Have you ever read a book that made a huge impression on you? That convinced or inspired you to change the way you live or interact with others? ThatHave you ever read a book that made a huge impression on you? That convinced or inspired you to change the way you live or interact with others? That opened your eyes and made you realize you've been doing something stupid for a very long time?
This book did all those for me. I don't write this lightly, because I rarely read a book that does just that.
I found this while browsing through the non-fiction stacks in my local county library. You'd be amazed what you can find when you're not really looking for anything. The book's title caught my eye, since it's a clever play on the standard question of why bad things happen to good people (that question, by the way, is beyond the scope of this humble review). So I picked it up, paged through it, and decided it was worth a try. I wasn't paying for it, so my criteria for reading a book is low (it's higher if I'm buying a book).
Author Dave Burchett's message can be summed up in one sentence: Christians need to treat each other better, and they need to treat non-Christians better.
He's speaking from personal experience. I won't give away the situation here, but he and his family were treated horribly at a church they had attended for years, so they left. And he started talking to other folks who had also been treated badly by their fellow Christians, and realized something was very wrong in the church. Some folks moved to other churches, but others lost their faith. The church was actually driving people away, and Burchett rightly thinks that's wrong.
Burchett also provides a quick but effective overview of basic Christian doctrine, including six things he learned about evangelism by watching the ridiculous events in Florida following the 2000 presidential election.
But the strength of the book is Burchett's advice for dealing with non-believers. Too many Christians have done a horrible job of communicating their message. They come across as hateful, bigoted, close-minded, intolerant, and angry. So is it any wonder that so many non-Christians think all Christians are that way? Or that Christianity is that way?
So he suggests that Christians watch their language and tone, and treat everyone, believer and non-believer alike, with love and humility. Don't water down the message, just make it less strident and more welcoming.
He also advises Christians to pick their battles more carefully, and here he goes into politics. Yes, Christians should be involved with the political process, and should stand up for issues that are important, but politics is not the most effective way to change peoples' hearts. Quit whining about the secular media, or how mean skeptics are, or how Christians are victimized - that achieves nothing. Instead, focus on living the Christian life, which is the best way to change this world.
You certainly can be forgiven if you haven't heard of Harry Browne. Hardly a household name, this author and investor was the Libertarian Party's candYou certainly can be forgiven if you haven't heard of Harry Browne. Hardly a household name, this author and investor was the Libertarian Party's candidate for President in 1996 and again in 2000. I think he got something like 1% of the vote in 1996, and hardly even registered in 2000.
But that's the price the Libertarian candidate must pay. No one votes Libertarian, because most voters have never heard of the party, and those that have don't much care for their platform. Browne writes that there are 190 elected Libertarians serving across the country. I'm sure than number has changed since 1995, and maybe it's even increased, but that indicates there aren't a whole lot of Libertarians getting elected. How many thousands of elected officials serve in this country? I know, I know, too many.
Browne wants to fix all that, and this book was his vehicle to the Presidency. He outlines the Libertarian philosophy about government, which in essence is this: it doesn't work because it's based on coercion and that's bad because it's based on coercion. He doesn't explain why a system based on coercion is doomed to fail, he just maintains that it does not work, never has, and never will.
For some odd reason, he never once mentions the morality of a system based on coercion, like may libertarians do. All government is theft, they say, because it involves taking money from someone. That's wrong. Browne touches on this, but in a different context. He does not question government's legitimacy, merely its effectiveness. The more I read, the more I got the feeling that if government could work, maybe Browne wouldn't be against it.
I think he did this because he is obviously trying to sell libertarianism to a very skeptical public. What libertarians believe isn't all that popular. Sure, they're all for freedom, and who isn't? But they also would do away with the national parks (sell them), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, the war on drugs, the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, IRS, and so on. You get the idea.
Browne never comes out and says this, though. He just says the federal government should get out of the retirement, medical care, and education business, since government doesn't work, and the private sector could do all that better. He doesn't say this because people like their government programs, and don't want them to go away. Browne responds by saying but he'd end the income tax, and social security tax, and capital gains tax, and pretty much all other taxes, leaving all Americans to keep all the money they earn, thus giving them a much better chance at prosperity and a better life. In essence, he's asking American to give up the security of the federal dole in exchange for an unknown future.
But perhaps this isn't fair. According to Browne, an America with no federal regulations on businesses or role in social issues is infinitely superior to what we have now. He's probably right. But too many people are unwilling to take that leap. That's why Libertarians get 2% of the vote.
Personally, my beef with the Libertarian Party isn't so much with philosophy - though I have hard time believing that legalizing drugs, gambling and prostitution would produce a better country - but tactics. They shun the two major parties because, they say, the Republicans and Democrats are both the same. They both increase government. At least Democrats are honest about it. Republicans, says Browne, campaign like Libertarians and govern like Democrats.
I say that Libertarians should infiltrate the Republican Party and try to take it over. Use their money and their resources to advance your agenda. It's working for Ron Paul. He's a Republican congressman from Texas who several years ago was a Libertarian presidential candidate. But he decided to get elected and do something positive rather than sit on sidelines and whine and complain.
But the Libertarians refuse. That would be selling out, you see. Can't do that. Best to fail time and again, rather than get a serious chance to implement our policies.
And that's a shame, because most libertarians are serious people with great ideas. Harry Browne presents the libertarian position very well, although he does go overboard in some of his claims. For example, to prove that government doesn't work, he says that World War II "didn't make the world safe for democracy, it made the world safe for Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union to launch the Cold War." Uh, Harry? Here's a news flash. In 1939, there were three world powers with evil governments - Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union - and one emerging vile dictatorship, Mussolini's Italy. After World War II, there was one world power with a nasty government - the Soviet Union. Not only that, but Germany, Italy, and Japan shaped up quick and became respectable members of the international community. That ain't bad, Harry, and it's okay to admit it.
But Browne's a nice enough and smart guy, and this book is an attractive introduction to libertarianism....more
This is a solid economics book that makes an important point. The trouble is, that point is often buried beneath pages and pages of facts and figures.This is a solid economics book that makes an important point. The trouble is, that point is often buried beneath pages and pages of facts and figures. The authors are economists, so that makes sense, but even an economics book should contain a clear narrative that uses select facts and figures to support that narrative.
With that said, the narrative is clear. Econimically speaking, Americans are better off now than we were in the early 1970s. Living standards, wages, household income, whatever measure you want to use, it's better than it's ever been. The numerous facts and figures make that clear.
Though the book is now ten years old, the point holds today. Even during the current economic climate, we're still wealthier and better off than we were in 1997 (when the book was published). Yet politicians and others try to make it sound we're in the midst of another Great Depression.
This book is a helpful and needed antidote to that poisonous and false mindset. ...more
I'll always treasure this book because it's the first history book I read as an adult, outside of any school or class assignment. I didn't know I wasI'll always treasure this book because it's the first history book I read as an adult, outside of any school or class assignment. I didn't know I was a history buff until I saw this for a few bucks in a used bookstore in downtown Glendale, AZ. It looked interesting, it was cheap, so I bought it. ...more
This is a fascinating and comprehensive book about how we know we know, and how we came to know it. I bought this for two dollars at a used book sale,This is a fascinating and comprehensive book about how we know we know, and how we came to know it. I bought this for two dollars at a used book sale, so it was a great deal.
Van Doren is a smart guy - according to the author blurb, he's got advanced degrees in mathematics and literature. You can tell, because those are the two subjects he concentrates most on in this book.
But you'll find out lots of interesting things. For example, how Aristotle was used to justify slavery and the slave trade. How the Church relied not on Scripture but on Aristotle to suppress Galileo's theories. How the Age of Reason wasn't all that reasonable. How Christians were the light of the dark ages. How the role of money has changed over the centuries. How the Black Death led to some very positive results, such as helping to produce the Renaissance. Find out what the Greeks and Romans knew.
It goes on and on. The early history stuff held the most interest for me, and I thought the book dragged once it entered the 19th and 20th centuries. Van Doren also speculates what the next century (the 21st) will bring, and some of his ideas are, to put it mildly, a bit kooky.
But overall, this is a well-written, interesting, and general survey on some important ideas and events in our history. I recommend it....more
Junger uses an increasingly popular medium to tell this true story: creative non-fiction. More than just telling a story or stating facts, creative noJunger uses an increasingly popular medium to tell this true story: creative non-fiction. More than just telling a story or stating facts, creative non-fiction uses fictional elements, such as theme, foreshadowing, and dialogue, to tell a true story in a novel-like manner.
The author faces two choices in writing creative non-fiction. He can inject himself in the story or leave himself out of it. Those who involve themselves usually relate some kind of journey or quest they've accomplished, or immersed themselves in an unusual or interesting situation. They tell what's going on while relating their own thoughts, feelings, and reactions.
Junger chooses the second method in The Perfect Storm. Nowhere does he appear in the story. He doesn't write about his visits to the Crow's Nest or with survivors. He simply gives us the facts, and when the facts are lacking, plausible scenarios.
But the book is much more than that. Junger provides informative and fascinating accounts of the commercial fishing industry, the town of Gloucester, life on a fishing boat, and the gory details of death by drowning. As a native landlubber who's never sailed on the ocean and visited the Pacific coast only a handful of times, I enjoyed reading about that.
But the true star is the storm itself, and this is where Junger shines. He weaves the factual account with comments by survivors into a compelling and riveting story of survival against the elements. After reading of 100-foot waves and 100-mph winds, I must admit I'm in no hurry to get out on the ocean. Land seems much safer.
What I most enjoy about Stephen Carter is his ability to write plainly yet persuasively. That's amazing because he's a bona fide intellectual - a lawWhat I most enjoy about Stephen Carter is his ability to write plainly yet persuasively. That's amazing because he's a bona fide intellectual - a law professor - and most of the intellectual types I've read are horrible writers. But not Carter, God bless him.
I've read his first book, Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, and I liked it, though I did not agree with all his points. But I learned quite a bit, and enjoyed his insights. He tries his best to be evenhanded, more so than many intellectual writers (the few that write coherent sentences, at least).
Anyway, Integrity is a fine book. Carter examines the concept, explores why it's so popular in American though not always widely practiced, and even defines it. His definition requires three steps:
* "A difficult process of discerning one's deepest understanding of right and wrong." This is first, and perhaps most important. The integral individual must constantly re-examine his motives and question his beliefs, and then make up his mind that they are just and true. * Act on what he discerns to be true. Do you believe the nation needs campaign finance reform? Then do something about it. Repeal gun control laws? Do something. Outlaw abortion? Do something. Get involved. Fight. * "The person truly living an integral life must be willing to say that he or she is acting consistently with what he or she has decided is right." No lying, no dissembling, no spinning. The integral person must be honest and forthright about why he is doing what he is doing.
Those are Carter's three steps toward integrity. Fairly challenging. Do you meet them? Do I?
But how does this apply to real life? Carter uses this basis to examine certain elements of American society - sports, the media, politics - and determines if the institutions and people in them act with integrity.
It's quite fun, and a good book. It's also refreshing, because Carter obviously believes in right and wrong, not some wishy-washy moral relativism that says if it feels good, it must be right....more