View of the World and Culture
Blink, Outliers, The Tipping Point, David and Goliath, What the Dog Saw: Have you ever seen a picture of Malcolm Gladwell – he looks like he combed his hair with a firecracker! But who doesn’t LOVE his unconventional mind and his uncanny ability to synthesize history, facts and stories and generate conclusions that boggle and delight the conventional mind. I keep threatening to call him on the phone, invite him to lunch – and then buy my plane ticket to New York if he ever accepts my offer! He’s my favorite sit-down-and-relax non-fiction writer … also heard him speak at the Catalyst Conference a few years back in Atlanta. He’s an awesome writer and thinker.
Man’s Search for Meaning*: This little book (179 small pages!) by Viktor Frankl had a weighty impact on me many years ago. Apparently I’m not alone; just one of two million other people that bought the book! In one sense it’s a story of ‘hope’ – where it’s lost, where it’s found and how it’s nurtured. The book’s setting is disturbing, to say the least. Frankl was a psychiatrist imprisoned with other Jews in Hitler’s death camps in WWII. The Holocaust became his laboratory as he studied how men survived the horrors of the concentration camps … or did not. Fond of quoting Nietzsche, Frankl embraces the premise that “he who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” He then advances the proposition that, “A person finds identity only to the extent that he commits himself to something beyond himself, to a cause greater than himself.” His experiences and narrative will most likely upset your equilibrium … and then you can decide if he really ever discovered the true source of our Why, How, Identity and Hope.
Gospel of Freedom*: To be honest, when I read this book I got angry! Why? Because in spite of all the civil rights progress that Martin Luther King ignited – this great man was MUCH more than a civil rights leader – and I never knew that! King was a brilliant historian, theologian, and strategist … and to this day, I believe he is still marginalized in his role as one of the great and iconic leaders of the 20th century. This book bumped some older titles off my ‘Top Ten’ because it is so instructive and impactful. I believe Gospel of Freedom should be in every high school, college and seminary classroom in the country. What is generally known about MLK is the proverbial tip of the iceberg – we are indeed richer to know and love this man more fully!
O Jerusalem,* On the Eve of Destruction, Israel’s History*: It could easily be argued that the Mid-East is not the only source of daily news over the decades, but it frequently demands center stage. Can you remember picking up the daily newspaper or checking your CNN app and seeing nothing about the Mid-East? Yet, the vast majority of Americans can’t even locate Israel, Syria, Jordan, Egypt or the West Bank on the global map – and most have no idea of the origin of the modern state of Israel, let alone the history of the Palestinians! O Jerusalem, as a starter, is a bona fide can’t-put-it-down reader that will enrich your empathy and understanding of current events. By the way, The Eve of Destruction catalogued the events that were later fashioned into a Tom Clancy novel and Hollywood movie based largely on the hypotheses that might have played out in Israel’s 1973 war. If you want to really take a deep dive into Israel’s history and the territorial challenges in that arena, find a soft chair and invest in Israel’s History.
The Hole in the Gospel* Richard Stearns, former president of World Vision will take you on a missional journey that will no doubt upset your spiritual equilibrium. The dis-equilibrium of the developed and under-resourced world begs for more Christian engagement. Stearns points the way, via biblical mandate and the heart of Christ, to be more obsessed with biblical justice and tangible compassion for the sick and the poor. He points out in a more holistic sense that the “Church has a mission, and the mission has a church.”
The Lexus and the Olive Tree, The World is Flat, Beyond Christendom. You will find Thomas Friedman’s editorials and commentaries in your daily newspaper. He’s a New York Times columnist, a Pulitzer Prize winning author (The Lexus And The Olive Tree) and an exceedingly well read and respected player on the world’s ‘globalization’ stage. In some ways, he ‘broke ground’ … or maybe better said, ‘brought understanding and some clarity’ to globalization themes that have forced their way into the mainstream mindset over recent years. His initial writings positioned much of globalization as occurring post WWII and Cold War. His second book, The World Is Flat, broadened that perspective quite extensively but still largely centers on economic factors and America’s role. Both of Friedman’s books are well researched and nothing short of fascinating! But now enter Dr. Jehu Hanciles, Associate Professor of World Christianity at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. Hanciles argues an expanded view of globalization – not only chronologically, but also from the transformational impact of non-Western Christian migration and immigration trends. With a twenty-one page ‘Selected Bibliography’ you will want to buckle your seatbelt for a thoroughly researched and challenging read of the past, present and future currents driving globalization.