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Looking back

Books | Catching up on high-quality books about politics, faith, and culture

Issue: "Fighting poverty," March 13, 2010

These catch-up notes start with a book published in 2008 but still relevant: William Owens Jr.'s Obama: Why Black America Should Have Doubts (iTouch) shows how President Obama denigrates the civil-rights movement by linking it with gay rights; how he is pro-abortion, although abortion kills a higher percentage of black children than any others; how he opposes school choice, even though one study showed that almost nine out of 10 black Americans would send their kids to private school if they received vouchers.

Other books I'll mention on this page were all published in 2009. Max McLean's Unleashing the Word (Zondervan) has valuable how-to lessons on the public reading of Scripture. Among them: Use stronger readers (not just any elder in proximity) to read, have him practice the assigned text aloud at least eight times, and find the passion. Jim Belcher's Deep Church (IVP) is a discerning response to typical weaknesses of both traditional and emerging churches.

How can we help rather than hurt when fighting poverty? Joining Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert's excellent When Helping Hurts (Moody) is a book that's both thoughtful and beautiful, The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty, by Peter Greer and Phil Smith (Zondervan). Home Away From Home, edited by Richard McKenzie (Encounter), shows that America's often-disparaged orphanages were more child-friendly than our contemporary welfare system.

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Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Worship (Baker) shows how to reform our services. Albert Mohler's Words from the Fire (Moody) presents the profound truths of the Ten Commandments in bite-size segments for those who run from formal theology. In Search of a Confident Faith by J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler (IVP) shows how and why ancient theologians spoke of three elements of faith: notitia (knowledge, doctrinal understanding), assensus (confidence that Christianity is true), and fiducia (commitment, which involves living a life that reflects the truth).

Gregg A. Ten Elshof's I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life (Eerdman's) shows how our lives are often built on falsehood. Craig Shirley's Rendezvous With Destiny (ISI) is an affectionately thorough account of how Ronald Reagan became president in 1980 by telling the truth. John Mark Reynolds' When Athens Met Jerusalem (IVP) is a biblically solid introduction to the sometimes-deceptive thought of ancient Greece.

Multiple-authored books of essays are often mediocre, but The Politically Correct University (AEI) and The Naked Public Square Reconsidered (ISI) are exceptions. Peter Murowski and James Ramer, in The Cure for Racism: Two Trees (Torelion), write about the common ancestral family tree that shows how all mankind springs forth from Adam and Eve, and about the tree of the cross on which Jesus died to save people from all mankind.

Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail (Viking) is a gimlet-eye view of Wall Street and Washington's rendezvous with disaster in 2008: It won't give you confidence in the wisdom of either and may leave you saying, like former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, "That makes me want to vomit!" Terry Teachout's Pops (HMH) is an uplifting biography of Louis Armstrong, who made people smile.

Finally, Fortune in 1997 asked, "Which pressure groups are best at manipulating the laws we live by?" The Christian Coalition made it to No. 7 on the list, only one spot behind the National Rifle Association. Joel Vaughan's The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition (Wipf and Stock) notes the Coalition's response at being voted in as a major manipulator: "We were elated." He details a decade of power-chasing and includes amusing advance man anecdotes: Vaughan desperately knocking on random doors in inner-city Baltimore to fill the empty chairs at a Pat Robertson event, or trying to make the audience at a Ralph Reed event seem bigger than it was.

So why be politically active? Seth Lipsky's The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide (Basic) implicitly distinguishes it from what we now live under, The Judges' Constitution.

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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