After my first year of college, I struggled with grades. About 1% had to do with me not being knowledgable regarding the subject material. The rest was because I was lazy and never turned in assignments.
It’s amazing that if you do not turn in your work, your grades suffer.
Anyway, I have always been a voracious reader. It is not uncommon for me to read up to seven books at the same time, jumping from one to another. That is in addition to any required reading that school or work might have me do.
The summer after my first year of college, I went to the local Christian book store and constantly read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I don’t know why, but they had this book called Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider. This book had a different theme than about every other book in the store.
My heart broke as I read this book. I never realized how great my life was until I read about how many privileges I had of being an American, specifically a Christian American. I honestly thought that my life sucked and the biggest controversy I would deal with was that no girl would ever love me for me. I never thought about how much money was being spent on my college education, though I’m sure my parents did. One semester’s tuition at my college was enough to take care of a lot of people. This probably did not help me in my tendency to not do school work.
This made my list of most influential books on my thinking, yet I can barely recall much from the book 20 years later. Ultimately, it showed me a different perspective on my life. Had I read this from a non-Christian source or a “liberal” Christian, I would have dismissed it immediately. But Ron Sider was known then as a decently conservative Evangelical Christian, and a respected one at that (I haven’t kept up with him, so I don’t know where he stands on about anything now days). His voice had authority from the community I was participating at the time. His book was well footnoted and researched. He opened a mental door for me to be able to start hearing other voices that I needed to hear. Without Sider, I doubt I could have ever heard/read my favorite theologian Stanley Hauerwas. In fact, I know that I could not. I read an accessible Hauerwas book earlier that year and my mind hurt because I had no understanding of context. After reading Sider, I was in a place to read Hauerwas. My mind still hurt, but for different reasons.
One positive thing about Rich Christians is that there are several editions. It would be interesting to track the changes over the years. But the fact that he is willing to update his book constantly gives me hope that we can all make changes in our lives and thoughts. If we are in the same place mentally that we were one year ago, I wonder if we have truly challenged our mind. If we are in the same place mentally as five years ago, I think we have watched too much television. If we are in the same place mentally as twenty years ago… sadness.