12 Summer Gems: Marcus Borg, Sarah Arthur & Illegal

Summer 2011 is a great time for this series we’re calling 12 Summer Gems. Each day, through Friday, we’ll tell you about books and DVDs that will wake up your summer—and prepare you for a more creative, compassionate autumn. All are great for individual reflection—and for small-group discussion.

PLEASE, help us make the most of this series! Some of the authors and filmmakers we’re recommending this week depend on people like you—our readers—not only to purchase their work, but also to spread the news to friends. These 12 were chosen to highlight books and films you might not discover without our help. PLEASE, consider picking something this week for yourself—and tell friends via Email and Facebook.

Summer Gems 1: Borg, Arthur, Illegal

MARCUS BORG’s Speaking Christian

The full title of Marcus Borg’s latest book explains its importance—Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power—And How They Can Be Restored (Click any of the linked titles or book covers to jump to Amazon and order a copy.)
Next week, we welcome Marcus Borg back to ReadTheSpirit for an interview about Speaking Christian, so you’ll soon learn more about this book. Here are his first words, when you open the cover: “Christian language has become a stumbling block in our time. Much of its basic vocabulary is seriously misunderstood by Christians and non-Christians alike.” Any reader who is active in a church nationwide will understand that conclusion. At ReadTheSpirit, we talk frequently with churchgoers across the country—and this frustration over language is obvious. For example, one person’s “Born Again” is a heart-felt way of describing the power of faith to transform our lives. Another person’s “Born Again” is used to mock judgmental evangelicals. What will shock fans of Borg’s earlier books is that he defends the phrase as “utterly central to Christianity.” Want to know why? Read that chapter in his book. You’ll have no shortage of discussion in Speaking Christian!


Many readers are familiar with Sarah Arthur’s earlier devotional books that link popular culture with spiritual treasures from the Christian tradition. You might have enjoyed her Walking With Frodo: A Devotional Journey Through the Lord of the Rings—or perhaps her Walking through the Wardrobe: A Devotional Quest into The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. This book is different as the title suggests: At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time. Instead of taking us on a spiritual adventure through one particular literary work—this time, Sarah takes us into a library of poetry and prose where we meet dozens of writers from Jane Austin to Victor Hugo. You may guess from the vintage of those names that, yes, much of this book is a careful culling of works in public domain to create a daily spiritual source book. There are some contemporary excerpts, as well, including Kathleen Norris and Garrison Keillor. We know that many ReadTheSpirit readers love and collect guidebooks to prayer. In this case, there are many prayers and recommended scripture readings, but the spiritual art of this book is reflecting on literary passages that can light up our own reflections.


“Perhaps only the No-Illegal-Aliens governor of Arizona would be unmoved by the plight of a single mom fighting deportation in the powerful Belgian drama Illegal (by Olivier Masset-DePasse).” That’s how the New York Post began its review of this heart-wrenching film about a mother and her son caught up in the European system for detaining and expelling illegal immigrants. Right now across the U.S., politicans and courts are rattling swords in a show of “getting tough” with the millions of men, women and children who live among us without legal status. In this movie review, we’re not attempting to debate the legal issues, but it certainly is overdue to put human faces on the people caught in these legal webs. Some are, indeed, capable adults who maliciously manipulate Western laws. You’ll meet one such predator in this movie: Novak, the mob-related boss who rules this mother’s life with her son. But, many illegal immigrants are vulnerable women and children who may wind up like the little family in this drama—victimized from several different directions. At one point, the mother cries out to a guard in the detention center: “Do you want to know if I’ve suffered enough to stay in your country?” Film critics were mixed in their judgments on Illegal, because it is such a harsh indictment of legal systems that treat immigrants as less than human. This isn’t a choice for an evening of popcorn and laughter. But if you want to spark discussion—watch it with friends. (NOTE: Film Movement distributes hundreds of hard-to-find international shorts and features. Visit the Film Movement website to learn more about their DVD-of-the-Month club.)

PART 2: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Buddha wisdom & Holocaust DVD Korkoro

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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