, motivated by Ethiopianism and its conviction that Africans should be saved by other Africans, proposed and founded schools based upon the Tuskegee model.

Barnes follows the tides of the Black Atlantic back to Africa when African Christians embraced the new education initiatives of African American Christians and Tuskegee as the most potent example of technological ingenuity. Building on previously unused African sources, the book traces the movements to establish industrial education institutes in cities along the West African coast and in South Africa, Cape Province, and Natal. As Tuskegee and African schools modeled in its image proved, peoples of African descent could—and did—develop competitive technology.

Though the attempts by African Christians to create industrial education schools ultimately failed, Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic demonstrates the ultimate success of transatlantic black identity and Christian resurgence in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. Barnes’ study documents how African Christians sought to maintain indigenous identity and agency in the face of colonial domination by the state and even the European Christian missions of the church.

For more information regarding Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

Strangers to Family: Diaspora and 1 Peter’s Invention of God’s Household

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Strangers to Family: Diaspora and 1 Peter’s Invention of God’s Household
by Shively T. J. Smith

In Strangers to Family Shively Smith reads the Letter of 1 Peter through a new model of diaspora. Smith illuminates this peculiarly Petrine understanding of diaspora by situating it among three other select perspectives from extant Hellenist Jewish writings: the Daniel court tales, the Letter of Aristeas, and Philo’s works.

While 1 Peter tends to be taken as representative of how diaspora was understood in Hellenistic Jewish and early Christian circles, Smith demonstrates that 1 Peter actually reverses the most fundamental meaning of diaspora as conceived by its literary peers. Instead of connoting the scattering of a people with a common territorial origin, for 1 Peter, diaspora constitutes an “already-scattered-people” who share a common, communal, celestial destination.

Smith’s discovery of a distinctive instantiation of diaspora in 1 Peter capitalizes on her careful comparative historical, literary, and theological analysis of diaspora constructions found in Hellenistic Jewish writings. Her reading of 1 Peter thus challenges the use of the exile and wandering as master concepts to read 1 Peter, reconsiders the conceptual significance of diaspora in 1 Peter and in the entire New Testament canon, and liberates 1 Peter from being interpreted solely through the rubrics of either the stranger-homelessness model or household codes. First Peter does not recycle standard diasporic identity, but is, as Strangers to Family demonstrates, an epistle that represents the earliest Christian construction of diaspora as a way of life.

For more information regarding Strangers to Family, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship

Becoming Friends of Time - Swinton - revised

Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship
by John Swinton

Time is central to all that humans do. Time structures days, provides goals, shapes dreams—and limits lives. Time appears to be tangible, real, and progressive, but, in the end, time proves illusory. Though mercurial, time can be deadly for those with disabilities. To participate fully in human society has come to mean yielding to the criterion of the clock. The absence of thinking rapidly, living punctually, and biographical narration leaves persons with disabilities vulnerable. A worldview driven by the demands the clock makes on the lives of those with dementia or profound neurological and intellectual disabilities seems pointless.

And yet, Jesus comes to the world to transform time. Jesus calls us to slow down, take time, and learn to recognize the strangeness of living within God’s time. He calls us to be gentle, patient, kind; to walk slowly and timefully with those whom society desires to leave behind.

In Becoming Friends of Time, John Swinton crafts a theology of time that draws us toward a perspective wherein time is a gift and a calling. Time is not a commodity nor is time to be mastered. Time is a gift of God to humans, but is also a gift given back to God by humans.

Swinton wrestles with critical questions that emerge from theological reflection on time and disability: rethinking doctrine for those who can never grasp Jesus with their intellects; reimagining discipleship and vocation for those who have forgotten who Jesus is; reconsidering salvation for those who, due to neurological damage, can be one person at one time and then be someone else in an instant. In the end, Swinton invites the reader to spend time with the experiences of people with profound neurological disability, people who can change our perceptions of time, enable us to grasp the fruitful rhythms of God’s time, and help us learn to live in ways that are unimaginable within the boundaries of the time of the clock.

For more information regarding Becoming Friends of Time, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures

Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures by Melanie E. Trexler

Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures
by Melanie E. Trexler

In 1893, Said Jureidini, an Arabic-speaking Christian from the Ottoman Empire, experienced an evangelical conversion while attending the Chicago World’s Fair. Two years later he founded the first Baptist church in modern-day Lebanon. For financial support, he aligned his fledgling church with American Landmark Baptists and, later, Southern Baptists. By doing so, Jureidini linked the fate of Baptists in Lebanon with those in the United States.

In Evangelizing Lebanon, Melanie E. Trexler explores the complex, reflexive relationship between Baptist missionaries from the States and Baptists in Lebanon. Trexler pays close attention to the contexts surrounding the relationships, the consequences, and the theologies inherent to missionary praxis, carefully profiling the perspectives of both the missionaries and the Lebanese Baptists.

Trexler thus discovers a fraught mutuality at work. U.S. missionaries presented new models of church planting, evangelism, and educational opportunities that empowered the Lebanese Baptists to accomplish personal and communal goals. In turn, Lebanese Baptists prompted missionaries to rethink their ideas about mission, Muslim-Christian relations, and even American foreign policy in the region.

But Trexler also reveals how missionaries’ efforts to evangelize Muslims came to threaten the very security of the Lebanese Baptists. Trexler shows how Baptist missionary theology and praxis in Lebanon had more to do with bolstering an insular Baptist identity in the U.S. than it did with engaging in interfaith relationships with Lebanese Muslims. Ironically, American Baptists’ efforts to help ultimately spun out of control and led to unintended consequences. Trexler’s study of Baptists in Lebanon serves as a warning for missional identity everywhere, Baptist or not: missionary insistence on a narrow and politically useful definition of what it means to be Christian can both aid and undermine, build and destabilize.

For more information regarding Evangelizing Lebanon, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

A Pursued Justice: Black Preaching from the Great Migration to Civil Rights

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A Pursued Justice: Black Preaching from the Great Migration to Civil Rights
by Kenyatta R. Gilbert

The narrative of Civil Rights often begins with the prophetic figure of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. City squares became a church, the body politic a congregation, and sermons a jeremiad of social change—or so the story goes. In A Pursued Justice, Kenyatta Gilbert instead traces the roots of King’s call for justice to African American prophetic preaching that arose in an earlier moment of American history.

In the wake of a failed Reconstruction period, widespread agricultural depression, and the rise of Jim Crow laws, and triggered by America’s entry into World War I, a flood of southern Blacks move​d from the South to the ​urban centers of the North. This Great Migration transformed northern Black churches and produced a new mode of preaching—prophetic Black preaching—which sought to address this brand new context.

Black clerics such as Baptist pastor Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr., A.M.E. Bishop Reverdy Cassius Ransom, and A.M.E. Zion pastor Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph rose up within these congregations. From their pulpits, these pastors “spoke truth to power” for hope across racial, ethnic, and class lines both within their congregations and between the Black community and the wider culture.

A Pursued Justice profiles these three ecclesiastically inventive clerics of the first half of the twentieth century whose strident voices gave birth to a distinctive form of prophetic preaching. Their radical sermonic response to injustice and suffering, both in and out of the Black church, not only captured the imaginations of participants in the largest internal mass migration in American history but also inspired the homiletical vision of Martin Luther King Jr. and subsequent generations of preachers of revolutionary hope and holy disobedience.

For more information regarding A Pursued Justice, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

Preacher Girl: Uldine Utley and the Industry of Revival

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Preacher Girl: Uldine Utley and the Industry of Revival
by Thomas A. Robinson

Uldine Utley defined the “girl evangelist” of the 1920s and 1930s. She began her preaching career at age eleven, published a monthly magazine by age twelve, and by age fourteen was regularly packing the largest venues in major American cities, including Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. She stood toe to toe with Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson, the most famous revivalist preachers of the day. She became a darling of the secular press and was mimicked and modeled in fiction and plays.

In Preacher Girl, the first full biography of Utley, author Thomas Robinson shows that Utley’s rise to fame was no accident. Utley’s parents and staff carefully marked out her path early on to headline success. Not unlike Hollywood, revivalism was a business in which celebrity equaled success. Revivalism mixed equal parts of glamour and gospel, making stars of its preachers. Utley was its brightest.

But childhood fame came at a price. As a series of Utley’s previously unpublished poems reveal, after a decade of preaching, she was facing a near-constant fight against physical and mental exhaustion as she experienced the clash between the expectations of revivalism and her desires for a normal life. Utley burned out at age twenty-four. The revival stage folded; fame faded; only a broken heart and a wounded mind remained.

Both Utley’s meteoric rise and its tragic outcome illuminate American religion as a business. In his compelling chronicle of Utley’s life, Robinson highlights the surprising power of American revivalism to equal Hollywood’s success as well as the potentially devastating private costs of public religious leadership. The marketing and promotion machine of revivalism brought both fame and hardship for Utley—clashing by-products in the business of winning souls for Christ.

For more information regarding Preacher Girl, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life

A Time To Keep - Radner - Front Cover

A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life
by Ephraim Radner

The miracle of birth and the mystery of death mark human life. Mortality, like a dark specter, looms over all that lies in between. Human character, behavior, aims, and community are all inescapably shaped by this certainty of human ends. Mortality, like an unwanted guest, intrudes, becoming a burden and a constant struggle. Mortality, like a thief who steals, even threatens the ability to live life rightly. Life is short. Death is certain. Mortality, at all costs, should be resisted or transcended.

In A Time to Keep Ephraim Radner revalues mortality, reclaiming it as God’s own. Mortality should not be resisted but received. Radner reveals mortality’s true nature as a gift, God’s gift, and thus reveals that the many limitations that mortality imposes should be celebrated. Radner demonstrates how faithfulness—and not resignation, escape, denial, redefinition, or excess—is the proper response to the gift of humanity’s temporal limitation. To live rightly is to recognize and then willingly accept life’s limitations.

In chapters on sex and sexuality, singleness and family, education and vocation, and a panoply of end of life issues, A Time to Keep plumbs the depths of the secular imagination, uncovering the constant struggle with human finitude in its myriad forms. Radner shows that by wrongly positioning creaturely mortality, these parts of human experience have received an inadequate reckoning. A Time to Keep retrieves the most basic confession of the Christian faith, that life is God’s, which Radner offers as grace, as the basis for a Christian understanding of human existence bound by its origin and telos. The possibility and purpose of what comes between birth and death is ordered by the pattern of Scripture, but is performed faithfully only in obedience to the limits that bind it.

For more information regarding A Time to Keep, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

Kierkegaard and Christian Faith

Kierkegaard and Christian Faith by Paul Martens and C. Stephen Evans

Kierkegaard and Christian Faith by Paul Martens and C. Stephen Evans

Kierkegaard and Christian Faith responds directly to the perennial and problematic concern of how to read Kierkegaard. Specifically, this volume presses the question of whether the existentialist philosopher, who so troubled the waters of nineteenth-century Danish Christendom, is a “Christian thinker for our time.” The chapters crisscross the disciplines of philosophy, theology, literature, and ethics, and are as rich in argument as they are diverse in style. Collectively the chapters demonstrate a principled agreement that Kierkegaard continues to be relevant, even imperative. Kierkegaard and Christian Faith reveals just how Kierkegaard’s work both defines and reconfigures what is meant by “Christian thinker.”

Following an autobiographical prologue by Kathleen Norris, this volume gathers the chapters in pairs around crucial themes: the use of philosophy (Merold Westphal and C. Stephen Evans), revelation and authority (Richard Bauckham and Paul J. Griffiths), Christian character (Sylvia Walsh and Ralph C. Wood), the relationship between the church and the world (Jennifer A. Herdt and Paul Martens), and moral questions of forgiveness and love (Simon D. Podmore and Cyril O’Regan). The volume underscores the centrality of Christianity to Kierkegaard’s life and thought, and rightly positions Kierkegaard as a profound challenge to Christianity as it is understood and practiced today.

For more information about Kierkegaard and Christian Faith, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

A Poetics of Translation: Between Chinese and English Literature

A Poetics of Translation: Between Chinese and English Literature by David Jasper, Youzhuang Geng, and Wang Hai

A Poetics of Translation: Between Chinese and English Literature by
David Jasper, Youzhuang Geng, and Wang Hai

Western literature, from the mysterious figure of Marco Polo to the deliberate fictions of Daniel Defoe and Mark Twain, has constructed portraits of China born of dreamy parody or sheer prejudice. The West’s attempt to understand China has proven as difficult as China’s attempt to understand the West.

A Poetics of Translation is the result of academic conversations between scholars in China and the West relating to issues in translation. “Translation” here is meant not only as the linguistic challenges of translating from Chinese into English or English into Chinese, but also as the wider questions of cultural translation at a time when China is in a period of rapid change. The volume illustrates the need for scholars, both eastern and western, to learn very quickly to live within the exchange of ideas, often with few precedents to guide or advise.

This book also reflects the final impossibility of the task of translation, which is always, at best, approximate. By examining texts from the Bible to poetry and from historical treatises to Shakespeare, this volume carefully interrogates—and ultimately broadens—translation by exposing the multiple ways in which linguistic, cultural, religious, historical, and philosophical meaning are formed through cross-cultural interaction.

Readers invested in the complexities of translation betwixt China and the West will find this volume full of intriguing studies and attentive readings that encompass the myriad issues surrounding East-West translation with rigor and imagination.

For more information about A Poetics of Translation, visit the book’s page on MUSE.