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Recent books by OCU professors

“Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age”

—By social justice professor emeritus the Rev. Robin Meyers

A revelatory manifesto on how people can reclaim faith from abstract doctrines and rigid morals to find God in the joys and ambiguities of everyday life, “Saving God from Religion” has Meyers arguing that people need to stop seeing their actions as a means for pleasing a distant God and rediscover how God has empowered people to care for themselves and the world. Drawing on stories from his decades of active ministry, Meyers captures how the struggles of ordinary people hint at how people can approach faith as a radical act of trust in a God who is all around, even in doubts and the moments of life people fear the most.

Recommended: “I am currently rereading 1984 by George Orwell, because I am teaching it in the Honors Seminar class, Ethics of Communication. Everyone should read (or reread) this timeless dystopian novel in light of rising totalitarianism around the world, and our willingness to give up our privacy and our individual freedom to the latest manifestation of Big Brother.”

“T&T Clark Handbook of Children in the Bible and Biblical World”

—Edited by religion professor Sharon Betsworth and Julie Faith Parker

This volume contains essays written by an international group of scholars who are shaping the emerging field of childist biblical interpretation. Childist interpretation focuses on the agency and action of children and youth in the biblical text. Throughout out the volume a variety of methodological approaches and textual analyses explore children in ancient Jewish and Christian religious texts and contexts.

Recommended: “I just finished reading ‘The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth’ by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. I’m teaching a course on the Gospel of Luke for Saint Paul School of Theology this semester, and it’s one of the books we are using in the class. The book does a great job of putting the stories of Jesus’ birth into the historical context of the Roman Empire, as well as comparing the versions of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to each other, and discussing what each Gospel is trying to convey about the birth of Jesus.”

“Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America”

—By musicology professor Dr. Jake Johnson

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopted the vocal and theatrical traditions of American musical theater as important theological tenets. As church membership grew, leaders saw how the genre could help define the faith and wove musical theater into many aspects of Mormon life. Jake Johnson merges the study of belonging in America with scholarship on voice and popular music to explore the surprising yet profound link between two quintessentially American institutions.

Recommended: “It seems I’m always reading several things at once, but my current obsession is ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers … (who) threads a great deal of information about trees—things you never thought you would hope to know—through a powerful narrative about presence, community, and the environment. Two thumbs up.”

“Escaping the Flames”

—By alumnus Todd Overgard (BS Business ’73)

Todd Overgard’s autobiography includes his many encounters with life-threatening dangers including an airplane crash that happened during his senior year at OCU. He was 21, in 1972, when the jet that he had just boarded was rolling toward its takeoff speed. Suddenly, the pilots saw a plane dead ahead and attempted to fly over it, but the collision was unavoidable. With flames inside and outside the plane, Todd scrambled to escape.

Todd has survived tornados, earthquakes, lightning storms, freezing temperatures, a gang murder trial, and more. He was also a tennis professional who earned three martial arts black belts, pursued the love of his life, and vanquished his demons. “Escaping the Flames” is the stunning story of a narrow escape from death, the trauma that such a disaster brings in its aftermath, and the very unusual events that occurred both before and after the crash.

Recommended: “I am currently reading ‘Unspeakable Things’ by Jess Lourey. It is inspired by a true story from the author’s hometown while growing up in 1980s Minnesota and rumors of young boys disappearing and then returning sullen and angry. I spent the first 11 years of my life in the upper Midwest, and I enjoy crime thrillers.”

“Wisdom Commentary: Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes)”

—By religion professor Rev. Lisa M. Wolfe

Qoheleth, also called Ecclesiastes, has been bad news for women throughout history. In this commentary, Lisa Wolfe offers intriguing new possibilities for feminist interpretation of the Qoheleth, including its offensive passages. Throughout her interpretation, Wolfe explores connections between this book and women of all times, from investigating how the verbs in the time poem in 3:1-8 may relate to biblical and contemporary women alike, to noting that if 11:1 indicates ancient beer making, it thus reveals the women who made the beer itself. In the end, Wolfe argues that by struggling with the perplexing text of Qoheleth, we may discover fruitful, against-the-grain reading strategies for our own time.

Recommended: “I’ve been reading ‘The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus’ by Amy-Jill Levine. My colleague in New Testament, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Betsworth, recommended this fascinating—even entertaining—book to me when I was seeking ways to help my Intro students better understand Judaism in Jesus’ time. It is so easy for Christians to read the New Testament in anti-Semitic ways, so one of my central teaching goals is to correct those misinterpretations for the sake of interfaith understanding. I have assigned this book to my Honors Bible and Culture students, who are devising ways to teach the material to others.”

Professors' book recommendations

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