Theo Group Reading List (Summer 2021 and continuing)

Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder, by Kent Nerburn. Originally published 1994; 25th anniversary edition 2002. (226 pp.)

In this 1996 Minnesota Book Award winner, Kent Nerburn draws the reader deep into the world of an Indian elder known only as Dan. It’s a world of Indian towns, white roadside cafes, and abandoned roads that swirl with the memories of the Ghost Dance and Sitting Bull. Readers meet vivid characters like Jumbo, a 400-pound mechanic, and Annie, an 80-year-old Lakota woman living in a log cabin. Threading through the book is the story of two men struggling to find a common voice. Neither Wolf nor Dog takes readers to the heart of the Native American experience. As the story unfolds, Dan speaks eloquently on the difference between land and property, the power of silence, and the selling of sacred ceremonies.

The Yoga Journal has called it “a sobering, humbling, cleansing, loving book.” And the American Indian College Fund says, “This is one of those rare works that, once you’ve read it, you can never look at the world, or at people, the same way again. It is quiet and forceful and powerful.”

The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Originally published 1993. Republished 2019. 329 pp.

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortages to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others’ emotions.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith … and a startling vision for humanity.

Notes of a Native Daughter: Testifying in Theological Education, by Keri Day. Published 2021. 151 pp.

In Notes of a Native Daughter, Princeton Seminary professor Keri Day testifies to structural inequalities and broken promises of inclusion through the eyes of a black woman who experiences herself as both stranger and friend to prevailing models of theological education. “I call theological education to repentance,” she writes frankly, “by being truthful about the racist character of the theological enterprise even in the midst of its growing racially diverse landscape.”

Inviting the reader into her religious world—a world that is African American and, more specifically, Afro-Pentecostal—she not only uncovers the colonial impulses of theological education in the United States but also proposes that the lived religious practices and commitments of progressive Afro-Pentecostal communities can help the theological academy decolonize and re-envision multiple futures.

Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah. Published 2019. 234 pp.

In this prophetic blend of history, theology and cultural commentary, Charles and Rah reveal the far-reaching, damaging effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. In the fifteenth century, official church edicts gave Christian explorers the right to claim territories they “discovered” This authority became the basis for a national framework that justifies American triumphalism white supremacy, and ongoing injustices. The result is a dominant culture that idealizes a history of discovery, opportunity, expansion and equality, while minority communities have been traumatized by colonization, slavery, segregation and dehumanization.

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee. Published 2021. 448 pp.

McGhee reports on her journey across the country, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm–the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. This is the story of how public goods in this country–from parks and pools to functioning schools–have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, inequality increased universal healthcare was thwarted. In unlikely places of worship and work, however, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race to accomplish what simply can’t be done on our own.