Friday roundup: Five things worth paying attention to this week

Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.

1. What Are We Doing Here?: Essays by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) focuses on our political climate and the mysteries of faith. Robinson is intelligent and outspoken. “I am too old to mince words,” she writes, and notes that these essays reflect “matters of urgency…that arise from the way we think now.” See my longer review here.

2. Plantation Jesus: Race, Faith and a New Way Forward by Scott Welch and Rick Wilson with Andi Cumbo-Floyd (Herald Press) is a needed book for our time. Using many examples, it introduces readers to “Plantation Jesus: a god who is comfortable with pain and suffering, an idol who can only exist in oppression and codified bigotry.” This is an excellent source for Sunday school or study groups.

3. Disarming the Church: Why Christians Must Forsake Violence to Follow Jesus and Change the World by Eric A. Siebert (Cascade Books) is an extensive study of Christian nonviolence and a valuable overview for those new to the topic. Troubled by how much violence Christians condone, Siebert makes the case from Scripture for nonviolence and discusses how to live nonviolently in everyday life. His urgent call is worth heeding.

4. The Rider, directed by Chloe Zhao, is an account of rodeo riders on a South Dakota reservation so fact-based that it almost qualifies as a documentary. Zhao uses nonprofessional actors and stunning cinematography to produce an authentic and moving view of life there. It’s the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, directed by Morgan Neville, is a documentary about Fred Rogers, the children’s television host, that shows how radical and Christian Rogers’ show was. A Presbyterian minister, he addressed various issues with the message of unconditional love, in contrast with today’s climate of people attacking one another.

Gordon Houser is editor of The Mennonite magazine.

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