American Phoenix

americanphoenix

Posted by Shelbi

American Phoenix, by Jane Hampton Cook, is—in a nutshell—a biography of John Quincy Adams (pre-presidency) and his wife Louisa, a history of the War of 1812, and a good look into an early-1800’s Europe being terrorized by Napoleon Bonaparte. The book is rather long (512 pages), very well written, and both enjoyable and educating. I didn’t know much about the War of 1812, so I was surprised to learn that it really can be seen as America’s second war for independence from England.

The thing I liked most about the book, though, was its study into the life of Louisa Adams. Her strong patriotism and love for her country, coupled with devotion to her husband, led her to leave her home and two children for six years (1809-1815) in order to accompany her husband to Russia, where they together represented the Republican United States in a monarch/dictator-run Europe. As America struggled to be recognized as an independent nation by the rest of the world, the Adamses worked tirelessly on the other side of the world to promote that end. Their fascinating encounters with European royalty and interesting brushes with Napoleon often took place in the midst of personal tragedy (Louisa Adams gave birth to a daughter in Russia, who died 13 months later) and extreme anxiety about their children and family in America, who lived in some of the very cities attacked by the British. Their quest to see their beloved country achieve honor, dignity, respect, and recognition from the other nations of the world was ultimately successful. Speaking of America, Louisa Adams wrote in her diary, “I trust in God that the day of retribution is not far off and that glory which yet awaits us will far, far outweigh the disgrace which has hitherto attended us.” A godly Christian woman, she penned these words a few years before her death:

“And when it is His will that I lay me down to sleep; that sleep, from which we wake no more in this world; may I die in my Savior Jesus Christ; in the fullest hope of those divine promises, which lead the purified soul to heaven forevermore.”

The book runs a little lengthy, and I did think that the same amount of information could have been condensed into a smaller space. That issue aside, American Phoenix is a wonderful re-telling of important American history that should not be forgotten.

 

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Amusing Ourselves to Death

amusingourselvestodeath

Posted by Shelbi

“Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us. We take arms against such a sea of troubles, buttressed by the spirit of Milton, Voltaire, Jefferson…But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious culture dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter?”

Amusing Ourselves to Death was written in 1985, but reading it is like reading something published yesterday. Before the internet or cell phones, Neil Postman (who died in 2003) wrote this powerful book as a warning against…television.

“The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter, but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” -Chap. 6

When George Orwell wrote the book 1984 in the 1940’s, he prophesied oppressive government that would conceal truth and hide information. When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931, he predicted the opposite: “There would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.” Instead of being deceived about the real state of things, which Orwell feared, people would be given so much trivial information so quickly that important things would drown in a sea of irrelevance. Instead of being held captive kicking and screaming, they would love their oppression and adore what undoes their ability to think.

As the author states in the preface to Amusing Ourselves to Death, “This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

Exploring and analyzing not only television but also the “Age of Show Business” in general, this book shows how completely our culture has been taken in by the lies “entertainment is the highest good” and “we exist solely to be amused”.

I especially liked chapter 9, called “Reach Out and Elect Someone”, which is about how politicians put themselves forward as sources of amusement to better their chances of being elected; and also chapter 7, which is titled “Now…This”.

There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly–for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening–that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now…this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately 45 seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for 90 seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial. -Chap. 7

Amusing Ourselves to Death alerts us to the real danger of this state of affairs, and offers helpful suggestions as to how not only resist the current “media onslaught”, but also recognize the ways we’re unconsciously letting media shape our lives.

World War I & World War II {The Rest of the Story}

WWIbook

Posted by Shelbi

I first picked up a Richard Maybury book four months ago, when I finally got around to reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?, which has been on our shelf for years. (Read my review of that one here.) I have now read 6 of his books, and think I can officially say that he is one of my all-time favorite authors.

After reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, I went on to read the two sequels, The Money Mystery and The Clipper Ship Strategy. All three of these principally deal with economics. (The Clipper Ship Strategy, which deals with practical ways for anyone (but especially businesses) to survive and thrive in a government-controlled economy, was my favorite of the economics trilogy. Though I’m not a businessman (obviously), it was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.) The fourth book I read was Whatever Happened to Justice?, a look at different governments and legal systems.

Last week I finished World War I: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today. This week I finished World War II: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today.

My perspective on the Spanish-American War (1898), the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, the Great White Fleet, Theodore Roosevelt, WWI, WWII, America, Britain, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, the Truman Doctrine, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, September 11, 2001, and the present-day War on Terror–in short, my entire perspective on American history and American government (and alot of other things)– has been completely changed.

“The U.S. Government and Hollywood tend to see things in terms of good guys versus bad guys.

The Hollywood view of the World Wars…is not truth. It is not even a half-truth. It is a deception.

Neither World War was a straightforward battle between good and evil. Both were much more complicated, and good vs. evil had little to do with either of them.”             – World War I: The Rest of the Story

Written from a non-statist viewpoint, these books challenge the common ideas that the two World Wars were battles between good and evil, that America had to intervene in both to “save the world” from depraved dictators who wanted to conquer the earth, and that World War II is the ultimate justification for American intervention in every corner of the globe today. The author shows how every war America has been involved in since the beginning of the 20th century can be traced back to the Spanish-American war of 1898, when the U.S. Government first meddled in a quarrel not their own.

The Axis’ side of the story is honestly and fairly portrayed in both books, and really gets you thinking. For example, the official version of World War II history says that the Japanese woke up one morning in December 1941 and decided to attack the United States, just for the sheer fun of it, and because they were more inherently evil than most other nations. (Incidentally, this is also the official explanation for the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.) Japan in 1941 was a primitive nation of fishermen, very unlike the highly developed Japan of today. In 1941 no one stopped to ask why this extremely underdeveloped country would attempt to take on the world’s biggest superpower, just like in Sept. 2001 no one thought to ask, “Why do these people hate us?” This book provides answers to both questions.

WWIIbook

Though primarily focused on the World Wars, these books go alot deeper and alot farther than most. The reasons, the economics, and the global politics of both wars are examined in-depth, as are the decades that both preceded and followed them. I recommend these highly to anyone who doesn’t wish to swallow the government’s explanation of its own actions without first taking a look at what the facts suggest. Remember, history is written by the victors.

The Intolerance of Tolerance

intolerance of tolerance

Posted by Shelbi

“Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.” — G.K. Chesterton

In his new book, The Intolerance of Tolerance (published 2012), D.A. Carson explores the “virtue” that is, in the eyes of the Western world, the highest any culture or individual can possess: tolerance.

The book’s first chapter, “The Changing Face of Tolerance”, is dedicated to explaining the difference between the old tolerance and the new tolerance. Not too long ago, tolerance was defined as recognizing someone’s right to hold and practice different beliefs and opinions. Everyone should have the same rights and protection under the law no matter their religion or convictions.  Under the new tolerance, however, the definition of the word has been changed to mean that we should recognize that all religions, beliefs, and lifestyles are equal and all perfectly valid. Everything is tolerated, except those who are judged to be “intolerant”.

The second chapter, “What Is Going On?”, is full of examples of how “intolerance” is punished in America and Europe. While realizing that most of the punishment for being “intolerant” is directed at Christians, Dr. Carson provides numerous examples of non-Christians being chastened for challenging someone else’s opinions.

In the third chapter, titled “Jottings on the History of Tolerance”, Dr. Carson explores the most notoriously intolerant cultures of history (i.e. Spain during the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th and 16th centuries) as well as the most tolerant, describing how America and Europe have gotten into the place that we are. I didn’t realize before reading this book how much “farther gone” Europe is than America. In most European countries, making derogatory comments about Islam is a crime usually punished with jail time. In Australia, it is a crime for Christian pastors to “compare Christianity and Islam in a way that would vilify Islam”. In Canada and Europe, pastors are jailed for pronouncing homosexuality to be a sin, and in the United Kingdom, married couples have lost the privilege of adopting children, when they wouldn’t promise not to teach those children that homosexuality is wrong.

The wonderful thing about The Intolerance of Tolerance  is that it doesn’t just stop with pointing out the difference between the old and new tolerance or in giving examples of how the new tolerance reigns supreme in the U.S. and other places. The eighth and last chapter, “Ways Ahead”, deals with ways Christians can respond to the change and how we should live in our culture of “tolerance”. These are:

Expose the New Tolerance’s Moral and Epistemological Bankruptcy,

Preserve a Place for Truth,

 Expose the New Tolerance’s Condescending Arrogance,

 Insist that the New Tolerance Is Not “Progress”,

 Challenge Secularism’s Ostensible Neutrality and Superiority,

Practice and Encourage Civility,

Evangelize,

Be Prepared To Suffer, and

Delight and Trust in God.

This wonderful book is a great tool for anyone who wants to know how we should interact with our culture and what we should do when we are condemned as “intolerant”.

Culture Shift

culture shift

Posted by Seth

Are you prepared to address the most important cultural issues of your time?
Culture Shift addresses many such issues, some of which are:

  • Christian faith and politics.
  • The supreme court and religion.
  • The truth about terrorism.
  • Christian parents and public schools.
  • The abortion debate.
  • Christian response to global tragedies.
  •  And many more!

If you want to understand the culture in which we live, this is the book to read.

This book will make you wish that we lived in a culture that glorified God with all its heart, soul, mind and strength.

Part of the back of this back of this book says, “The world in which you live is in the midst of a major cultural transformation one leading to a widespread lack of faith , an increase in moral relativism , and a rejection of absolute truth . How are we to remain faithful followers of Christ as we live in this ever-shifting culture? How should about-and respond to-the crucial moral questions of our day? How can we stand up for the truth?”

One of the best books I have ever read, this book will keep your attention!

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy

penny candy
Posted by Shelbi

Richard J. Maybury’s book Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? is written as a series of fictional letters from an economist to his nephew. The book covers everything related to money, from inflation to currency to the stock market to the climbing national debt. It is filled with charts, engaging illustrations and is replete with examples from history, covering the economic troubles and triumphs of the ancient Roman Empire, the American stock market crash and Great Depression of the 1930’s, and the desperate plight and consequent rebuiling of the German economy after World War II.

From the preface:

“This book is written for people who think economics, business, or money is beyond them and best left to experts. As a technique to keep the explanations as clear and simple as possible, the book is in the form of a series of letters that might have been written by the uncle of a ninth-grade student. The student has asked about inflation and recession, and the uncle, an economist, is answering.
When possible, the letters explain by describing historical events. These cover both ancient and modern history, with special attention to the Roman Empire.
Topics include:
-Money, its origin and history
-The dollar, its origin and history
-The business cycle
-Inflation
-Recession
-Depression
-Foreign currencies
-Government, its economic behavior
-and much more.”

Also helpful are the many quotes in the back of the book from America’s founding fathers about their vision for America’s economic system. Another interesting aspect of the book was its listing of every country in the world in alphabetical order and giving a brief survey of that country’s legal and economic freedom.