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Notable Books

Books | Recent nonfiction books

Issue: "Boy Scout dilemma," May 18, 2013

Doing the Best I Can

By Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson

Is it true that unmarried, inner-city fathers don’t care about their kids? That’s the crucial question Edin and Nelson seek to answer in this fascinating, in-depth study of unmarried dads in Camden, N. J., and Philadelphia, Pa. The authors moved to a poor neighborhood in Camden so they could get to know the men they wanted to survey and understand. Their conversations reveal positive attitudes toward fatherhood along with negative behaviors and circumstances that undermine their desires to be good dads. You don’t have to agree with the authors’ policy conclusions to benefit from hearing these fathers explain their lives and visions of fatherhood. For Christians the book is a sobering look at the direction post-Christian culture is headed.

Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father—and How We Can Fix It

By David Goldhill

Goldhill’s 83-year-old father entered the hospital with pneumonia. A day and a half later he had sepsis. Five weeks later he was dead. That tragedy led liberal businessman Goldhill to ponder a basic question: Why had “this technologically advanced hospital missed out on the revolution in quality control and customer service that has swept all other consumer-facing industries in the past two generations?” This clearly written book answers the question, showing how dependence on surrogates—insurance companies and government bureaucrats—rather than consumers has distorted healthcare and put it on a financially unsustainable path. Although he explains a way out, prospects are bleak because Obamacare builds upon the already-rotten structure.

Hope Against Hope

By Sarah Carr

Carr’s exploration of education in New Orleans starts slowly, but when Carr moves into storytelling mode it becomes a fascinating account of the system told through three protagonists: a student; an idealistic, well-educated, white charter school teacher; and a long-time, experienced, black principal. With ground-level reporting, Carr shows the disconnect between philosophies of education and what happens in the classroom, underscoring that good intentions aren’t enough. Christians will want to think about methodologies touted in some school reform circles: Do they treat children as widgets rather than human beings made in the image of God? How effective are well-intentioned teachers who come to schools for brief stints but don’t understand the cultures in which students swim?

The End of Sex

By Donna Freitas

In Sex and the Soul, Freitas examined sex and religion on college campuses, including evangelical ones. Here, she continues that exploration by zeroing in on hook-up culture at secular and Catholic public and private universities. (Freitas says there isn’t really a hook-up culture at evangelical colleges.) The basics of a hook-up: a brief sexual encounter with no emotional commitment—”being able to walk away from sex without any trace of an emotional tug.” Freitas, citing conversations with male and female participants and non-participants, describes a pervasive hook-up culture that relies on alcohol to release inhibitions. It’s a sobering view of campus life that troubles Freitas, although she wants readers to know she doesn’t have a moral problem with unwed sex.

Spotlight

Torn (Jericho Books, 2013) is a fitting name for a book by Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network. Lee describes growing up in a healthy, evangelical home, but experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions.

Lee believed homosexuality was sinful and sought Christian counseling, but after years of struggle changed his mind: Lee now believes the Bible doesn’t forbid homosexual relationships.

While Lee’s conclusion contradicts the historic, biblical teaching of homosexuality as sinful, his book offers helpful suggestions for Christians: Don’t blame parents for a child’s homosexuality, and don’t suggest change is easy.

The Gospel & Sexual Orientation (Crown & Covenant, 2012) offers similar cautions, while underscoring a biblical view of homosexuality. The statement by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America emphasizes that sinners don’t always choose their temptations, but they’re accountable for their responses.

The book offers helpful suggestions for pastoral counseling and states that “Christians must avoid the stereotype of homosexuality as worse than all other sins and beyond the reach of God’s grace. Instead, we must replace the stereotype with robust Gospel hope.”—Jamie Dean

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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