Columnists > Voices

Spring treadmill

Religion, war, money, and evolution in books and comic books

Issue: "Don't fence me out," April 21, 2007

As hysterical perspective dominates the airwaves, good books about other times offer some relief. Patrick Collinson's The Reformation (Modern Library, 2006) succinctly shows the progress of theology during the 16th century. Irv Brendlinger's scholarly Social Justice Through the Eyes of Wesley (Joshua Press, 2006) describes the Methodism founder's challenge to slavery in the 18th century. Michael Burleigh's Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror (HarperCollins, 2007) explains how Fascism and Communism rose and fell in the 20th century.

And what about the 21st century? Ronald Boyd-MacMillan's Faith that Endures (Revell, 2006) paints swirling portraits of the persecuted church around the world. Philip Jenkins contends in God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis (Oxford, 2007) that reports of Europe's Islamization are exaggerated. James Payne writes in A History of Force (Lytton, 2004) that media coverage makes us think that violence is increasing around the world, but the opposite is true.

Radical Muslims, though, prefer mayhem to markets. Dore Gold's The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007) anticipates persecution of Jews and Christians in the Holy City if Israel turns over parts of it to an Islamic state. Alan Dershowitz's What Israel Means to Me (Wiley, 2006) includes comments from various celebrities and his own somber appraisal: "With nearly six million Jews now concentrated in tiny Israel, a nuclear bomb could do in a minute what it took Hitler years to do."

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The sin within us leads to war, but economic pressures can contribute. Timothy M. Monsma's Hope for the Southern World (CCW Books, 2006) shows how Christians can and should build civil society, take action both in democracies and dictatorships, and fight oppression and corruption. Frederic S. Mishkin's The Next Great Globalization: How Disadvantaged Nations Can Harness Their Financial Systems to Get Rich (Princeton U. Press, 2006) teaches that developing countries can benefit from global investment if they establish effective property rights and solid banking, accounting, and corporate governance practices.

Atheistic Darwinism allows for no transcendent ethics, and that's one reason-along with our basic desire for truth-that the battle for Intelligent Design goes on. Thomas Woodward's Darwin Strikes Back (Baker, 2006) records the heated debate of recent years. John G. West's Darwin's Conservatives (Discovery Institute, 2006) takes on George Will, James Q. Wilson, and others who mistakenly see Darwinian biology as a conservative tool. Charley Dewberry's Intelligent Discourse (Gutenberg College Press, 2006) examines the nature of "science" to show why Intelligent Design should not be dismissed.

The real hope for peace is Christ, and two books published late last year by InterVarsity Press-James Sire's Why Good Arguments Often Fail and Terry Cooper's Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental-provide good instruction in how to make a more persuasive case for Him. A third IVP book from 2006, Craig Evans' Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, critiques the pseudo-gospels of Thomas, Peter, Judas, the Jesus Seminar, and others seized upon by those desperate to discredit Christianity.

Finally, in connection with my own attempts at fiction I've recently been reading works within a growing genre: graphic novels, book-length mixes of writing and drawing. Maybe they could be called extended comic books, but there's nothing comical about imaginative works like Craig Thompson's Blankets (Top Shelf, 2003), which portrays a young man's rebellion from his fundamentalist upbringing, or Osamu Tezuka's multi-volume Buddha (Tezuka Productions, 2006; originally published in Japan in 1987), which fancifully tells of the origin of the religion to which many among the disappointed flee.

Two new anti-war graphic novels are also impressive. Pride of Baghdad (DC Comics, 2006), by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon, shows war's casualties by telling of a pride of starving lions that escaped the Baghdad Zoo during the U.S. bombing of Iraq in 2003. DMZ: Body of a Journalist (DC Comics, 2007), by Brian Wood, depicts Manhattan as a fought-over zone during a future American civil war. A third graphic novel, Bill Willingham's Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (DC Comics, 2006), cleverly shows what happens when an evil warlord known as The Adversary takes over the land of Snow White and other fairy tale characters. I'm looking forward to reading (and writing) Christian entries in this burgeoning field.

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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