Voices

Navigating strange lands

Several of this fall's treadmill books serve as a tourist's guide

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Nov. 5, 2005

Two months into the academic year, two low-profile books could help college students crying out for help. For freshmen, Abby Nye's Fish Out of Water (New Leaf, 2005) is a sprightly story of (to quote the subtitle) Surviving and Thriving as a Christian on a Secular Campus. For seniors, Fred Cooper's I'm Educated . . . Now What: How to Find and Choose Your First Job After College (Turning Point Books, 2005) has practical advice on evaluating talents and planning a search for work.

High-school students have other concerns. With so much attention paid to converts, teens who grow up in the church sometimes feel like second-class citizens in their own home towns: Karl Graustein and Mark Jacobsen's Growing Up Christian (P&R, 2005) can help them count their blessings and pray for more. The thick 2006 Intercollegiate Studies Institute guide to Choosing the Right College (ISI, 2005) can help good students decide where to apply. Ben Shapiro's Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future (Regnery, 2005) shows one thing to avoid.

Students and others confronted by theological scoffers will profit from Norman Geisler and Randy Douglass' Bringing Your Faith to Work: Answers for Break-Room Skeptics (Baker, 2005), which reviews well the basics. Mr. Geisler and Frank Turek go deeper in I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Crossway, 2004). It's great that many worshippers are going beyond shallow religiosity, as Dave Shiflett's Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity (Sentinel, 2005) shows.

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During November, National Adoption Month, we have another reason for optimism: Christians such as Kristin Swick-Wong (see preceding page) glorify God by giving needy children a new life, as her book Carried Safely Home (FaithWalk, 2005) demonstrates. An understanding of adoption even goes beyond what happens to children, because God still adopts us one by one, as Jonathan Aitken's Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed (Doubleday, 2005) shows.

Sadly, some changed individuals retain big blind spots: Sean Lucas' Robert Lewis Dabney: A Southern Presbyterian (P&R, 2005) doesn't hide the racism that marred the record of the otherwise great 19th-century theologian. Ye Will Say I Am No Christian (Prometheus, 2005), Bruce Braden's edited version of the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, certainly displays the theological blind spots of both men. And we face our own challenges: For example, witchcraft is growing in America, and Wicca's Charm by Catherine Edwards Sanders (Waterbrook, 2005) can help us to grasp "the spiritual hunger behind the rise of modern witchcraft and pagan spirituality."

Salem, Mass., pastor Russ Ely's Bewitched in Salem (iUniverse, 2004) shows how to confront witches in a way that goes beyond the "theatrical value" of shouting at them, "I rebuke you, you spawn of Satan." He emphasizes showing Christ rather than showboating and describes "a nationally known Christian evangelist/entertainer" who, with cameras rolling, "led his entourage into the shops of the witches and psychics, using them as a platform to show his 'boldness for the Lord.' His confrontations with witches may have made for good footage for his nationally broadcast TV show, but . . . the town's people see it all as ridiculous and, though they may not care for the witches, they become sympathetic to them as a result of such events."

Halloween costumes aside, witchery is still an unusual taste in America, so it's sobering to read in Adam Ashforth's Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (U. Chicago, 2005) about the mass worship there of the mystical snake MaMlambo. Many believe that MaMlambo will bring great riches to the person who possesses her if that person will sacrifice a family member. Entrepreneurs who become wealthy need to beat back suspicions that they are keeping a MaMlambo or using other occult means to gain success. The solution: "Many strive to resist the pull of worrying about witchcraft by embracing a Christian insistence on the power and love of Jesus to keep a person safe."

That brings us back to the situation of Christian students on secular campuses. Some embrace modern variants of witchcraft, but the power and love of Jesus will keep others safe.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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