Friday, November 12, 2021

Mini Reviews: Home Now and The Liturgy of Politics

Lewistown, Maine had been a relatively thriving small town. But then the mill closed and people started to leave. Residents wondered if the streets would ever be full of shops and neighbors again. Slowly, the town started to fill with new residents, until 1/6 of the town's population was made up of Muslim refugees. Cynthia Anderson looks at the ways the town came together and split apart across racial and religious lines by examining the experiences of people from a Congolese refugee applying to college in the US to members of an anti-Islamic group. What can one town teach us about the way we treat immigrants and the things we hold most dear? 

Anderson's goal in writing Home Now is a laudable one. She saw all the ways that her life and her family were like those of the refugees she interviewed, and she integrates a good deal of that into her book. But I often felt like it lacked a direction. Anderson could recount stories from long-time residents and refugees who just arrived this week for many years to come, and the conclusion would be the same--it is difficult to live in community with other people and all too easy to blame our difficulties on others. But if you are looking for an interesting glimpse into the ways we can find space for everyone's culture and traditions within one city's limits, this might be a good read for you. 

Home Now:
How 6000 Refugees Transformed An American Town
By Cynthia Anderson
PublicAffairs October 2019
336 pages
Read via Netgalley

There are two things we're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: religion and politics. Nothing makes people argue faster than presenting opposing views on these topics. But Kaitlyn Schiess argues that our faith should inform our politics, and that the structure of our churches is shaped by politics (even if we refrain from talking about the president at the church potluck). While liturgy may be an unfamiliar concept to some people, the idea is that we are shaped by what we repeat--whether that is watching our favorite pundit on the news or attending church. This book directs readers to ask themselves, "what am I being formed to love?"

Scheiss began writing this book while she was studying at a seminary during and following the 2016 election. While she and her fellow soon-to-be pastors did not want to tell people how to vote, they recognized that our faith shapes our politics and our politics shape our faith. She believes that if Christians keep their allegiance to God above allegiance to any party or politician, the ways we should act (and vote) can become clearer. This book may make readers uncomfortable, and that's a good thing. While the ideas may challenge readers, the writing is not overly academic. The Liturgy of Politics just might make people re-evaluate what is forming them and how their beliefs and actions impact the people in their communities. 

The Liturgy of Politics:
Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor
By Kaitlyn Schiess
InterVarsity Press September 2020
220 pages
Read via Netgalley 

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