On evil by Terry Eagleton

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2013 by Aaron R.

In popular discourse, Evil is unintelligible. The less intelligible an act is the more evil the act becomes. This accounts for the common-sense notion in which evil has come to mean ‘without a cause’. The contradiction in our current usage is that we then proceed to explain the unintelligible. The explanation often rests on something that is actually beyond the control of the actor: i.e., they *are* evil rather than what they have done is an evil act. When such discourses are used it is often in an effort to debunk the connection between environment (i.e., poverty, abuse, etc.) and replace it with another cause (i.e., character). In this way we throw out one cause only to replace by another more mysterious cause located in the opacity of the self. Continue reading

The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2013 by Aaron R.

The Unsettling of America is still, despite being quite dated, an important call to practice an ethic of kindly care in our interaction with the earth. Yet, as Berry argues, this ethic is profoundly difficult to realise because of the fractured quality of our identity and also our relationships with each other and the environment.

While earlier chapters work to layout the assumptions that drive the analysis in the latter parts of the book, I found these the most engaging and persuasive components. He seems at his most forceful when he allows the self-evident nature of the conclusions to stand on their own. However, his incisive critique of agribusiness and the agricultural policy of the United States still resonates, even if matters have changed somewhat. Continue reading

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 by Aaron R.

For a committed, institutional Christian there is something deeply unnerving about Shane Claiborne’s ‘Irresistible Revolution’.  Not only does Claiborne offer a call to sever our attachment to the insularity of faith – and thereby radically reconfigures our conception of community – but it also seeks to destabilise the security of faith by opening up questions about our reading of the life of Jesus. Continue reading

Rocks of Ages by Stephen Jay Gould

Posted in Uncategorized on January 26, 2011 by Aaron R.

Gould’s book is enlightening and generous; and which has certainly been influential in recent discussions of science and religion. Despite Dawkins incredulity, Gould’s position does possess a certain parsimony and beauty. Moreover, those Mormons familiar with Lowell Bennion will feel a sense of déjà vu while reading Gould’s monograph. These issues aside, I want to explore in some detail the ways in which the NOMA push against each other, for as Gould argues ‘if some contradiction seems to emerge between a well-validated scientific result and a conventional reading of scripture, then we had better reconsider our exegesis, for the natural world does not lie’ (p. 21). Continue reading

On Shared Suffering: Room by Emma Donoghue

Posted in Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 by Aaron R.

[Spoiler Alert]

The intimacy of shared pain is a recurring theme through ‘Room’. Similar life experiences create rich and ennobling connections with people,  but our different responses to painful experience inevitably drag others through our own recounting or re-living of an event. ‘Room’ asks question about how we respond to suffering in the context of other people who we care about. Continue reading

David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory Prince & Wm. Robert Wright

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2011 by Aaron R.

This is a singularly important book primarily because of the source material. It is based upon the diaries of McKay’s long-serving, private secretary, Clare Middlemiss, and therefore provides intimate and detailed access to minutes from the First Presidency meetings, private letters and other sensitive materials. The topically–themed chapters provide a vigorous, though at times repetitive, panorama of McKay’s 20 year service as Church President. A number of important themes could be discussed, and have been elsewhere, but I want to focus upon just one: dissonance among the brethren. Continue reading

The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2010 by Aaron R.

Two primary reactions framed my cursory reading of Veblen’s seminal text. First, it was surprising how much of his thesis has become ‘accepted wisdom’ in the Leisure studies research literature. Second, it was unnerving how well he seems to have captured the field of Leisure studies without any empirical evidence, he seems to be the consummate ‘armchair sociologist’. However, both of these reactions are tied to the downfalls of the text. Continue reading

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