305: Readers are telling us about Bond in New Zealand, DeLillo in New York and Maimonides in classrooms

nce again, you’ve sent us so many intriguing notes that we’re turning ReadTheSpirit over to you, our readers, today. But, we always can use more feedback! In fact, send us a note right now! We love to hear from readers!


I had to laugh out loud this week as snow piled up outside our Home Office in Michigan — just as I was reading the latest Email from Ken Chitwood, a Christian Educator on staff at a Lutheran church in New Zealand. I was shivering up here in the Northern Hemisphere and Ken wrote: “You must understand that it’s summer here for us, so I am sending this Email in shorts and a tee J!” (I think a “tee J” is what Americans call a T-shirt, right?)

    I was smiling already at the thought that this new Bible-study program, which we debuted less than two weeks ago, already is scheduled for a study group in a parish on the opposite side of the world.
    The movie “Quantum of Solace” is rolling out slowly around the world and it doesn’t reach theaters in New Zealand until November 27. In a note that began, “Good on ya mate!” — Ken explained that he is an avid Bond fan. “We are excited to do this study, and with QoS still coming out next week it is perfect timing.”
    What’s more, Ken and parishioners at Manawatu Lutheran church are planning to be among the many Bible-study participants who will be sending occasional ideas, questions, comments and perhaps even some disagreements back to the “mother ship” for this Bible-study program: http://www.BondBibleStudy.info/
    Check out the site for yourself. We’ve added a couple of Bond trivia quizzes. Plus, author Benjamin Pratt has added his own movie review of “Quantum of Solace” — and I can guarantee you that you won’t have thought of some of the intriguing connections Dr. Pratt makes with the new movie.
    Most important is the way that the entire ReadTheSpirit family of Web sites is forming community around the world. Over time, you’ll be able to connect your reflections with readers in many other towns — and in this place called Palmerston North, New Zealand.
    I looked around online to help us all welcome our new neighbors. I discovered that the town is near the foothills of the Tararua Mountain Range. The link above goes to the Wiki page on Palmerston North, but I found another cool site about New Zealand that describes the town more concisely as “a growing city of 76,000 situated on the banks of the Manawatu River at the foot of the Tararua Mountain Range. Palmerston North is a vibrant youthful city with an active student population, nearby Linton Military Camp & several knowledge organizations. Since 1930 the City has been broadened by the establishment of Massey University & the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute, hence it is known as New Zealand’s `Knowledge City’.”

    So, welcome aboard friends in New Zealand! Let’s all stay tuned and welcome all the readers who will be sharing thoughts on Bond!


Thanks to another friend of ReadTheSpirit, writer Pat Chargot. This week, Pat sent a note about how much Don DeLillo’s “Falling Man” helps to clarify some of the spiritual fragility we’re all feeling at the moment.
    I don’t know how many calls and Emails I’ve received this week from friends, readers, writers, religious leaders, students, ordinary folks like you and me — all wondering “what’s going to happen next?” Dr. Wayne Baker is exploring many of these themes over at his OurValues.org Web site. And, on Thursday this week, I tried to provide a different kind of response for readers.
    But a crucial part of the challenge we face is simply acknowledging the “belief and doubt, doubt and belief, belief and doubt that we all — or most of us — ping back and forth between,” Pat wrote in her Email.

    I’m a longtime fan of DeLillo myself, especially his classic, “White Noise.” Some may find him cold or even caustic. I find his books cleansing and remarkably clear eyed. A DeLillo novel is like taking a spiritual retreat in an easy chair.
    Pat wrote that she was drawn to this passage in “Falling Man,” and she sent me these lines as her recommendation of this book to others:
    “She wanted to trust in the forces and processes of the natural world, this only, perceptible reality and scientific endeavor, men and women alone on earth. She knew there was no conflict between science and God. Take one with the other. But she didn’t want to. There were the scholars and philosophers she studied in school, books she’d read as thrilling dispatches, personal, making her shake at times, and there was the sacred art she’d always loved. Doubters created this work, and ardent believers, and those who’d doubted and then believed, and she was free to think and doubt and believe simultaneously. But she didn’t want to. God would crowd her, make here weaker. God would be a presence that remained unimaginable. She wanted this only, to snuff out the pulse of the shaky faith she’d held for so much of her life.”
    This is honest writing. That’s the simplest way I can put it. And, at the core of ReadTheSpirit’s founding principles, we are a community of readers who are welcomed here — wherever we are, at the moment, in this “ping back and forth” that truly is the spiritual pathway millions of us are walking.

    Thank you, Pat!


Finally, I want to thank Jason W, who attends a high school near Chicago and wrote to me this week about our Conversation With Dr. Joel Kraemer on the 60 years of reflection it took him to produce the monumental new biography, “Maimonides.”
    Jason wrote: “I’m in a Humanities class … and someone showed me this article you wrote and I’m thinking if I chose this for a 5-page book paper if it would be a mistake or not because I have to finish this book and write the paper in only three weeks and I’ve heard about Maimonides and really think I would like to read this but maybe it’s too much? … I thought I’d ask. He seems like a very smart person for the world now from what you say.”
    Well, first of all — to Jason and any other readers who may be contemplating the adventure of “Maimonides” — I say: Dive in!
    It’s rare to receive a new biography of a major religious sage in which the author has devoted so many years to exploring the primary sources. In short: This book is the “real deal” on one of the world’s smartest religious leaders. And, what we discussed in the interview this week is absolutely true: Maimonides’ wisdom can help us today.
    That’s why Dr. Kraemer finally buckled down to writing this book, after more than half a century of contemplating Maimonides’ life. And, any students who choose to read the book? Email me and tell me what you think of it. I’ll gladly publish some reader reactions.

WITH that letter, we say “Thanks” to all the readers we’ve quoted today!

   If you didn’t see your comment or suggestion show up today—keep
reading, because we’ll have more news, reviews, quizzes and inspiring
interviews next week.

AND PLEASE, as these readers have done—Tell Us What You Think.
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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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