The Common Good

Favorite Books and Movies of 2008

Here are some books I read this past year that gave me considerable food for thought:

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Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

Abba's Child. Brennan Manning's personal faith struggles served as a poignant reminder that I am first and foremost a child of God. (Even though this book came out in 2002, I didn't read this classic until this year.)

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. Through Barbara Brown Taylor's eyes, I gleaned some practical and earthy insights into how I can worship God in my everyday life. (Scheduled to be released February 2009).

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Religion and journalism scholar Jeff Sharlet penned a riveting expose of a Christian network that has emerged as a significant behind-the-scenes political power broker.

The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice, by Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling. This title says it all.

The Great Emergence. Phyllis Tickle provides a much-needed, succinct historical analysis to the Great Emergence, a period of massive societal upheaval impacting technology, science, politics, religion, and the culture at large.

The Green Bible (NRSV). This green-letter edition of the Bible gave me a roadmap in my quest to connect creation care with my Christian faith.

Jesus Laughed: The Redemptive Power of Humor. Bob Darden always makes me laugh and think about my faith.

Jesus for President. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw illustrate why having the Amish in charge of Homeland Security might not be such a bad idea after all. Sure beats keeping some of Bush's defense team on the government payroll.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Rob Bell and Don Golden deliver the powerful message that Jesus didn't come so we could ride the heaven-bound express. Rather, he came to transform our world here on earth.

Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton. This book, along with the documentary by the same name, afforded me new insights into the 20th century's most famous monk.

The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord with Reflections, by Phyllis Tickle. By re-reading this book several times, Jesus' sweet, holy worlds fell on my ears, as though I was hearing scripture for the first time. Simply put, I've fallen in love with Christ all over again.

Also, here are 10 films I saw in 2008 that are well worth checking out.

Call + Response. This moving and chilling call to action brought secular and religious voices together to combat the problem of child sex trafficking.

Constantine's Sword. James Carroll took me on a compelling journey to uncover the roots of religiously inspired violence.

Happy Go Lucky. Mike Leigh, one of my favorite directors, served up another delicious offering.

Hunger. Director Steve McQueen's visceral portrayal of the 1981 IRA hunger strike led by Bobby Sands imploded all of my senses and left me chilled to the bone. (Scheduled for release March 2009.)

Milosevic on Trial. This very disturbing and compelling account of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic included interviews with many of the key players for both the prosecution and the defense.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This winner of the prize for best documentary feature at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival demonstrates how the power of prayer and interfaith nonviolent action by ordinary radicals can bring about massive political change.

Purple State of Mind. A documentary that demonstrates the common ground we can find in our shared humanity once we turn down the white noise of the New Atheists and Religious Right and really listen to the other.

Redbelt. David Mamet's latest offering surprised me with its tenderness. Watching a warrior give up all he had in this earthly life to pursue his dream filled me with hope when I was having one of those dark-night-of-the-soul days.

Waltz With Bashir. Ari Folman's journey uncovers his memories as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon war in this gripping animated adventure. (Scheduled to open Dec. 26.)

War Child. This winner of the audience choice award at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival chronicled Emanuel Jal's transformation from a child soldier in the Sudan to a hip-hop artist preaching peace.

Becky Garrison was interviewed for the documentaries The Ordinary Radicals and Nailin' it to the Church.

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