Tag Archives: Book Reviews by Bill Dahl

The Beautiful and the Damned

Siddhartha Deb authors an expansive, heart breaking, riveting insight into the culture, people, past present and future of India….subtitle: “A Portrait of The New India.”

 

This is a disturbing book, particularly for those in the west who have no concept of the cultural nuances that inhabit Indian society today. I found this book informative and well worth the time invested reading it. Masterfully researched and written superbly.

Going to India? Read this book.

Sid Deb

The Arab-Israeli Conflicts — by Bill Dahl

Do you ever take the time to complete an in-depth study of an issue you desire to become better informed about? I do.

My apologies to the authors and publishers who have sent books for me to review during the last several months – I’ll get to those too. I have just been a bit busy.

I have just completed a study of 1,524 pages in three books:

 

I did a lot of research before I selected the texts for reading. I began with 1948 – The First Arab Israeli Conflict by Benny Morris (Yale University Press 2008 – A Winner of the National Jewish Book Awards). This book begins in the 1880’s with the arrival of the first Jewish immigrants in Zion – yet goes back to 1200 BCE and moves quickly forward through the U.N. Resolution in November 1947 — and the first 20th century Arab Israeli Conflict beginning in May 1948…a far reaching treatise that weaves exquisite detail and the essence of human and socio-political considerations into a marvelous narrative. I highly recommend this book.

The second text I devoured is authored by Michael B. Oren ( Ballantine Books, NY — Random House 2002) entitled Six Days of War – June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. This treatise traces the relationships between Arabs, Israelis and “The Great Powers” from 1948 through the War (June 5 through June 10 1967)….a triumph for the preparation and strategy employed by the IDF. Again, a magnificent work.

Finally, I digested The Yom Kippur War – The Epic Encounter That Transformed The Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich (Shocken Books, New York 2004). This is primarily a “war book” – focusing on military strategy – yet includes the essential human and geo-political insights that served to shape the historical context, and the outcome.

Of all three, I believe I enjoyed The Yom Kippur War by Abraham Rabinovich the most…populated with the names of Golda Meir, Dayan, Sharon, Begin, Kissinger, et al. Yet, the demonstration of courage in the face of certain death by so many – was – for me – shocking (for lack of a more poignant term).

Bottom Line for me after completing this study (it will take me several decades to “digest” the meanings that will continue to resonate through me):

1. War requires humans to choose war. People(s) whom war is being waged against, must protect themselves.

2. Lives are lost. Innocents are slaughtered. Resentments and hatreds are fanned into new forms of flame.

3. Human belief systems (senses of prejudice, bigotry, justice, fairness, intolerance, fear and the like) are the source and perpetuating agents of conflicts of this nature.

4. People are quite willing to die in an attempt to preserve their belief systems. An unfortunate characteristic of homo sapiens that continues to persist in our age – despite the sordid centuries of evidence imploring us to  find a better way to resolve our conflicts.

5. Wars require resources…typically provided by those who are NOT directly involved in the conflict — yet possess purported “strategic geo-political interests” in providing the weapons…for a price…War is big business.

6. Fear…resentment…revenge…are all sewn into a garment of rationalization that cloaks the evil beneath the outward appearance.

May hearts swollen with the desire for peace triumph over minds infected with malicious motivation. For war, is not the better way for the Middle East… Yet, evil lurks – awaiting the opportunity to thrust itself on the unsuspecting, inattentive and naive.

I have no answers…I come away with many, many more questions – after completing this study. And a sadness…along with a profound sense of determined hope for the better way that seems to continue to elude our species.

 

 

FDR and Chief Justice Hughes by James F. Simon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A poignant and timely treatise on The President and the Supreme Court. The parallels to current day in the U.S. are prescient. James F. Simon has an ability to weave history, law, and the development of characters that most other authors can only admire. I really enjoyed this book. You will too.

How God Became King – The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N.T. Wright – A Review by Bill Dahl

Confession:  I have been a fan of N.T. Wright for some time. I look forward to the opportunity to read his work. (This particular book is available on March 13th 2012 by HarperOne).

N.T. Wright is currently serving as the Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity – University of St. Andrews.  He is, for the layperson, one of the few intellectuals focused on the history of Christianity – whose work can be – and should be – tasty fare to the palette of the layperson. Translation: People like me can both understand and appreciate what he is saying – without the need for a seminary degree. (no offense intended to those who may possess or are desirous of the same).

The central thesis of the book is contained in an excerpt from the author toward the middle of the book:

Near the heart of my purpose in this book is to suggest that not only have we misread the gospels, but that we have made them ordinary, have cut them down to size, have allowed them only to peak about the few concerns that happened to occupy our minds already, rather than setting them free to generate an entire world of meaning in all directions, a new world in which we would discover not only new life, but new Vocation. P. 158.

Clearly, one of the outcomes of reading this work is to have a re-invigorated appetite for reading the Gospels – in a new way…a refreshed perspective. As is clear from the title, the author says:

The story Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell is the story of how God became king – in and through Jesus both in his public career and in his death.” (p.175). Wright calls for a refreshing look at these sacred texts. His narrative and analysis do NOT disappoint. He observes: These are not merely antiquarian documents telling a strange story about a powerful, but now long-gone moment of history. They are the moment of sunrise on a new morning, casting a strange glory over the landscape and inviting all readers to wake up, rub the sleep from their eyes, and come out to enjoy the fully dawned day and give themselves to its tasks.” (p.122.) He says:

Yet it is clear to me that none of them have actually taken the gospels seriously as they stand. They have gone to them with the wrong questions and have found answers, of a sort, to those questions. The challenge now is to accept that we have all misunderstood the gospels and to set about finding ways in which we can put this right. It is time for a fresh look at our central texts. (P.58).

Wright uses the metaphor of a quadrophonic stereo system whereby each speaker is out of balance – to provide a structure for his presentation. “One way or another, the music is out of balance. Some parts are almost inaudible, and other parts are all too audible, blasting out l at top volume, distorted in themselves and drowning out every- thing else.” (p.61).

I’ll allow the following excerpts to speak for themselves:

The first speaker of our quadraphonic sound system to be turned up is this: the four gospels present themselves as the climax of the story of Israel.” (p.65).

“Here, to be sure, is a paradox we meet throughout the New Testament: God acts completely unexpectedly-as he always said he would… what is being fulfilled is precisely the promise of drastic, unexpected, and perhaps even unwelcome judgment and mercy.” (P.75).

“As I said before, it is possible for one truth, overemphasized, to drown out others with which it needs to be balanced and modulated. It is time to listen with a good deal more are to the story the Bible itself tells us about Israel’s God, the world’s creator.” (P.86).

“We find in the very earliest Christian documents that all of these ‘pointed to a strange new reality: that, in Jesus, Israel’s God had become present, had become human, had come to live in the midst of his people, to set up his kingdom, to take upon himself the full horror of their plight, and to bring about his long-awaited new world. (P.95).

The gospels are consciously telling the story of how God’s one time action in Jesus the Messiah ushered in a new world order within which a new way of life was not only possible, but mandatory for Jesus followers. (P. 119).

(Luke) – “He is telling the story of Jesus as the story of the launching of God’s renewed people.” (P.124).

The fourth element in the music to which we must pay proper attention, along with everything else, the story of Jesus told as the story of the kingdom of God clashing with the kingdom of Caesar.” (P.127)

A terribly compelling read. Another marvelous contribution by N.T. Wright. Enjoy!

The Resignation of Eve – What if Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing To Be The Church’s Backbone? – A Review by Bill Dahl

The Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson

What if Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing To Be The Church’s Backbone?

Release Date: February 2012 – Tyndale House Publishers

photography/images above and below by Bill Dahl

A new Narrative?

 

 

In Her most recent book, Sara Miles has said: “Sharing our real stories, unvarnished and unfinished, not only provide helpful tips or sympathetic laughs: it’s the thing that allows us to become whole.” There are unvarnished, unfinished stories coming from certain sectors of Christendom in the U.S. — Jim Henderson’s The Resignation of Eve – What if Adam’s Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Backbone of the Church? — is filled with them. More about Henderson’s book in a moment. When one listen’s closely to the stories – a common narrative continues to emerge, based upon social research and socio-cultural observations. Allow me to explain. Listen to the narrative that seems to coalesce from the following:

Theologian Eugene Peterson has written: “We’ve been at this for two thousand years now, and people are not clamoring to join us.” [i] Alan Hirsch says, “I simply do not believe that we can continue to try to think our way into a new way of acting, but rather, we need to act our way into a new way of thinking.” [ii] Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman have said in their book unChristian: “We are at a turning point for Christianity in America. If we do not wake up to these realities and respond in appropriate, godly ways, we risk being increasingly marginalized and losing further credibility with millions of people.” [iii] George Barna has said that we have 340,000 Christian churches in America. The median age of women who attend, give money to, and volunteer in churches is between 56 and 59 years old. Read that sentence again…consider the implications. Barna goes on to say: “If you consider yourself a Christian, then you are called to follow His example and create the future.” [iv] The research underpinning David Kinnaman’s most recent book, You Lost Me – Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Redefining Faith emphatically points out that young Christians are leaving the Church in unprecedented numbers. Marcia Pally of NYU declares the following in her new book, The New Evangelicals: “The Divine may be omniscient and infallible, but religion as practiced in this world is a human institution….Religion, as it is practiced, is both adaptable and corruptible, as are all (human) social, political and economic systems.”……[v] Hmmmm…hear a narrative? A theme?

 Cuz God Said So…?

 

 

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said: “In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” [vi] Blogger/Author/Writer/Creative Thinker…and activist  –  Pam Hogeweide of Portland Oregon writes:

“Most of my readership are disenchanted Christians who are sorting out what’s really real to them in their faith and what’s dogmatic conditioning from religious rhetoric and traditionalism. The perspective of women in the church by their men, and particularly the perspective of women of themselves is still in the grip of an archaic, hierarchical mindset that keeps women quietly busy serving in the kitchen or the nursery. But not the pulpit or the lecterns where only men can teach the faithful. It is unfathomable to the people I know here in Portland who are not Christ followers when they learn of the gender inequity that is alive and well in the halls of Christendom. “Really?” they ask,   “In this day and age?[vii]

 Even in Islam, the role of the full participation of Muslim women is a lightening rod, as Irshad Manji points out in her book, The Trouble with Islam – A Muslim Calls For Reform in Her Faith:

 

“Girl’s can’t lead prayer.”

“What do you mean?”

“Girls aren’t permitted.”

“Why not?”

“Allah says so.”

“What’s His reason?”

“Read the Koran.”

Really? In this day and age?

 

Back Pain?

 

 

 

 Enter Jim Henderson and his new book The Resignation of Eve – What if Adam’s Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Backbone of the Church? This book is filled with riveting interviews with Christian women, whom (as a whole) George Barna refers to as the backbone of the church. (p. xvi). According to Barna, between 1991 and 2011:

 

  1. Adult women attending church during any week has declined by 20%.
  2. Women attending Sunday School has plummeted by 29%.
  3. The percentage of remain who are characterized as “unchurched” has risen by 94% during this period.
  4. More than a third of all women are now unconnected from the church.
  5. Most weekly church attenders are women (53%) – and they bring their families.
  6. Most church volunteers are women (57%).
  7. Women are the majority in terms of attendance of adult Sunday school programs (59%).
  8. 60% of those who attend small groups or Bible study are women.
  9. Due to the demographic data compiled (Barna 2000 study) about the median age (56-59) of women contributing (in every sense) to the Church – women’s active participation in the future of the Church has been characterized as a “dying breed.” (p.252).

Henderson goes onto characterize what he identifies as The Three Faces of Resignation – resigned to, resigned from, re-signed. For Henderson, he makes a well-informed observation: “leaving doesn’t mean walking away; more often it means showing up without being present.” (p.7).

 The interviews and summaries of the same by the author are superbly crafted. They represent women who live or have lived at least one of the “Three Faces of Resignation” denoted above. (truth be told, one may exist in one of Henderson’s stages in degrees, if you will. In one’s lifetime, one may live through multiple stages). These interviews will make you think, shift in your seat, squirm, spontaneously blurt out “What” at least twice during your reading – and require you to contemplate the clear opportunity/necessity for change. Finally, the women whose interviews are contained in the book are precious children of God, just like you and I, whose lives are being shaped by the tenets of their respective faith persuasion. Some are “fine with it,” – others – not so much. Henderson does a splendid job of integrating interviews that flow with his evolving thesis throughout the book.

If the Apostle Paul happened to be Mary in The Bible, I sincerely doubt that The Resignation of Eve would have been written. We would likely be faced with another book — perhaps a few books with titles like: “The Anomie of Adam,” “Adam’s Angst,” “The Flight of Fred,” or “The Plight of Peter.”

The Heart of The Matter

 

 

 

Lyons and Kinnaman say We are at a turning point for Christianity in America. If we do not wake up to these realities….” Kinnaman’s most recent book clearly raises the warning that young Christians are leaving the Church in unprecedented numbers. Barna’s research points out the fundamental, strategic importance of women as the backbone of the church. The demographic data alert us to the dying breed characterization. Unfathomable, as Hogeweide recounts?

 Henderson ends the book with three questions that truly must cause one to pause:

 What if our perception of God’s heart is far too narrow? What if His heart is wider and higher than we’ve been taught to imagine? What if God’s ways really aren’t our ways.” (p.276).

After reading this book, I couldn’t help but respond aloud to the author’s three questions, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

The challenge that The Resignation of Eve presents is, to use the words of Eugene Peterson, “akin to skillfully setting a compound fracture “sets” this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones — belief and behavior – knit together and heal.[viii]

 After all, “the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe.” [ix]

 Buy this book. Discuss it with friends. Use it as a staple or supplement in your small group. Ask your pastor to recommend it to your church family. This book is timely, terribly important and was not created to sit on a shelf after a thorough reading – you can’t simply devour this book, leave it and walk away. Showing up without being present just ain’t gonna cut it anymore. This book should have a warning label: “NOTICE: The consumption of this book will cause the reader to act upon the heartfelt reflex to reflect upon reconciliation. Side Effects: May cause enlargement of your heart, stir your redemptive imagination, identify a fracture between your beliefs and behavior, and promote the onset of healing an enduring malady that continues to infect the hearts and minds of His Church.”

 Reconcile your heart to that.

 

 

NOTES

 

[i] Peterson, Eugene H. Practice Resurrection – a conversation on growing up in Christ, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Company Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K. Copyright © 2010 by Eugene H. Peterson – P. 14.

[ii] Hirsch, Alan The Forgotten Ways – Reactivating The Missional Church Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright © 2006 by Alan Hirsch p. 122

[v] The New Evangelicals – Expanding The Vision of the Common Good by Marcia Pally — William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge U.K. Released: November 2011 –  p.244.

[viii] Peterson, Eugene H. Practice Resurrection – a conversation on growing up in Christ, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Company Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K. Copyright © 2010 by Eugene H. Peterson – p.31.

[ix] Ibid. p. 31.

All photographic images by Bill Dahl – All Rights Reserved.

Prophet of Innovation – Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction by Thomas K. McCraw

McCraw is the Isidor Straus Professor of Business History, emeritus, at the Harvard Business School. He has won the Pulitzer Prize. This particular book garnered the 2007–2009 Alfred and Fay Chandler Book Award in Business History.

Don’t let the 506 pages (hardcover) plus another 200 pages of notes scare you off. This is a uniquely crafted insight into BOTH the life and mind of Joseph Schumpeter.

“No country, regardless of how long it has been prosperous, can take permanent affluence for granted. Nor can any company assume its continued existence…Digital Equipment, Pan American Airways, Pullman, Douglas Aircraft and The Pennsylvania Railroad remind us….And all are now in the dustbin of history, along with hundreds of thousands of other businesses of all sizes – once as strong as dinosaurs but now just as extinct.” (p. 496).

I adored this book and admired the incredible scholarly research that taught me about Schumpeter, his times, his work – and his contributions to the field of economics, organizational development, capitalism, and our world.

From The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (hardcover 2007 and paperback in 2010), this is a precious gem that deserves to be relied upon in in the exploration of a truly remarkable man and his mind….both of which continue to resonate with the challenges that confront societies across the globe.

Like I said, “a precious gem.”