Thinking in a Different Climate: November Recent Reads

This issue of our newsletter gave subscribers a look at what some of our team members have been reading lately:

Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures
by Sarah A. Lanier

A seasoned missionary shares one of the biggest insights she’s gleaned from decades serving in the Netherlands, the Middle East and South America: The effect that climate might have on culture and social graces. For any southerner who has ever thought that northerners are impatient and rude, or any northerner who has ever bristled at the pace and tone of life in the south, this book might be a big help in understanding your far-flung countrymen. (Makes a great faith-based companion piece to our earlier recommendation of American Nations.) 

“Wal-Mart’s New Robots Scan Shelves to Restock Items Faster”
by Nandita Bose for Reuters

“Is Your City Getting Ready for Autonomous Vehicles? This Is A Guide To Who’s Doing What, Where, and How.” 
by Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles

The next major wave of robotics innovation is likely to have a big impact on what kinds of work are available in communities around the country—and our labor laws, employment policies and job-training programs are going to have to move fast to keep up. The race to put self-driving taxis on the roads is getting the most attention right now, but companies like Wal-Mart are demonstrating how automation and artificial intelligence might affect industries we always thought of as being “human-only,” like retail. These are probably going to be the types of stories and questions driving major political debates in our country within the next few years, at both the local and national levels. We’ll be exploring this topic more in 2018, but in the mean time, think about what kinds of questions stories like these raise for you about your own work and how your neighbors will make their livelihoods.

Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology
by James K.A. Smith

I think that James Smith should probably be listed among North America’s most important living Christian thinkers. Awaiting the King is the long-awaited conclusion to his three-part series of books on the ways that our routines shape the way we think and re-route the directions of our hearts. Like most books on what Christian faith means for public life, the book doesn’t quite do justice to the truly complicated nature of US citizenship, but it remains incredibly valuable both for its trenchant insights into how our interactions with the political sector can re-shape us without our realizing it, and for its sober conclusion, which makes four very practical recommendations for how to guard our hearts as we engage with civic life.
(Blurb by R. Barry)

“…one of the dangers of eagerly diving into the political sphere is that it tends to underestimate the strength of the currents already swirling around in that ‘sphere.'”
~James K.A. Smith

“What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ to Someone Who Is Struggling” 
by Celeste Headlee for

Politics in the US is marked by citizens displaying a lack of empathy or understanding for people we disagree with. But this lack of empathy doesn’t just run from the top down—the things we say and do in our day-to-day interactions with individuals can reflect or even drive our lack of empathy for broader groups of people. If James K.A. Smith is right when he says that the things we do shape who we are, then this analysis of “conversational narcissism” and how to avoid it might be an incredibly useful tool for forming yourself into the kind of person who thinks about politics in ways that defy the pundits and acts in ways that make the gospel look good to your neighbors.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind

On last week’s episode of the Christian Civics Podcast, we interviewed Steve Park to learn about how he has managed to remain energized and hopeful over the course of decades of difficult and often demoralizing work. Before the interview, we asked him to share a couple books that have been helpful or encouraging to him over the course of his ministry, including these two recommendations.

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