Friday, May 25, 2007

Book Reviews

Being a pastor, much of what I read is related to theological matters. I do not, however, like to restrict my reading to that area. I’ll share with you what I have recently read, and provide a little blurb or two about each book. (By recent I mean in the last month, and I’ll list them in their reading order.)

Who knew? I’m a Fascist.

The Harvard educated son of a Presbyterian minister journalist Chris Hedges has exposed to the world that Fascism is not dead, nor is it lying dormant in some under-developed corner of the globe. Fascists populate the American nation in great numbers. They are everywhere! They are leading the country to utter ruin.

Who are they and where may they be found? The new fascists are any Christians who believe and live as if the Bible was literally true. Did you not know that D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, and the now deceased Jerry Falwell are all fascists? They seek to destroy American life and reform it in their twisted image.

Yes, I am employing a bit of hyperbole. The book is interesting in the sense the reader is able to see conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism from the perspective of an educated, “spiritual”, and secular mind. I do not agree with all the men I listed in the previous paragraph. I do not find from scripture that Christians are to raise a Moral Majority or any other such para-church organization to Christianize a nation or the world. Hedges is spot on in some of his criticism and observations in that area. But he holds to the theory that anyone who literally believes the Bible, anyone who seeks to win converts to Christ, anyone who believes that Christ will literally and bodily return to this Earth, anyone who believes in a literal heaven and a literal hell…well, those people are literally “escapist” and basically fascist.

Who knew?

I followed up American Fascists with NPR political correspondent Juan Williams’ book Juan Williams can take no more!Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It. I was interested in this book for two reasons. First, I enjoy listening to Williams’ political reporting on NPR. Second, I was curious to hear, from a black man’s perspective, an opinion on the “leadership” of such African-American luminaries as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Plenty of good stuff in this book.

Tired with non-fiction, next I turned to Can’t get enough of Tolkien.J.R.R. Tolkien; one of my favorite authors. Children of Hurin is an old work newly edited and released. Tolkien fans are well aware that as far back as 1918 he began work his “Great Tales” of the mythical Middle Earth. Tolkien worked on the Middle-Earth mythology throughout his life, and some of his writing has remained unpublished. His son, Christopher Tolkien edited his father’s many drafts and published the current book. This story is actually told in the Silmarillion, but in that book the story is just parts of another whole. In Children of Hurin we have the uninterrupted narrative of Tolkien’s must tragic hero, Turn Turambar the son of Hurin. If you like The Lord of the Rings then you’ll love this book. I certainly did!

With my fiction fix achieved, I once again turned to non-fiction by reading in one evening Tolerating the Intolerable. This book chronicles the DePauw University v. Janis Price case, in which professor Price was ostensibly fired from DePauw for promoting Christian beliefs and practices on her students. I no live, pastor,This book hits close to home. and work in Greencastle, IN which is where DePauw University is located. The author, Jeffrey Shively, is a DePauw alum who happens to to be an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech; where I happen to work a part-time job.

The book was obviously biased in Mrs. Price’s favor. The author and Mrs. Price are friends; both members of Greencastle Christian Church. Still, the book is well written and documented. Facts are not skewed, but are honestly reported. This affords the reader an honest view of an ugly event. Mr. Shively does a good job of reporting on an epidemic in American higher education - the intolerable attitude of administrators for anyone who is Christian.

We could use one like him now.Finally, I just finished my favorite of the four non-fiction books that I read; Peggy Noonan’s When Character was King: a Story of Ronald Reagan. Noonan does a marvelous job of describing an excellent man. She reveals what made Reagan great. It was not his intellect…his charisma…his conservative positions. Reagan was a wonderful man and a great leader because he was a man of character. This attribute has been lacking in the Oval Office for quite a while.

I believe that Reagan was one of the top five Presidents of all time, and he is greatest post WWII President. He didn’t finish his two terms unscathed, and he was far from perfect. Through it all, however, he displayed dignity and integrity and he did it all with a natural, disarming, and ingratiating humor. This was a wonderful story about a fabulous man who is sorely missed.

These boots are too big to be filled by any of these guys!

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