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5 timely summer reads for thoughtful Christians

Steve Yount, a senior fellow with the Denison Forum, is a former newspaper editor and public-relations executive working with Christian ministries.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Summer is a great time to pick up a good book—and not just for escapist fare.

At Denison Forum, we equip Christians to thoughtfully engage the issues of the day from a biblical perspective. In our rapidly changing world, it’s important to be well-informed in order to share the timeless truth of God’s word in a culturally relevant way.

So here are five books on a variety of topics, from faith to foreign affairs, that will get you thinking. Some just came out; some have been out awhile. But all of them have a timely message.

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly

This book, in a surprising twist given its title, should be an encouragement to every follower of Christ.

Kelly believes the biggest lie is one we tell ourselves as Christians: “Holiness is not possible.” We think that holiness is possible for other people, “our grandmothers or some medieval saint – just not for us.”

We sell ourselves short, with profound implications for the world around us. Kelly explains: “This lie takes us out of the game and turns us into mere spectators in the epic story of Christianity that continues to unfold in every generation.”

The solution is what he calls “holy moments,” when we grasp opportunities to display Christ’s influence in our lives and establish an internal momentum that has a ripple effect on those around us.  

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby

Tisby writes that many of the worst acts of racism occurred “in a context of compromise.” When Christians failed to oppose racist conditions, it provided “fertile soil for the seeds of hatred to grow.”

Tisby begins his narrative in colonial times, when the two foremost preachers of the Great Awakening, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, owned slaves, and continues through the era of Black Lives Matter.

A classic example of the kind of compromise Tisby describes came when Martin Luther King was incarcerated in Birmingham in 1963. He received a letter from eight white clergymen, including a Jewish rabbi, urging restraint and patience, even though this kind of approach had yielded little to no progress for decades.

King responded with his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” saying “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

First: Sandra Day O’Connor by Evan Thomas

This is a wonderful biography of the first woman justice on the Supreme Court.

It documents in fascinating detail her odyssey from childhood on a ranch in Arizona to graduating from Stanford Law School without a job (because of sex discrimination) to becoming the most powerful woman in America.

O’Connor had a knack for building consensus and was a key vote in many landmark decisions on issues such as abortion and affirmative action. Thomas deals with them in full, but he also offers telling insights into O’Connor and life on the highest court in the land.

Her relationship with Justice Antonin Scalia could be tense. Once, when he started a diatribe against hiring preferences based on race or sex, she responded, “Why, Nino, how do you think I got my job?”

O’Connor announced her withdrawal from public life in October because of dementia, so this is a good time to reflect on her legacy.

The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury

Pillsbury, the director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute, has been an important voice in government policy toward China since the Reagan administration, and President Donald Trump calls him “the leading authority on China.”

Pillsbury’s most recent book will be an eye-opener for those who, overlooking China’s horrible record for persecuting Christians, believe its intentions are largely benevolent.

Instead, Pillsbury writes, President Xi Jinping dreams “of a resurgent China that would reclaim its rightful place atop the global hierarchy. This has been a Communist Party ambition since Mao took power in 1949, the date commonly understood by China’s leaders as the beginning of the Hundred-Year Marathon.”

Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal by Ben Sasse

A US senator from Nebraska and a Christian, Sasse says that loneliness is at the heart of what’s wrong with America. We are more connected than ever technologically, but we are increasingly disconnected socially.

Sasse borrows a phrase from Sports Illustrated to say we’re missing the “hometown-gym-on-a-Friday-night feeling” he had as a kid in Fremont, Nebraska. He writes: “People walked away from political conversations without thinking ill of each other, because that kind of talk happened in the context of actual relationships centered around local things that were a lot more important.”

Sasse believes that Americans have become so isolated that they have begun defining themselves by what they are against rather than what they support. “The alternative is restoring community for our new moment,” he writes. “We need to figure out a way to realize a sense of home in a world that looks very different than anything we’ve ever seen before.”