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Fall 2014 Reading Groups: Thomas Piketty, James K.A. Smith, Dorothy Sayers, & more

fall reading group covers

We’re hosting some exciting reading groups this fall, and we’d love to have you join us.


Our reading groups are open to everyone—students, faculty, and community members (the exceptions are #8, #9, and #10). If you’re interesting in participating, you can register here.

1. Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty

  • Facilitator: Jay Coggins (Prof. of Applied Econ, UMN) and Andrew Lucius (PhD candidate in Political Science, UMN)
  • Mondays, 7:30 – 9 p.m.
  • Dates: 9/15, 9/29, 10/13, 10/27, 11/10, and 11/24
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has been one of the bestselling and most talked-about books published this year, rare for a nearly 600-page book on economics. Piketty uses empirical economic data from three centuries to argue the controversial thesis that rising wealth inequality is actually a structural feature of modern capitalism, not its corruption or aberration. This group will read Piketty’s book both to understand its analysis of modern capitalism and to consider how Christians should think about and relate to modern capitalism and wealth inequality.

  • Genre, subject: Non-fiction, economics
  • Required reading: 100 pages/meeting
  • Difficulty: 3 (high)
  • Keywords: capitalism, wealth, economics, history, income, inequality


2. The Man Born to Be King by Dorothy Sayers

  • Facilitator: Kathryn Wehr, MA, MCS (Adjunct faculty in Theology at North Central)
  • Dates/Time: Thursdays, 6:30 – 8 p.m., Sept. 25 – Oct. 30
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

In the midst of WWII, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote a series of radio plays for the BBC entitled, The Man Born to Be King which both shocked and delighted British listeners because of the way Jesus spoke colloquial English – instead of the King James Version – and was shown to be truly human as well as truly divine. Sayers was convinced that the Gospel told well is the most exciting story ever told. This group will read these twelve radio plays aloud together, considering how Christ is being portrayed alongside the cultural and religious setting of wartime Britain.

  • Genre, subject: Drama, the life of Jesus
  • Required reading: 20-30 pages/meeting
  • Difficulty: 1 (low)
  • Keywords: drama, radio, Jesus, Gospels, Dorothy L. Sayers, WWII, Inklings


3. First Things Reader’s Group

  • David Hoffner, MA and Paul Calvin, MA
  • Dates/Time: Second Wednesday of each month, 8:30 p.m., starting Sept. 10
  • Location: Blue Door, Longfellow (3448 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, 55406)

This group meets each month to discuss articles in the newest issue of First Things. If you’re not a First Things subscriber, feel free to stop by the MacLaurinCSF Study Center to read the latest issue in the comfort of our living room. (We’ll even make you a free coffee!)

At the group’s first meeting, they’ll be discussing the August/September issue. Several of the articles from that issue are available for free on the First Things website.

  • Genre, subject: Essay, faith and culture/public life
  • Require reading: Up to ~70 pages/ meeting
  • Difficulty: 2 (moderate)
  • Keywords: First Things, public life, culture, politics


4. Toward a Christian Environmental Stewardship

  • Facilitator: Derek Rosenberger (PhD candidate in Entomology, UMN)
  • Dates/Time: TBD

This groups meets in conjunction with the Au Sable Grad Fellows Program, and is open to U of M faculty and students (and non-U of M participants by approval). Please contact us if  you are a graduate student (MA, PhD, or Postdoc) in an area of natural sciences and are interested in learning more about the Au Sable Grad Fellowship.

  • Genre, subject: Essay, environmental stewardship
  • Require reading: ~20 pages/meeting
  • Difficulty: 2 (moderate)
  • Keywords: environment, stewardship, natural resources, creation care, Au Sable, science


5. How (Not) to Be Secular by James K. A. Smith

  • Facilitators: Andrew Garnett and Andy Bramsen (Assistant Prof. of Political Science, Bethel)
  • Dates: Wednesdays 9/10, 9/24, 10/8, 10/22, 11/12, 11/19
  • Time: 7 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

With this book, philosopher James K. A. Smith provides a field-guide to Charles Taylor’s epoch-making but dense A Secular Age. Smith both explains the arc of Taylor’s narrative of modernity and illustrates it through examples from contemporary literature. This is Taylor applied for the pastors, lay leaders, and anyone else who wants to better understand the place of religion in modern society.

  • Genre, subject: Non-fiction, sociology of religion
  • Required reading: 30 pages/meeting
  • Difficulty: 2 (moderate)
  • Keywords: secularization, Charles Taylor, religious belief, modernity


6. Science and Faith: A New Introduction by John Haught

  • Facilitator: Steve Aldridge, MA, MS
  • Dates: Thursdays, 6:30 – 8 p.m., Sept. 25 – Oct. 30
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

Science and Faith: A New Introduction is a refreshing departure from the often contentious faith and science debates. Haught examines three different models of the faith and science relationship: conflict, contrast, and convergence. We’ll consider how these models work out in different areas of the faith-science dialogue, and examine our own assumptions about the faith and science relationship

  • Genre, subject: Non-fiction, science and religion
  • Required reading: 35 pages/meeting
  • Difficulty: 2 (moderate)
  • Keywords: science, religion, John Haught, reason, belief


7. Watership Down: A Novel by Richard Adams

  • Facilitator: Dave McEachron, MA
  • Dates: Tuesdays,  9/30, 10/7, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28
  • Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center

Richard Adams’s Watership Down has been a much-beloved adventure novel since it was first published in 1972. The narrative follows a group of rabbits who possess their own highly developed language and culture. When their home is threatened, they’re forced to venture out into the world to find a new home and begin a new community. This reading group will consider the book both as a classic adventure tale and—using theologian Stanley Hauerwas’s essay on the book as a guide—as a meditation on politics, morality, and community.

  • Genre, subject: Fiction, fantasy adventure
  • Required reading: 100 pages/meeting
  • Difficulty: 1 (low)
  • Keywords: Richard Adams, community, politics, society, fantasy, adventure, rabbits


8. Undergraduate Reading Group: God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis

  • Facilitators: Jordan McGurran and Glory Hall
  • Dates/Time: TBD
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center


9. Graduate Student Reading Group: The Weight of Glory and Other Essays by C. S. Lewis

  • Facilitators, Dates/Time, and Location all TBD


10. Faith and Business Student Reading Group: Why Business Matters to God by Jeff Van Duzer

  • Facilitator: TBD
  • Dates: Fridays, 9/26 – 11/21
  • Time: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Location: MacLaurinCSF Study Center


Again, if you’re interested in participating in any of these groups, here’s the link to the registration page.

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