Phil has June’s Biblical Studies Carnival up at Reading Acts. He must be getting desperate and is reaching out to pretend theologian, so look for me to be hosting the August’s Carnival (out on September 1, which is actually my birthday).
When you receive an advanced reading copy to review, you are supposed to have the review out before the book is published, something I rarely do. However, today is one of the days I’ve done it correctly. This book will be available for purchase starting tomorrow, June 28.
My Rating – Must Read
Level – Short, easy read
The subtitle kind of says it all. How did Evangelicals so overwhelmingly support Trump (more than any other candidate in history)? He received 81% of self identified Evangelicals. There are people who dispute the support, due to the self identified label and have found that people who attend among those who attend church weekly, the support drops to 40’s. However, Fea is a historian, and clearly knows that we as Evangelicals are now tied to Trump, whether we like it or not.
The book isn’t necessarily a critique of Trump or his policies, but just an explorations as to why this man, of all people, would be considered the ‘Christian candidate.’ Excluding the intro and conclusion, the book is broken into five chapters: Evangelicals Politics of Fear, how people have used fear to drum up support; The Playbook, how Christians have used fear over the past 70 years or so to affect politics in certain ways; Short History of Evangelical fear, from the Puritans to today Christians; Court Evangelicals, those famous Christians today who seek power and influence the ways courtiers once did with kings; and Make American Great Again, what exactly does Trump mean by this, when was it great, and for whom?
I’m pretty sure the first time I came across Fea’s blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home was during the 2016 elections. He very clearly, as was I, seemed confused as to how Trump had the Evangelical vote. Many Christians now, including some of the most vocals supporters, say they chose Trump because he was better than Clinton, but many of them were supporters in the Primary. Fea points out in the book, that prior to Trump jumping in the race, Carson lead the Evangelical vote, but shortly after, Trump took it over, lost it briefly a few months later, and after recovery always lead. To some people, this made sense, to others it is absolutely confounding.
A twice divorced billionaire, who brags about infidelity, believes if you are rich you can grab random women ‘by the pussy,’ doesn’t believe in asking for forgiveness (a pillar of Christian beliefs), and is so ostentatious that he seems to be the physical embodiment of avarice seems to be an odd choice for the so-called Evangelical vote. This book is essentially Fea trying to understand what happened.
If Court Evangelical is a new term to you, it will likely be the most interesting chapter. The most striking to me was chapter five, Make America Great Again. As Christians, we need to seriously consider the ‘great again’ part and it’s implications. It might be great for me, a Protestant white guy, but what about basically everyone else that exists? And how serious is he about getting back to the ‘good ol’ days’?
There’s a lot more I could write about this topic, and if you are interested, the book is a must read. It is a great intro into how to think about Evangelical support for Trump. Even if you are supporter, especially if you are a ‘supreme court’ supporter, you should really read this book. I do have two brief criticisms and then a final thought before this gets too long.
First, a theological issue. Fea must come from an Arminian branch of Protestantism, as he misunderstands a few things about Puritan thought as well as Calvinism. It doesn’t necessarily change anything in the book, but if you come from a Reformed or Lutheran background, you’ll see some theological and hermeneutical errors. Second, he is a little too quick to say someone in not a Christian. While I agree that Trump shows not a single ‘fruit of the Spirit’ nor any ‘good works’, I’m hesitant to ever doubt someone’s profession of faith.
Finally, I really appreciate the intro and concluding chapters in this book. I’m told some people do not read these, but you really should. I am sure Fea will be attached as a ‘liberal’ or people will say he is not a Christian for writing this book, but the intro makes it pretty clear what he is trying to do. Even more, the conclusion is a great piece of writing on the confusion about the support for Trump. He wrote so much of what I’ve felt or wondered. It’s not that voting for Trump is wrong, it’s that the fact he is viewed as the Evangelical leader just makes no sense. If you are rich, or think the most dangerous think in America is Mexicans picking our fruit, or if you want to ban Muslims, or if you are just a party line Republican, then Trump makes the most sense. And all of that is fine, but to tie him up in religious language and say he is the best candidate for Christians is just confounding.
This vote will follow Evangelicals for all of American history. If you are curious as to how we go her, this book is a must read.
*I received a free copy of this book from Eerdman’s Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This is my first review for Eerdman’s and the first time I’ve received a galley proof in hardcopy.
Koinonia was the winning word in the spelling bee.
Trump as George Costanza.
Speaking of dystopian. Here’s another another article about the misuse of additional verses. Also, if you are just interested in hearing more of the depressing, shameful, and embarrassing situation, check out this short article from the AP. These actions are far worse, but previously in the week, Sessions used Romans 13 to tell people to submit to the authorities. This is fine, he is correct, this is the meaning of this verse, but where was this verse under the last President?
Relatedly, I finally received a review copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, which you can pre-order now and will be available next Thursday. I hope to have my review up the day before.
I’m about 600 pages into The Stand, and the first 250ish are all about the disease spreading, all during June. Well, it is June right now, and the past week or so, almost everyone in my office has been sick, all with similar symptoms and honestly it started to freak me out a little.
Whitehorse Inn discusses Christianity in North and South Korea.
It may sound strange to recommend listening to a podcast where someone is being given a tour, but I enjoyed it. If you like bourbon/whiskey or visiting distilleries/breweries, you will too. Also, if anyone from Wild Turkey happens to be reading, I am open to sponsorship’s (I know how much brands like to be involved with religion and politics, especially with from a site with seven readers).
If you are a dad of a young child or a soon to be dad, I have a few recommendations for books to check out this Father’s Day.
Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Another good pregnancy/first few months book that has a great guidebook style (my review) – We’re Pregnant! The First-Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)
*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé
A few others to consider:
The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind
The suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and have just the one preschooler, so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more. For borader parenting books I’ve reviewed, but don’t necessarily recommend, check out my review of Fearless Parenting and my review of Talking with Your Kids About God.
My Rating- Must Read
Level – Easy read, medium length
The book basically tries to answer the question of what would it look like if we worked, ran businesses, spent money/time, and gave money/time in a way that was entirely shaped by a Biblical World View. After the intro the book is broken into 12 chapters that are based on the six ‘keys’ to practicing ‘the King’s Economy’. One chapter will introduce the key and the next is a shorter chapter that gives examples of how that key works in the real life, with examples of people/organizations that the authors know.
The six keys are – Worship, this is about who we worship. Is it God or money and how does that look in the way that we give. Community, the focus here is about having a broad community of all types of people, particularly those from different economic classes. Work, why do we work and what is the point of work? Also, what does the Old Testament concept of ‘gleaning’ look like in a modern world? Equity, based on the command that their be no poor among us, this isn’t necessarily just about making sure everyone has money, but that every one has a job and kind provide for themselves (or help to give to others), even further, it is about making sure that those jobs are enough. Creation Care, this is about environmental stewardship. Finally, Rest, and this is a call to bring back the practice of Sabbath.
I really enjoyed this book. It was probably the most thought provoking and in some way challenging book I’ve read in a long time. Sadly, it isn’t often you read a book targeted at a popular Christian audience that makes you think, even rarely does one challenge the way you should live.
I’ll get the two nit-picky things I didn’t like out of the way first. I didn’t really like the intro, and this was due to their misuse of stats that is a pet peeve of mine. In the intro, they are trying to show that we are richer now than ever, but more unhappy. Unfortunately, they use GDP per capita, which is a useless statistic, because it ignores income inequality and the fact that middle classes wages have been stagnant for decades. It also ignores cost like tuition and healthcare that have risen more rapidly than anything else. However, I don’t disagree with their premise, if nothing else, we are at least more materialistic than ever and constantly surround ourselves with distraction. Second, and I think this is more on the editors or publisher, they only ever refer to Jesus as King Jesus, and this is done to reiterate the title, and it is just awkward and I wish authors/editors wouldn’t do that.
No back to the good part, if you are modern American Christian, especially on the conservative or Republican side, this book will be a challenge. I’d suspect many hardcore Republican’s won’t finish this book as it challenge the assumption that making money is the most important thing in life. It also encourages people to pay living wages, which Republicans generally oppose vehemently. Of course, there are aspects that all sides of the political spectrum will like and dislike, which is a great reminder that neither political party works from a Biblical worldview and we ought not act like they do.
The first chapter, about putting God first and showing that by how we give should challenge the way we all handle money. American’s like to think of ourselves as generous, but in reality we give about 2.5% of income. The Community, Equity, and Rest were interesting chapters that should make you think, and if you take take it seriously, will affect your life. And of course, it should right? The Bible calls us to be different, and especially the chapters on Community and Rest are reminders of just how different we should look. The Creation Care chapter was good and I agree with all of it, I’m a big advocate of environmental stewardship. However, it was probably the weakest on a Biblical basis, and I’m not entirely sure it fit well with the rest of the book.
The best chapter, and worth the price of the book alone, is the Work chapter. For one, many of us, especially white-collar workers who have a lot of options, struggle with what work should look like in out lives, but the crazy part is gleaning. In the Old Testament, the Jews were not allowed to fully harvest their own fields. God required that they leave the edges unpicked so that the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners would have something that they could eat. Obviously, we are not a majority subsistence agricultural community anymore. So the authors dive into what it could look like and the ideas are fascinating and in some ways pretty radical to the way we view life in America.
I don’t necessarily agree with some of their options, or at least the way that they would work out in most places, but they are thought provoking nonetheless. It is certainly something I’ve never thought about before, but it has been on my mind sense I finished the book a few weeks ago. If you really want to be challenged and forced to think and try to rethink the way we view the economy today, and how we should view it as as Christians, this is a book for you. It is probably my favorite so far of 2018, and is definitely a must read book.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Probably the biggest news this week came from the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jack Phillip, a Colorado baker who refused to make a specialty cake for a gay couple’s wedding. This is an interesting case with a unique ruling, and I’m not sure what to think about all of it. There is a lot going on here, but a few points from the beginning: he apparently didn’t refuse to sell them any cakes, he refused to make a cake specifically for their wedding (or, really for their reception that was held a little over a year later), and offered them names of other bakers who would make them a cake. So, part of the argument his attorneys made was free expression based on cake decorating being an art (what a time to be alive). I wonder if the fact that he didn’t refuse any service to the couple, just the decorating, and that they insisted he be their baker, not any of the others, factored into the Court’s decision.
The biggest factor seemed to be that the court found inconsistencies from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, from the article –
Kennedy noted that the commission had ruled the opposite way in three cases brought against bakers in which the business owners refused to bake cakes containing messages that demeaned gay people or same-sex marriage.
Also that Phillips himself faced discrimination from the Commission, noting –
The Commissioner called baker Jack Phillip’s faith “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.” He compared Phillip’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” to slavery and the Holocaust. As a result, Justice Kennedy argued in his majority opinion: “the Court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”
It seems the court looked at the results of the commission as discriminatory (or handled very poorly/illegally), that he didn’t refuse all services, and that decorating the cake falls under ‘expression as an artists’.
To me, the most important thing is the Court recognizing the inconsistencies. The commission was fine with a few other cases who refused to make a cake when they weren’t Christians. There have also been a case of a Muslim baker refusing service (entirely) to a gay couple, that hasn’t (not to sound too Foxnewsish) been covered much in the news. Personally, I wonder if there is a case to be made for extra protections for extremely minority religions like Islam, however I doubt there are any legit legal ones. However, there seems to be the bigger issue of what level of non-service is allowed? An incident last year where a coffee shop owner who was gay kicked a pro-life group out because they were Christians (I’m not linking anything because the only articles I found were rightwing sites or far-left site that celebrated the incident); it is unclear whether the group was causing a disturbance. When you compare that to the Starbucks case recently, it would seem you can’t even kick someone out for not being a paid customer.
While I fully support churches and and pastors from not preforming ceremonies for certain people, purveyors of other goods and services make me nervous. Maybe it is because I’m from the South, and the concept of ‘no X allowed’ whether X is Muslim, gay, or Christian, just really hits me the wrong way. I do see the slippery slop argument on both sides. Can you ban gay people from your restaurant, can you force a Muslim to draw a picture of Muhammad? It is a strange, delicate balancing act and I wish people would recognize the nuance in their discussions instead of just attacking each other as seems to be the go to in these cases.
That was longer than I anticipated so, on to other things I’ve been reading or listening to.
In the ‘not understanding the Bible, but a huge fan of Christian Nationalism’ category this week we have Franklin Graham holding rallies, with this brilliant quote –
“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless,” Graham told a group of supporters, according to the Times.
Rethink Now has a list of the Seven Books Every Christian should read. I’ve only read on (Mere Christianity) and really only plan on reading two others on the list, I hadn’t even heard of some of them. Thoughts?
I finished reading Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, so look for the review next week.
I also started reading The Stand a few days ago, and while I’m over 300 pages in, that just means I still have almost 800 to go.
Finally, have you ever looked at a clock (especially an analog) and it seems like the at which you looked last longer than the other movements? That is because your mind didn’t register what you saw at first, then interpolated it back as the time you first registered in a phenomena known as Chronostasis. Not really related to anything, but interesting nonetheless.
Whitehorse Inn has some thoughts on Finding Jesus in the Psalms. I didn’t start reading the Psalms until about a year, year and half ago. They are incredible, especially for understanding emotions for yourself and your expression to God. It is also a massive book, the longest in the Bible. Psalm 119 itself is longer than James, but somehow in many churches (baptist and non-denom) we miss them almost entirely.
The Gospel Coalition has a talk from Don Carson, What is an Evangelical. Among others, he points out the sociological, political, and linguistic issues with the word. It will be interesting to see what Christians (at least American Protestants) call themselves in the next generation, or the following one, especially after the damage Trump has done, but also due to the word expanding to mean so much, that it basically no long means anything.
I noticed many other bloggers do something like top post/most read of X year or the more prolific ones do a top of the month, or even week. I always kind of wondered how they knew, and that’s when I discovered the depth of the stats pages blogging platforms provide. I brought this up to Mrs. MMT and she thought it was stupid…that I didn’t know this was a thing. To be fair, she is an accredited PR professional, and my desire in life is to be a monk, but with sex, and fishing, and college football. Wait, where was I?
So I dug into my stats, and up until a few months ago, my most viewed overall (and winning by far and away for most views the day it was posted) was the time almost two years ago that I hosted the 2016 August Biblical Studies Carnival. That has since been passed by what is also my most read post of 2018 so far. My top five most read of 2018:
- Book Review: Sapiens
- Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple
- Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
- Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life
- Tie – 10 Year Anniversary; Book Review: Four Views on Hell; Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion
Why these posts? I have a few ideas, we’ll start from the bottom. Interestingly, Darkness is the only book review to make the list that I actually posted this year, so it’s probably there just due to recency. Similarly, Anniversary was post two weeks ago, and probably brought more of my Twits than book reviews due to the pictures of me and the Monday Morning Wife. Not sure about Four Views, other than Hell is weird and people have questions about it. Feels pretty cool that people found me from that.
My guess is that Imperfect, and the two disciplines books were popular searches due to Lent. I’ve already stated, I don’t know how to do Lent, but I do have two thoughts to help. First, you are probably looking up Lent because of fasting. I’ve heard nothing better than this Theocast podcast on fasting. Their idea that it isn’t necessarily about giving up food (Protestant view), but more about reclaiming time is fascinating. Second, if you are deciding which book to read, I can help. Imperfect is not about spiritual disciplines, but is still awesome and you should read it, and I’ve already written a post about why you should read Godly Man over Christian Life (though, if you are a woman, it’s still a better book).
So, this brings us to Sapiens. Why? Well, my stats pages tell me the terms searched that led people here, and basically, it was people searching for a ‘Christian review’ of the book. I was shocked/proud to find out that if you google this, I’ll be one of the top 5 or so (it changes) links shown. That’s really cool, but people were probably disappointed in what they found. I didn’t write a ‘Christian’ review in the sense people were probably searching. I mean, I am a Christian and I did review the book, but I think what people were look for was a Christian response. So, as a man of the people, I plan to write a Christian response to this book based solely on my guess what people were actually questioning (off the top of my head, it’s evolution).
Two final thoughts – I do Advanced Review Copy book reviews for a few publishers, but of the six book reviews that have brought the most readers this year, only one (Imperfect, from Baker Books), was one of these. Second, the May 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival is up over at 5 Minute Bible.
That’s it, those are my top five as of June 1, 2018. I plan to do an end of the year post for the most read of 2018, so stay tuned I guess. Thanks everyone who reads or follows me and I apologize in advance to anyone who found my by accident. I’ll try to do better next time.
No book review today, as I am heading to a funeral. Louise Dueree “Dee” Turner, my grandmother, died on Monday morning. She would have turned 90 this August, but even more amazingly, in less than two weeks, she and my granddad would have been celebrating their 73 anniversary.
I lived next to my grandparents from about eight years old until I left for college, and when school was out of the summer, my brother and I spent our days with them. They lived on a little more than 30 acres and she had numerous gardens in which she grew Day Lilies. For decades she sold the flowers, but mostly the bulbs for others to plan in their gardens. Later in life, I’d come across people from surrounding cities and all they knew about my area was an old lady that sold bulbs to their garden clubs. One lady actually remember there being two little boys running around the gardens.
Along with selling flowers she was in charge of the church kitchen that made the Wednesday night meals every week. She was an incredible cook and well known for her abilities. One of my favorite memories about her is the pancake breakfasts she would cook every Christmas morning. They also hosted massive Easter and Labor Day celebrations at their house that would have dozens and dozens of people attending, including her sisters and my dad’s cousins and all their children. She loved the beach and for years they and all her sisters and their husbands spent October in New Smyrna Beach. All this despite have had three hip replacements, she was so active she wore out her first one and needed a replacement.
Mrs. MMT actually lived with them for a little over two months while I was away at grad school and right before we were married. They watched old movies with Clarke Gable together and my grandmother enjoyed having her there so much, she would often try to convince me to have us live there for a while after we were married.
She first started showing signs of Alzheimer’s about eight years ago, and unfortunately it only become worse. She hasn’t recognized me or Mrs. MMT in a few years and while she always loved seeing Sprout, she was never entirely sure who she was. Maybe a year or so ago, she starting not knowing my parents and this past January we moved them to an assisted living facility with memory care from the house they built more than 40 years ago.
My granddad woke up around 5:30 on Monday and my grandmother told him she was cold, he got her a blanket and told her he loved her and went out to watch TV. When he checked back in on her a little bit later, she was dead. In some ways, it is comforting to know that she went quickly, and that if she suffered, it didn’t last long. However, for him, it happened too quick. He told me yesterday that he wished that he had been able to hold her just one more time.
As we talked about her yesterday, he said that she was a great wife and mother, that they had a long happy life, and that he could not have asked for anything more. Best of all, and the most comforting, is that I know we will all see her again. She’ll have no more hip pain, and she will remember everyone when we all meet again.
August 31, 1928 – May 28, 2018
NFL to make players stand for the anthem. The owners know their fans are mostly conservative, holding libertarian and small government values, with focus on individual rights, so they are making people stand up during a song about the government. It is almost as if the fans are actually more upset about something else.
Speaking of something else going on, White Evangelicals lead the way!…in rejecting refugees. We were the least likely group survey to support taking in more refugees. For the group that says we take most seriously Biblical Literatlism, we don’t appear to be very good at the whole caring for the widow/orphan/poor/foreigner thing or loving our neighbor. Seemingly unrelated to the article as a whole, they point our towards the end that when asked in 2011 about personal indescritions by the president, we, more than anyone else, said it mattered, but in 2016, we said it mattered the least. The author is clearly pointing it out to kick whatever little shred of moral authority we have left right in the balls. It is pretty embarrassing, and yet another reason we continue to lose the upcoming generation.
Speaking of lost generations, according to the federal reserve, about 40% of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency. On the whole, we remain terrible with money.
Quickly – of course Amazon is recording out conversations, apparently if the president blocks you on twitter it is a violation of your first amendment rights, hopefully the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre will win their case against this nut job, and finally, apparently even the American Military has studied the ‘strategic implications of American Millennialism.’
I was going to recommend this Intelligence Squared Debate podcast about denculearization of North Korea, but now the summit has been called off. I didn’t really have a strong stance one way or the other, and after listening to the debate, I’m not sure that has changed. However, there is a lot of good information if you are interested in current foreign affairs. The problem is, our new cycle and events in the world happen too fast. I listened to this, then heard this genius say we should use the ‘Libya Model’ and assumed Kim would call it off. If you don’t know, Moammar Gadhafi was Libya’s leader before he was sodomized by a bayonet and dragged into the street and killed. I’m not foreign policy expert, but that seems like something Kim wouldn’t like to participate in.
Mortification of Spin was an episode up about church polity (governing/administrative structure of the church). It isn’t so much about types of church polity as it is about having an Elder board. Overall, it is an interesting topic to me, and one I’ve gone back and forth on over the years.
My Rating – If you are looking for something
Level – short book, but if you don’t remember anything from high school physics, it could take a bit a work to read through
A summary is somewhat difficult, I guess the title says it all. It is 12 short chapters, all related to what he thinks are the important summaries of what you need to know to understand astrophysics. The first chapter being an intro, and the final chapter, no so much a conclusion as concluding reflections, which might have been one of the more interesting parts of the book. Other topics/chapters include ‘Big Bang’, dark matter, dark energy (which I had never heard of), the enormity of space, the minutia of atomic size, and oddly, the periodic table. Each chapter is broken down randomly into subsections of varying size and focus.
In some ways this is a strange book, it is part summary of astrophysics, but also part journal, and based on the subsections, part lecture notes or maybe parts or popular journal/magazine articles. This made the book a little disjointed, not so much by chapter topic, but the consistency inside each chapter. There would be a fascinating section in chapter that drills down to serious science, then the next section would be a personal story/reflection, some times entirely autobiographical.
The book is written for a popular audience and most sections read quickly. Other than unironically condescending people who believe in things with only theoretical proof (existence of God), only to then explain his knowledge of things with only theoretical proof (the multiverse), the writing is light-hearted and funny. It would definitely make you think, especially with some of the more abstract concepts like dark energy. Contemplating subjects like the size of the ever-expanding universe or just how long it has been around is fascinating.
I guess if you’ve ever wondered, ‘what is astrophysics or how should I start learning about it?’, this is a great place to start. I wish the chapters were a little tighter, but they are certainly interesting, and you will learn (or re-remember) many things. However, the book is so short, it is definitely worth picking up if you are looking for something.