Are you already thinking about the looming 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11?
That turning point in world history launched U.S. forces into foreign wars, forever changed many global relationships—and raised the horrific specter of how explosively dangerous extremist groups can become. Over the next month, we will see countless TV programs, read newspaper and magazine stories—and witness memorial events.
So, please, consider this recommendation: The best, the most inspiring and the most wisely constructive book you can read as we head toward that milestone is journalist Bill Tammeus’s Love, Loss & Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety.
And, right now, you also could sign up to receive Bill’s upcoming discussion guide to help talk with your friends about this milestone in a constructive, faith-based way.
The Importance of Discussion Guides in Publishing
Since our founding as a publishing house in 2007, we have urged authors to help readers welcome friends into our books by creating discussion guides. Over the years, such guides have become a mainstay in American publishing—and even on National Public Radio and in online groups for book lovers. They sometimes are referred to as “study guides” or in some cases “Bible study guides,” because there are millions of small groups connected with congregations nationwide that use this kind of curriculum on a weekly basis.
These introductions to discussions, usually written by the author, can be hugely important in building community around a new book. Some of our authors have bound a full discussion guide into their books, including Lucille Sider’s Light Shines in the Darkness and David Edwards’ What Belongs to God. Another popular option is to place a downloadable discussion guide on the author’s website, as Nathan Albert does on this page of his website for his book Embracing Love.
What Bill Tammeus has done is new and different in our experience with authors.
Now, just in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Bill is breaking new ground by preparing a discussion guide for one of the nation’s leading mainline-Christian media groups, Wired Word. That’s one of the most popular web hubs within the larger mainline-Christian media group Christian Resources Inc.
Consider Signing Up for Bill’s Discussion Guide on Wired Word
We asked Bill to describe the work of the professionals behind Wired Word. He wrote:
The Wired Word team, scattered across the U.S., produces two adult Christian education lessons each week based on developments in the news. Subscribers are invited to reflect on those news stories based on five or six suggested scriptural passages, which are offered with brief commentaries. The idea is to relate God’s eternal Word to fast-moving events that may seem at first unrelated to a life of faith. Each week participants are invited to discover anew where the spirit of the living Christ is active in the world and, in turn, where God may be calling them to serve. Our collective goal is to do what Rheinhold Niebuhr suggested, which is to hold the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other and to see how the latter informs the former.
Then, we asked Bill to describe his upcoming 9/11 offering for Wired Word. He wrote:
Each year, I write a few of the Christian education lessons for Wired Word—and I also participate in the shaping of the ones others write. For the lesson that classes will discuss on Sunday, Sept. 5, I will be offering the lead lesson about the upcoming commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
I will be drawing especially from the last chapter in my book in which I suggest approaches people can take to try to unplug extremism after considering how people get drawn into it in the first place. The lesson, among other things, will focus on the inadequacy of words to capture either God or essential theological ideas, especially as they are outlined in Christianity’s historic confessions of faith, from the Apostles’ Creed to the Westminster Catechism and on to more modern creeds, such as the Theological Declaration of Barmen.
The idea is that if we get literalistic about words and their meaning, insisting that only certain phrases reflect orthodoxy, we are on the way toward a kind of fundamentalism that chokes off conversation and turns the often-gray world black and white. I intend to point out that in Christianity, truth is not fully contained in any doctrine or dogma or statement of faith. Truth, rather, is a person, Christ Jesus. And that idea should be liberating.
I’ll be offering four or five passages of scripture for classes to consider, including the part of the creation story in which we learn that every human being is created in the image of God, so when terrorists attack or kill someone they attack God’s image. That idea should make terrorism always and everywhere out of bounds, though it obviously often fails to do that.
My hope is that people who use this lesson will consider the ideas in the last chapter of my book and figure out what will work for them. And that they will come up with additional strategies for standing against radicalism of any kind, whether based in religion or not.
Finally, Some Wisdom from Wired Word about Writing a News-Related Guide
Yes, Wired Word is a subscriber service. But, please, consider one more reason to sign up: These professionals, including Bill himself, are masters at creating this particular format of news-related discussion guides.
Wired Word provides this Sample page that outlines the elements of a typical Teacher’s Guide and a Student Lesson. Then, here’s a second page that presents the outline of Wired Word guides in a graphic format.
There’s a lot of helpful ideas here for authors—and journalists, columnists, pastors, teachers and small-group leaders—to learn about creating this kind of timely format for Christian discussion and Bible study.