On the Seventh Day of Christmas
On the Eighth Day of Christmas

What I Read Over Christmas Break

MagazineAfter Christmas, my family and I retired to a condo at the coast for some much needed rest.  I picked up 35 to 40 magazines that had been accumulating, unread, since earlier in the Fall when, after the relative calm of Summer, life became hectic.  I was determined to get through them, reading at least one substantive article from each, and not to return with any of them in tow.  I just about succeeded.

What I am reminded of in this process is how accumulating magazines really feeds by petty ego.  I guess I think that I must be thinking important thoughts if I have so many journals and magazines.  But  having looked through them, I realize that a good book is far more valuable than most magazines.  That being said, there are exceptions, and I note a few articles that I picked up on here:

Two Christmas-themed articles inspired me.  In Wilfred McClay's God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: On Celebrating the Darker Meaning of Christmas (Touchstone, Dec. 2006), he commends the wonderful lyrics of traditional carols, songs we often know by heart but need to stop and really listen to.  I can identify, as I remember the words of a traditional hymn striking me anew at an office party once, making me want to shout "Do you know what you're singing?" to revelers.  And Richard Phillips' From Heaven to Earth (byFaith, Dec. 2006) is a great reminder that the Incarnation is about God coming to restore the earth, take rescue us from the earth, giving significance and value to the place in which we find ourselves.

I finally subscribed to Consumer Reports, and I immediately found an article, Stuffy Nose: How to Ease the Congestion, (Jan. 2007) of great help in navigating the panoply of cures lining the shelves of the drugstore (I am suffering from a walloping head cold!).  No magic bullet.  Rest, liquids, chicken soup, and judiciously applied medicines.  And while I was suffering I read about the origin and history of Lionel Trains in American Heritage (Lionel, Dec. 2006).  Just a bit of nostalgia for my childhood and my son's childhood, I guess, but an interesting story of entrepreneurial quick-steps and mis-steps in a business dating back to the turn of the century (1900, that is.)

Then it was back to matters of faith.  Matthew Cable had a helpful summary of what to say and what not to say at funerals, with the helpful and biblical theological point that we do not get resurrection bodies immediately at death but on Christ's Second coming.  The point: Be comforting, but be true. (Funeral Faux Pas: Avoiding Misstatements About Death, Christian Research Journal, Vol. 29. No. 2, 2006).  And although I know little about science and depend on others to lead me into all truth here, I appreciated the helpful critique of Francis Collin's The Language of God, an attempt to ground evolution in a theistic and Christian framework, by Jonathan Witt (Random Acts of Design: Francis Collins Sees Evidence That God Made the Cosmos - But Life Is Another Matter, Touchstone, Oct. 2006 [my behindness, if you pardon the expression, is showing here]).  Witt demonstrates the inherit contradictions in Collin's theory.  And then there's global warming, which there is large agreement on but disagreement on its cause and what we should do about it.  In a couple of different articles in Faith & Freedom, a publication of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, writers take issue with the Evangelical Climate Initiative.  I can only conclude that it's so difficult as a layperson to reach a thoughtful position on this issue.

Finally, I appreciated Denny Burk's summary and critique of UNC-CH Prof Bart Ehrman's popular Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. (Much Ado About Typos, Touchstone, Dec. 2006).  (Sorry, that one's not online.)  It's a bit I felt challenged to read but did not want to read, as I knew I would not have the time to read other books critiquing it!  Bottom line:  Nothing new.  We know there are typos in copying Scripture texts, but most are inconsequential.  Ehrman just taps into the cynicism and mistrust of religion and the church that is already out there to sell old news.

And so, there you have it, some fairly decent if scattered magazine reading from my holiday break.  My resolution: quit at least half these publications next year.  Read more books.  And question the value of such reading all the time until I figure out what really bears fruit.

Now, where's the recycle bin. . .