Two of my favourite people on the planet are Dick Staub and David Fitch. They both have significant history in the city of Chicago - though Dick lives way out west now. And they both have roots in the C&MA. (And Fitch even has roots in the CM&A - that's a Chicago financial sector joke, in case you were wondering.) If you read to the end of this post, you'll discover they also have another connection.
Dick's book is the one to buy right now, About You: Fully Human, Fully Alive. This isn't a Christian self-help book. It's not about Living Your Best Life Now™.
This is a God-centered book that takes Hans Rookmaker's famous quote as a starting point:
Jesus didn't come to make us Christian; Jesus came to make us fully human.
From the book's back cover, Imbi's and my friends, Scott & Pam Nolte (theatre artists and co-founders of Seattle's Taproot Theatre) say this about Dick's book,
Dick Staub's insight into our present age and our deep longings lead us on a 'rowdy pilgrimage' to discover the riches that lay within our unique design while pointing us to the fully human life.
Artist Bruce Herman adds,
...Why does God love us? What is wrong with the current picture of our lives? How can it be painted more beautifully and truly to match the vision of the Artist?
Poet and Author, Luci Shaw writes,
...Dick Staub offers us the coherent narrative of the Why of humanity, the How of healing, and the Who of the Creator, giving firm ground for thoughtful questioners to stand on.
Your humble servant, a pygmy on this back cover of giants, adds,
Dick Staub is one of the few people I've met who truly cares about people becoming fully human. He is an effective and faithful guide on the journey to do just that.
He is indeed. Dick writes this at the beginning of the book,
...I have written this little book to share what I’ve learned about becoming fully human. I’ve studied this question academically, completing graduate studies with a concentration in the humanities (philosophy, the arts, religion), because, after all, the humanities are the study of humans and the culture they create, and that is what I was interested in.
Everything I know about becoming fully alive and fully human starts with a simple but profoundly important idea: God created humans and God created us in the image of God so we can enjoy a rich intellectual, creative, relational, moral, and spiritual life. You are not the accidental result of a random, purposeless process but, in fact, were created by a loving, personal God who had you in mind before the beginning of time. This is an essential and reasonable but embattled truth.
Dick's book effectively helps us come to grips with that truth. It is more than worth reading. (I'd also strongly recommend Dick's previous book - the one with a title and cover that doesn't do it justice, The Culturally Savvy Christian.) You should also become a regular listener to Dick's podcast, The Kindlings Muse.
Though I have no doubt that Dick would be quite capable of discussing the philosophies of Slavoj Žižek - and probably would have little problem pronouncing this Slovenian Political Philosopher's name - Žižek does not show up in About You.
He does show up, however, in Dave Fitch's latest opus, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission - coming in January of 2011 from Cascade Books - Theopolitical Visions series. Dave has yet to show me the book, so I'll need to let him write about it himself;
It’s the culmination of my efforts to write a political theology for the church of my heritage: evangelicalism in North America. I admit this book is a bit intense – theologically and otherwise (be forewarned). Nonetheless, I think it gets at something extremely simple and intuitive. It asks how does the way we articulate our beliefs (doctrine) and then practice them shape us evangelicals as a people in the world? Has the way evangelicals articulated and practiced their belief in Scripture, Salvation in Christ and the Church in the world shaped us in certain ways to be inhospitable to God’s Mission in the world?
I try to get us evangelicals to think about more than whether our doctrine is orthodox (indeed I assume it is). I try to get us to think about how our belief and practice shape our lives together as a people of God in the world. The ultimate question is – are the “kinds of people we have become” congruent with the gospel we preach?
I borrow some simple ideas from political philosopher Slavoj Žižek (his earlier work) to help us see that a politics in the world can either be shaped out of antagonism (we define ourselves by who/what we are against) or it can be shaped out of who we are in our relationship with God. (OK I just simplified it way down for Žižek purists out there) For Žižek of course, the latter is not possible. Nonetheless, he describes viscerally how politics works when it is formed around an emptiness, a core birthed out of antagonisms. For Žižek, this is how ideology operates. For me the question is, has evangelicalism taken on the shape of such an ideology in the world? Have we somehow lost our way and become a politics of emptiness/antagonism? If so, how do we restore ourselves to a politic of fullness in Christ for God’s Mission in the world.
Fitch's first book, The Great Giveaway (released on my 50th birthday, oddly enough), was a book that should have been read by a lot more people. It was the first book that I added to my Amazon aStore.
It's still an important read and I'd challenge you to pick it up. The new book is aimed more at a theological audience - I'll be buying a copy or two and getting Imbi to explain it to me. (And maybe my Slovenian sister-in-law can help too.) It's not yet available for pre-order, but, as noted, it's part of Cascade Books Theopolitical Vision series (and also not yet listed on their site as of mid-November 2010.)
Oh. And that other connection between Staub and Fitch. Dick was the Youth Pastor at the east coast church where Dave was a teenage member of the youth group. Which explains an awful lot to me. :-)