Testify and Amen

From Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard College: Jesus is not a Republican:

I went to Sunday school nearly every week of my childhood. But I must have been absent the day they told us that the followers of Jesus were obliged to secure even greater economic advantages for the affluent, to deprive those Jesus called “the least of these” of a living wage, and to despoil the environment by sacrificing it on the altar of free enterprise. I missed the lesson telling me that I should turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, even those designated as my enemies.

The Bible I read says something quite different. It tells the story of ancient Israel’s epic struggle against injustice and bondage — and of the Almighty’s investment in the outcome of that struggle. But the Hebrew Scriptures also caution against the imperiousness of that people, newly liberated from their oppressors, lest they treat others the way they themselves were treated back in Egypt. The prophets enjoin Yahweh’s chosen people to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” and warn of the consequences of failing to do so: exile and abandonment. “Administer true justice,” the prophet Zechariah declares on behalf of the Lord Almighty. “Show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”

The New Testament echoes those themes, calling the followers of Jesus to care for orphans and widows, to clothe the naked, and to shelter the homeless. The New Testament I read says that, in the eyes of Jesus, there is no preference among the races and no distinction between the sexes. The Jesus I try to follow tells me that those who take on the role of peacemakers “will be called the children of God,” and this same Jesus spells out the kind of behavior that might be grounds for exclusion from the kingdom of heaven: “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

Balmer, incidentally, considers himself an evangelical Christian, although he is under no illusion that he has the same views as the majority of evangelicals in the US. Based on the essay, to which I commend you, I wish that more evangelicals did share his views. Perhaps in time more will.

The Great Book Triage of 2006

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Because the quantity of books I have threaten to collapse upon me and cwush my widdle head, we have, as a temporary measure, packed up the majority of my books into plastic tote containers, for easy shlepping to the basement. At some point in the near future I’ll put up some more bookshelves and they will be released from their polyurethane entrapments, but for now, it’s best for everyone involved.

Krissy has suggested this will also be a fine time to do a little culling of the books, and so I’ve gone through the collection with an eye toward which books I have more than one copy of, which books I’ve read but am likely never to read again, and which books I got for some unfathomable reason yet have no intention of reading (the picture above isn’t of the reject pile, incidentally; this was a picture near the beginning of the sorting process). I’m the sort of person who would generally prefer to give up a limb than give up a book, so you might imagine this was painful for me; I basically looked for excuses to keep ’em. But eventually I had over 100 books headed to the used bookstore. May God have mercy on their souls.

The sorting process did make me confront just how many books I have that I’m not likely to let go of. Books by friends, books given to me by friends (whether they’ve written them or not), and books that limited and/or first editions are all books that are not going anywhere, and I seem to have accrued a lot of those, with more coming in as we go along. There are worse things, of course. But it does mean I’m going to end up buying more bookcases than I imagined I would.