Tag Archives | Simon & Schuster

Ethics | Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cover of Bonhoeffer's EthicsSometimes I think I really have my life more or less behind me now and that all that would remain for me to do would be to finish my Ethics . . . (14)

Unfortunately, he was unable to finish. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazi regime on April 9, 1945, a mere two weeks before the allies liberated the Flossenbürg concentration camp which held him. The essays and notes which comprise Ethics were gathered and published posthumously.

Despite the lack of unified structure or flow to the book, the work is rich. Bonhoeffer’s penetrating mind reached deeply into a variety of ethical topics. Consider, for example, this meditation on obedience and freedom:

Obedience restrains freedom; and freedom ennobles obedience. Obedience binds the creature to the Creator and freedom enables the creature to stand before the Creator as one who is made in His image. (248)

Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran background is evident throughout this work. His discussion of the church and the world, the three uses of the law, and the role of the conscience in the life of a believer all reveal a Lutheran mind at work.

Ethics is a slow read. It’s a book that forces you to slow down and consider the details of what it means to be an ethical Christian.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. Translated by Neville Horton Smith. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995 (1955).

Secret Path | Gord Downie & Jeff Lemire

The cover of Downie & Lemire's Secret PathSecret Path is many things—a collection of 10 poems by Gord Downie, a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire, an album by the frontman of the Tragically Hip, the true story of Chanie Wenjack.

Chanie died on October 22, 1966 after running away from the Residential School near Kenora to find his father. Downie, inspired by a story in MacLean’s magazine, brought Chanie’s story to light fifty years after the tragedy.

The album-sized graphic novel when paired with the album is a moving experience. Listen to the album while reading the poem and leafing through the pages and Chanie’s short life comes alive.

To dive deeper into the story of Chanie, read Lee Water’s article in the First Nations Drum and watch the two hour CBC special on YouTube.

Downie, Gord and Jeff Lemire, Secret Path. Toronto, ON: Simon & Schuster Canada, 2016.

Drop Dead Healthy | A. J. Jacobs

The cover of Jacobs' Drop Dead HealthyAtkins. Paleo. Vegan. Wheat Belly. With all the health options on the market (and so little advertising restrictions), how could you possibly choose which way to be healthy? A. J. Jacobs to the rescue! The man who read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover and who spent a year following all the rules in the Hebrew Bible turns the focus on healthy living.

Jacobs spent two years of his life focusing on various areas of healthy living—from the exercise to meditation, from detoxing to finger fitness. He recounts his experiences in hilarious fashion. Here’s a taste:

I hurt my shoulder the other day. I hurt it while lugging a sheet of drywall out of my apartment. At least that’s what I tell people. Because I don’t want to hear their sass when I tell them the truth. Which is that I hurt my shoulder kayaking. On Wii. (113)

Drop Dead Healthy is a funny entertaining read that might actually teach you something about living healthier.

—A. J. Jacobs, Drop Dead Healthy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).

The Divine Magician | Peter Rollins

The cover of Rollins' The Divine MagicianA classic magic trick has three parts:

  1. The Pledge: “An object is presented to the audience” (3)
  2. The Turn: “This object is made to disappear” (3)
  3. The Prestige: “The object then miraculously reappears” (3)

In The Divine Magician, Rollins uses this unorthodox metaphor to describe Christianity. The sacred object is the Pledge—be it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or the Divine presence in the Holy of Holies. The crucifixion of Jesus is the moment when the curtain is pulled away and we realize that the sacred object is not there. In the end, the sacred returns in a deeper way than before.

The Prestige of Christianity testifies to an experience in which the sacred is no longer that which pulls us away from the profane, but rather is that which emanates from the profane. This is not about some belief in the inherent meaning of things; rather it is living as though everything has meaning—a life that cannot help but relate to the world as rich, regardless of what we think. The sacred thus is not some positive thing, but the experience of depth and density operating in things. (90)

Rather than the Pledge—an object forever removed from us—the Prestige pushes us “deeper into the world” (91) in love.

Peter Rollins excels at making complex ideas immediately understandable. He brings Lacanian-style psychoanalysis to the arena of theology with a philosopher’s grasp of the big picture.

My problem with Rollins lies with his radical theology (I’m using “radical theology” in its technical sense—a post-modern theology). He seems to find the greatest meaning in life when he leaves his deity behind. While his talk of the Pledge and the Turn gripped me, his description of the Prestige sounded vague and almost Oprah-esque at times. This is sad, because the Pledge, Turn, and Prestige could be used in a wholly orthodox sense. The Prestige could be understood as Spirit-indwelling—the divine no longer behind a curtain but within.

As always, Rollins is insightful, engaging, and honest. You don’t have to agree with all of his arguments to love the man’s spirit or his writing.

—Peter Rollins, The Divine Magician (New York: Howard Books, 2015).

Snappy Prayers | Joseph Heller

“Now, I want you to give a lot of thought to the kind of prayers we’re going to say. I don’t want anything heavy or sad. I’d like to keep it light and snappy, something that will send the boys out feeling pretty good. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want any of this Kingdom of God or Valley of Death stuff. That’s all too negative. What are you making such a sour face for?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the chaplain stammered. “I happened to be thinking of the Twenty-third Psalm just as you said that.”

—Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1955, 2011), 191.

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