Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What we're reading...

1. The Wind Doesn’t Need a Passport: Stories from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Tyche Hendricks, a journalist based in San Francisco, California, has traveled the entire length of la frontera and talked to a representative sample of people from both sides of the border, from doctors and nuns to ranchers, Minutemen, and border patrol agents. She demonstrates how the U.S.-Mexican border is not the solid barrier Americans conceive it to be, but a fluid, amorphous space that is crossed daily in both directions with no more consideration than someone might commute from Baltimore to Washington. She documents the amount of trade that goes on across the border and even shows collaboration between medical institutions and emergency services. She shows how many people live in one country and travel daily to the other for work or school, to shop or go to a concert or sporting event. And the traffic is both ways. After you read this book, you may very well reach the author's conclusion that shutting this flow of people off tightly is not only unfeasible but economically and socially counterproductive. (University of California Press, June 2010)

NOTE: Hendricks is on a book tour right now. She will be in Washington, DC the next two days.

2. Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice

Robert McClory, a retired journalism professor at Northwestern University (Medill) and former Roman Catholic priest, set out to balance the record following the firestorm of criticism generated by Fr. Michael Pfleger's mockery of Hillary Clinton in a 2008 sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. McClory seeks to show the world that the pastor of St. Sabina, whom he calls "a veritable sacerdotal Energizer Bunny", is more than just a loose cannon.

McClory, who served for a while at St. Sabina's himself though not with Pfleger, shows how Fr. Pfleger rebuilt St. Sabina's, following the "white flight" that came with integration in the 60s, into the vibrant African American Catholic parish it is today. He highlights the best of Fr. Pfleger's activist campaigns against the alcohol, tobacco and gun businesses that targeted St. Sabina's surrounding community, destroying lives. He also shows how Fr. Pfleger built up a massive social services operation, staffed frequently by parishioners and funded significantly by tithing, a practice Fr. Pfleger encourages successfully among his flock and one that is virtually unknown in most Catholic parishes. This book goes a long way towards answering the question that has been on the minds of many of us who have followed Fr. Pfleger's career over the years: How in the world does this man get away with what he does and not get suspended by his Archbishop? And for those who don't know Fr. Pfleger, it sheds some light on the theology of a liberated and completely inculturated church. (Lawrence Hill Books, October 2010)

NOTE: Fr. Pfleger's homilies at the 11:15 a.m. service -- a longer service in the African American tradition -- are broadcast over the Internet. They may be too long and too loud for Catholics of other traditions but the pastor's level of Scripture teaching is hard to top. His is a hard-hitting message along the lines of Jesus and the prophets.

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