Diversity in My 10 Most Influential Books

There’s been one of those viral challenges going around Facebook asking for your 10 most influential books. Here’s mine, not counting the books of the Bible:

  1. Repenting of Religion by Greg Boyd
  2. Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
  3. The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle
  4. A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren
  5. A Nonviolent Atonement by J. Denny Weaver
  6. The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey
  7. God and Empire by John Dominic Crossan (even though there were some sections I really didn’t agree with)
  8. Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright
  9. Christianity’s Dangerous Idea by Alister E. McGrath
  10. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

The last 2 took a while and on any given day could probably be interchanged for some others like Boyd’s God of the Possible and McLaren’s Everything Must Change, but for the most part, this is what I’m looking at for my core book influences.

Lacking in Diversity

The obvious problem here, at least once I stop and look at it: only 3 are from women and only 1 is from somebody who isn’t white, although Weaver is dominated by bringing together a wide range of liberation theology voices. The other 7, plus the 2 extras I thought of as contenders for the bottom of the list, are white men.

My primary podcast influences are Woodland Hills Church, which is probably about 80% white men preaching, and my own church The Meeting House, which is probably about 95% white men. Even worse there.

Once we get to blogs, the ratio is a little more respectable but still definitely a minority. I find that even when I follow a lot of women’s blogs, most write less often so still get minimized on a posts-per-day basis.

On Twitter I think the majority of tweets I see now are at least one of female or non-white. Twitter is definitely a good platform for helping get oppressed voices out.

My Diversity Goal

After reading Disunity in Christ, I made the commitment to make half of my books read going forward be in some way a voice that is typically suppressed and oppressed by the dominant categories which I myself fall into. For the most part that means female and non-white voices, but I would also count LGBTQ voices and others.

I’ve succeeded pretty much on the strength of popular women’s writers. I’ve read Rachel Held Evan’s Faith Unraveled and Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist. I’m currently reading Wendy Vanderwal-Gritter’s Generous Spaciousness. I’ve also added to my Kobo shelf in that time works by Lauren Winner, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Nish Weiseth, but haven’t read them yet since I tend to buy at about twice the pace that I can read them (which is much better than I used to be).

When it comes to non-white voices, I haven’t done so well. Part of it is lack of availability in the library or even on Kobo, which leaves me to buy physical books or switch to Kindle for some books, two ideas I am generally not a fan of. But I don’t really want that to be an excuse, so I’ll definitely give in soon and start buying some, likely starting with The New Jim Crow or some of the classic liberation theology works that I have encountered a lot of commentary about but haven’t actually read directly.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Benjamin Sutter

    I’d very much suggest James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”. He does a wonderful job of emotionally, theologically, and academically showing Christ’s commonality with oppressed Black America.