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Treadmill complexities

Books | Beyond a black-and-white reading of American history

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

Thomas Kidd's Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots is a superb biography that includes surprising twists, including a reflection on slavery Henry penned in 1773. Henry sadly marveled that "in a country above all others fond of liberty, [many defend] a principle as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive to liberty." But Henry himself was a slaveowner, and in his letter mourned, "I am a master of slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them. I will not, I cannot justify it."

Henry was depressed to recognize that he couldn't philosophically live with slavery but did not want practically to live without it. He wrote, "A time will come when an option will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil." He hoped that time would be soon, but "if not, let us transmit to our descendants together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot, and an abhorrence for slavery. If we cannot reduce this wished for reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity, it is the furthest advance we can make toward justice."

Henry was an evangelical Anglican-and evangelical politics now and then had its complexities. D.G. Hart's From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin (Eerdmans, 2011) is a thoughtful conservative's analysis of some of those wrinkles. The book fails the truth-in-advertising test by barely mentioning Palin-the publisher must have thought her name would sell copies-but it passes the honest analysis test by observing that evangelicals are not naturally conservative. Hart provides a fair examination of compassionate conservatism and some good recommendations: "Acknowledge that 'liberty for all' means legal protection and legitimate status for groups who are not Christian. ... Acknowledge that political solutions do not solve the problem of culture and character formation."

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Islam vs. liberty

By Marvin Olasky

Hard though our path is, we should thank God for having Islam confront us and challenge Christian complacency. Patrick Sookhdeo's Islam in our Midst: The Challenge to Our Christian Heritage (Isaac Publishing) is an excellent and brief introduction to belligerent Muslims, who often form an alliance with hard secularism against their common enemy, Christ. Sookhdeo explains that "the Islamic worldview is not dichotomous like its American secular counterpart"-Muslims want a unified religious/political regime-and offers succinct warnings about the tar baby of "interfaith dialogue" and advice on how to push back.

Worth reading in this regard is the Spring 2011 issue of Academic Questions, the journal of the National Association of Scholars. It features good articles on how Islamists have taken over Hartford Seminary and are burrowing into the public school system in Minnesota and other states. Burning Questions about Islam, by Wilbur Lingle (with Robert Delancy, Crossbooks, 2011), includes lots of good ones, and in doing so gives Christians in contact with Muslims a good basic understanding of what to say and not to say.

Philip Jenkins is right to argue, in Laying Down the Sword (Harper One, 2011), that we should not ignore the Bible's violent verses regarding the Canaanites and others, but he's wrong to say that they are the equivalent of Quran-commanded violence. Since Jenkins receives ample press attention, it's important to note that God's commands in Deuteronomy and Joshua are specific to a particular historical period, but Allah's edicts are supposed to be for all times and places.

Rick Richter's Comparing the Qur'an and the Bible (Baker, 2011) is a useful reference. For example, Richter notes that Allah "does not give 'rebirth.' Rebirth is not necessary, since human beings are not basically sinful." Mustafa Akyol's Islam Without Extremes (Norton, 2011) assumes basic goodness when he argues that a liberal Islam can emerge: I doubt that, but I wish him the best of success.

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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