May Column

Summer begins earlier in Louisville, at least psychologically. When Derby is over, it seems that we begin to go into “summer mode” – scheduled activities wind down, the end of the school year is in sight. Summer often brings with it more opportunities for activities with friends and family, but it also (hopefully) brings a little more leisure and time for reading that broadens both mind and heart. I do a great deal of reading specifically focused on sermon preparation, and I love nothing better than a morning at the Louisville Seminary Library chasing down insights on a biblical text. But there is also a stack of books that I have dipped into that I am longing to read when I’ve got a few hours for reflective reading. Here’s what’s on my table, and I would love to know what you are looking forward to reading this summer.


Being Mortal has been recommended by a lot of people. The author, Atul Gawande is a best-selling writer and surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a staff writer for the New Yorker. His book explores end-of-life issues and the choices that (should) confront patients and doctors alike as we decide what the right way is to live the last years of our lives.


David Brooks is a regular columnist for the New York Times and his latest book is The Road to Character. Brooks explores the most venerable question posed to philosophy: what does it mean to live a good life? What is the difference between success (what he calls “resume virtues”) and a life in which one’s character as a good person is developed (cultivating “eulogy virtues”)? He explores this through a series of character studies – stories of people who sought to develop character.


Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi is the latest book by Vanderbilt New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine. Levine is one of a handful of Jewish New Testament scholars who seeks to help Christians and Jews alike understand the Jewish roots of Jesus’ teaching. She helps us understand scribes and Pharisees. She explores first century Jewish family life and thus radically re-interprets the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son. Levine is a wonderful and insightful author who wants us to recover the shock-value of Jesus’ teaching.


Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer was written by a friend of ours from Chicago. Jeanne Bishop is a criminal defense attorney who writes about her incredible journey after a young man killed her sister, brother-in-law and unborn child. After the perpetrator was apprehended, tried and convicted, Jeanne began a journey of re-thinking the justice system and what it meant to pray for and forgive the young man. Her reflection is an important contribution to our national conversation about justice and forgiveness.


Books always start good conversations. I look forward to reading and to the conversations.


Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor


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