Culture & Criticism Since 2003
101 MOST POWERFUL PROMISES IN THE BIBLE. Steve and Lois Rabey and Marcia Ford. Warner Books. With another Christmas upon us, many will find it to be a good time to re-explore issues of faith and re-acquaint one’s self with the inner workings of the spirit. 101 stitches together in one volume some of God’s “promises” to his flock, giving those who may be experiencing a collapse of faith the opportunity to reclaim their relationship with Christ:
“…For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows…”
(From page 99)
The Rabeys and Ms. Ford present the material in short chapters, presenting one of God’s promises per chapter, and then analyzing it in terms that are relevant to life in the 21st century:
“…Keep me grounded on earth but looking forward to the hope of heaven.”
(From page 39)
This serves as the second installment in the Warner series that began with the 101 Most Powerful Prayers In The Bible in July 2003; due in February the 101 Most Powerful Proverbs in The Bible. Good gift choice for those grappling with questions of faith. Also good teaching tool for the young teen exploring Christianity.
GOD’S BESTSELLER: William Tyndale, Thomas More, And The Writing Of the English Bible. Brian Moynahan. St. Martin’s Press. In the 16th century, William Tyndale wrote and published the first English translation of the bible, believing that his English countrymen deserved to be able to read the word of God in their own language. Even though Tyndale was accused of being a heretic, he would not be deterred from his beliefs. After Tyndale drafted his translation of the bible (an act directly contrary to laws that prohibited any independent interpretation of the scripture), he was hunted down by Sir Thomas More and eventually burned at the stake:
“As his obsession with Tyndale grew, More reviewed the body of evangelical books and had no hesitation in placing ‘fyrst Tyndales new testament father of them all by reason of his falase translatyng’. He saw a symphony of heresy in which Tyndale was ‘the basse and the tenour whereupoon [others] wold singe…’”
(From page 104)
William Tyndale’s life stands an example of how one’s personal religious beliefs can lead to being ostracized — and even killed. Further, Tyndale’s life is an example of the risks we take when we step outside the bounds of the status quo to express a different point of view. Look at the Middle East — look at what is happening in Iraq and in neighboring countries: men are killed and hunted down every day for daring to have an individualized way of looking at themselves in relation to society. William Tyndale’s story (which isn’t that widely remembered today) serves to remind us of the dangers in going against ‘church’ or ‘state.’
Brian Moynahan should be commended for his sound, sharp writing and for his analysis of this finger tip of history: In the end, Moynahan has written a book that is meant to leave its reader applying the lessons of William Tyndale’s final days to this 21st century version of the world.
THE CONTINUUM HISTORY OF APOCALYPTICISM. Edited by Bernard McGinn, John J. Collins and Stephen J. Stein. Continuum. This fine selection just released by Continuum condenses the 1,500 page Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism published in 1998. This volume does a fine job of tracing the origins of Apocalypticism from the ancient world through modern times. “Apocalypticism,” a term which refers to a time when the world will end and God will judge his children, is the foundational idea behind Christianity (as well as Judaism and the Islamic faiths). Further, it is the true driving force behind the element of conscience and man’s understanding of the concepts of good and evil:
“Like the proclamations of John the Baptist, Cyprian’s letters to Bishop Lucius of Rome in 252 say that the sufferings of church leaders all over the empire simply make it clear that Christ is coming soon to confirm his faithful ones in joy. All these passages reveal how, in Cyprian’s hands, the imagery of the apocalyptic tradition – taken very much at face value – has become a powerful means of pastoral encouragement as well as a key to finding deeper meaning in the troubles of his time.”
(Brian E. Daley; pages 229 & 230)
Given recent world events (the terrorist bombings in New York City and Washington DC in September 2001, the Iraq War in 2003), we can see how the belief that life is about to end propels human behavior. Those responsible for crashing the planes into the World Trade Center towers saluted God as they embarked on a journey that culminated in acts of savagery and barbarism. It may be hard to fathom, but these terrorists didn’t think that they were dying, but instead believed they were moving into a state of heavenly bliss, far beyond the mouth of the apocalypse.
Confused and dumbfounded on why things are happening? Well, it all comes down to how people interpret faith and their personal relationships with God, about how they fit into the holy mysteries of existence. Accordingly, the Continuum History sets out to explain the genesis of these ideas. In nursing this project to completion, the editors have done a magnificent job in synthesizing a vast amount of material and editing very complex essays, tying the book together in a seamless and, ultimately, a profound way. However, many will find that the tone of the writing is overly scholarly — a style that is likely not to appeal to the general reader. Instead, this is a book for students of religion who are curious to understand the reasons why Man has developed in the manner in which he has.
Would be an appropriate text at the University level in Theology or Religions of The World courses. Invaluable reference text for all libraries in the Religion and Spirituality sections.
DEATH BY PRESCRIPTION. Ray D. Strand (with Donna K. Wallace). Thomas Nelson Publishers. Many Americans mistakenly believe that you can only get hooked to drugs on the street, believing that if your doctor is furnishing medications to alleviate health problems that the process is safe and without risk. And nothing could be further from the truth. Doctor Ray Strand’s new book, Death By Prescription, is a shocking and blunt analysis of the prescription drug business in the United States –a call to the government to begin revamping this system before more people are injured needlessly.
In this country, it has become common place for people to expect a pill whenever they feel ill or encounter changes within their bodies. In the short span of forty years, we’ve become dependent on medications to deal with our lives. Anti-depressants. Antibiotics. Pain killers. Acne creams. Lotions for your wrinkled skin. An endless list of medicines with very real consequences to each and every dose. Dr. Strand’s new book carefully begins to dissect this phenomenon, examining the risks to the consumer and what can be done about it:
“…In 1994, more than 2.2 million people required hospitalization because of serious reactions to medications. Even more troubling was the fact that more than 106,000 of these patiently actually died because of adverse drug reactions – reactions to properly prescribed and administered medications.”
“America’s number four killer is adverse drug reactions to properly prescribed medication, with more than 100,000 estimated deaths per year.”
So why is this happening? The answer is that selling people medication is big business. Selling people the illusion that their every problem is curable by magic potion is a business that generates over 300 billion dollars annually. Because of the huge dollars at stake, medications are often rushed to the market without the adverse potential of the drug completely known.
Strand, who has been a doctor for over 30 years, does a nice job in writing this book so that the material is understandable to the general reader. In his presentation, he uses patient studies/stories to illustrate his arguments and to show how the prescription drug trade has developed into such a potential mine field for Americans. I am sure there will be quite a few ney-sayers who will categorize Strand’s book as the ramblings of a doctor trying to push holistic medicine. But I think the majority of the criticism will come from those tied to the business of pharmaceuticals — by those who generate a steady flow of income by promoting this process.
Upon finishing this book, many questions remain: Are drugs over-prescribed in this country? Should doctors use their prescription pads less — as a final resort after other less drastic approaches have been evaluated? Does the Food and Drug Administration rush new medications to the market before the full effects to the consumer have been analyzed? Many many questions. And, ultimately, it is left up to each individual patient to govern himself and ask these questions before he swallows that first pill. The burden of responsibility lies with you, and with you alone.
If anyone in your household takes prescription medication, I highly recommend this book – it’s probably the most important consumer guide to hit the shelves in a long time. Also recommended to libraries in the public and university sector as an invaluable reference.
BRAVE MEN, GENTLE HEROES. Michael Takiff. William Morrow. Brave Men, by New York writer Michael Takiff, is one of the most unique “war books” to hit the shelves in quite awhile. Brave Men looks at war from the standpoint of fathers and sons – father’s telling stories of World II and their sons recounting the horrors of serving in the jungles of Vietnam. One group of men widely revered for saving the country and possibly the world, while the younger generation is all but forgotten for being tied to the indelible scar of disgrace that became America’s presence in ‘Nam.
However, Brave Men quickly moves beyond such political perimeters; in the end, this book is really about the soldiers who served the country, about the inhuman pressures men at war endure: “I was scared for the moment, because I just wanted someone to hold on to. That was one of my fears in the ‘Nam: dying out there somewhere alone. But I didn’t fear dying itself. In our culture we don’t believe that spirits and souls die. It is only the container that grows old, wears out, and dies…” (pages 287 and 288).
The mental demands of being in a war must be enormous –staggering. Those of us who have not had to go through such trials cannot truly comprehend what goes on “out there.” Can you imagine being shot at by countless riflemen at the same moment? Can you imagine having to make a split second decision to shoot someone or to throw your grenade before you’re shot dead? Can you imagine the taste of having to kill someone — of being ordered to kill someone? Can you imagine the ghosts you’d see every night in your sleep?
Brave Men is about warriors. American warriors on the road to victory in the name of God. A statement of the self by the men who lived time in a foreign land. More than a memoir or remembrance, this book is vital today (as the country lives through Iraq – a war some have labeled “The Second Vietnam”).
Are you at all curious about what your uncle or father or brother went through? Read on: the demons that drove Captain Willard up river in Francis Coppola’s fictional Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now” are the same demons that live inside of all soldiers. That fear and regret , that hollow indecision of the moment. If you’re curious about these things, Mr. Takiff’s book will have great meaning for you.
THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN & CONGO. Michael Crichton. Avon. These two selections by Crichton, both New York Times Bestsellers, are the finest thrillers on the paperback racks today. What stands out about them is the way that they immediately grip the mind like the hinges of a trap — brilliantly conceived novels (little movies) that entertain and obsess until the only thing that matters is “what happens next?” And isn’t that exactly what a novel should do — command its reader? Crichton (who also created the ER television series) chisels well formed plots and the suspense is always somehow real — alas, believable. These books make great “small” gifts for the day commuter on their trip to and from work.
PERFECT I’M NOT (Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Perfect Baseball). David Wells and Chris Kreski. William Morrow. Perfect I’m Not is the “tell-all” memoir of New York Yankees’ pitcher David Wells. Wells has been both a high-flying star and an also-ran in the major leagues, and this book relates his story in a ballsy tone — discussing everything from sex on the road to being traded for Roger Clemens. The depth of Perfect comes in the fact that Wells and Kreski don’t dodge any subject matter — instead they confront issues head-on, bringing the fan and casual observer straight into the locker room:
Spoiled and over-paid stars lacking in modesty and life skills. Grown men who haven’t grown up and faced themselves. Entertainers of the highest order misunderstood and isolated. This book has many layers, and it will leave some saying that this is exactly what’s wrong with sports in America — too much money given to individuals who are not equipped to handle it. On the other hand, just as many readers will be riveted — thankful for the inside look at the world of baseball, proud for the chance to glimpse the real Steinbrenner and learn about the inner mechanics of our national past-time. No matter which side of the fence you straddle, Perfect I’m Not is a fun read full of interesting tid-bits about baseball and stardom. I venture to predict that you will be entertained and educated from beginning to end. Highly recommended as a gift item for the sports fan on your list.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SPORTS MEDICINE PATIENTS (with CD-ROM). Marc R. Safran (with David A. Stone and James Zachazewski. W.B. Saunders. Dr. Marc Safran of the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery presents a resource guide for physicians and medical therapists who work closely with injured athletes. This book provides an over-view of sports trauma, including descriptions of common injuries and discussions on the nature and causes of injury; also analysis on complicating risk factors, treatment recommendations and guides to prevention. Basically, Safran’s text is meant for the patient, in that these instruction sheets can be photo-copied or printed straight off the CD ROM and distributed to the injured. Safran’s writing is at all times clear, direct and user-friendly, offering the patient step-by-step instructions for treatment and rehabilitation. Illustrations augment the text throughout, and these are especially helpful when it comes time to begin therapy and exercise regimens. Many topics are examined, including fine segments on rotator cuff injuries (tennis and baseball players will find this material of note), as well as information on Anabolic Steroids and Amino Acid Supplementation.
Appropriate for the general practitioner and the sports physician, as well as for physical therapists and collegiate medical staffs. Further recommended as a reference for libraries at the university level and in the private sector.