Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Jubilee best-sellers


More or less, the best we can recall:

Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne (Zondervan) $12.99 I gave it a good push, could have said that it reminded me some of my energy, vision, and crazy protest actions in a previous life. I am glad Campolo mentioned it, too, which didn’t hurt. What a great book for students--- visionary, radical, interesting, funny, inviting folks to take Christ seriously and organize around faithful witness and bold, prophetic social action.

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $14.00 What a great entrée into the work of one of the most important Biblical scholars writing today. This collection of Biblical meditations are rich, laden with Jubilee vision of living out God’s healing reign and pushing towards the implications of Kingdom come.

Catalyst: Challenge the Process by Andy Stanley, Tim Elmore, Donald Miller, Erwin McManus, and others (Nelson Impact) $16.99 Certainly the most hip graphics, the coolest package and most interesting format of anything we’ve featured at Jubilee. A very contemporary magazine format with articles, essays, testimonies and discussion stuff, this guide to passionate Christian leadership is perfect for a new generation of Jubilee leaders, taking the Kingdom vision into the university and all of life. With all the hipster pomo graphics and motivational authors, it is nice to see in here writers like Nancy Pearcy and Bob Briner.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren Winner (Brazos) $17.99 This most likely would have been one of the most popular conference books even if Lauren wasn’t a keynote speaker. Her workshops, too, were well attended and we happily sold plenty of Girl Meets God and Mud-House Sabbath. What a joy to promote such a literate and thoughtful writer.

Report from Jubilee

From the powerful and prophetic challenges of the orations of Tony Campolo to the quiet and literate honesty of the ever quirky Lauren Winner---love those glasses!---to serious perspectives in renewed thinking in fields from computer games to astronomy, advertising to medicine, business, law, architecture to education---the JUBILEE conference was as thrilling as ever.

It may have been our hardest set-up in recent memory; we arrived at 10 pm Thursday night, after driving a huge rented truck that rattled and hummed down the turnpike spewing diesel fumes behind the widest windshield I've ever seen. By 5:30 am (Friday morning) we realized we had less than a quarter of the books displayed and were in a pretty serious snit. We got a bit of shut-eye, bought too much dark roast and Red Bull, took care of our kids a bit, and with a team of reliable booklovin' volunteers, proceeded to set up the rest of the 25 tables, getting finished just in time by about 7 pm. With the loud band, the flashing lights and the nearly 2000 students, it was a wild and amazing setting to have meaningful conversations. But, there we were, showing off books on college life and spiritual formation, Biblical study and postmodern culture, social engagement and Christian politics, the history of philosophy and a worldview shaped by the contours of the basic story of the Bible, the need for compassionate resistance to the sins of our society and how to form attitudes shaped by deep, Christian convictions. We talked about and showed off the books that illustrated our view that the Lordship of Christ makes a difference and offers a vantage point, a set of perspectives across the whole college curriculum. (See our "Books By Vocation" annotated bibliography over at the website for just a handful of the titles we had on display.) We were off and running, with hardly a moment to sneeze.

We got the truck re-loaded and finally back to Dallastown after midnight Sunday night and we unloaded into the garage, returning it by the late night deadline. As that crazy druggie band used to sing "What a long, strange trip it's been...."

Highlights? Well, as always, it is a privilege to work with the innovative and theologically solid CCO. Neither literalists or liberals, not fundy or fuzzy, these generously orthodox folk who do campus ministry are really good with students, funny and fun, serious without being heavy. Not everyone who works for the CCO, let alone the wild gang of thousands of students they cajoled into the Hilton may fully realize the history of the conference or the "reformational movement" that inspired it. (That is, by the way, why I promoted in my announcements the new edition of Creation Regained by Al Wolters, which as nicely as anything summarizes this full-orbed Christian worldview stuff. Click here or here for two good reviews from other bloggers.) As I wrote last week, the CCO and the conference planners have been influenced somewhat by Dutch neo-Calvinism (hence, this attention to worldviews, this legacy of discerning fundamental ideologies that shape theory, the call to reform ideas so that institutions can be transformed, this Kingdom of God stuff that affirms God's mercy and goodness in history and yet seriously resists evil where-ever it is found, this cry to renew the culture by affirming the norms for various spheres and zones of social order and the subsequent need to "think Christianly" in fresh and Biblical ways.) And so, it is a highlight of our year just to be around folks who are intentionally raising up such a vision of a wholistic faith, engaged and energetic, youthful and idealistic, principled and pleasant, calling for justice and action, well rooted in evangelical faith and the renewal of daily habits of wholesome living. What a good, good vision to show forth. CCO puts it well when they say they want to "transform college students to transform the world." Let us pray it is so!

More specifically--- sorry if I leave anybody out---I was amazed to met Bryan Stevenson, an African American man who grew up in the poor and segregated South, and ended up (through scholarships at Eastern U, by the way) at the top of his class at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, it is said, he could have worked nearly anywhere he wanted and was on the fast track to being a Big Success. He has worked ever since doing poverty law, advocacy for the very poor and, specifically, for those on death row, now through the Equal Justice Iniative in Montgomery Alabama. In the mid-70's I passed out flyers to every room in my dorm my second year of college to fight the death penalty and I've followed this issue for years; his clear-headed and kind talk was as powerful a testimony as I've heard on this topic. Thanks, Bryan!

Also, it was good to finally meet Adrienne Chaplin, who followed my hero Cal Seerveld as the professor of aesthetics at Toronto's Institute for Christian Studies. Adrienne is the author of Art and Soul a book we often suggest as one of the top two or three titles on faith and the arts. She took students on a walking tour of the Warhol museum and it would have been sweet to go along but we, of course, were strapped to the book display around the clock. (We went to bed each night after 3 am.) Chatting with her even just a bit, though, was very nice. I am eager to see her new chapter in Square Halo's revised edition of It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God when it comes out later this year!

Vince Bacote--Mr. Bay Coat, that is--was surely a highlight. Dr. B teaches at Wheaton and happens to be one of the few African American Kuyper scholars. I will talk more about his important lectures and his very good book later, I'm sure. What a good guy he is, and how cool for CCO to connect with him.

Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of u2 by Steve Stockman has been a favorite book in pop culture studies and it was wonderful not only to finally meet him, but to hear Stockman's heavy Irish accent. He presented some good stuff, I'm told, based on his chapter in that book on how u2 has been a voice for social justice. When he invited me for a drink at the late night pub I had to chuckle...I think the booktable was open later than the "pub" and he didn't realize we would be working that late. He has become good friends of our best friends, Ken & Gail Heffner, who recently took a batch of Calvin students to Belfast to study the troubles there. Thanks to CCO for hosting such an important international author and pop critic.

Lauren and I exchanged a few pleasantries back stage before one of my big book announcements, prior to her big keynote, just after the emcee slingshot pieces of pizza out into the audience. I packed in a ton o words in my 8 minutes, but got a bit tongue-tied. She quickly noted that I mis-pronounced her name--Winter? Yeah, and I spit like Campolo, too and got my "mix all talked up." Very embarrassing. Still, one person said he learned as much from my book plugs as much as any other part of this very content-driven weekend. Thanks be to God for words of encouragement.

Steve Taylor used to do edgy and very thoughtful (and sometimes playfully fun) new wave rock music that was among the best CCM stuff of the 80's. Anybody who followed contemporary Christian in those days knows who he is. He now is the producer of the new film about race relations, Second Chance, which screened at Jubilee. It was a privilege to stand with him, to chat about his work, to suggest a handful of books. What fun!

I hope I do not bore you to say that another highlight was to hang out with the wise and prophetic genius, a leader of the alternative Christian Labor Association of Canada (CLAC) Gideon Strauss. G.S. has more creative output---from his blog to the thINK journal, Comment and his daily work at the Work Research Foundation---than nearly anyone I know. He is radically neo-Calvinist, having studied all manner of reformational philosophy and social thinking. He understands what Jubilee has been and what it needs to be as we try hard to pass on the legacy of this world and life way of being in the world and thinking about culture. He desires to deeply effect change that is sustainable and serious, and yet has with great joy served not only big ideas and social organization (like the labor union and the writers in Comment) but he and his wife mentor students, befriend those who need a guiding hand, and network others of like mindedness without a bit of guile. He and Angela and two lovely daughters crossed our paths at the book stand more than once and it is a honor to be their friend. Jubilee should be glad for their support.

If you haven't, read back over last week's posts and see the links to the book lists of the authors who appeared at Jubilee. If you weren't there, pick up a couple of those, and it will be the next best thing. Not quite the same, but a good step. As I told the gathered gang there at the conference--mountaintop experiences only last for a bit. Commitment to ongoing learning, reading and learning, that is the way of sustained and meaningful growth. To that end, we work hard setting up displays and doing mail-order. We are at your service.

Hats off to Scotty Calgaro, Vinny, Becky, Rachel and all the others who helped us play a role in this big event. And a special thanks to the volunteers. You each know who you are, and you know how passionate we are about books, authors, bookselling and influencing students to read widely. We could not have done it without you and we are very, very appreciative. And thanks to the many, many folks who said kind and supportive words. It means more than you know.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

serious times

"My friend, you and I have lived in serious times."
John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson

I've been blogging about our Jubilee conference prep, why this event is so important to us and, implied, why I hope our community of readers/customers/friends will care about these similiar themes. Interestingly (and a bit frustratingly) there is a very important conference for Christians in the arts in NYC the same weekend (IAM) and the Francis Schaeffer inspired L'Abrai folks just had their big gig this past weekend. Friends of Jubilee are involved with those of those events. We've sold books in past years at both of these events, and they resonant in similiar ways---creative and serious people who take personal faith seriously, who joyously pursue truth in a way that allows for Godly transformation, in public and private aspects of life. Jubilee is tons of fun and very high energy, perhaps more so than these other events, despite being kindred spirits. And I am not sure that all the students that come even get half of what is implied in the "Jubilee vision"---it may be the first time someone seriously invited them to consider the implications of Christian conviction for matters of science, art, computer games or film studies. This much is true: older dichotomies between faith and reason, public and private, evangelicals and liberals, faith and action, prayer and politics, personal piety and public reformation, heart & mind, all are melting away as people learn about the Biblical vision of purpose, calling, corporate responsibility and living whole-heartedly out of a coherent worldview. It is no accident that Purpose Driven Life was such a popular seller last year. Some of us have been promoting these theme for years! Soon, the idols and ideologies of the American Dream will be seen as the bankrupt faith that it is...and conversations about our renewed interests in spirituality, meaning, direction and purpose will only increase.

One book that isn't necessarily related to Jubilee but that arrived today in a new paperback edition is perfect to help us think through this kind of vision. We noted it when it came out in hardcover and now are really excited it is available in this quality paperback. Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day by James Emergy White looks at how the modern era is transitioning into postmodern turbulance and what it means to be responsible in this time in history. For anyone searching for significance and responsibility, this is a book to put into their hands.

It is quite a feat to write a reflective, historically grounded book about urgency, but James White has accomplished exactly that. Philip Yancy
My soul is quaking under the impact of this book. Rather than another yawning treatise on cultural demise, Jim White calls us to "kick at the darkness til it bleeds light." And the way we kick, he rightly assesses, is with "deepened soulds and developed minds."
Lon Allison
Director, Billy Graham Center

White insists that because activists like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived serious lives they turned the course of history. He then tells of others---from William Wilberforce to St. Patrick, St. Benedict to C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther to Mother Teresa, and shows how their gifts of courage, insight and vision, are needed for today. Dare we dream to approach a similiar hope? I think I will take a big stack of these to Jubilee, and hope it gets widely read.

Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in An Urgent Day James Emery White (IVP) $13.00

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

an apology, sort of , & a Jubilee authors link

I've gotten a few personal emails from friends who claimed they were inspired by my late night Jubilee conference rant last night. I apologize for going on and on---this must be what some bloggers do when they post a personal journal and insist it is just for themselves. (I don't really get that: if it is private, then why publish? If I can't look at my teenagers Xanga posts, then why are they posting in public cyberspace? But I digress.)

Last night just may have been for myself. I suspect I needed to remind myself (I intentionally did not say convince myself, although that may come later in the week as the late nights wear on) just why we do this conference work, this packing and lugging, these taxing email exchanges with speakers and leaders, these on the road bookselling gigs. Writing it out for you actually blessed me, at least. So thanks for allowing me the lengthy tirade.

And, if you gave up because your eyes glazed over or you couldn't take another sentence of my lingo-laden rhetoric, I'd say to try again. I think that JUBILEE piece says a lot about our work and our circle of readers and what is woodenly called our "customer base." But, as I say, I do apologize for the zeal and weight of the long thing.

For tonight, let me suggest that you click here to zip over to our monthly website, and read my January listing of books by JUBILEE '06 authors.

See books by keynoter speakers Lauren Winner, Tony Campolo and Carl Ellis to workshop leaders Sam Van Eman (the ad-buster), Esther Meek (a Polanyi scholar), Vincent Bacote (Kuyper man), Adrienne Chaplin (Art & Soul may be the best book on the arts outside of her mentor, Calvin Seerveld's work), Steve Stockman, (the Irish author of u2 book Walk On), Art Lindsley (you've seen his C.S. Lewis book reviewed here), Dave Gruesel (yes, the urban designer of Camden Yards and the Pittsburgh stadium fame who, I'm happy to report, likes James Kunstler's new urbanist books), Dolphus Weary (from Voice of Calvary), Tim Elmore (dynamic leadership guru, a youthful Maxwell protege.) There are other speakers and topics, of course, but these are just the ones who have written books! What a good handful of authors-- diverse and interesting. Next best thing to being among them might be to browse my listing of their good titles. And say a prayer that somehow, their books bear fruit, that we can make a living selling these kinds of titles to a hungry generation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Picking, Pulling, Packing---Jubilee or Bust

It is after 2:30 am and, according to the wonderful and important piece Lauren Winner had in Books in Culture I should be in bed. It is thoughtful theological advise that my common sense ma would give, and in my bones I know she is right. But it is Monday night and it feels like the middle of the week already, so I must press on.

Many of you know that the CCO's big tent, showcase, flagship, zippitteedodah, major domah (it's too late to look up the spelling, but you get my drift) event, JUBILEE, is coming up at the end of this week. It is our job to select and order extra copies of oodles of books on everything from biology to international law, racial reconciliation to history, books which will help Christian students think Christianly about their callings, careers and cares. There are workshops on business and U2 and sex and astronomy and advertising, all by published "experts" who are faithful disciples of Christ and who have found that their Christian vision of things---their worldview---colors and shapes how they "see" and think, and the implications they imagine about their field.

What a great event, bringing together well over 1500 college students to praise the Lord of creation by being busy thinking hard about what it means, and what it looks like, to serve Christ "in the world but not of it." Art, business, law, medicine, education, engineering, philosophy; no discipline is exempt from the claims of the gospel and no student can suggest that her field is of no significance in God's economy. "No little people, no insignificant places" as Schaeffer used to say. Every area of life and every academic discipline can be construed from God's point of view and every serious Christian student will have to struggle to think this through, since they may be in university settings that are hostile to their faith. Church and University conspire to tell students---sometimes directly, sometimes implicitly---to keep their faith out of their scholarship and public lives. Jubilee helps equip them to wisely navigate all that stuff.

And so, we've been corresponding with speakers and workshop leaders, CCO staffers and Jubilee committee members, trying to get our role in all of this figured out and done well. We're renting trucks and rounding up volunteers and taking extra vitamins for the all nighter we have to pull to set up our display. I've attended Jubilee since '72 (it wasn't even called that then) and played a minor role in getting the theme switched to this worldviewish and reformational vision to bring restoration to the field of higher learning and get students to ponder how their deepest convictions relate to their work in college and beyond. The student conference switched to the name JUBILEE and developed this unique approach nearly 30 years ago.

Jubilee is a favorite Biblical theme for me. Learned about it first from Peter J. Steen, a Calvinist Dutchman who taught from John Howard Yoder's remarkable book, The Politics of Jesus to anybody in Western Pennsylvania who would show up in his itinerent classrooms. Slow of mind that I am, it took me a while to determine that Yoder's Mennonite pacifism didn't exactly sit well with Steen, whose pals in Canada where trying to start a Christian political party, modeled after the CDA in Netherlands. Like the famous prime minister of Holland, Abraham Kuyper, that I write about occasionally in this space, Steen taught us not only to celebrate the goodness all around but to be discerning about the deep philosophical foundations--and subsequent baggage--that comes along with cultural customs and social institutions. So, unlike Yoder, he wanted to distinctively Christian witness within the system, so to speak, a radically Christian party that honored pluralism and principles. Of course to get some kind of "third party" that is viable there would most likely need to be a shift to proportianal representation. Steen got us working on that, too, a project still carried out by our friends at the Center for Public Justice (who will be at Jubilee, by the way.)

Still, Yoder taught Steen, who taught those of us who followed him around in the 70's, that the Hebrew Scriptures---Leviticus 25 to be exact--called for an every 50 year pattern of social, economic and political restitution. Land rested, debts were forgiven (thank goodness some churches still say "forgive us our debts" the the Lord's prayer, making the link explicit between Jesus and Levitical economics), criminals got out of jail and the whole social order was reconstituted around God's original theme of shalom and justice.

Generations later, the prophet Isaiah preaches on this (see Isaiah 61) and then that text becomes the reading of Jesus' first sermon (recorded in Luke 4) where he annouced that in Him, this favorable year is now a reality. Whew!

Many readers of this blog know all this. Some even know that this dream of right-ness, a well-ordered culture, full of Jubilee peace and grace, Sabbath rest, a second chance, shalom, is emblematic for the Pittsburgh conference. Of course this gathering is more than about debt relief (although praise the Lord, the Jubilee 2000 campaign folks will be there!) It is about the CCO's larger dream of impacting students in a way that helps them come to know God, receive the fullness of Christ's salvation, and then work that out in every zone of life. Jubilee helps college students relate faith to their academics in a way that most churches rarely even suggest. We think it is very important. It is the highpoint of our year.

You have seen, hopefully, the blinky thingie on our blogsite for these past weeks. Click on it now. It will take you to the Jubilee website, and you can browse at the workshops, speakers, author appearances and--if you look carefully--you will seem some photos of last year's book display. You may be able to tell that it is the largest thing we do all year. The pulling, packing and schlepping the boxes around is hard work, but we are thrilled to be so stressed.

Please pray, if you are the praying type, for the conference, the CCO leaders, the speakers and, of course, the students who come, perhaps seeking some guidance, some hope, some new chance to find purpose and passion. We believe that this cultural reformation stuff, this call to live for Christ's glory across the whole of life, to relate worship and work, well, it doesn't get any better than that.

Of course we are still dealing with customers, mail orders, family stuff (Marissa's hospitalization was scary and we are happy to have her back on some kind of a schedule, mixing mediations and hoping for some relief from her chronic pain.) Just today had an unpleasant conversation with a feisty customer about amazon. And a publisher was less than candid about a shipping deadline they missed. Blah, blah, blah. But the household and business are all caught up in something better than Super Bowl fever. We're going to Pittsburgh for Jubilee. Who knows, maybe we will see you there.

Friday, February 17, 2006

more on new Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture

I wrote a day ago that I wanted to tell you a bit more about the new, important, and very nicely done Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture by my friend Walt Mueller. As I explained, Walt is not only a friend from our old CCO days (uh, that would be the late 70's) when we worked in campus ministry, but is a near neighbor here in the Susquehanna Valley. Walt, though, has become nationally known for his helpful and wise work equipping parents, teachers, youth workers, pastors and student leaders to understand high school church, teenage attitudes, trends and the ethos within various sub-cultures in the teen scene. His Center for Parent and Youth Understanding not only has an excellent website, but has now launched into radio spots, and is picked up in numerous radio markets. We commend his work wholeheartedly.

And, we commend this book. The subtitle is Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth which tells you much about his project. Here, Mueller uses his years of experience---as a theological thinker, as a student of Christian worldviews, as a cultural critic, as an entertainment fan, (and, I might add, as a husband and dad)---to offer a wide-ranging tour through the deepest attitudes, presuppositions, values and visions of kids these days.

Although I am not fully sure that Walt is fully sure how to best explain, appreciate and critique what has come to be known as postmodernism---he isn't an old-school Modernist who just can't stand the newer philosophical perpsectives, yet he hasn't jumped the whole way into the pomo deep end, either---I do think that nearly any parent or pastor, youth worker or teacher, could learn much from his serious overview of the current philosophical zietgeist. My, my, how can one not want to figure out what is really going on below the surface of the post-MTV, post-Xer crowd, of kids raised on IM-ing and I-pods, 9-11 and AIDS, the commonplace discussions of oral sex and teen suicide, 50 cent and American Idol, The O.C. and Xanga, E-bay and Amazon.

A few years ago, to remind us of our very new vibe, some of us would say to ourselves, and nearly anyone else that would listen, "We aren't in Kansas any more Toto" and then give 'em a Len Sweet book or two. Then, here at H&M, we would want to reflect on the worldview approach of the likes of Brian Walsh and Al Wolters, the pop culture studies of Bill Romanowski (mentored somewhat by neo-Calvinist preacher of Bible and creational aesthetics, Cal Seerveld) and, if they'd listen, I'd get 'em to buy some Os Guinness on truth and Ron Sider on justice and Marva Dawn on liturgy and just about anything on spirituality, just to round things out. The old days of straight-arrow arguements about the truth of Christianity and why young folk should go to church and hold moral values are, shall we say, obsolete. So we sell books about culture and action, worldview and faith, spirituality and embodiment. We try to engage the culture in the ways that make sense to that culture. (And, shoot, I started a blog. Ha!)

Well, I do not want to imply that we helped Walt get to where he is with this fully balanced, wide-thinking, open-hearted and culturally relevant view that pervades his helpful research into youth culture and effective youth ministry--that would simply not be true. (It may be somewhat truer to say that I have learned from him, and have watched with a degree of respect and envy his rise to fame.) And, anyway, my favorite authors and movements, schools and leaders, may not be exactly his*. But, fair reader, trust me on this: if you like what we are doing here at Hearts & Minds at all, if you care about culture, kids, media, politics, the gospel and the social implications of the truth claims of Christ, if you want to be reminded of really why we are doing all of this thinking, praying, pondering and working, well, I've got three words. BUY THIS BOOK.

Or, I should say, READ THIS BOOK. Walt has done his homework, thought long and hard about what makes kids tick, what worldviews and values are implicit (if not explicit) in their primary attitudes, and gives a strategy (well, that's a touch simplistic, as he doesn't give--thank God---a technique or program) for engaging contemporary youth in the midst of their own world, and hearing well what they are saying. Sure, he wants to evaluate, interpret and process the messages of pop culture and youth trends in light of the Big Biblical Story. And yes, he does some marvelously helpful Scriptural studies, here. But to do that--to read the Word and read the world as his friend Steve Garber puts it--we must first listen. He talks about "touchpoints" that help us do that. The theological word for that is, I think: incarnational. And contextualized. Imagine that.

Dick Staub, author of the fabulous book Too Christian Too Pagan (and a recent book about Star Wars which is kinda fun) says this about Mueller's book: "Devour this thoughtful and practical book and you'll see why he's our best source of help for engaging the soul of the next generation."

* I am thrilled with Walt's wonderful footnotes in this well-researched book. What a geek I am, but I am happy that his very orginal, thoughtful and helpful views are shaped and informed by such a great array of important theologicans, spiritual writers and cultural critics. Hey, it has a cool cover, too.

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth Walt Mueller (InterVarsity Press) $17.00


usually $17.00
Please tell us--by email or phone or in the shop--that you saw this offer.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture

Just yesterday, a fabulously thoughtful young man, who has done more solid theological study than most, and keeps up with his role in a Reformed, evangelical congregation by offering leadership among youthful friends, sharing their pain and pointing them to the deeper things of God, came in the store with a very heavy heart. I, too, was not in the best frame of mind and the two of us just felt the weight of the world. We pondered how books might help kids catch a bigger glimpse of the Story of God, how a Christian worldview might impact the lives of his young friends, how the postmodern times of the new century might shape the development of his youth as they eventually mature into long term disciples of Christ. Being a faithful Christian--engaged in the real world, but not of it--is never easy. It certainly isn't easy now.

And so, this good, good guy needs help. We all need help, of course, but those who work with younger folk---from the goofy tweeners to the hipster collegiates--need all the faithful assistance we can find. And, to be honest, some of our churchy literature is just a bit too shallow, can't stand up to the needs of my friend and his youth group.

There has been a recent renaissance of thoughtful youth ministry stuff. You may have read in my monthly book review column a few years back my claim that The God Bearing Life was a paradigm-shifting book, and that youth ministry studies will never be the same. My little prediction has come true, as newer authors have called for a spirituality of youth ministry; books like Tony Jones' Soul-Shaping offer exercises in prayerfulness and serious studies like Christian Smith's Oxford University Press book, Soul Searching, lament that teens have a sadly thin vocabulary about God. Everyone knows we have to help kids experience Christ in classic ways, to not just have zany programs and light-weight lessons, but to help them dig deep into spirituality and inner character.

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS among this recent great batch of books for youth workers, parents or pastors affirms the need for serious-minded and mature Christian disciple-making but doesn't slide into trendy teen monasticism. It insists that we must take the world and ethos of the high school sub-culture(s) seriously. Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth by Walt Mueller (IVP) suggests that before we reach today's youth with the truth of the gospel, we need to see what they see and hear what they hear. We need to catch the messages encrypted in their culture and understand what's really being communicated.

The best names of evangelical youth writers have uniformly affirmed Walt's work with the central Pennsylvania Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. It is a ministry you should know, with great resources, articles, web stuff, media literacy tools, etc. Walt has been a great friend of Hearts & Minds and is an excellent promoter of worldviewish Christian reading. He knows the importance of books and he loves relating serious truth to real teens, and those who work with them---parents, youth workers, school teachers and counselors. He is as a reliable writer as anyone in this field. His new book may be his most important work and is certainly the most significant book of its kind. We are proud to have been privileged to get an early copy of this vital work, and are excited to announce its brand new release. I will tell you more about it soon.

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth Walt Mueller (IVP) $17.00

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture

After my little ad deconstruction contest, inspired by my juxtaposition of Sam Van Eman's book, On Earth As It Is In Advertising and the super-bowl ads, I felt like it was an excellent time to do a bitter of commercial hype (if you don't get the allusion, you're not paying attention) for a very important new book. Just the description of this book should set you a-quakin' and we should be very glad for books such as this.

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, The Gospel and the Church is by Shane Hipps (Zondervan) $18.99. Hipps is the pastor of a Mennonite Church (which describes itself as missional, urban, and Anabaptist.) He has worked in advertising so he knows that world from the inside; his Anabaptist vision gives him the principled scruples to say no to some stuff. My hunch is he takes Romans 12:1-2 more seriously than most and, if this makes sense to you, this book ought to have been published by Brazos.

Still, with a forward by Brian McLaren, and blurbs from Len Sweet and Doug Pagitt, all insisting that traditionalists and emergent folk need to hear this warning about the dangers of a faith that is overly shaped by the forms and values of media, it seems that this book is aimed firstly at the emergent community. The emergent conferences, I've been told, went from hyped mediated to less so, and the visual circus atmosphere proved so surreal that even the hipsters complained. So, perhaps this book is a natural evolution of the kinds of cultural discernment that is happening amongst the emerging generation.

I wonder if the less postmodern and more typical "contemporary" services--ordinary folks who are just now getting around to using PowerPoint--- might need it more. I think this book is going to help many sorts of congregations.

Two themes seem to animate this book: Marshal McLuhan's theories ("the medium is the message" you know) and the notion that the local church must embody real, daily practices that show and give flesh to the realities of the reign of God. It is not against media although it invites us to think seriously about it's role and the implications of it all (read the wonderful section about media in Marva Dawn's powerful and important Is It a Lost Cause: Having the Heart of God for the Church's Children for one good prophetic word against the electronic culture.)

I think this new study of the broader impact of technology and the call for communities of faith to be reflective, informed by McLuhan, could be very, very helpful for any kinds of congregations. Just as Quentin Schultze's Habits of the High-Tech Heart ask individuals to attend to the spiritual virtues needed in our hot-wired, e-culture, and his High-Tech Worship? invites worship teams to be discerning and balanced in using presentational technologies in worship, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture invites us all, as individuals, families, parachurch groups and congregations, to be wise in discerning how the media shapes us all, and may erode the very truth of the gospel we profess.

As Sweet says on the back, "In the ancient tradition of the 'jeremiad', this book issues a wake-up call to the traditional church and a warning to the emerging church---remember the rock from whence you were hew, or else be invisibly mutilated by media."

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, The Gospel, and The Church Shane Hipps (Zondervan) $18.99

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl Free Book contest

I wanted to post this days ago, but my youngest daughter---Marissa, age 13---was in the hospital. She has had chronic pain issues for a couple of years now, and this latest episode was a hard one. So I got behind in the blogging plans.

Still, here's our offer. It's gonna be fun, and it gives us an excuse to give away a free book or two. My good bud Sam Van Eman has written (as I hope you know by now since I have cited it here, and named it in my December Best Books of the Year column at our website) the great little guide to cultural discernment, On Earth As It Is In Advertising: Moving From Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope (Brazos Press; $14.99.) In it he not only affirms God's good gift of stuff, and the artistic and human qualities of good and wholesome advertising of said stuff (this is a good world, after all), but he also goes after the ubiquitous commercialization of everything and how advertising can be deforming. He explores the dangers of consumerism and helps us "see through" the assumptions and values in typical advertising. Crass materialism, though, is just the tip of the iceberg---Sam helps us discern other values and worldviews that are implicit in the stories advertising tells. He gives spiritually-shaped insight into how to critique the messages found in ads and invites communal discussion about how to have a Christian worldview solid enough to not only understand the deeper views that come through the ads but how to resist them. It is a book that we all---unless you live in a cave--really need. And we really need it this month.

Over the next week, offices, dorms and dinner tables will be full of talk about which Super Bowl ads were most enjoyable, clever, fun. Last year we even went to websites and reviewed some of them as we talked about them as a family. I must say, though, that as much as we are committed to an "in the world but not of it" sense of righteous cultural engagement, we didn't get very far in discerning the deepest and most implicit ideologies of the best ads. We complimented the talent of the best, and moaned through those with explicit tackiness, sexism or crass vibes of hedonism. But the deep and discerning wisdom that Sam invites would have come in handy last year. Even if we are aware of this stuff, it is amazing how seductive these great ads can be in shaping our view of life, and our view of ourselves, our needs, our identity.

AND SO: we announce the first (and maybe last) Hearts & Minds Super Bowl Ad Discernment Contest. Write and post a brief (please!) paragraph or two offering some sort of ideological critique and cultural discernment as you "read" the ads offered during the Super Bowl today. The one or two (if more than two participate) that seem to show the kind of insight and evaluation that Sam commends will get a free copy of his book. We will send it out next week, no strings attached. If you've got it already, you can (obviously) give it away to someone who needs it. All of us live in this media-drenched, commercialized and global economy. How can we live up to our high calling in Christ to be people who are prophetic and resistant to the ways of the world? How can we move "from comercial hype to gospel hope"? Maybe On Earth As It Is In Advertising can help. Get your free one by offering your take--- not necessarily on your favorite ad, but the one you are best able to evaluate and offer some faith-based cultural criticism about. Have fun. We're eager to see if anybody posts anything. The free book awaits.