You Take The High Road, And I’ll Take The Low Road, And I’ll Get To Scotland Before You

One of the music reviewers online whose videos I enjoy–there are quite a few–is named Anthony Fantano, who claims himself to be the Internet’s busiest music nerd [1].  Some time ago a magazine wrote a hack job on him that falsely claimed that he was making videos in order to appeal to the white nationalist alt right [2], which is completely untrue as he tends to be a fairly notable Progressive in terms of his own political opinions, which he makes clear from time to time when he talks about his more serious opinion pieces.  Although I happen to be generally hostile to Progressive politics, and therefore have much to disagree about with Mr. Fantano, I find it abhorrent that he had a speaking tour canceled because a libelous article managed to stir up a great deal of unrest on the part of venues as well as his booking agent, forcing him to lie low at present and wait for the storm to calm down before he is able to try again at doing a speaking tour as a comedian and public figure.

Earlier today, a young man in our local congregation sent me a message asking for a favor, and it ended up being that he needed someone to take his place leading songs tomorrow at services in our congregation because he was going to be with his family in a neighboring congregation.  I had no problem agreeing to the request, and when I saw what songs he had picked out I thought that they would be fine to lead before the congregation as a pinch hitter of sorts while he encouraged his maternal grandmother.  Later on this evening I got a call from one of our deacons asking if the songleader had gotten in touch with me and I was able to report that his wife (the pianist scheduled for tomorrow) will be able to practice the songs that were on the website.  Now I just have to find some people to give the opening and closing prayer.  I hope my fellow brethren don’t get bored of seeing me on the stage.  As it happens, while I was discussing the songleading for tomorrow I was also arranging to sing with a combined choir in about three weeks for the memorial of the grandfather of the young man who asked me to take his place this week as a songleader.

Recently the cooperation between different secession movements has been something of interest to me, and although in general I am in favor of secession movements on the part of peoples with a recognizable culture and a lengthy history of oppression in tyrannical and/or failed states, I must admit the international community as a general rule is not very fond of those areas which buck the status quo and which want to redraw the maps of the world.  In both Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia [3], we have seen a marked phenomenon where separatists have taken the high road, at least as far as the international community and those who could be judged as sympathetic to their cause while both of the nations involved (Iraq and Spain) in trying to resist separatism have failed badly in presenting themselves as nations that any restive region wants to be a part of.  It is striking to see rebels take the high road and those authorities that consider themselves to be legitimate taking the low road so painfully obviously.

Indeed, in life we often find ourselves caught between taking the high road and taking the low road.  It can be easy to forget when there is something that we feel needs to be done, or alternatively, needs to be prevented from happening that we are dealing with other people with whom we can expect a great many interactions in the future.  The short-term gains we get from taking the low road often end up backfiring in the long run when we find that we have a lot to look forward to in dealing with others who are less likely to want to do anything with those who have been unkind before, or, in contrary, are more inclined to deal with someone who has been gracious and honorable and generous in their dealings.  The choice is ours to make, in so many areas of life.  Do we choose the short-term ease or do we take the time and effort to build something that can last?

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

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Y U No Finish: The Road To Elephants

The Road To Elephants, by Maram Taibah

[Note:  This book, or at least part of it, was provided free of charge by Books Go Social.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Usually when a book ends up in this category, there is some fault by the author [1].  For example, a book may be too long to read in a convenient fashion, or it may be infuriating to read, or something of that nature.  At 37 pages, this book is not too long, and what I was able to read in the story was certainly worthwhile and thought-provoking, and certainly an interesting style.  So, why wasn’t I able to finish this book?  Really, the fault of this book, at least as I got it, was in a digital reader’s copy that only showed one page of the short story, namely page 2, which meant that while what I was able to read was certainly interesting, the rest of the story was lacking, and thus was something I was unable to review in full, unfortunately.  This is a case where I wanted to be able to read more, but where I was prevented to by a poor digital copy that simply did not include the whole story as was promised.

Again, there wasn’t much of this story I was able to read, but what I was able to read was certainly interesting and made me want to read more.  The story opens with some abandoned children whose parents went off to Indonesia and never returned and whose foster parent (?) of sorts is extremely overprotective to the point of being abusive.  One can imagine that the story that follows may be somewhat semi-autobiographical, as many such stories of suffering children are, and that it involves some sort of coming-of-age story involving freedom and intellectual curiosity or something of that light, but again, what parts of the story this terrible digital copy contains only hints at the materials to come and leads to a great deal of curiosity without totally answering that curiosity.  There is much here to excite interest, but little payoff, although that is no fault of the author herself unless she created this digital copy for reviewers.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Bongo Fury 2: Holiday For Skins

Bongo Fury 2:  Holiday For Skins, by Simon Maltman

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by the author.  All thoughts and feelings are my own.]

The sequel to an excellent beginning [1], this book happens to up the ante about the mystery that our protagonist has been involved in.  Those who remember the first part of this novel will recognize that there has been an escalation from the beginning to where the second part begins, and this escalation continues in this novel.  There is a lot of continuity in approach, in that the protagonist fancies himself to be more insightful than he actually is and manages to get involved in trouble that is beyond his ability to deal with it, and he also manages to have a high degree of intuition about what is going on.  The protagonist’s awareness of, for example, his brother’s upgraded wardrobe, signifies that he at least doesn’t do enough drugs to entirely dull his senses.  If he sometimes seems a bit slow on the uptake he is at least sensible enough to be skeptical of what is going on around him, and that makes him, ultimately, a successful protagonist at least as far as this series of stories is concerned.

Without too many spoilers, this continuation of the Bongo Fury story is definitely a worthwhile one.  It manages to up the ante and demonstrates some level of collaboration between Unionist elements and other elements of society that are corrupt while showing the protagonist to be somewhat vulnerable to problems in his personal and family life as a result of his activities and particularly the way he blends entrepreneurship with marijuana sales as well as his small-scale music shop and his private investigation.  This is an appealing story and it has a suitably dramatic cliffhanger ending that demonstrates the way that the protagonist is now involved in some very serious business, and that encourages the reader to be interested in the next story to see where the story goes from here.  We already see that the protagonist is involved in some newsworthy stories, and he definitely has made some very deadly enemies and gotten himself deeply involved in paramilitary problems of Northern Ireland, and all of that context definitely helps to inform this particular work and make its author a thoughtful and insightful commentator on life in Northern Ireland for those whose behavior skirts the wrong side of the law.

As someone who is a fan of reading mystery novels [2], there is a lot I like about this story.  If you enjoy cleverly written murder mysteries that involve interesting historical and geographical contexts and resourceful and/or lucky anti-heroes, there is much to appreciate here.  There is likely a large and appreciative audience for this story, which also demonstrates that the author not only has the skill to make for an interesting setup but also to work through paying off that setup through solid writing.  This is definitely an interesting story and it manages to provide its characters with worthwhile choice that demonstrate a lack of trust and a surprising degree of savvy that makes the ending a successful one and makes it very interesting to see where the story goes from here.  The protagonist is clearly in way over his head, and this time not only does the reader get it but even the protagonist is aware of it.  How he reacts to that is a bit unclear at this point but it is definitely something worth finding out.  The author deserves considerable credit for making a compelling story.


[2] See, for example:

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Don’t Conduct The Autopsy Until The Technology Is Dead

Every few days, it seems that I get an e-mail from some tech company talking about what killed the hard drive.  The biggest problem with these e-mails is not the murderous glee with which the pitchmen talk about how they did in a longstanding technology, although I must admit that I am not fond of those who delight in making waste of the ways that people live and work [1], but rather with the fact that they are obviously premature.  Hard drives are not dead.  I happen to sitting right next to one of them right now.  Even the articles themselves, when you get beyond the clickbaity hype of the headlines and move to the slightly more sober and restrained text, make the more modest claim that by a certain time, a fifth of all companies/users are predicted to use a newer form of storage than the hard drive.  A change in the behavior of a fifth of people from one technology to another is certainly a notable shift, but it is not something that will kill a previous form of technology, which will likely hang on as a niche industry for quite some time as long as some people continue to use it.  Just think, for example, of how many people still use vinyl records and glory in them, despite there having been several generations of music technology that have developed since then.

In thinking about why these articles bother me so much, much of my issues spring from two related causes.  For one, as I have mentioned, the headlines of the articles are not strictly true.  Even if, for the sake of argument, hard drives had been mortally wounded by the development of new forms of storage, and would no longer be the predominant means of storage for people, there would still be a purpose and a role for them.  For one, many forms of cloud storage depend on the existence of reliable internet, and in some parts of the world (and even some parts of the United States) that cannot be assumed.  Where you cannot easily connect with high speed internet to access remote storage, one must have some kind of local storage to draw from.  Likewise, where there are great security concerns about connections, people will be encouraged to have backups and local storage for more sensitive information, thanks to the fact that those who promote the security of the cloud have a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to convincing people of the security of online information in light of the massive and pervasive reality of security breaches of information kept by those who fancy themselves trustworthy stewards of it.

Another part of my difficulty with such articles is the fact that the tone of them is so bothersome.  It is one thing to recognize that a certain amount of change is constant and that there are people who wish to justify and encourage change because it helps their bottom line and keeps them busy engaging in research and development and consulting and in selling products and services to those people and companies who wish to remain on the cutting edge or at least not hopelessly behind.  I understand this, even if it is not something I particularly like having to deal with.  If my own personal preferences were taken into consideration there would be a mild pace of change that was not pushed but that developed organically and in tandem with the increased well-being of the general public at large.  Efforts at change would be viewed with a critical eye as to their effects on front-line workers and on the basic decency and respect of those people with the most vulnerability to loss.  Obviously, few people have asked for my opinion in such matters and few people care, but given this sensitivity to the effects of technological change and the general lack of sensitivity that accompany change efforts, I am not the sort of person who will rejoice in being a murderer or an accomplish in the destruction of old ways in favor of untried and insecure new ways.   By nature and temperament I tend to be a rather cautious and conservative person ill-suited to hype machines of any kind.

And when you get to the bottom of it, my offense springs from the fact that the writers and publishers of articles like these are missing their target wildly when aiming their hype machines at me.  There are ways to appeal to people who are cautious and conservative and who prefer things that are tried and tested and secure.  The fact that such ways seem to be rarely tried does not mean that they do not exist, but rather that people who use technology at the level that I do and who are engaged in data science are assumed, quite falsely in my case, to be the sort of people who appreciate change for the sake of change.  All too often, people fail to recognize that whatever is gained through most forms of technological change, something is lost as well.  And what is lost can appear to be far more than what is gained, at least at the beginning when the hype outweighs the sober testing and rules of best practice that inform those who move at a gradual pace.  We would all be better off if we mourned anything that died, and recognized that with the birth of new things there is potential and there is promise, but that all too often the performance fails to live up to the promise and the potential that we see.  And it is by performance that we are judged.

[1] See, for example:

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An Introduction To The La Hotel Espero Project

About every year [1] I am involved the November Novel Writing Month project, where one is challenged to write 50,000 words during the month.  Most of the time I have viewed it as an opportunity to work on omnibus large nonfiction projects that I have in mind, which makes it easier to compile as less original writing needs to be done.  This year, though, I have it in mind to write a short novel that I have been working out unsuccessfully as a play because while there is a great deal of action, there is not nearly as much dialogue as before.  Without giving too much away here, what I plan to do as a way of keeping my writing as transparent as possible is to serialize this short novel and write it, as much as possible, on a daily basis during the month of November.  The rapid pace of writing means that the novel will be somewhat rougher than it would normally be, and while I post a fair amount of poetry here I have rarely written prose fiction here.  Nevertheless, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide some sort of advance notice of what I plan to do as well as a place to compile together my various writings as I work on organizing them.

To give some information about the story itself, it focuses on three individuals who find themselves as the only inhabitants of a mysterious hotel known as La Hotel Espero (or the Hope Hotel in English–the title is in Esperanto, which give some idea of at least some of the threads of the novel).  With multiple POV characters (although not too many) and an adoption of free indirect dialogue as well as a narrator who hopefully isn’t too intrusive, this novel is not intended so much as a mystery–as it is likely that many readers will be able to quickly grasp much of the truths of the characters’ existence very quickly, especially if they get the references, but rather as an exploration of intense loneliness, isolation, and boredom, all subjects I feel myself well qualified to write about.  The blog entries that feature material on this project are below:

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Amphibious Operations In The South Pacific In WWII: Volume II

Amphibious Operations In The South Pacific In WWII:  Volume II:  The Solomon Campaigns 1942-1943:  From Guadalcanal To Bougainville Pacific War Turning Point, by William L. McGee

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by the author.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Having read the first book in the series [1], I was pleased that the author sent me this book to read after I spoke to a group of veterans of logistics ships in World War II [2].  I’ll have to admit that the length of this book put me off for a while.  It’s hard to look at a book that is 600 pages and not think that there are books that are faster to read, and yet this book didn’t take too long to read when I finally got around to it.  I just wish that I had gotten around to it earlier, as it is a really interesting book that looks at a somewhat obscure and forgotten area of World War II and does justice to its context and the lessons learned by the Navy.  This is precisely the sort of history of World War II that deserves to be written more often and read, especially as it focuses on areas of logistics that are of critical importance to soldiers but are often neglected by armchair generals who love discussing tactical victories.

The contents of this book are pretty expansive.  In about 600 pages worth of material including the appendices to the works, the author manages to pack in a great deal of information.  Part One of the book contains the first three chapters about Guadalcanal.  The book begins with a discussion of the strategic decisions, plans, and preparations for the Guadalcanal campaign.  After this comes a chapter on the landings on that fetid island.  A very lengthy chapter of nearly two hundred pages then follows on the lengthy six-month struggle for the island as the Japanese and Americans both made piecemeal reinforcements of their garrisons and engaged in a deadly and immensely destructive naval war of attrition for control of the seas around Guadalcanal.  The second part of the book looks at the Central Solomons campaign, with four chapters on the amphibious rehearsals in the Russells, the lull between the storms, the invasion of New Georgia, and the occupation of Vella Lavella.  The third part of the book contains the last two chapters, which look at the successful Bouganville campaign to capture that troubled island and a discussion of some of the lessons learned in the fight over those islands from August 19th 1943 to November 19 1943.

There are a lot of reasons why this is a great worth that deserves to be read even with its length.  For one, it discusses areas of World War II that are somewhat neglected–both in terms of the obscure campaigns of the Central and Northern Solomon Islands that helped to originate the famous island-hopping strategy of the United States during the Pacific War as well as the vital importance of logistics in determining the success of the United States and its allies in these campaigns.  In addition to that, the book is written with a great deal of charisma and charm and the author is quick to give credit to other historians who have discussed matters of importance, which he quotes with attribution and obvious respect.  The author comes off not only as immensely knowledgeable but also as immensely likable, and that is something of great and often neglected importance when it comes to matters of military history.  In giving a master class of how to write a book that is a compelling volume as well as part of a deeply interesting series about often neglected or forgotten areas of history.



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Book Review: Sink The Bismarck!

Sink The Bismarck, by C.S. Forrester

In dealing with this short and immensely popular WWII book [1], one is forced to confront the question of genre.  Is this book a history or is it a historical novella?  This is not as straightforward a question as one might imagine.  For one, the author purports to be writing a history of the sinking of the Bismarck, placing it in the context of a desperate hunt and the destruction of the Hood, but at the same time, the author notes that he creates speeches and assumes that his created speeches are close to life.   One would normally assume that the creation of speeches would put a book in the genre of historical fiction, but the author appears to be copying the example of Thucydides and Tacitus, and it is hard to consider this book as unhistorical because of its adoption of ancient genre conventions.  At any rate, this should be left to the reader to determine for themselves whether they associate this book with ancient historians dealing with the way that people bravely face the likelihood of death or with the beloved historical fiction stories of Horatio Hornblower.

The book is a taut 120 pages or so, and manages to describe the last nine days of the Bismark, as it escaped from the Baltic Sea and made for the Atlantic Ocean.  Feeling as if the battleship was a mortal threat to British logistics routes to North America, the British pulled every possible resource to sink the ship, even if they had no single ship that offered enough capabilities to match the Bismarck in the open seas.  The result was a series of attempts at coordinated attacks.  The maps are useful and although much of the dialogue seems a little bit contrived, the book as a whole has a picture of a book that seems to have been custom-made for encouraging a film adaptation that gave a surprisingly high degree of respect to the German mariners of the doomed battleship.  Only a few hours before it is to reach the safety of the German fighter shield, the ship is disabled and then sunk by a large assault.  One wonders whether the ship sank in large part due to hubris, as the ship was fast and powerful but by no means invulnerable and was lacking a destroyer escort, which ultimately proved to be the ship’s undoing.

Looking back on World War II history many decades later, the Bismarck does not strike many readers as being a particularly noteworthy ship.  Battleships are not viewed with the same degree of favor today as they were in the early days of World War II before it became readily apparent that carrier-based aircraft were the wave of the future.  And this book gives some indication of the transition between a focus on big battleships and one on the planes that aircraft carriers were able to put into action whose military power could be exercised at far longer ranges than the largest and most powerful guns on battleships.  The Bismarck’s size and speed gave it vulnerability because a slower and less powerful ship would not have seemed enough of a threat to be worth destroying at all costs.  Ultimately, this book is a tale of the desperate straits to which Great Britain was driven in order to defend its all-important trade routes, and the way that German abilities to make the rare powerful battleship forced Britain to react with a high degree of panic in order to defend its own survival.  Yet at the end the Bismarck seems like a cornered and heavily outnumbered ship fighting a doomed battle for survival itself, giving both sides the appearance of desperate and ferocious underdogs, a rare and significant achievement for a work that shows a remarkable degree of balance.

[1] See, for example:

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What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander

Rumors can be a dangerous thing in an atmosphere or paranoia and mistrust.  During the 1780’s, for example, gossip about the royal family of France helped lead to a calamitous decline in the trust that the French political population had in the monarchy, with catastrophic results.  All kinds of lies were believed, from the casual cruelty of Marie Antoinette to various pornographic stories involving corrupt elites that was all too easy for a cynical population to believe.  I say this because I believe that we in the United States are in a similar position where our elites are judged as so corrupt and so unworthy of the benefit of the doubt that stories can be believed that may not necessarily be true, and not being the sort of person who desires to pass along gossip without comment, I feel it necessary not only to talk about a story, but also to talk about its context, a context in which I find myself a somewhat unwilling and unhappy part.

Earlier this evening I received a chain message on Facebook which urged people to pass it on to ten people.  The person I received it from was what I would consider a generally reliable person who thought the news sufficiently alarming and serious to pass it along.  I chose not to pass it on, but as is my habit from time to time [1], I considered it the sort of news story of dubious but nonetheless interesting nature that it deserved some sort of reflection on my own part, which is why I am writing this.  So let us set the stage here.  We are dealing with a rumor of dubious but possible reality and of an alarming nature whose spread depends on the general unreliability of contemporary elite politicians in the United States that involves questions of culture and religion, with somewhat inflammatory results in terms of the way that certain people are viewed.

The rumor, and this is one that appears to have circulated several times over the past few months, is that certain states or school districts within them (Maryland, Michigan, and Arizona, among other states) have given Muslim students the right to pray in schools without giving that right to Christians.  At least a few sites [2] have weighed in one on side or another of the larger cultural debate, and at least a few elements appear to be at the base of the dispute.  For one, there is widespread concern over double standards that make certain religious worldviews more acceptable to practice in certain parts of the United States than others, as well as serious tensions between Muslim minorities and the majority population of certain areas of the United States.  The fact that it can be easily believed that there is special treatment for Muslims at the expense of Christians (and Jews) does not tend to make it easy for others to attempt to moderate the concern by efforts at fact-checking, and is certainly one important element in appeals to various forms of demagoguery.

The United States is rare, and perhaps unique, in claiming itself as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian ethics.  Besides the obvious and diverse nature of Christian groups from Separatists and Puritans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and many other smaller groups seeking religious freedom in the United States from European oppression, the Old Testament and its focus on freedom from slavery and the importance of a just legal order have long been important touchstones in the American political experience.  The fact that the United States faced war with the Barbary pirates in the early 19th century in a particularly formative experience with an aggressive strain of political Islam only adds to the concern that attempts by contemporary Muslim immigrants to turn the Judeo-Christian ethic into a supposed Judeo-Christian-Muslim ethic will make the United States an area that is amenable to the barbarities of Sharia law.  It would appear that any concessions given, no matter how fair and just, to the sensitivities of Muslims of whatever age, only exacerbates these cultural concerns of a minority that simply does not seem to be able to dwell at peace with their host countries.

I must admit that I do not know what conditions exist regarding the availability of places for prayer for students of various religious beliefs in all parts of the United States.  I do know, from my own personal experience as well as what I read from others, that there is a significant feeling that having a public identity as someone who takes the Bible and biblical law and a Christian worldview seriously is not a popular position in some parts of the United States and is a ticket to fairly pervasive misunderstanding as well as ridicule and scorn, if not active persecution.  Likewise, there is a perception that progressives who despise the biblical worldview pander to Muslim worldviews out of a belief that they will profit (at least in the short term) politically for acting in such a fashion.  Similarly, those who oppose treating Muslims with respect pander to fears of creeping Sharia as well as certain xenophobic tendencies among other groups of Americans, also for political purposes.  Being neither a progressive nor someone who is particularly xenophobic, I feel someone what melancholy that no one seems to desire to pander to me and to my own interests.  In this atmosphere, my concern is simply that people be treated fairly and with justice, and that those who defend biblical law and its application should at least have as much freedom to do so as those who speak highly of any other body of religious law.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, after all.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: Seeing The Supernatural

Seeing The Supernatural:  How To Sense, Discern, And Battle In The Spiritual Realm, by Jennifer Eivaz

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

It may seem particularly humorous, but I read a lot of books that deal with the subject of spiritual warfare, and many of them come from the same publisher or group of publishers.  Admittedly, my own beliefs about spiritual warfare are somewhat distinct to those of the publisher, but even so I find a great deal that is of interest in seeing the connections between different people who claim great gifts of discernment for themselves and demonstrate themselves as being part of the same larger tradition [1].  These writers show a good deal of evidence in that they read the same books and often know and respect the same people and even quote each other frequently.  They use the same sort of non-biblical jargon and it seems that a great deal of their appeal is directed towards believers with a high degree of sensitivity, certain mystical tendencies, and an experience of feeling that their gifts of spiritual discernment have received negative treatment from somewhat repressive church authorities.  It is pretty likely that this consists of a large number of people and that these books have a high degree of appeal to certain audiences.

The particular version of the book I read was a bit under 100 pages and was divided into eight chapters.  The author begins by discussing both sides of the supernatural, knowing that many people tend to focus on negative (demonic) aspects of the gifts of spiritual discernment while others focus on the positive (angelic) aspects of those gifts.  Immediately after this the author turns to discussing the gift of discerning spirits, not only whether they are good or bad but what specific sort of spirit they are.  The author then gives a great deal of autobiographical detail in giving some of what she believes are the fundamental principles of distinguishing between spirits, sometimes to a very specific degree.  The author then moves on to discuss spiritual atmospheres, the sort of characteristic problems that beset different areas and institutions.  The author then talks about the very helpful gift of distinguishing between those who are for or against you.  The author moves after this to discerning angels, specifically, before moving on to discerning various powers and principalities.  The author closes with a discussion about the importance of knowing what to do with one’s discernment, including not overreacting to it as some do.

In reading this book and others like it, one is faced with the reality that there is a highly advanced demonology and angelology among charismatic Christians that is quite distinct from other backgrounds within Christianity.  Strikingly, though, the author of this book demonstrates a high regard for respect for authority as well as obedience to clear biblical commands and a strong degree of hostility to spirits of anarchy that she views as demonic.  What surprised me was the strong degree of agreement between the author and me, despite our differences in religious worldview.  Then again, as someone who has a deeply personal degree of interest in spiritual warfare, largely springing from the darkness and brokenness of my own personal background and my own fairly high degree of personal sensitivity in such matters, perhaps it is not surprising that I would have somewhat similar views to those with similar areas of interest even if we come from different places.  It is in that light that I give this book a somewhat cautious recommendation, because there is much in here that I find a bit too formalized in human traditions and unbiblical expressions but also a great deal here that is of insight to believers with a strong interest in spiritual warfare as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Sinners In The Hand Of A Loving God

Sinners In The Hand Of A Loving God:  The Scandalous Truth Of The Very Good News, by Brian Zahnd

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Waterbrook.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The title of this book is a deliberate riff on the unrepresentative sermon Sinners In The Hand Of An Angry God, a sermon that the author once had a strange and even disturbing fascination with but has now decisively rejected.  Although I have a deep urge to rip into this book for its many flaws, I think that it is necessary to at least acknowledge its virtues in pointing out that the Bible does not speak a great deal about hell, at least in the way that many professed Christians do.  The author also does a good job at pointing out areas that others need to work on, such as the need to avoid civic religion and the idolatry of worshiping the power of empire.  These are worthwhile points and while they are not the central part of the book they demonstrate that even a deeply flawed book like this one can manage to succeed in some of its points.  If the author is unable to properly interpret scripture and has bought into some unfortunate views about the authorship of Revelation, which he belatedly acknowledges.  If the author scores some points about those who seek to scare others through prophetic speculation [1], the author shows himself as biased in his misunderstanding of scripture as those he criticizes.

In about two hundred pages the author attempts to engage in some deceptive biblical interpretation to pit a harsh view of God against the loving Jesus Christ–totally neglecting Jesus Christ as a conquering king.  The elements of this book’s approach are a combination of various mistaken approaches–choosing post-millennial optimism without the usual Calvinist judgment or desire to restore biblical law and punishment, trying to resolve the apparent dilemma between God’s justice and God’s love and mercy and grace by engaging in fallacious tiebreaker arguments and by claiming that God’s nature had been misunderstood by early Israelites who assumed he was a violent god like those around them.  For every time the author actually makes a good point there are at least two or three times where the author shows himself to be completely clueless in interpreting scripture correctly in a way that would be suitable for the times in which we live in.

Nevertheless, although this is not a very good book, it is not a worthless book because it reveals how a belief in progressive revelation and constructing an image of God and Jesus Christ that are devoid of judgment and fear and reverence make it possible to entirely neglect the reality of corporate judgment of a society’s sins by God consistently throughout the course of biblical history.  For the most part, our generation does not need to be lulled into sleep with the thoughts of a God who is a permissive parent without any inclination to punish the rebellious and unregenerate.  Our generation first needs to be prompted to repent, and then to be reminded of God’s love in the midst of painful reflection about how we have departed God’s ways by living according to the heathen practices of the world around us.  This author does a great disservice to readers by refusing to honestly reflect upon why there is a need to honestly acknowledge the judgment of God in both the Old and New Testaments without passing it off as something that is a relic of the bad old days of previous barbarism.  We need to know that God and Jesus Christ do not desire to destroy the wicked, but have immensely high ethical and moral demands that are more than mere wuv.

[1] See, for example:

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