Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Teach Us about Following Jesus by Bryan Bishop

Review: Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Teach Us about Following Jesus
Bryan Bishop
Baker Books

Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Teach Us about Following JesusA very interesting book.  And one that challenges you to think about what following Jesus is really about.  Bishop describes his experiences in this book, as well as being open about some of the issues that challenge him. Yes, the present tense since he admits to still working through some things. He traveled to places where the predominant religious practices did not include Western style Christianity.  He found followers of Jesus in communities from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Native American cultures.  Their practices generally tended to include their native culture and practices much more than what most Western Christians would find comfortable, and that’s when this book gets interesting.  

The word Boundless implies a broader range of acceptable practice while staying true to the teachings of Jesus.  Contextualization happens and when it does the doors open much wider than without it.  Awareness of the holy books, music and worship practices from different cultures are not jettisoned or ignored, but explored.  Mined, if you will, for those nuggets that can provide common ground.  Where are the limits?  What makes a person a true believer in Jesus and follower of Jesus?  Can a person go to the temples or mosques to participate in worship any longer?  Is truth God’s truth?

After you work your way through this book you may have some new insights and answers to those questions and others.  Also, there will probably be several new questions about your own practices and maybe a few new ideas that could be helpful where you are now.  For that reason I do recommend this book to you.  The book comes with a glossary, a study guide for groups, and endnotes.  There are some videos available online that helped me see what had been described in the book.  I find that helpful.

This book was provided by the publisher in return for a review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird

Review: The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames
Kai Bird
Broadway Books

The Good SpyThis book weaves a biography of Robert Ames and the complex world of Middle Eastern policy making into an intricate tapestry that nearly defies description.  This is no lightweight read, but well worth the effort it takes to finish it.  

Ames life story tells of a man dedicated to his work and to the hope of peace in the Middle East.  The Middle East the reader meets in this book include the Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Iranians, Saudi, Yemeni, Americans, and United Nations members.  There could be several other groups added to the list, but what is there already is sufficient to make the point.  Ames more than many others knew the street level workings present among all those players and also had access to the policy makers, a very unique position.  His desire was to provide information to those in power that would be used toward a peaceful coexistence.   He also desired to be the best husband and father possible to his family.  Ames, the man, left a legacy to be admired.  The book is a tribute to him by the author.

Beyond a tribute to Ames, this book tracks the history of the region and the efforts to navigate through the webs of distrust that grew out of the relationships between groups.  That’s when the going gets tough with this book.  The reality described within its pages is so complicated that it probably is not decipherable by those that live there and try to govern there.  The long backstory of each group drives today’s decisions.  The strategic interests of all must be met, but that is an impossible task since they are in conflict.  The dance that ensues I found to be amazing.   Ames’ work was instrumental in helping find the correct steps and cadence for the dance.  

The reader also meets several other key players in the world of information gathering who were what I’ll call indigenous to the region.  Their lives intersect Ames’ and they too were dedicated to their causes.  People are more complex than the bad guy images painted by some of the reporting from the West’s perspective, or the Middle East’s for that matter.  What the reader will find, and suspected all along, is that there is another side of the coin, and that none of those involved are totally innocent. 

Yes, I recommend this book.  Yes, there are sections that are slow.  And yes, stick with it will challenge your thinking about the Middle East.  It has mine.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a review.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword by David K. Shipler

Review: Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword
David K. Shipler
Alfred A. Knopf

Shipler is no novice to reporting or writing, and he holds a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction from 1987.  In this book he takes a look at freedom of speech in books, secrets, stereotypes, politics, and plays, the parts that he choose as division for his focus areas.  It’s my opinion that each section can stand alone, but in combination round out the discussion effectively.  

Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the SwordHe attempts to present opposing views as he moves through the sections, but clearly tends to the left of center.  That’s OK. This is freedom of speech we’re talking about here.  We don’t need to agree eye to eye to have the discussion.  His idea is to promote the discussion and his closing chapters illustrate that well.  Civility, financial support, and truth suffer in the debates related to the offerings a theater chooses to present.  His introduction (yes, they need to be read. They are important.) says it best.  “When it comes to either legal limits or cultural limits, the real answer to offensive speech is more speech, not retribution.  Truth is the best response to propaganda.  Hate festers in places where speech is suppressed, where unwelcome ideas are consigned to darkness.” (10-11). Yes, it does.  And he does have more to say in that vein.  I appreciated his inclusion of cultural limits in the debate since that can and does differ from the legal limits in several cases he discusses afterward.

I do recommend this book.  It is challenging to read, but not difficult style-wise.  I promise he will make you think about what he presents and how that squares with your own opinions and beliefs.  End notes are included.  The copy I received was awaiting the addition its index from the publishers. That should help the reader, too.

This book was provided by the publisher.