Summer Book Reviews 2012


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A Harvest

Summer Book Reviews 2012

June 17: Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty – by John M Barry (2012) Reviewed By Doug Caves

Beginning Sunday, June 17 9:30-10:30 a.m. in Room LL05

Echoes of Williams’ battles are with us yet today, and his story provides an essential backdrop for the continuing debate over how Americans will ultimately determine the roles of religion and political power in modern American life.

A Harvest of Good Books

For four hundred years, Americans have wrestled with and fought over two concepts that define the nature of the nation: the proper relation between church and state and between free individuals and the state. These debates began in New England in the mid-1600’s with the extraordinary thought and struggles of Roger Williams.

June 24: God On Trial – PBS program Reviewed By Jim Christensen

All are welcome! Attend one or all of the presentations as your schedule and interest allow.

Why is there so much suffering in the world and what kind of God would allow it to happen? Universal questions about faith and philosophy are at the heart of God on Trial, inspired by the legend that a group of concentration camp prisoners conducted a mock trial against God. From all walks of life, a physicist, a glove maker, rabbis, a law professor, and at least one criminal weigh the evidence and offer thoughtful arguments taken from history, science, theology, and personal experience. Jim Christensen reviews not a book, but the PBS program. Clips from the DVD will be included in the session.

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Good Books... July 1: War and Peace – by Leo Nikolayevitch Tolstoy (1869) Reviewed By Fred Nagle Born into the Russian aristocracy in 1828, Tolstoy was orphaned at a young age and reared by relatives. By the time he wrote his epic “War & Peace” the Russian language was already established as a world-class literary language. The novel is set during the Napoleonic wars, from 1805 to 1814. It is a vast panoply of scenes, personalities, and settings, in which Napoleon Bonaparte and a humble peasant play equally important roles. The novel reflects Tolstoy’s conviction that the greatness of Russia (and any other country?) lies not in its pompous aristocracy, but in the goodness and simplicity of its teeming peasantry. July 8: Churches in Cultural Captivity – by John Lee Eighmy (1987) Reviewed By Brian McCarthy The book is a bit dated, but contains many insights that are very relevant today. July 15: Miracle on the River Kwai – by Ernest Gordon (1965) Reviewed By Tom Brown Ernest Gordon (1916-2002), a native of Scotland, was an officer in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during World War II. At the age of 24 he was captured by the Japanese and with other British prisoners was marched into the jungle to build the notorious bridge on the River Kwai. Gordon found his sense of self and spirituality while a prisoner. At the end of the war, he went

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to theological college in Edinburgh for two years and, after a post-graduate course in history at Hartford Theological Seminary, he served as assistant minister at Paisley Abbey. In 1955 he became Dean of the Chapel of Princeton University. A copy of this autobiography is available in our church library. The film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, while based on fact, is a work of fiction. July 22: No review. Welcoming day for our new pastor, Rev. Carly Kuntz. July 29: eaArth; Making A Life on a Tough New Planet – by Bill McKibben (2010) Reviewed By Dave Steffenson McKibben has written more than a dozen books and many articles, and given many major speeches on environmental issues. His first book (20 years ago), The End of Nature, was the first popular book on global warming. While the old planet is still recognizable, Eaarth is fundamentally different (hence the extra “a” in the title). Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back—on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change— fundamental change—is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.

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August 5: Prison Madness: The Mental Illness Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It – by Terry Allen Kupers (1999) Reviewed by Mary Bean Our correctional facilities have become inadequate and ill-prepared psychiatric wards —the largest purveyor of mental health services in the United States today. This book includes examples of successful programs throughout the United States and the world and makes recommendations, including guidelines for the upgrade and revitalization of rehabilitation programs and the development of comprehensive mental health services. The author, an expert in forensic psychiatry, not only exposes the sad fact that prisons, by design, fail miserably to correct, he also offers a prescription for immediate prison reform. Terry Kupers M.D., a psychiatrist and professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, is co-chair of the Committee on the Mentally Ill Behind Bars of the American Association of Community Psychiatrists. August 12: Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle – by Pamela Eisenbaum (2009) Reviewed by Judy Lyons This is the major book by the 2013 Lyons Lecturer, Pamela Eisenbaum, PhD, who is professor of Biblical Studies & Christian Origins at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. Eisenbaum argues that Paul remained Jewish, even after his Damascus experience, in fact he was thoroughly Jewish all his life “ethnically, culturally, religiously, morally, and theologically.” Then, where did Christian misunderstanding of Paul

9:30 - 10:30

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originate? Eisenbaum points to the book of Acts and seriously challenges its historical value as a primary source for the study of Paul mainly because it does not comport well with Paul’s own letters: “the portrait of Paul that emerges from the narrative in Acts differs markedly from the image Paul projects of himself in his letters.” August 19: Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America – by Barbara Ehrenreich (2009) Reviewed By Carla Di Iorio Political activist and writer Barbara Ehrenreich studied physics at Reed College and graduated in 1963. She received a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Rockefeller University in 1968. Rather than pursuing a career in science, however, she focused on social change. For anyone who has ever been exasperated with the power of positive thinking and all its attendant pink ribbons, smiley faces, and injunctions to “have a nice day!” Ehrenreich explores how medical, academic, religious, and business gurus persuade the public that wishing, done in the right way, can make things happen. She demonstrates that unreasoning optimism has seeped into the highest levels of decision-making in our country and how anyone who brings the slightest hint of criticism to the table is shunned. Though not exhaustive, the book includes a bit of history to explain at least part of why this has happened and suggests where antidotes may be found.

LL05 August 26: The God of Science – by Frederick E. Trinklein (1983) Reviewed by Bob Kauffman Trinklein addresses the controversy between science and religion, which has been described as an unequal battle with outmoded, mystical dogmas on one side and enlightened, progressive scientific achievements on the other. Is religious thought threatened by the scientific method? Are churches merely the vestigial expression of a dying philosophy? Interviews with 38 scientists from the U.S. and Europe covered such questions as: What is science and what is a scientist? How is God defined? What about miracles? What do youth think about the problem? What do you believe churches think about the problem? Where do we go from here?

September 2: Deadly Spin – by Wendell Potter Reviewed by Dorothy Gosting In June 2009, Wendell Potter made national headlines with his scorching testimony before the Senate panel on health care reform. This former senior VP of CIGNA explained how health insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, how they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and how they skew political debate with multibillion-dollar PR campaigns designed to spread disinformation. Potter shows how relentless PR assaults play an insidious role in our political process anywhere that corporate profits are at stake—from climate change to defense policy. Deadly Spin tells us why—and how—we must fight back.