#BookReview: Vexed by James Mumford

Disappointment. British. Millenial. Sociologist. How you feel about the prior three words, perhaps possibly in combination, will very likely determine how highly you rate this book. As this is a three star review, one can easily see that I myself fall into this. I *am* a Millenial that has presented at a sociological conference while in college, despite being a Computer Science major, though I am admittedly American and generally have as much use for Britons as I do of anyone else. That is, if I don’t directly know you, I don’t particularly care about you – either for your better or for your ill, though I generally hope we all experience good things rather than bad ones.

All of that to say that the text at hand is a solid conversational topic, and for the most part an intriguing examination that requires a deeper thinking. HOWEVER, there are key points where the author’s own prejudices and lack of knowledge shine through almost blindingly, and ultimately in his attempt to get away from what he calls “package deals”… he winds up creating “package deals” of his own. For example, conflating anti-abortion beliefs with gun control beliefs, rather than their more natural anti-capital punishment and anti-war beliefs. Recommended, but think hard about what you are reading.

This review of Vexed by James Mumford was originally written on February 11, 2020.

#BookReview: Resisting Babel Edited By John Mark Hicks

Fascinating. I’m admittedly a Christian Anarchist myself, but coming from the Southern Baptist Church… let’s just say if they weren’t in the Bible and they weren’t a famous Baptist preacher, I likely didn’t hear of any other Christian leaders of the first Millenium AD. So I had never heard of David Lipscomb, a late 19th century/ early 20th century leader in the Church of Christ denomination, before reading this book. Here, Hicks, Richard T Hughes, Richard Goode, Lee C Camp, and Joshua Ward Jeffery – all seemingly very learned historians on the subject at hand – discuss and dissect Lipscomb’s beliefs and how they are reflected (or not) in the American Church today, both inside the Church of Christ denomination and within the larger community. If you’re interested in this subject for any number of reasons, it is a fairly fascinating and illuminating discussion. But if you’re not particularly interested in its subjects, you’re probably not going to enjoy this effort as much, as it does tend to get quite academic and religious in its discussions. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t note any overt problems with it, so let’s end with a rating of “very much recommended”.

This review of Resisting Babel Edited by John Mark Hicks was originally written on February 11, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Anchored In Jesus by Johnny Hunt

This week we’re looking at another former Southern Baptist Convention President’s latest book. This week, we’re looking at Anchored In Jesus by Johnny Hunt.

As I say in the Goodreads review below, just to be completely upfront: I’ve been in the crowd a few times when Johnny Hunt has preached. The church he has been at for over 20 years, Woodstock First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga, was where some relatives were members for several years and was not far from my grandfather’s home in nearby Hickory Flat. One aunt in particular damn near considers the guy one of her favorite preachers ever.

So I know the guy and his style, despite neither of us ever saying a single word to the other in any medium I am aware of, including face to face. And I knew what I was getting into in reading this book. And the only thing that struck me as somewhat unexpected was when he specifically speaks of showing love for everyone, no matter their sins. Some of his parishioners… well, they’re some of the reasons I began using the term “Talibaptist” many years ago, and some of them are fairly influential in local and State politics there.

But the book itself very much reads as though you are sitting in the sanctuary for his Sunday morning sermons for a month or two (twelve total chapters, but a couple of them could be combined into one sermon). And they really are pretty much exactly what he would say on a Sunday morning, all the way down to outright including the Sinner’s Prayer a couple of times. If you’re a conservative evangelical American christian, you’re going to love this book. The further you are away from that philosophy… the more you likely won’t. If you don’t want a preachy book even if you are in that mindset, I cannot emphasize enough that this book reads as though he strung several sermons together.

Theologically, I can and over the last 20 yrs have several times poked so many holes in the overall theology that it begins to resemble swiss cheese, but again, I knew what I was getting into here so I’m not overly going to lambast it in this review. Hunt is a bit more hard headed and blunt than I prefer, and absolutely old school – at one point he tells the story of talking to his daughter about the birds and the bees years ago and says that he told her “if a boy tries to get you in the backseat of a car, you better not go back there!”. Basically the dude is one of those that you listen to while letting most of his points go in one ear and out the other, because he does occasionally have a solid if not excellent point, and those are usually worth sticking around to find. Kind of like a bitter grandmother or crazy aunt. You respect them, and you’ve heard it all before, but occasionally you get an “aha” moment.

Thus, I think the three stars I decided on for this book are pretty solid for my own feelings with it. Again, someone more ardently in Hunt’s particular mindset will likely rate it higher, those brave souls who read this book despite being even less inclined to Hunt’s mindset than I will likely be a bit more harsh. But I’m comfortable with this, and this is my review and my blog. 🙂

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:

A Few Good Points. A Few Troubling Ones. Standard Johnny Hunt. Full disclosure up front: I’ve been in a few crowds Johnny Hunt has preached to, and some relatives have been members of First Baptist Woodstock, where he preaches. So I know most of Johnny’s story, what he believes, and his style. And this book is effectively sitting through a month or two of his sermons – each chapter tends to sound nearly identical to a given weekly sermon, in at least two instances complete with the Sinner’s Prayer. And that is why I can’t rate this book any higher, yet also don’t feel comfortable rating it any lower. Conservative American Evangelical Christians will likely hit this book with 5*, the further away you are from that group, the lower your rating will likely be. Overall he does in fact make some solid points, he just does it in the lazy country preacher style I’ve known him to employ for the last 20 yrs – which works well in a region that 20 yrs ago still composed a fair amount of farmland, despite being in the middle of Metro Atlanta’s northward surge. Recommended, just do your own research any time he makes a claim.

#BookReview: A Light Last Seen by Grace Greene

A Really Good Rock. You know how sometimes you just stumble across a really good rock right when you happen to *need* a really good rock? That’s what this book feels like – that really good rock that you happen to need in right that moment. So stop reading this review and pick this book up and start reading it. You’ll be glad you did. Very much recommended.

This review of A Light Last Seen by Grace Greene was originally written on February 9, 2020.

#BookReview: The Contract To Unite America by Neal Simon

Partisan Populist Polemic for Independents. I like that Simon opens the book with a note that if you are yourself a hyper partisan that thinks either side or the other is completely evil, this book isn’t for you.

The things Simon discusses in this book are things that I know for a fact many, perhaps most, Americans have not thoughtfully considered – or even considered at all. Sure, some of them are hotter button issues than others, such as his decrying of Citizens United – a common complaint of the left yet a case which is misunderstood by most and even outright misinterpreted in this very text. But others are much more esoteric, largely only thought of when the person themselves gets hit by the problem, such as ballot access – a process by which the “two” Party System in the US actively limits, indeed even places extraordinary hurdles to, the ability for anyone other than themselves to get on the ballot for election for most offices in this country.

Ultimately, however, Simon has crafted a partisan populist polemic for Independents that while useful as a conversation starter has numerous flaws in reasoning – even while being very well documented in his statements. However, even then there are, in the infamous words of Mark Twain, “lies, damn lies, and statistics”, and Simon’s constant refrain that “60% of Americans support each of these initiatives” is a bit disingenuous at best. And I’ve seen some of the very polls he was citing, often used them in my own debates! (See below) Still, with the various issues he brings up, most of which won’t be actively discussed by the various Presidential candidates or talking heads this year, this book deserves to be read and discussed even given its myriad flaws. Recommended.

With all of this said, allow me to note my own history, briefly, so that you can judge for yourself if I may fall into the trap of hyperpartisanship myself. I grew up as a Republican and voted in 2004 for Georgia’s Defense of Marriage Act. By 2006 I was already fed up with “both” Parties and trying to find my own way. I began reading *every* Party’s platforms and looking to what resonated most with me. I officially joined the Libertarian Party as a dues paying member the day after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, and within 2 yrs I would: be a member of the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, found a local affiliate (county Party) of the LP-Ga, run for nonpartisan rural small town City Council 2x, found a libertarian-leaning political blog, host the biggest event of the 2010 Georgia election cycle in terms of number of Statewide candidates present, be recognized 2x by the Georgia House of Representatives for my work in open government, video local County Commission and City Council meetings and put the unedited video on YouTube, run a Facebook group working for equal ballot access for Georgia citizens, serve as the Libertarian Party of Georgia’s Legislative Director, recruit a Statewide candidate for the LP-Ga, and probably a few things I’ve forgotten about in the decade since. However, by 2012 I had left active political activism altogether, and when I moved to Florida in 2017 I officially registered to vote as “No Party Affliation” – the way Florida encodes “Independent” status. (No State I had previously lived in actually registered voters by Party.)

This review of The Contract To Unite America by Neal Simon was originally written on February 9, 2020.

#BookReview: Dead On Arrival by Pandora Pine

The Cop Becomes The Accused. This is the latest chapter in Pine’s long running and expansive Cold Case Psychic universe, back in the “main” storyline once again. And as with most of these tales, it can work as a first book for you, if you don’t mind coming in and already seeing an established relationship(s), rather than the initial building of one. In this particular tale, Ronan and Tennyson’s relationship is put to its biggest test to date when Ronan walks in on Tennyson kissing another man… and that man is dead hours later with his blood all over Ronan’s body. A solid look – from the eyes of a cop – at the issues of when a cop becomes the accused, though in at least a slightly Hallmarkie way. (ie, this *is* still a romance book, and follows RWA conventions to that point.) Yet another great entry, and very much recommended.

This review of Dead On Arrival by Pandora Pine was originally written on February 8, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Character Still Counts by James Merritt

This week we are looking at a book of nuanced fire from a former Southern Baptist Convention President. This week we are looking at Character Still Counts by James Merritt.

Outside of my own pastors over the years, there is no single preacher I’ve listened to more over the years than Dr. James Merritt. Among those preachers I don’t personally know, he is easily the singular one I respect the most. I grew up listening to Dr. Merritt’s sermons on TV as our family was getting ready for church, and I’ve been known to download his sermons from time to time in the years since. Nearly a decade ago when I listened to him for the first time in roughly that long, I discovered that this man who had been the SBC President at the time of the 9/11 attacks and was known to be quite cozy with then-President George W. Bush had mellowed quite a bit and had developed quite a bit of nuance to his preaching.

This level of nuance continues into this book, where Merritt makes it quite clear that we are all in the same boat, no matter our stage or position in life. In speaking of integrity, Merritt does not negate his own by taking partisan sides and instead condemns the adulteries of both former US President Bill Clinton and current US President Donald Trump in the same breath. He uses jokes and anecdotes both to illustrate his points and to provide a bit of levity in the midst of some at times very hard hitting passages where he is pulling no punches… even while his fist is wrapped in a velvet glove.

One geek out moment for me, and a moment that had to be very cool for his son, was when Dr. Merritt actually quoted and cited his son Jonathan’s most recent book Learning To Speak God From Scratch at one point. Behind the scenes, Jonathan has had a bit of a situation that caused a fair amount of drama in some circles, and this moment was a very blatant case of the father publicly standing beside the son. Truly, it nearly brought tears to my eyes, and I only know the very barest of hints of the details of the overall situation. (Indeed, 90%+ of what I know comes from when Jonathan himself addresses it in Scratch.) While not a “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased” level moment, it was instead a very subtle yet public simply stepping up beside the son and making it clear that the son has the father’s support. In a book all about character it was an excellent display of the father’s character and faith in the son’s character.

On the whole an excellent book, no matter whether you agree with Merritt’s own conservative evangelical American Christian mindset or not. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: Character Still Counts by James Merritt”

#BookReview: Dating the Quaterback by Maggie Dallen

Interesting Conclusion. The first thing to know about this book is that it really does need to be read second, after Charming the Cheerleader. Why? Because the timelines start at roughly the same points and you get two people’s views on a lot of the same events – even while telling their own story about their own high school romance. Also, there are some pretty decent spoilers for Charming the Cheerleader if you attempt to read this book first, so be forewarned there. Beyond doing my best to ensure that you read this particular book second, I can tell you that they are told in a very similar style and both involve very similar topics and issues, though with a few particulars based on individual characters. In other words, all four of these people in these two couples have normal-ish high school issues, but the particular issues are specific to each individual. As always, if you’re looking for a fairly light, low drama HS romance… Dallen has you covered. Very much recommended.

This review of Dating the Quarterback by Maggie Dallen was originally written on February 2, 2020.

#BookReview: Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Solid Tale Solidly Told. This is a solid story of two women and two timelines. In 2018, a young lady is released from prison on parole on the condition that she restore a mural from the 1940s. In the 1940s, another young woman is painting this mural. The present day timeline is told in first person and the past timeline is told in third, which makes it easy to pick up and know which period you’re in. I personally suffered some family tragedy and what felt like a pretty significant reading slump while reading this book, but I managed to get through it and finish the book within the month. And let me be clear, I do not feel that this book itself had anything to do with the slump, it really is a solid tale with an interesting curve at the end. Very much recommended.

This review of Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain was originally written on February 1, 2020.

#BookReview: Humble Pi by Matt Parker

The Daily Show for Math. In this hilarious and sometimes tragic book about math in the real world – some instances discussed include the deaths of hundreds of people, but most discussions are of a humorous bent – Parker does a truly phenomenal job of showing just how easy it is to get math wrong, and what can happen in the real world in that situation. From bridge collapses to programming errors to planes running out of fuel midair and all kinds of other situations, Parker truly does an excellent job of looking across the spectrum of math errors and showing both what should have been the correct result and what happened with the wrong one. Truly hilarious, and very much recommended.

This review of Humble Pi by Matt Parker was originally written on February 1, 2020.