MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Joining us this morning is George Sinclair, formerly with Government Street Presbyterian Church, now the reverend is retired but he’s staying busy. His new book “Look Around” is a series of thoughtful, engaging essays on a wide range of topics in Christianity and faith. Each chapter is a question on a big topic. What is your overarching message with this book?
Guest: 1) Good Morning, Chad. Great to be with you and thank you for the question. I’ve tried to write a book for people of faith who are committed but want to go deeper–people who are regular churchgoers and members who want a better understanding of their faith, its origins, and more important implications for life here and now. Faith is not reserved for Sunday morning. If we’re serious when we say we should walk the talk faith carries us beyond the church door and colors all aspects of life–not by simply sprinkling a little God talk here and there in religious matters but in all aspects of living–not just our personal lives but our words in actions in public life. I’ve also tried to write for people who were once active in the church but have grown disenchanted. And I’ve tried to write for people who are curious about the Christian faith but are disillusioned with the church and there are plenty of reasons for disillusionment. The church is an all too human institution–flawed, sometimes fraudulent, and sometimes toxic.
Anchor: Your chapter “Who is God” cautions people to avoid the binary traps when thinking about or discussing the Holy Trinity–what are some binary traps and how can they hold us back?
Guest: 2) I’m glad you ask about binary traps. How we understand God has a lot to do with how we understand ourselves and how we act in the world. The binary traps I mention in my book say more about us than God. For example, it’s a real struggle to hold together justice and mercy. Jesus says to forgive seven times seventy. Does that mean we’re just supposed to endure hostile or toxic people or to sit by when a neighbor is unjustly treated and do nothing? I believe God is at work in Christ to make the human family not only more just but also merciful. And in the particular climate we’re in that’s never been more important–we can’t simply walk away from one another–dividing ourselves up into neat little groups. Jesus died between two thieves and we’re all thieves. We can’t simply choose to be just or merciful–God makes all things, including us–new. And that means holding justice and mercy together.
Anchor: On the chapter on Jesus’ death and resurrection–how does that part of the Bible combat modern nihilism?
Guest: 3. I appreciate you asking about nihilism. There are lots of reasons we’re tempted to think that life is meaningless–that all those stories we were told in Sunday school or the stories we’ve picked up along the way that makes sense of life are just that–nice stories or fairy tales to keep us from being afraid of things that go bump in the night. And when we look around and see religious and political leaders or the institutions they represent act badly or corruptly or when we’re shockingly disappointed by people we once trusted or work a lifetime and have little to show for it or something to show for it but it holds no real value or feels hollow–we’re not wrong to give in to the idea that God is not or is neither great nor good or as the Bible says–there’s nothing new under the sun so eat drink and be merry or more darkly–get what you can or simply give up. The cross and resurrection doesn’t paper over darkness but proclaims that even the darkness is not dark to God–that nothing separates us from the love of God–not even our despair or anger or the darkness around us. Faith doesn’t blind us to darkness but shines a light or opens us to see what God is doing to make all things new. And that doesn’t come by magic. Faith is not a rabbit’s foot or lucky charm–but a hard-fought fight that leads to joy, which is something different from happiness.
Anchor: Which chapter was the most enlightening for you to write and why?
Guest: 4. That’s a tough question and I’d like to say–read the book and find out what chapter you like best but since you asked I’ll give it a try and say the chapter on work–Why Work? We spend a third of our waking hours working and probably much more worrying about it and recovering from it. And increasingly many are working even in retirement. And for many retirement years are anything but golden. So, I try to address the meaning of work and distinguish it from toil. There is such a thing as good work. Work doesn’t have to be toil. So, I’ve tried speaking to that in what I’ve written but I’ve also tried to place work within a larger framework not only by geography but also a time which is a central theme of the whole book–an invitation to look around not simply from our particular point in time but our location is a very big universe. And in my chapter on work, I invite readers to look around by asking about four worldwide and interconnected problems: overpopulation, unsustainable consumption, income inequality, and resource depletion. The earth will go on without us but we cannot go on without Earth. Moreover, the well being of each of us is connected to the well-being of all of us. As terrible as COVID had been it has made the necessity of human connectivity plain as day. Figuring out how to live together is not just a matter of survival but discovering the kind of joy God desires for all humans–not just a lucky few but all.
The publisher is offering a 40% discount with the code “WKRGSINCLAIR” if you buy through their site. The code expires 9/30/20.
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