FYI

This site was moved here for archiving.  The process lost the names of some of the authors of the posts.  I’m happy to fix that if anyone cares to remind me about who did what.

Mostly, this site lost momentum because it is hard to read lots and write a coherent review while living a full life….  So, if anyone cares to commit to a site resurrection, let’s talk.  Otherwise, this is here so the record of it lasts.  I’ll try to clean up the import mess as I have time/desire.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Matt Gardenghi

Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer


Already Gone

A friend dropped this book off at my desk a while back and I finally had time to read it. This book is worth your time. Don’t stop, go get the book and read it this week. OK?

The subtitle of the book is this: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. Is that provocative enough for you? The scary part is that they are correct! In my circles, kids are less likely to stop going to church; they are more likely to migrate from very conservative churches to more standard evangelical churches. So I’ve been asking the question: why is this generation leaving conservative churches. Ham and Beemer ask a more fundamental question: why is this generation leaving church?

The answer is the same: a lack of relevancy in modern churches. And by relevancy, I don’t mean “cool,” but rather “useful for life.” Ham and Beemer have done a series of studies on twenty-somethings who attended evangelical and conservative churches as children and now rarely if ever attend church. (Beemer is a professional pollster and has real-world experience creating legit polls and evaluating the data.)

The results might surprise you; they ought to shock you. Most of these young adults have a good view of the Bible and evangelical theology; they’ve left because the perceive the church to be less than useless to their lives. The book begins by attacking Sunday School as the main culprit. I disagree with that assessment (though I do think we screw up by teaching Bible “stories”). Sunday School may have implementation problems, but Sunday School is just a manifestation of a larger issue. Really the problem is twofold. First, there is a lack of spirituality amongst Christians. Second, there is a refusal to utilize logic and critical thinking skills.

To the first point, may Christians set their spiritual lives on autopilot and refuse to rock the boat. This shallow approach to Christian living teaches the young that the Bible is a great morality tale and is sorta useful as a guideline to life. Ham makes an interesting point at the end of the book. It is insufficient to read your Bible each day. You must study it and more importantly you must think about it. I’ve noticed that the times that I am called on to teach are the times that my walk is deepest. Before I teach a Sunday School class, I spend 10+ hours in preparation with most of that time thinking through the meaning and purpose of the text. So yeah, I think he’s right on that point and that this case can be made from the Psalmist as well. (By the way, in Psalm 15:2, we find that the righteous man “speaks the truth in his heart.” I recommend you spend time thinking about the ramifications of that point.)

How many Christians do you know that look down on those who smoke, drink, have sex outside of marriage and sniffle about that great sinner? How many of those Christians lie, cheat, play politics for position in the church or generally whine or snap at people? Which is worse: worrying or stealing? Matthew 6 implies that worrying is the defining characteristic of unbelievers…. Kids see this hypocrisy and recognize that while the people might be nice/good people, they aren’t trustworthy role models.

To the second point, failure to utilize logic and critical thinking skills leaves children with unresolved dichotomies. A friend once told me that though he grew up in a good home and in good churches, he assumed evolution was true. This was not because his parents or church taught him it was true, but because it was what he learned non-stop in school. It was not until college when someone detailed the scientific case for creation that he realized the fallacy of evolution. So here was a child who believed that God created in six days and that evolution was true. He kept that as an unresolved dichotomy for years.

The surveys taken by Beemer discovered that many kids (starting in upper elementary school) begin developing these dichotomies. Often authorities tell them: the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it for me. That’s no answer! That’s blind faith and we have a reasonable faith. Give the kids a reason to believe. Unfortunately, we seldom do that. Kids want to know the pros/cons of smoking or drinking, they want to know why premarital sex is bad, they want to know why their parents believe the Bible is true, they want to know how they can trust the Bible to be error-free and what inspiration means. They want to know! They need to know why they should base their belief in this book that their friends tell them is useless for anything more than moral guidance. Tell them! and don’t tell them that this is what the church or pastor or someone else believes. Don’t tell them that you said they should believe it and never question it again. Have honest open and forthright discussions. Ensure that your answers are grounded in logical thinking.

I remember a fight (or four) I had with a friend growing up. I was taught not to do things like attend the theater or listen to “bad” music. I look back on these fights/debates today with chagrin. My reasons were simply parrotings of illogical statements. My friend was pointing out all the myriads of holes in the arguments I had used. So don’t tell me that kids won’t see through stupid arguments. They do. And when you tell them that they should believe something or not do something and back it up with illogical fluff, don’t be surprised when they ignore you. You let them down and you gave them no reason to believe you.

Pat answers won’t cut it.

I’ve been arguing for some years now that my generation is leaving our churches because they don’t get answers. (If you spend any time in very conservative churches, you’ll discover that they this makes me unpopular….) The truth is, this survey confirms that idea and reveals that the problem is much greater than I had imagined. What are you doing about it? I know where I need to work personally.

White Corridor by Christopher Fowler


White Corridor

It’s always a gamble to pick up books by unknown authors. And I seem to do a bad job of it at Christmas every year. Each year we spend some time in the car, so we grab audio books. This year’s selection was a mixed bag of known authors and unknown authors. We listened to this title and it was definitely a mixed bag.

The story revolves around two older gentlemen who run a Peculiar Crimes Unit in London. They are quirky, cranky, and odd. Which of course makes them fun. They can get away saying and doing things that a younger detective would be fired over. In this story, the two detectives are stranded out in a snow storm miles from anywhere with a killer, the killer’s intended victim, and plenty of innocent people. A blizzard trapped many cars on a busy bypass through the English countryside in subzero temperatures. This situation becomes a race for personal survival in the cold and an effort to rescue the victim from killer.

Meanwhile, back at the PCU, their staff has a mystery on its hands that could eventually give their political enemies the leverage to shut them down. The two older detectives attempt to help solve that crime as well using their cell phones while stranded out in the cold.

All in all, it makes for a great setup. There are a few downsides to the book though. First, two of the characters have an affair. (I have no idea how descriptive it was as I skipped it.) The author uses this as a plot device as the girl believes she is now psychically bonded to the man.

Update: From the author’s comments below: “My romantic scenes are chaste; imagination is better.”

Second, there is profanity in the book. Third, the author is very anti-God and anti-religion. The lead spends much of his time supporting, encouraging, and getting assistance from witches, warlocks, and all sorts of cultic groups. (They were traveling to a cultist convention when they were stranded.)

I can ignore the cultist things. What I have less trouble accepting is the affair and the language.

I did find one other thing disturbing. Despite the modern setting, so much of the described English life could have been pulled right from an Agatha Christie novel that I found the modern technology jolting. It’s not the author’s fault; most of my experience with English detectives come from Christie and books set in the early to mid 20th century. So, I often dropped back into that mental picture until a cell phone appeared again. Whoops….

Have you ever had that experience?

The Winning of Kay Slade By, Albert C. Wyckoff

Plot: During a long stay at my grandparent’s home, I picked up this book, which, unknown to me, was a romance novel. I do not tend to enjoy these, but found this one to be different.

It is not apparent at first who will be the main character, but as we read through the first few chapters it becomes clear that Kay Slade, second youngest of four children, is she. Kay’s parents are tenets for a man named Mr. Potter, they live in a shack and wear filthy clothing. As we read, it is obvious from the people visiting the Slades home viewpoint, that the food they eat would not pass normal standards of cleanliness.

Kay is quite young when a preacher and his wife come to teach at the Poletown church, and is delighted when they plan to hold a vacation Bible school in the summer. It is through this preacher that Kay is taught to follow Christ, and better her situation in life with education. She does this and meets many good people along the way, including her future husband, and a few not so nice people. Her great desire is to one day marry and provide a better home for her children than what she was brought up in.

Positive: This book has strong Christian content, contains no swearing and our main characters are good role models. There is also some humor, which adds greatly to the story.

Negative: There is one part where a bad guy tries to force our heroine to kiss him, but it isn’t bad, and our hero does rescue her before anything happens. The heroine’ parents are not exactly the greatest role models, but considering their upbringing and circumstances they’re not bad. One girl does elope, but quickly makes up with her parents.

Overall: Though a romance novel and not the type I usually pick up, it was at my grandma’s house and I liked it, not my favorite, but it wasn’t bad.

Wizardry Compiled by Rick Cook


Find it Amazon

This sequel to Wizard’s Bane raised my hopes for a great discussion about the decentralization of power. Sadly, Cook passed on that opportunity.

In book one, Wiz shook up the world by creating basic spells as one creates computer programs. previously to his appearance in this unfamiliar place, only a select few could control magic. Now Wiz had granted magic to all people through the use of “magic programs.”

What happens when a society with no power is suddenly granted the power to be equal with their overseers? Chaos for one thing. The people began moving into the dark places and destroying every magical item in their path. Wiz created a spell for the people (called DDT) that granted a defense against magic. Someone hacked the program to destroy magic.

At the same time, Wiz, now elevated to the Wizardry Council, is playing politics and attempting to teach other students about “programming magic.” He is failing miserably and tearing up his marriage in the process. Ergo, Wiz heads out into the woods in a huff and is promptly kidnapped and transported to a far off continent by the remnants of the evil wizards he had banished. Wiz escapes, but is being hunted by a vicious creature created to sniff out his brand of magic and slaughter the one casting it. Now Wiz spends the majority of the book fleeing for his life and unable to use his magic.

Back on the farm, the people’s destruction of all things magic is creating a war between the magical people and humans. Since Wiz and his magic are the only things who can stop the coming war (and Wiz is missing), the wizards seek alternate solutions for defense. They send Wiz’s wife Moira back to Earth to retrieve some of Wiz’s friends. And here is where the book shines. Moira’s presence in the real world, her efforts to bring back programmers, and the responses of these geeks to this other life creates endless scenarios of fun.

The downsides: more profanity, crass situations and one adult situation. The last was really annoying as the only purpose was to create a situation that would setup book three. Seriously, there were other options. I couldn’t tell you how graphic it was as I skipped ahead. Just be aware.

Overall, if you read book one (and that is fun regardless of whether you continue in the series), then book two might make sense. I didn’t like book two enough (combined with the problematic material) to move on to book three.

Thoughts?

The Society, by Micheal Palmer M.D.


The Society

Unraveling the Mystery section, part 2.

A gritty crime procedural set in Chicago, this book is all about a new character, Willard “Will” Grant. He’s nice, he’s caring, he’s the face of the anti-insurance-company movement in Chicago, and he’s the suspect in a serial killer case: a killer who targets head health executives. The plot is extremely complicated, to the point that even the back cover summary is somewhat misleading. The main point to remember: the author is out to make managed care look bad, in every way, so don’t expect any sympathy for the insurance bureaucracy that has to deal with all the laws and legal ramifications.

The good: from a writing perspective, this book is the best yet (and its #5 that I’ve *started* reading. The rest were put down before page 10, in case you were wondering where all those reviews are). The romantic relationship is at least acknowledged to be full of mistakes, and there are few major plot holes. The pacing and action are right one track, with enough humor and clues mixed in to make each scene worth its page space. The details are handled deftly but subtly, and even the gristly parts are toned down enough that you need a good imagination to get anywhere bad.

The Bad: I have a good imagination, for one thing. For another , Mr. Savage is a really liberal person, and the worldview gets annoying to hear about after awhile. The man can really write well, and its easy while reading to skip over these inappropriate parts at first, but as you will see, it really adds up. A sprinkle of foul language (largely contextually understandable), two torture scenes, six detailed deaths, three or so detailed planned deaths, countless ugly surgical procedures gone wrong, heart rending stories of death by bureaucracy, four extra martial affairs (not detailed but still), and seven instances of leering/harassment. By the end, the cumulative effect made me sit back in surprise at how much foul content I had just ingested.

Overall:
Skip Micheal Savage. Its a real let down at the end. Anyone know of a good medical/big city mystery writer? I’m coming up real short on this series….

Through the Fray, by G.A. Henty


Through the Fray

This particular Henty begins in the early years of our hero, Ned’s, life. We watch him go through school, get in trouble for breaking his nasty teacher’s shoulder (he’s acquitted of punishment for good reasons), cry as his father passes away and meet a young lad who will be his life long friend.

After Ned breaks his nasty teachers shoulder, the man is sent away from cruelty to boys. The new teacher, unlike the other, is kind and firm. He prefers not to beat the boys unless it is absolutely necessary, and obedience out of respect rather than fear. It is to this teacher that Ned depends on for advice and guidance after the passing of his beloved father.

Ned’s father dies saving a young girl from getting run over by a carriage, this event leads to his mothers second marriage less than a year later. The step-father is cruel, but is able to hide it from those he is cozying up to. (Ned hates him)

Because of his cruelty, Ned and him fight every now and again. One time the step-father beats on Ned horribly and then goes off into the night, Ned following half awake to go walk in the country. Ned’s step-father is murdered and Ned is blamed ….will he be able to prove his innocence? You’ll need to read it to find out!

Positive: Though Ned’s mother is unkind to him almost every time they meet, and accuses him of his step fathers murder, refusing to see Ned for over a year. In the end, Ned and his mother are reconciled.

Ned’s father is a strong figure, and this book shows the value of friendship, overcoming fiery tempers, perseverance in the face of great adversity and how you shouldn’t judge too quickly.

Negative: Ned’s mother is a very poor example to her children, and is shown as very lazy, strong-headed and a gossip. Thankfully in the end these unwanted traits, except for her gossiping, reverse themselves.

Overall: Another great G.A. Henty, though our hero does not actually go into the army as is his original wish, he does great good where he is at. I strongly recommend this Henty book.🙂