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War, peace and people

Books | The new administration could benefit from reading these three books

Issue: "New breed of homeless," Feb. 28, 2009

Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West (Random House, 2008) should be read at the Obama/Clinton Department of State. Author Anthony Pagden shows that defenders of Western culture through the century have decided that its principles of liberty and respect for the individual were worth fighting for.

Of course, it's best to avoid war, so it's worth learning from Pagden about innovators such as Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), who tried to modernize Islam by asserting that blind following of tradition contradicted Quranic principle. Abduh wanted to revise laws governing everything from marriage and divorce to the charging of interest-and some Muslims today are like him.

Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? (Prometheus, 2008) should be read at the Department of Homeland Security. Author Brian Jenkins contends that we don't need to be consumed by fear of nuke-wielding terrorists. He sensibly notes that if al Qaeda leaders or their ilk had a big bomb they would already have used it-and if they were to buy an old one on the black market, it probably would not work. All that is missing from this comprehensive account is a final chapter entitled, "Trust in God."

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Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits (Transaction, 2008) should be read at the Department of Health and Human Services. Author (and Population Research Institute president) Steven Mosher shows that the conventional wisdom-more people means more poverty-is wrong. He notes that birth rates are dropping fast not only in Europe and Japan but in many poor countries, and the result will be not greater prosperity but fewer hands to feed aging mouths.

Mosher includes fascinating and important specific detail about U.S. and UN agencies putting into circulation in Africa millions of syringes and needles for injection of the contraceptive Depo-Provera into women every three months. The result, according to the World Health Organization: "Reuse of syringes and needles in the absence of sterilization exposes millions of people to infection. Syringes and needles are often just rinsed in a pot of tepid water between injections. In some countries the proportion of injections given with syringes or needles reused without sterilization is as high as 70 percent."

Mosher acknowledges that the U.S. Agency for International Development has modified its Depo-Provera injection kits in recent years, but he argues that through 2002 USAID backed giveaways of reusable needles and syringes to as many women as possible. Without medical training or knowledge of the germ theory of disease, these women did not understand the need to sterilize or dispose of contaminated medical devices. The result was repeated reuse-and the spread of AIDS much faster than would otherwise have been the case.

Briefly noted

By Marvin Olasky

James Nicodem's Prayer Coach (Crossway, 2008; foreword by Bobby Bowden) offers many useful techniques for marching down the prayer field, including going armor-piece by armor-piece through Ephesians 6: God help us to be honest (belt of truth), righteous (breastplate), gospel-ready (shoes), faithful (shield), thankful for salvation (helmet), and Bible-prepared (sword). Richard D. Phillips' What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? (P&R, 2008) is a succinct and uncompromising summary of the five points of Calvinism.

John R. Muether's biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman (P&R, 2008) is a harder but worthwhile and clearly written account of the great presuppositionalist's life and work. Eric E. Ericson Jr. and R. Alexis Klimoff's
The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn (ISA, 2008) is an equally well-ordered biography of another great thinker who is also often greatly misunderstood.

Gerald R. McDermott's The Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions (Baker, 2008) admirably notes high and low points of Islam and other religions in only 140 small pages. Dean Davis's A Furnace for Gold: A Child of the Sixties Takes the Test of Life (Come Let Us Reason, 2008) is a readable autobiography of a person who flirted with Buddhism and other worldviews. The Future of Religion in American Politics, edited by Charles W. Dunn (University Press of Kentucky, 2009), includes cogent essays by Michael Barone, Michael Novak, and others who consider the role of religion.

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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