Stories: given by God or invented by man, they dominate our lives. John Eldredge's Epic: The Story God Is Telling and the Role That Is Yours to Play (Nelson, 2004) is a good, short book to give to yearning non-Christians as well as to Christians who don't appreciate systematic theology. Lee Harris's Civilization and Its Enemies (Free Press, 2004) explains well that many terrorists are not concerned so much with specific grievances as with a "fantasy ideology" in which America is a prop within the drama they have created: In order to be heroes, they make us villains.
Evidence for the fallenness of the intellect as well as the will surrounds us. The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm, edited by Joe Loconte (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), shows how the religious left refused to grapple with Hitler in the same way that their pacifist descendants try to ignore the threat posed by terrorism and the nations that support it. Daniel J. Flynn's Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas (Crown, 2004) points out that brainpower without discernment leads to mischief and mayhem.
Readers desiring to examine the origins of the ideology that underlies terrorism could profit from Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Road to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (Knopf, 2004). Guess which of the three leads to murderous radicalism? (Hint: guillotine.) David Horowitz's Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (Regnery, 2004) provocatively shows how the newest manifestation of that ideology has found a home at many leading U.S. universities.
How this all plays out now internationally is the subject of George Friedman's interesting America's Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies (Doubleday, 2004).
Going further back, Thomas Cahill's Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (Doubleday, 2003) is a useful quick look at the glory (and sexual perversity) that was ancient Greece, or at least Athens. But there's better news from ancient times: Philip Graham Ryken's Written in Stone (Crossway, 2004) explains how the Ten Commandments, after over 3,000 years, can still promote disciplined liberty. Mr. Ryken quotes Martin Luther's response to a student who heard Luther's discussion of free grace and asked, "Then we may live as we want?" Luther replied, "Yes. Now what do you want?"
The bad news these days is that many want to overthrow the commandments.
Three 2004 books-Mathew Staver's Same-Sex Marriage (Broadman & Holman); Glenn Stanton and Bill Maier's Marriage on Trial (InterVarsity Press), and D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe's What's Wrong with Same-Sex Marriage (Crossway)-are all useful resources for defenders on what is today the war's hottest front. Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, edited by Charles Colson and Nigel Cameron (Crossway, 2004), is a useful introduction to a new world war that is creeping up on us.
Other good news: Compassionate individuals are also at other front lines. Allen Hertzke's Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004) is the history of a remarkable grassroots group of Americans who cared enough to give their very best to help people they didn't know in Sudan and other countries far from our borders.
Hope in Hell: Inside the World of Doctors Without Borders (Firefly Books, 2004) tells the story of physicians who show true compassion-suffering with those in need-for innocent people in the various earthly hells that tyrants create.
How can more people become leaders in the provision of compassion or the production of a variety of goods and services? Patrick Kavanaugh's You Are Talented! (Baker, 2002) can help individuals to discover their talents and how to apply them, and Jeff O'Leary's The Centurion Principles (Nelson, 2004) mixes battlefield history with business advice that can help stuck-in-the-muds become unstuck. Les Csorba's Trust (Nelson, 2004) gives readable advice on the importance of character in leadership.
And how do we gain contentment among all this worldwide and personal tribulation? Michael Reagan's Twice Adopted (Broadman & Holman, 2004) is a good book for adults still struggling to overcome troubled childhoods. John Piper's When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Crossway, 2004) is good for anyone who is settling for survival instead of full living; it is a modern equivalent of my favorite Puritan book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.