The Weekly Hit List: January 9, 2015

Rejoicing in Lament (February 2015) by J. Todd Billings received a 5-star review from Christianity Today.

“Few words have the power to chill the soul as does cancer. Combined with terminal, the effect is both exponential and surreal.

“It is trite to say that a cancer diagnosis will change your life. Hearing these words from a doctor is profoundly disorienting, more like an out-of-body experience than a medical judgment. Once the sentence is pronounced over us, like some strange and terrifying sacrament uttered by a priest, we are never the same.

“At age 39, theologian J. Todd Billings was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. In his remarkable book Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ (Brazos Press), he presents an unflinching look at how life changes after a medical death sentence. In the same tradition as C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Rejoicing in Lament is brave, honest, and probing. But this book has one important difference. Most writers in this genre look at death and dying through the eyes of a family member who survives. Billings surveys the same terrain, but through the lens of someone who is dying, someone whose landscape includes both ‘a narrowed future’ and ‘a spacious place.’ It is territory marked by fog and light, sorrow and joy. Billings wrote the book during various stages of his treatment, and its contours reflect the shape of a journey that isn’t over.”

Read the entire review here.


Three forthcoming Brazos Press titles were included in The Englewood Review of Books‘ Top 50 Books For Christian Readers to Watch for in 2015“:


Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried by Ronald J. Sider (February 2015)

“Every once in a while a book substantially changes the conversation, and even the posture, of the church. What Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger did to change how Christians think about poverty, Nonviolent Action promises to do for how we think about war. This book is for every person who is appalled by evil but conflicted in how to respond to it in a way that honors Jesus, the Prince of Peace. It is not just for pacifists. It is for skeptics, war hawks, liberals, and conservatives—but is not for the faint of heart, for in the end it is a clarion call to take the cross as seriously as we have taken the sword.”
Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and founding partner of The Simple Way


Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian by Wesley Hill (April 2015)

“Wesley Hill captured my imagination by presenting a vision of friendship—spiritual friendship—that has been our Christian heritage. Each of us who make up the body of Christ will be enriched and our corporate witness to a broader culture enhanced if we can find a way to live into this vision.”
Mark A. Yarhouse, Rosemarie S. Hughes Endowed Chair and professor of psychology, Regent University


The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance by Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson (fall 2015)

Here two authors with firsthand experience in the justice movement encourage us to ground our call to justice in sound biblical and theological teaching as we engage with the most critical global needs of our time. The authors connect justice to Scripture, the character of God, and the long traditions of the church so that our passion meets perseverance and justice becomes an enduring and integrated part of our life and faith.


Kingdom Conspiracy Media:

Books at a Glance reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

David Matthew reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Joshua Ryan Butler reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Scot McKnight wrote “On the term ‘Kingdom.'”


Quick Hits:

Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings was reviewed by Reformation 21 in “New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.”

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, will present at Calvin College’s January Series on Monday, January 12, on  “iGods: How Technology Shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives.”

Craig Detweiler discussed the positive and negative ways in which technology shapes our lives with the Centre for Public Christianity.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed in Denver Journal.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was reviewed by Drew McIntyre.

Colossians (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Christopher Seitz was reviewed by Chris Woznicki.

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was reviewed on Traces of Faith.


Ebook Specials:

Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity by Jonathan Malesic is only $1.99 (93% off) from participating retailers through January 12.

Ebook Special for Secret Faith in the Public Square by Jonathan Malesic

Now through January 12, the ebook of Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity by Jonathan Malesic is only $1.99 (93% off) from the following participating retailers:

Barnes & Noble



2009 Book of the Year Award, ForeWord Magazine

“Those interested in the ongoing discussion of the relation of Christianity and culture will want to read this book, as will any theologian interested in what it means to preserve the distinctiveness of Christianity in contemporary America.”
—Bill Reddinger, Religious Studies Review

In this groundbreaking and provocative book, Jonathan Malesic examines the tradition and practice of keeping faith separate from public life. Going against the general theological trend of advocating an ever more visible presence for Christianity in American public life, he argues that the best way for Christians to be caretakers of their tradition and to love their neighbors selflessly is to conceal their religious identity in the public square. The alternative—insisting on Christianity’s public visibility in politics, the marketplace, and the workplace—risks severely compromising the distinctiveness of Christian identity.

Delving deep into the Christian tradition, Malesic explains that keeping Christian identity secret means living fully in the world while maintaining Christian language, prayer, and liturgy in reserve. He shows how major thinkers—Cyril of Jerusalem, Søren Kierkegaard, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—sought to protect Christian identity from being compromised by the public sphere. He then shows that Christians’ dual responsibilities for the tradition and for the neighbor must be kept secret.

Jonathan Malesic (PhD, University of Virginia) is assistant professor of theology at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He has written several essays for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Hide it under a bushel? Yes!” by Jonathan Malesic

The following piece was written by Brazos author Jonathan Malesic, author of Secret Faith in the Public Square.

Hide it under a bushel? Yes!

Americans are growing tired of overt religious speech in the political sphere. This is great news for American Christianity.

Two years ago, 37% of respondents to a Pew Research Center poll said that there was “too little” religious expression by politicians; 29% said there was “too much.” As a poll released last month shows, these numbers have flipped. For the first time since October 2001, when Pew began asking this question, more of those polled (38%) said that politicians engaged in “too much” religious expression. Thirty percent said they did “too little.”

The data should not be taken as a sign of rapidly increasing secularization. With one important exception (more on that in a moment), Christians across the board think the amount of politicians’ religious speech is excessive. The data instead show that we may be moving out of an era in which Christian identity has been cheapened through its inclusion in the political–consumerist matrix and into an era of quieter reflection on the mysteries of the faith.

This is what I hoped could happen when I argued in my 2009 book, Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity, that American Christians should keep faith hidden in the public sphere in order to preserve that identity’s integrity. If Christian identity is just another brand loyalty, then it is pointless.

In the book and in my writing since then, I was not optimistic that politicians would start concealing their Christianity unless American Christians stopped rewarding politicians for exploiting it. The results of the Pew study suggest that, for whatever reason, a shift has occurred in voters’ minds. I hope that it is because American Christians are tired of the pandering and the perversion of their faith.

Perhaps American Christians are ready to heed the words of the second-century Letter to Diognetus: “As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen.”

In the Pew poll, one demographic was a statistical outlier: white evangelicals. Not only were they the group least likely to think there was “too much” religious expression in politics (only 14% said so), but they were also the only group that did not exhibit increased dismay over the prevalence of religious expression by politicians. Moreover, in several states where white evangelicals make up the core of the Republican Party, a solid majority of Republican primary voters told pollsters that it was important that a candidate share their religious commitments.

With white evangelicals’ favored candidate, Rick Santorum, now out of the running, and with neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney likely to draw enthusiastic support from them, evangelicals will likely get less attention from the candidates. And with other Christian groups now less interested in hearing professions of politicians’ faith, we stand a decent chance of seeing a presidential campaign season in which Christian identity is not the rope in a tug-of-war. Christian identity can be more about faith than focus groups this time.

Jonathan Malesic (PhD, University of Virginia) is associate professor of theology at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently working on a book offering a theological work ethic for postindustrial, post-Protestant America.