discussion: small wonder

by Elizabeth de Barros

“My mother never once told me not to stick my neck out.”

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IF THERE’S SOMETHING TO BE SAID ABOUT best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver, it’s that she has a fierce conscience, whether one agrees with her politics or not.

Known mostly for her ever-growing collection of novels, including The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver exacts a form of catharsis with Small Wonder (Harper Collins 2002). A compilation of 23 essays which reads like a running speech, here is where she spills her poetic guts on things like 9/11, patriotism, American wastefulness, ecology, heartache, mothering, gratitude, and the titular category of wonder. With each stride, she makes her point along with a thousand other points, but what never gets thrown out is the resourcefulness of her audience. She understands the value of compost and respects the fact that her readers may actually disagree with her from time to time, but it doesn’t have to make for hardened enemies. She believes, as do I, humaneness constitutes what’s best shared among neighbors.

Barbara Kingsolver

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 You may be wondering, why is this particular book the chosen vehicle for discussion among Christian women?

This should help:

As Christians, it’s a given that we have a moral responsibility to respond decisively to injustice and abject evil, but it’s equally ours to learn to contend for the faith in the face of peace-loving and socially conscious secular reason and thought. All too often, we’ve not adequately prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have, so we either run and hide, fight too hard, or let things go bust. But nobody wins when that happens.

Small Wonder is a springboard for table talk. Kingsolver is a 20th century voice of compassion, honesty, wit, intelligence, and social conscience. She’s a master chef of words and a sheer pleasure to read, even among Millenials. But despite the many refreshing and redeeming qualities of her work, there is a blatant flaw; blindness to the existence of a Creator God, namely, Jesus Christ. Albeit, acuity and accuracy are not always the same thing. She’s a dual representative of  what is best about this nation and what’s vitally at stake in society: a Biblical worldview.

The challenge in getting there is two-fold. First, we must be willing to learn. Next, we need to defend the Truth with a right spirit. On a more practical level, do we really know what our unbelieving friends think? What our neighbors believe? Or that of the Gen-Xer who came to church last week? Do we care?

If we do, the onus is upon us to make an effort to bridge the great divide. Perhaps this is something of what loving God with all our mind looks like. Then, to gently reach across the table armed with a Biblical worldview will no longer remain an insular exercise in Truth, but one that holds the possibility of bearing the pleasing fruit of righteousness not only in our own lives but in the lives of others in and around the world.

To that end, please join me for an 8-week online book discussion beginning Thursday, September 6 through October 25 where we’ll be diving into the deep end of the pool of Biblical thought, allowing Scripture to inform us as we read and discuss each Thursday one of Kingsolver’s essays.

I look forward to your company and what you will bring to the discussion.

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Read for Thursday, September 6 – Foreword & Small Wonder


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