Reading for the Common Good by C. Christopher Smith: A Review


Chris Smith does a wonderful job of showing the connection between books and our everyday lives. The way that they shape our communities and churches and the impact that they can have on the growth of individuals. The encouragement he gives to promote books and discussion makes one want to go out and start a book club to start seeing the impacts in their own communities. It is a wealth of information that is easily a return to book to see what you can glean from it in additional readings.

The notes I took and highlighted were numerous. Here are some of my favorites that I thought I would share:

“Reading plunges us into the interconnected reality of creation, showing us our connectedness to people in other places and other times, reminding us how words on paper have the capacity to give shape to our everyday lives. Through language we are continually creating and refining reality. In our churches, we have the privilege of doing so together in ways that are attentive to the compassion, the justice, the healing and all the fullness of Christ. Our calling as God’s people is to be community shaped by the incarnational sort of learning. This is the very heart of discipleship, the way God has chosen to bear witness to the healing and reconciling of all creation.”

“So in addition to interrogating Scripture, we must allow  ourselves to be interrogate by it. And in allowing it to ask questions of us, we allow it to shine the light of Christ on our lives and to guide us toward deeper faithfulness to the way of Christ.”

“Thomas Merton has written that a person “knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.””

“In prayer and contemplation we begin to understand that our identity is not to be found in our differences from others– in our superiorities and in inferiorities– but in our common humanity.” Parker J. Palmer

“Neil Gaiman emphasizes that literacy — and especially reading fiction — is essential because it builds our capacity for empathy. “You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. [In reading fiction] you’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changes. Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more that self-obsesses individuals.””

“We need to be attentive to the bonds that link us to people in other places and to the work of deepening these bonds. Reading is a vital tool in this process of linking ourselves to other places.”

“Love itself is knowledge: the more one loves, the more one knows.” attributed to St. Gregory the Great

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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