The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Tag John Howard Yoder

Readings for January 2014

In which I eventually get to documenting my reading adventures.

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

I was gripped by a desire to re-read this classic sometime back. I first read this back in 2011, and it never left me. Yoder's power in this work is in the unmasking of what is plainly in the gospel texts: Jesus did have a politics which was particular to his time and place, but his politics can nonetheless be applied in the here and now. Now why would this message need to be unmasked? It is due to our culture and our theology and our fixation on our own politics, I think. First-century Palestine was such a remote time and place, it seems to many modern readers that Jesus must have been a mystic on a quest to bring others to enlightenment.

Part of what I appreciate about The Politics of Jesus is that Yoder so convincingly draws the pacifist line between state aggression on the one hand and Christian anarchism on the other. He made space for law and order and taxes and civil government while at the same time rejecting the nationalist fervor which leads to consumptive war. My reading of Yoder's vision saved me in a way, for at the time I was torn between rejecting the brutality of the state on the one hand, but being unable to commit to anarchism on the other.

This is a seminal work of Christian thought in the twentieth century, so it is, of course, recommended.

Children of Light by Robert Stone

I love checking out new authors by way of the library, but alas my local libraries are not very accessible given my commute. So I registered as a patron of the Multnomah County library, and now use their Central branch downtown for getting books close to work. Robert Stone's Children of Light was my first acquisition with my new card.

The novel follows a few days in the lives of two Hollywood personalities, a writer and an actor, erstwhile lovers, as they set out on a crash course towards each other. The characters are soaked with alcohol and drugs, personal demons, horrible friends and bad lack. It is quite like reading about a train wreck in slow motion, with some good nods to classic American literature as signposts on the track. To my astonishment, Stone develops the characters in such a way as to remain pitiful without sentimentalizing them. I grew fond of them, was rooting for them. But be warned, fair reader: this is a tragedy. Recommended.


  • Harper's January 2014 - John P. Davidson's account of a modern school for butlers is both amusing and perplexing - it seems that the ultra-rich cannot help but descend into self-parody.