Praxis Connection Review is an online journal that highlights collaboration, innovation, and impact through churches in NYC.

Book Review: Mercy, Tribes, Teams, Technology, & Slavery’s Capitalism

by | Praxis Connections Review Volume 1

I’m always recommending or giving books to people I know and regularly sharing some thought or insights from something I’m reading. So much so I’ve been encouraged to share this more broadly. So here we go.

In the future I will write something more in depth about a particular book, but since this is for the year I will share a few of my thoughts, lessons, and insights from my list of favorite books for 2016. I hope that you will pick one or two and see for yourself. Shared knowledge is so important. It helps us collaborate to create greater impact.

Everything I’ve read from this list has been extremely powerful and have influenced my understanding of God & our world. In particular, the books Mercy by Cardinal Kasper, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable by Daniel Shapiro, The Wealth of Humans by Ryan Avent, Team of Teams by General Stanley McCrystal, and Slavery’s Capitalism edited by Seth Rockman & Sven Beckert have made an impression on my thinking. Each along with the others have spoken to some of the issues I see as the challenges of our day.

Both Team of Teams & The Wealth of Humans discuss how technology has changed our society causing great disruption in the social fabric and past ways of doing things.

In Team of Teams, General McCrystal describes how business, military, and other organizations were each shaped by an efficiency model that was predicated on the ability to predict outcomes. Technology has accelerated and flattened communication so much that the efficiency models used in the past no longer work and need to be replaced by what he calls a “Team of Teams” approach of collaboration that creates greater agility to impact a situation through shared knowledge, common purpose, trust, and empowered execution. McCrystal outlines a framework for collaboration and impact for an increasingly complex world.

In The Wealth of Humans the author describes the economic disruption underway today that is displacing so many workers and creating so much insecurity. He compares the Industrial Revolution to today’s Technological Revolution and states that we are in for more displacement and strife as society works through all the implications of the new economy. In the case of the Industrial Revolution, it took the education system some time before it was able to adjust and equip students for the new economy. We are at a similar juncture now and I’m afraid we are fighting over things that will not improve education for those who will live in the new economy. We risk failing future generations. The need for unskilled workers in the United States is shrinking. In the 1950’s over 50% of our workforce consisted of dropouts who could actually earn a decent living. Those days are gone. According to Avent technology is accelerating so much that there maybe a surplus of workers displaced by technology. He cites how driverless cars will displace over 600,000 men who drive for a living. Both books describe our new landscape and provide great insight into how we can create a more fruitful society.

Our inability to work together on the issues facing our society is well described in Negotiating the Nonnegotiable where Daniel Shapiro describes the “Tribal Effect & Mindset” that is so wrapped up with tribal identities feeling threatened, refusing to collaborate, and favoring one tribe’s control over another. Shapiro is the founder of the Harvard International Negotiation Program which has worked in areas filled with conflict. His insights into identity politics and how people seek to marginalize one another are fascinating. More important are the ways he outlines to break through our tribal interests for the greater interest of every tribe. Certainly the Prophets, Matthew 25, and the Gospel call us to love our neighbor, our enemy, and realize that Jesus is in each and everyone who society has marginalized. Jesus preached the values of the Kingdom ruled by the love of God & neighbor. This is a great read!

In Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, Cardinal Kasper writes that God’s mercy serves His Justice and brings it to realization. Indeed, mercy is God’s very own justice. “Mercy is God’s creative and fertile justice” that “serves justice”. Kasper gives a thorough biblical and theological description of mercy and its centrality to who God is and the life of the Christian. He cites that in the early church that loving our neighbor and loving our enemy was the call of every believer. In other words, we cannot be tribal. He describes a tough mercy that reconciles with truth. He cites how Germany & South Africa have each gone through some form of truth and reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past and create the soil for mercy. This is a mercy that works through sin in the spirit of love and mercy.

While reading Slavery’s Capitalism I was struck with how our country never really acknowledged the sin of our country. We have tried to avoid its ugliness or appease those white supremacists who, as Carol Anderson writes in White Rage, will never accept equality for black people. Slavery’s Capitalism provides a disturbing but necessary account of how our nation benefited economically from slavery through the monetization and exploitation of our neighbors. Perhaps we can now heal the wounds with racism showing itself. Mercy, collaboration, and bridging tribal divides will all be necessary if we are going to live together in peace & harmony in this new economy.

These books provide insight into past and present realities along with solutions. I hope you will take a look below and read some of these great books.

2016

1) Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life by Cardinal Walter Kasper

 

2) Negotiating the Non Negotiable by Daniel Shapiro

 3) The Wealth of Humans by Ryan Avent

 

4) Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development by Sven Beckert & Sam Rockman

 

5) The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis

 

6) White Rage by Carol Anderson

 

7) Evicted by Mathew Desmond

 8) Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

 

9) The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones

 

10) Originals by Adam Grant

2015

 1) Team of Teams by General Stanley McCrystal

 

2) Where the Cross Meets the Streets by Noel Castellanos

 

3) The Road to Character by David Brooks

 

4) The Grand Paradox by Ken Wytsma

5) Getting to Yes With Yourself by William Ury