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May Book Review

With all of our rushing around in May, I didn't get much reading done!  I did read three books, but one was essentially a picture book.  LOL.

First up, Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton. Brandon Stanton set off to do a survey of New York City and its inhabitants ... through photography. He's done a remarkable job capturing emotion, the moment, and idiosyncrasies. But more than that, he captures the individual's story. New York has all sorts of people and some of the pictures may make you uncomfortable. But his job isn't to judge any of the people, but simply to document in an honest way. As a wannabe photographer, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though I'll have to admit there wasn't much reading involved, just enjoying photos.

I started another book and got a few chapters in and decided it wasn't worth reading. It was just kind of raunchy and took my mind where it didn't need to go. So, a few days wasted on that one....

Next up was Screams in the Desert by SueEenigenburg.
Sue Eenigenburg wrote this book as a devotional with 52 chapters, intended to read one chapter per week. I just read it in its entirety in a few days, so it's not necessary to stick to a strict one-a-week schedule. Each chapter includes an antidote from Mrs. Eenigenburg's life, a Scripture passage to read through, questions to answer, an activity/assignment to do, and a prayer. 
This book is especially designed for women in their first term of missionary service, but is not exclusively for new missionaries. 

She has a great sense of humor, but the book isn't as funny as I was expecting. She has some fantastic insights and asks insightful questions in the question section. I am currently rewriting our field orientation manual and I definitely plan to borrow some ideas from Mrs. Eenigenburg!

The third book took awhile to get through and is definitely one that needs time to mull over.  It's also one that I recommend every white evangelical read, though I can guarantee it will make you uncomfortable.  The book is Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael D. Emerson and Christian Smith.

Having grown up in Nigeria, I had no idea that racism in America existed.  White and black people equally came and went in our home. I wasn't racist and my parents weren't racist....but it never dawned on me to wonder why, upon returning to the USA, our neighborhood was all-white and our school was nearly all-white (we had a few Hispanic students) and our church was all-white. At my almost-all-white college I met an African-American student who told me quite openly what it was like to be a black male in a white-dominated society. I was shocked! I could not believe it and that was the beginning of my realization that there is racism in this country. It's only recently that I've realized how systemic it is.The author of this book shows how white evangelicals, for the most part, are not racist themselves. We are kind, loving people who would not be involved in any overtly racist activities, but we don't have any idea how we much operate from a platform of privilege that not every body in this country has.

He also shows the history of the evangelical church in America and how some of our strongly held beliefs actually contribute to racism. For example, we are very individualistic and believe that each person is responsible for their own sins and for their own lives. That's fine up to a certain extent, but what about generational sins? What about the strongholds those sins have created? This belief causes us to hold firmly that everybody can pull themselves up and become better; but it ignores that the system is created in such a way that it is nearly impossible for many people to pull themselves up. The authors also examine the white evangelical viewpoint on free will and personal relationships and the belief that repentance and conversion of sinful individuals is all that is needed to solve the race problem.  Jesus is definitely the answer, but sometimes that means we need to work to change laws and practices, to move out of our comfort zones, maybe to move into a neighborhood where not everybody looks like us, or to invite African-Americans into our homes.

The book is at times very technical and reads like a sociology text book. I appreciate that it is well-researched, but at the same time the statistical gathering of information sometimes went over my head a bit. I was also disappointed that the authors did not give many solutions. They did point out some possibilities, but upon closing the book, I thought, "Now what?" On the other hand, perhaps that's exactly where the author wants us. He gave a brief outline of some solutions, but it is up to each of us in our context to work that out. One thing for sure, how can we continue to tolerate the systemic racism that is in place in our country today where "all men are created equal, but some are more equal than others"?

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