Peter W. Marty's Christmas picks

This election year may be remembered as one in which America experienced atrocious new levels of fearmongering and racist hysteria toward immigrant peoples. This is not the first time fear has caused us to capitulate to our worst angels. The round-up of 120,000 people of Japa­nese ancestry in the 1940s is among our nation’s darker moments. Richard Reeves’s highly readable Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese-American Intern­ment in World War II (Henry Holt) assembles poignant stories from the internment camps. This work may seem like an odd pick to put under your Christmas tree. But if we are to get serious about not repeating such a disgrace, books like this one are needed to awaken our conscience.

Rethinking atonement theories is on the rise these years, and with good purpose. Previously unquestioned phrases in Chris­tian hymnody and theology deserve fresh scrutiny. Can the blood sacrifice of Jesus’ execution, and the assumed wrath of God behind it, really align with divine intent? Tony Jones offers the most helpful rendering of atonement theory I’ve come across. Did God Kill Jesus? Searching for Love in His­tory’s Most Famous Execution (HarperOne) is as incisive as it is accessible. Jones, a popular teacher and blogger, provides a well-researched study that covers the field. Diving into scripture and historical scholarship with ease, Jones offers a treatise on love that serves spiritually inquisitive Christians well. I find this book as valuable for serious church study groups as it is for theologians.

Read the other 2016 Christmas picks here.