Oh boy...where to begin. This is one awful, knee-jerk reactionary book from right wing author, Daniel Kupelian. In this work, he manages to rail againOh boy...where to begin. This is one awful, knee-jerk reactionary book from right wing author, Daniel Kupelian. In this work, he manages to rail against multi-culturalism, people who dress in saggy pants and youth pastors who talk in jive. I don't even know where to begin in talking about how pathetic this whole work is.
Going into this book, I thought the work would be an interesting read. After all, the title "The marketing of evil" implies the author exploring how the media (or perhaps different groups) package messages in order to try and get the ideas into the American mainstream. If this actually was the main thrust of the book, I would have found it more interesting.
However, the author proceeds to go on a far right tirade against the usual suspects: gays, America being a Christian nation, abortion, multiculturalism, the media being liberal, public schools collapsing, the break down of the family, and how rock n roll is evil.
In all honesty, there are a few interesting parts. The chapter about gay rights revolves around how two well-educated homosexuals from Harvard completed a blue print for making gay people more mainstream and acceptable in the work "After the Ball". The author quotes extensively from this book. The interesting part of this chapter is the strategy for how they did this. If the book would have followed this pattern, then it would have fared much better.
The rest of the book certainly demonstrates how Mr. Kupelian lives in a box of his own philosophy. He complains that "liberal elites" in schools now bash Christopher Columbus and the founding fathers and make them out to be bad people. I'm sure this is probably the case in some quarters but what exactly is Mr. Kupelian arguing? Does he not want the truth about our founding fathers told? That most of them owned slaves or that slavery was a huge part of the beginning of America and is enshrined in the Constitution. I would argue, as a Christian, that the truth always needs to be told as devoid from agendas as possible (this may be impossible but we have to make an effort).
The author also insists this is a Christian nation. America is NOT a Christian nation. We have religious freedom and Christianity undeniably had an influence in our country's history but there is no way our government is Christian or should be Christian. (For a great book on this topic, see "American Gospel" by Jon Meacham).
The sad thing is that I probably agree with some of Mr. Kupelian's points. I'm committed to a pro-life position. Biblically, I view homosexuality as a sin (but politically believe that people should be free from government interference in their family lives). I just in so disgusted with how this information is presented with shoddy research, obviously biased sources, and not even compelling arguments. It is really that bad.
The most disturbing thing of all is that Mr. Kupelian seems to imply that anyone who thinks differently than him is evil. A part of some evil conspiracy that is taking over America. This guy needs to stop drinking the Kool-aid....more
"Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions" was originally based on 9 sermons that Pastor Mark Driscoll preached to his congregation at Mars Hill"Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions" was originally based on 9 sermons that Pastor Mark Driscoll preached to his congregation at Mars Hill Church. The congregation voted on the issues that Driscoll would preach on so the questions were supposedly what was on the mind of the participants of the church.
Being that this is the case, the book is mostly incoherent and certainly lacks any kind of overarching theme. Even the theme of "religion saves" which Driscoll would take to mean as good works helping an individual attain salvation is not even a common theme. The nine issues that Driscoll tackles include: birth control, humor (what is a Christian sense of humor), predestination, grace, sexual sin, faith and works, dating, the emerging church, and the regulative principle. As one can see, a lot of these topics revolve around guy/girl relationship issues with an ultra bizarre, number one voted on, regulative principle discussion (who cares?).
That being said, there are some interesting points in the book. Predestination my seem like a tired Christian topic but Driscoll gives a decent overview of the issue which may whet a reader's appetite for a more thorough discussion. Driscoll's strength is probably discussing the issue of faith and works and he argues strongly for a salvific perspective of faith in Christ alone, not by works. The most interesting chapter to me was his discussion of the emerging church since this is a relatively new phenomena. Driscoll used to be a part of this movement but broke off because of the compromises on major doctrinal issues of some of the founders. He breaks down the movement and expresses some of its problems related to Scripture.
The humor chapter of the book is disappointing and amounts to Driscoll defending his comments and jokes related to him being viewed widely as a punk. He attempts to justify these jokes by saying that Christians should be funny and therefore are OK to make fun of people including homosexuals and Mormons. The chatper on the regulative principle seems pointless and is boring.
If people are a fan of Driscoll, they will probably mildly like this book. It is by no means his best....more
Having the honor of being Facebook friends with the preeminent progressive Christian blogger and Evangelical culture critic Matthew Paul Turner, I ranHaving the honor of being Facebook friends with the preeminent progressive Christian blogger and Evangelical culture critic Matthew Paul Turner, I ran across a posting of his one day which spoke of his upcoming book “Our Great Big American God.” He was offering people who are bloggers, critics or other culture influencers a free copy of his book for them to review. I messaged him. He was gracious enough to send me a copy even though I don’t know if I fit any of the aforementioned categories. I do my best impersonation of a blogger and critic.
As mentioned Turner (MPT) has a built-in reputation of being a more “liberal” Christian. I would not have that designation (although I freely admit that the terms “conservative” and “liberal” are loaded terms and we all should talk more specifically about what we believe on the issues). As a matter of fact, I have responded to MPT before on a blog of his that I did not agree with on original sin. (read: http://dangeroushope.wordpress.com/20...).
Enough of the disclaimers. Before I dived into “American God”, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had never read a book by MPT before but I have been a fairly consistent reader of his blog. This work by MPT seemed to be a pretty significant departure from his normal topics. Without having read them, “Churched” and “Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost” both seem autobiographical. His Twitter handle is @jesusneedsnewpr and he frequently offers a critique of contemporary conservative Christianity such as looked to be the case in his past book “The Christian Culture Survival Guide”.
“American God” related to MPT’s writing career seems to be the next logical extension. It is as if MPT in keeping up with the current Christian trends, fads and beliefs asked the question: “how in the hell did we get here?” His answer is “Our Great Big American God” and the book is a compelling read.
“American God” is, according to the tagline, “A short history of our Ever-Growing Deity”. The work is an overview of the idea of God in America and how believers have sincerely fashioned God into their own image. Not just exclusively a history of different American Christian beliefs about God, the book also explores how our distinctive religious ideas had an impact on our nation’s history.
“To some extent, we are all ‘growing’ God, stuffing his mouth full with ideas, themes and theologies, fattening him up with a story line we believe to be true. Our intentions may be good, but then again, I’m not sure intentions matter when it comes to God’s image. For good or bad, we are all molding God to reflect our own personal, American interpretation of Christian faith.” (page 6)
“For four hundred years, Americans have narrated God’s story, and during that time, God has grown and evolved, become bigger and more unbelievable. Our stories have added theologies and folklore, miracles and fear, pro-this narratives and anti-that themes, ghost stories and strobe lights, Sarah Palin and more than a little humanistic sensibilities. In our efforts to make God known, we’ve quite possibly turned God into something that resembles us, a big fat American with an ever-growing appetite for more. What follows is the story of God as told, shaped, and affected by America. Because God is not the same as he was yesterday, not here, not among America’s faithful.” (page 10)
MPT begins with one of his only personal stories. He is talking with his friend Dave who he comes to realize is a Christian Zionist. This encounter actually bookends “American God” and serves to illustrate one of the central points. The ideas that Dave articulates have impacted America’s foreign policy in significant ways toward Israel and the middle east. Most readers may be blown away by this claim in MPT’s book:
“Without question, John Nelson Darby is one of the most influential people in American history, quite an accomplishment considering he was British and spent only a limited amount of time in the United States.” (page 135-136)
Of course, MPT explains that Darby was the father of Dispensational theology in America. The tenets of this view highlight a distinction between Israel as God’s people and the church and then interprets Revelation through the prism of God dealing with his original chosen people (Israel). This is where we as Americans inherited the rapture, seven years of tribulation and premillennialism (as well as an assortment of other related views). Impact? Consider the massive sales of the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins that describe the horror of the rapture and tribulation. Nicholas Cage is starring in an upcoming “Left Behind” movie which is being remade from the previous Kirk Cameron installment. This idea, foremost in millions of Americans thoughts, has come to impact middle eastern foreign affairs.
“American God” provides a generalized outline of personalities and their beliefs as well as the subsequent impact on American history. MPT dives into Puritan founders including John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams (including Williams appeals for religious freedom), Jonathan Edwards and John Winthrop. He spends quite a lot of time with Winthrop and his ideal of American being a “shining city on a hill”. This very phrase came up in President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address in 1989 as he (apparently) articulated a fairly liberal immigration view.
MPT moves on toward discussing the religious divides of the Civil War and moving into the 20th century, Billy Sunday and how he helped shaped the Constitutional amendment of prohibition. We are reminded of classic Americana scenes including William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial in Tennessee, DL Moody working and evangelizing in Chicago (and MPT’s perspective of Moody mixing capitalistic principles with how he ran his ministry), the Azusa Street revival and birth of modern day Pentecostalism, and the rise of the religious right behind Jerry Falwell and other foot soldiers. Finally, Billy Graham makes an appearance as he revolutionized Protestantism in the latter part of the 20th century.
The massive kudos that are due to MPT is how he fits this history into a book that is 222 pages. Sure, the overall treatment of American religious history is a breeze but this leaves the reader wanting more (and there are ample footnotes to peruse). MPT does not merely recite history but adds the provocativeness of his personality to the pages. His wittiness is on full display as well as a good deal of snark….but hey, this is MPT we’re talking about here. While the reader will recall American events they are familiar with, they will also learn about new figures and see, perhaps for the first time, how unfamiliar ideas to the modern nation’s conscience have had a far ranging impact on our nation’s beliefs and life.
My only quibble with the book is MPT acts as a kind of historical narrator, not really divulging what exactly he thinks (or believes), about the figures and events that are encountered along the way. I should add though that this may be my fault having not read his other books. Perhaps, he explores his own personal views in those works.
I have already stated that I come from the theologically conservative end of the spectrum and I have a “reformish” leaning in my own theology to be sure. I suspect that many people who are more conservative Christians will pass this book over because of MPT’s theological or social views (or his reputation for them) which may differ from them. I would highly encourage them not too. This is not a liberal or conservative book in my view. There are gleanings that will speak to anybody and the big challenge to people on the conservative end (like me and liberals too) is asking the question: how have we allowed our culture/country to illustrate who we understand God to be? This is a haunting question and one worth exploring. When we fashion God in our image (especially a nationalistic image), we create an idol and often ignore other people in the world whom God (the True God) immensely cares about. ...more
"Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer" by James L Swanson is an incredibly thrilling historical read that focuses on the hunt for John Wilke"Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer" by James L Swanson is an incredibly thrilling historical read that focuses on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln. Swanson, from my standpoint, seems like a first class historical researcher and he truly weaves a page-turning epic about the final days of Mr. Booth and his accomplice, David Herod.
The drama starts right before the Lincoln assassination at the very end of the Civil War. Booth, of course, was fuming that the Union army won. By chance, he happened to find out that Lincoln, his wife and two guests were attending the Ford Theater production of "Our American Cousin". He hatched a plot among some of his cohorts to assassinate the president, the secretary of State and the vice president.
Even though the reader knows how the history plays out, they will be turning the pages furiously. This is an impeccably well-written book that sucks anyone right into one of the most thrilling manhunts of US history. The hunt done by Union Calvary and detectives criss-crossed Washington DC, Maryland, through forests, swamps and old farmhouses.
Much detail is given (as much as possible) to Booth's mindset and his beliefs about himself. Key portions of his journal are woven into the final transcript.
This is one of the more thrilling historical books I have ever read. This is highly recommended not just for students of history but for everyone. This was a key moment and a tragedy in American history. This book gives us a unique perspective and important viewpoint on the matter....more
What a wonderful book about Christian community "Life Together" is by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer effortlessly discusses what an ideal Christian cWhat a wonderful book about Christian community "Life Together" is by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer effortlessly discusses what an ideal Christian community should look like as they encourage one another, confront one another, and live life together.
While reading this, a vital fact for the reader to keep in mind is he wrote this book while in an underground seminary in Germany during the rise of the Nazi's. He refused to join the Nazi's and therefore, was leading this illegal, underground community before he went to a concentration camp.
One of the most fascinating chapters in this work is the chapter on being alone. Bonhoeffer incorporates this logic. For a community to work, people have to make sure they are spiritually taking care of themselves. That is connecting with God, meditating, reading the Bible and praying. He describes this work as vital because if everyone in a community comes with this mentality, the community is that much stronger.
Also powerful is Bonhoeffer's chapter on confession and communion. He talks about the fine line between an environment where people are terrified to confess their sin (albeit a very legalistic one) versus one where members feel free to share the sins they are struggling with. To be clear, Bonhoeffer definitely says we should despise sin but also that we should in humility realize we are all sinners and therefore, we should be honest with one another.
This is a small book full of profound wisdom and feels like a book people should read once every couple of years....more
I've never been a huge fan of John Piper's writing. He is a passionate and incredible speaker but those skills don't necessarily translate to paper. "I've never been a huge fan of John Piper's writing. He is a passionate and incredible speaker but those skills don't necessarily translate to paper. "Don't Waste Your Life" is the best book I have read by him thus far. The work serves as a challenge to evangelicals to consider what they are truly living their life for and what principles they are striving to attain.
Piper is so good at challenging us with perspective. He weaves in convincing stories from soldiers who went to battle and missionary stories (a particular passion of his).
The beginning of the book reminds us of how many people long to have a single passion to live by. This is the passion by which all other pursuits of life is viewed through. This passion, of course, he argues should foundationally be Christ.
Piper writes that the cross is the blazing center of the glory of God. I definitely see his point (and am probably arguing semantics) but I tend to think of the resurrection as the center of Christian faith and practice. Piper uses this chapter to show the sacrifices that God has made for us. That God is missional, that He pursues and that He loves.
The most melodramatic chapter is 4 where the themes of suffering and death are explained as a way to magnify Christ. I appreciate the challenge of choosing to have the right frame of mind during suffering in order to strive to glorify God and have a proper perspective. Of course, this is hard to do. He also talks about dying for Christ. This is where I find things a little melodramatic. Yes, if things took a turn for the worst...I would hope that I and other Christians would be able to say that they would die for Christ. Most in America, don't fit those categories but perhaps some overseas readers do.
Chapter 7 is worth reading all by itself..."Living to Prove He is more Precious than life." Chapter 8 is helpful in encouraging people to see ways in their careers and vocations to glorify God.
Piper concludes while talking about his passion for missions and desiring to see unreached people groups come into contact with the gospel as brought by dedicated Christian missionaries.
This book is a summary of Piper's passions spelled out in other books. Since I don't find him to be a good writer but I love some of his philosophies on Christianity and life, I heartily recommend this book at a mere 189 pages which will basically allow a reader to see his thoughts on evangelical Christianity relating to everyday life in a principled-type way....more
"Intelligent Design" is the seminal, flagship book of the Intelligent Design movement and William Dembski is certainly regarded as one of the leaders."Intelligent Design" is the seminal, flagship book of the Intelligent Design movement and William Dembski is certainly regarded as one of the leaders. I must confess that large portions of this book were over my head. Dembski's mind is one to be reckoned with.
Of course, this book (and movement) have been mocked by scientists and dismissed. I would agree partially with the critics. I believe it is impossible to link intelligent design (ie, pointing to a god or Creator) as strictly scientific. This book should rightly fall mostly in the philosophy category but having said that, Dembski's argument (as much as I can tell) is certainly compelling.
The work is organized into three parts: the first section is in regard to the historical backdrop of the debate about theology and science. Part two talks about the theory of design specifically and what Dembski would say is scientific argumentation that leans that way. The final part is arguing that science and theology can go together. In a simplistic way, the author suggests that since God created the world, science is a way of understanding what He has created and that the world (in many ways) points to him.
Well worth the read for those looking to understand the ID movement or gain a grasp on the issues that relate to the philosopy....more
Ayn Rand has become suddenly more relevant in our times. Of course, her thinking and philosophy of objectivism has been out there and swirling aroundAyn Rand has become suddenly more relevant in our times. Of course, her thinking and philosophy of objectivism has been out there and swirling around right wing circles, but with the emergence of the Tea Party and a more conservative republican party, her views are being debated by the nation yet again.
"The Virtue of Selfishness" is a series of essays in which she defends objectivism with the help of Nathaniel Branden. She rails against collectivism (which in her view would be like a modern liberalism) and exalts the individual.
To Rand, the key to freedom is any government allowing an individual to make as many of their own choices in life as possible. She believes in a very loose and limited government power. She claims that any government telling any individual how to live their lives or what to believe is the height of treating human beings like cattle.
Rand's discussion of racism (writing in the early 1960s) is particularly interesting. Of course, she believes that the government cannot discriminate against an individual of any race but she does object to parts fo the civil rights act because a businessowner should be able to hire whomever he wants too without the government interfering.
Overall, I do not believe in some of Rand's theories but I do admire her personal story and her striving to articulate her philosophy and strive to make it consistent. These essays are interesting to wrestle with....more
Can we be certain of anything? How do we define certainty?
This is an extraordinarily ballsy book written by Daniel Taylor. Especially courageous is thCan we be certain of anything? How do we define certainty?
This is an extraordinarily ballsy book written by Daniel Taylor. Especially courageous is the fact that Mr. Taylor wrote this book within the context of Evangelical Christianity. He points out that beginning in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the evangelical church has been obsessed with fighting secular humanism and relativism. In so doing, the church has established a rigid absolute truth sentiment. Now, we are on tricky waters.
The Bible proclaims itself to be God's Word and thereby, the truth. A historical Christian doctrine has been that the Bible is an authority in a Christian's life for faith and practice. Taylor seems to be asking about the nature of faith in this work. Does faith imply a certain degree of uncertainty? I would think that it does but this is extremely complicated to measure.
All in all, Taylor is not calling us to compromise the essential elements of what we believe as Christians but he is calling us to a greater humility. There is a lot that we do not know. There are some things we can learn from the world and from philosophers of different beliefs and traditions.
This is a quick read and really makes one think. I highly recommend....more
Brian McLaren is back with more of his wishy-washy, trying to reach the broadest possible audience (and not offend anyone) nonsense. This book reallyBrian McLaren is back with more of his wishy-washy, trying to reach the broadest possible audience (and not offend anyone) nonsense. This book really felt pathetic in a lot of ways. In some ways, McLaren does exactly what the Christian right does. He tries to take complicated political issues of the 20th and 21st century and support it with Biblical backup. He does talk about important issues but does so in very simplistic ways for the most part.
He talks about 4 crisises that the world faces that build up to what he calls the suicide machine (as in, we will all kill ourselves): crisises in prosperity, equity, security and spirituality. In speaking on many of these topics, he rehashes typical left wing arguments and viewpoints and tries to weave these into the opinion of Jesus. Yes, in a lot of ways, this book is annoying....more
I found this book to be incredibly interesting even though Sheriff Dave Reichert may not be the greatest of writers. The Green River Killer plagued thI found this book to be incredibly interesting even though Sheriff Dave Reichert may not be the greatest of writers. The Green River Killer plagued the greater Seattle area (SeaTac area) through the 70s and 80s and beyond until he was caught. Reichert was the man assigned to tail the killer and fought for the FBI to be involved and a special task force to be setup. He ran into political opposition. A serial killer murdering impoverished prostitutes didn't run high on the politician's list of feeling a lot of pressure to catch a wicked individual.
Reichert recounts the frustrations, the heart-breaking meeting with family members of victims and the investigation itself. He bills himself as being determined and never-giving up on his hunt for this killer.
In the end, his men end up tracking down Gary Ridgeway who is serving consecutive life sentences. I found Reichert's writing about being challenged with the idea of forgiveness in the face of a monster to be very compelling reading and soul-searching as a Christian myself....more