Reading has been and always will be a relationship between the silent and the spoken, the internal and the external, the kept and the shared. As someone who loves reading, I’d like to start doing some more sharing of what I enjoy reading every week. Links and thoughts are below.
Marissa Compton, “Hunger, Bread and Stone,” Again, But With Feeling: A Personal Theology.
Marissa is a really good friend who has delightful theological insights that bring me closer to divinity and grace. I’m grateful for the words she gives us and the ways she helps us to rethink faith and belief.
This article, particularly, struck me as she and I are in similar parts of the same boat. We graduated the same time from Harvard Divinity School and are facing dealing with a shifting and tumultuous world post-graduation with degrees in theology. While theology can provide peace and assurance in times such as these, they aren’t perfect at supplying a roof over the head or bread on the table. Her insights into faith, though, are manna for my soul during these troubling times.
“I’m grateful, but I’m also afraid. There are a lot doors I’ve been knocking on for a while, and nothing seems to be opening. Some of these prayers are existential questions—theological, social, political—and some of them are so personal, they’re nearly biological. Prayers about people I miss and purpose I want to feel, prayers about not being depressed and the world not being terrifying.”
V.E. Schwab, “How Bestselling Author V.E. Schwab Finally Found the Words to Come Out of the Closet,” O: The Oprah Magazine.
Victoria Schwab’s engaging, heart-wrenching, and utterly dynamic coming out story is as beautiful as it is hopeful. It touches on concepts of identity, community, and communion in the way that only Schwab, who is a pinnacle among writers attempting to portray those on the outskirts, in the gardens and not the houses, can.
“…you say you’re sorry you’re late, you got lost, and they fold you into their arms and says it is okay, you are here now.”
Benjamin E. Park, “Mormons and evangelicals share an ironic skepticism of democracy,” Salt Lake Tribune.
As we engage in a politics that will, I believe, continue to be centered around religion in the coming years, it is important to know the history of how we got here. Two prominent Mormon studies books that came out this year, Joanna Brooks’s Mormonism and White Supremacy and Taylor Petrey’s Tabernacles of Clay, both argue strongly that the arc of religious history is never set in stone; rather, it is full of people making choices regarding their theology and meaning making. Park’s short essay in the Salt Lake Tribune shows a brief snapshot of the political alliance between Mormons and Evangelicals and how that has eroded parts of our democratic processes.
“But the Faustian bargain that the Mormons and evangelicals made with the GOP has now led them to hold deeply ironic political positions.”
Nicholas Carr, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” Norton (2020, 2nd edition).
I was introduced to The Shallows by one of my undergraduate professors. I read some of it that semester, but it didn’t come to forefront of my attention until I started thinking about my interaction with the internet and particularly social media in relation to my desire to be a professor. Carr’s book may be a little old—the first edition was published in 2010—but much of what he says is prevalent and predictive of what has happened with the internet and to our attention spans and memory.
I returned to Carr’s 2020 edition of the book, in which he added more engagement with internet-enabled phones and social media. His basic argument is that the internet is causing our thinking to become shallow because it replaces our organic memory with a technologic one. Because of this replacement, our brain doesn’t do the same work as it used to and thus cannot create the same pathways that it did before the internet. While I do not agree with the sentiment that we should not just do away with the internet (Carr does not either), it does put into perspective and help one to think about how the internet as a tool is changing our humanity.
“Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities. The more we use it, the more we mold ourselves to its form and function.” (209)
“It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards.” (116)