My training in Philosophy might be summarized as taking this saying to an extreme. To borrow one of Stanley Hauerwas’ more epic lines, in Philosophy, I was taught to read things the same way porcupines screw: very carefully.
I was recently asked, however, to put this training on the shelf for a day and judge thousands of books by their covers. The Christian community I am a part of here in South Korea is building a library for a sister community in Nagaland, India. Thousands of Christian books were donated by Korean Christians for this library. The books were almost all published in America from the 80s to 2000s. My job was to sort through them and take out books that were not relevant, heretical or too old and broken.
Judging so many books quickly did allow me to take a broad view of the kinds of books Christians have been writing and reading.
My initial response to the task given to me was enthusiasm. Building libraries for the rural poor in India! What could be a more worthy task? However, as I began sorting through the books, I became discouraged.
Were these books that would help build the church in Nagaland or were they only books that offered comfort and advice for Christians who wanted to get along in middle class North America?
Here is some of what I found.
The questions I asked myself as I sorted through these books were the following: Are these the books we need to interpret the Christian story faithfully in an idolatrous world? Are these the books we need to transcend our own situations and pull together as the global church in a hostile world? Are these the books we need to live lives that make us look more like Jesus in a “me first” world? I asked these questions not as the North American “we,” but as the Christian “we.”
Unfortunately, far too many books were not the books that we need. As Christian writers and readers, let’s take this as a challenge!
I am a Christian church member, with an interest in peace theology, virtue ethics and community life. I grew up in the beautifully wet Fraser Valley, in British Columbia, Canada, where I currently work as a tree planter. My academic background is in Philosophy, specifically the Philosophy of Language and Ethics. From August 2017 to January 2018, I served at the Dandelion Community, an intentional Christian community in South Korea with a mission to help farmers around Asia.