Review: Three Days in January

Bob on Books

Three Days in January

Three Days in JanuaryBret Baier with Catherine Whitney. New York, William Morrow, 2017.

Summary: An account of the final three days of the Eisenhower presidency, focused around his farewell speech, highlighting Eisenhower’s principled leadership and contribution to the nation.

Dwight Eisenhower is the first president I remember. My recollections seem to be mostly of Eisenhower on the golf course. He didn’t hold the attention of this five-year old when he spoke. He faded quickly into the background when the dashing Jack Kennedy took office. His successors were much in the news in my growing up and adult years from the Vietnam war to Watergate and the pardon to the Iranian hostage crisis to “morning in America” to “shock and awe.” I didn’t think much about Ike as a president, probably more as the general who led us to victory in Europe in World War Two.

Bret Baier suggests…

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Book Write-Up: The Assault

Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky.  The Assault.  Bethany House, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

The Assault is the second volume of the “Harbingers” series.  As in the first volume, authors Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky each contribute a section, from the perspective of a main character.  Bill Myers conveys the perspective of Brenda, a tough tattoo artist who has premonitions of the future.  Frank Peretti contributes the perspective of the professor, an atheist ex-priest.  Angela Hunt writes from the point-of-view of Andi, the professor’s assistant, who is Jewish.  And Alton Gansky shares the viewpoint of Tank, a lovable ex-jock, who is probably the most Christian character in the book.  Another character is Daniel, who hears from invisible people.  Brenda is a mother-figure to him.

The second volume is better than the first volume.  There was a greater educational element in the second volume, in that the first section talked about the Spear of Destiny, the spear that supposedly killed Christ, which Hitler wanted when he was alive.  There was also more intrigue.  The Harbingers were contending against the Gate, which was like the Illuminati (as many modern conspiracy theorists portray it), but was from another dimension (or so I understood).

Like the previous volume, this volume was somewhat difficult to follow.  The prose was simple, but putting together the big picture from the dialogue and the action and horror scenes was a challenge.  This volume was a step up from the previous volume, however, because this volume presented the characters summing up what came before, on occasion, and Tank offered his impressions of the other characters.

The characters are likable.  The professor is crusty and misanthropic, but he has some level of affection for the other characters.  The Harbingers fight evil, even though not all of them are Christians, which is interesting, for a Christian novel.  The professor remains an atheist.  My favorite part of this book was when an ascended spirit being claiming to be a god was telling the professor that he (the professor) was God, and the professor replied, “That would mean I don’t believe in me, which is absurd!”

I would have liked more information about the Gate, but that may come out in a subsequent volume.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest!

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Eerdword: “But They’re Illegal!”

“As sociologists of migration have argued, mass migrations are almost always the result of the foreign and economic policies of host countries. Poverty and unemployment are only ‘push factors’ in migration if they are activated by some kind of intervention by the host country. For example, undocumented migrants from Mexico have often left their homes in response to the closings of factories that made products for U.S. markets. Migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America have arrived fleeing gang violence set in motion in part by U.S. deportation policies from 20 years ago.”

Tisha M. Rajendra is the author of Migrants and Citizens: Justice and Responsibility in the Ethics of Immigration. * * * “But they’re illegal!” “Illegal is illegal!” Tisha M. RajendraCheck the comments of any news story about a deportation, and no matter how heartbreaking the details, no matter the anguish of the family and friends…

via “But They’re Illegal!” — EerdWord

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Book Review: Founding Feuds

Edge Induced Cohesion

Founding Feuds:  The Rivalries, Clashes, and Conflicts That Forged A Nation, by Paul Aron

It is fairly inevitable given the great deal of attention that is given to our nation’s Founding Fathers [1] that someone would seek to look at their feuds and quarrels as being a source of our nation’s strength rather than a sign of the common fallen nature that they shared along with us.  As a person who has been prone to my share of feuds and quarrels with other people, the subject of the book was definitely one that I could relate to, without question.  The author, moreover, does a good job at framing the reason for the conflicts, and the fact that the conflicts show a greater richness about the humanity of the Founding Fathers than might otherwise have been the case.  The way that they treated rivals and people with whom they disagreed had…

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Review: The Loyal Son

Bob on Books

Loyal Son

The Loyal SonDaniel Mark Epstein. New York: Ballantine Books, 2017.

Summary: The history of relations between Ben and his illegitimate son William Franklin, from filial loyalty to estranged parties as a consequence of the Revolutionary War, and each man’s choices.

I’ve read a biography of Ben Franklin and numerous histories of the Revolutionary War, and had never realized how deeply estranged Franklin and his son were until I read Daniel Mark Epstein’s well-researched study of the lives and the tragic relationship of these two men.

It was not always so. William, an illegitimate offspring of Franklin’s, was raised as a son by him and Deborah. They worked side by side in the affairs of Philadelphia, fought alongside each other against Indian attacks, and went to England together to plead against the Penn family, who as proprietors of Pennsylvania enjoyed an exemption from taxes for defense of the Commonwealth…

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Church Write-Up: People Are Lions (and Other Items)

Last Sunday, I went to the evangelical “pen church,” where I get a free blue pen every time that I visit.  Here are some points that the pastor made in his sermon:

A.  The overarching theme of the sermon was unity.  The pastor said that the world tends towards negativity and fragmentation.  The church, however, can show people the validity of faith through its unity.  The pastor alluded to John 13:35, in which Jesus said that people will recognize Jesus’ disciples when they love one another.  Next Sunday, this church will be doing service projects in the community, and the pastor expressed hope that this can show people an example of the church being unified around a common cause, a positive cause, a cause that shows what Christ is about.

B.  The pastor said that a contributing factor towards disunity in church is that people are jealous that someone has something that they lack.  When we realize, though, that God’s table is super-abundant and there is a lot to go around, we will not be afraid to let others go before us, or to give credit to others when credit is due.  Someone else being blessed does not detract from us being blessed.

C.  The pastor mentioned a person in the church who has become a supervisor at a bank.  Her boss offered her advice on how to relate to those she would be supervising: see them as kittens.  The pastor contrasted this with how many of us see people: as lions.  We approach them with our table and whip, at odds with them from the get go.  I certainly identified with him there.  I have been treated like a lion, and I have seen people as lions.

D.  The pastor said that, when we are at odds with someone in the church, we should not gossip about him or her.  Rather, we should go to that person directly to work things out.  This is intimidating, the pastor acknowledged, but we can ask God for wisdom about the appropriate words to say.  If that does not work, bring someone the person respects.  And, if that does not work, inform the church.  The pastor, of course, was drawing from Matthew 18:15-20.

E.  The pastor was saying that bragging repels people from us, whereas humility draws people to us.  He also suggested that we should own up to our mistakes when we make them, rather than telling people we hurt, “I’m sorry that you feel that way, but that was not what I meant.”

F.  The pastor said something that a therapist once told me.  When we are 18, we are obsessed about what people think of us.  When we are 40, we do not care so much.  When we are 65, we realize that people are not thinking about us but about their own problems.

Here are some of my responses:

—-When I hear these sorts of sermons, I wonder: “Why exactly do I have to be friends with everyone?  A lot of Christians don’t want to be friends with me!”  Some people just do not like each other.  I think there is wisdom in what the pastor is saying.  Just because someone hurts my feelings, that is no reason for me for gossip about that person and turn others against him or her.  And, if I hurt someone, I hope that I would apologize, assuming that I think the person’s criticism is fair.  But Christians being friends with everyone, particularly Christians?  That strikes me as idealistic.  I fall vastly short of practicing that, and so do other Christians.

—-(B.) may sound prosperity-Gospel-ish to some.  One can sarcastically ask, “Where is God’s ‘abundant table’ for people suffering from poverty in (such-and-such a place)?”  Some may see what the pastor says as practically unrealistic.  “Let others go first or take credit?  I can’t do that!  If I don’t advocate for myself, nobody else will!”  Part of me is cynical.  On the other hand, there is a part of myself that identifies with what the pastor is saying.  I am limited, so I do depend on God rather than my own ability to pull myself up by my bootstraps.  The possibility that God can provide, therefore, resonates with me.

—-Bringing (C.), (D.), and (E.) together, one reason I would be hesitant to go directly to a person who hurt me to communicate my hurt is that I fear that he or she will throw my vulnerability in my face.  People ARE lions!

—-Humility can draw people.  Confidence does too, though.  People like humility in others because others are making them feel important or valued, and because people can identify with those who share similar vulnerabilities.  At the same time, people are drawn to leaders, to people who seem like they have answers.

—-(F.) gets me thinking.  Part of me, of course, cares about what people think.  I feel better when people like me than when they do not (though, nowadays, I think when that happens, “This is too good to be true”).  Part of me realizes, though, that I have responsibilities to do in life, and things to enjoy in life, even when people do not like me.  I had these thoughts, in some way, shape, or form, when I was 18, and now.

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Sparks and the age of the Song of Deborah


Beginning in April of 2005 I blogged for several weeks about Kenton Sparks’ book, God’s Word in Human Words.

Sparks has now made available on the Internet his paper “Religion, Identity and the Origins of Ancient Israel”, which was originally published in Religious Compass in 2007.  The paper is here.

I remember from having read his book that he covered some of the same material there.  However, I want to focus on a particular issue.

The main thrust of his paper is that after a period when the consensus of scholars seemed to be that the Israelites who settled in the central highlands of Canaan around the 12th century BCE were Canaanites, many scholars were pushing back and reconsidering that the Israelites may have been semi-nomads from the east after all. Sparks marshals some of the evidence for this idea that the Israelites were more Shasu than Canaanite.

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