Stanley and Jones Preach Communication

Stanley_and_Lane_review_08312016Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. 2006. Communicating for a Change. Colorado Springs: Multinomah Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In my last year at Iowa State, out of obligation I took a speech class. At the time, it seemed like a wildly irrelevant class—why does an economist need to learn how to give a speech?  By the time I reached seminary, preaching was not only on my mind, I credited my preaching experience as an elder with helping me to understand my call as a pastor. In a world so desperate to know the love and salvation of Christ, where else can you get 20-40 minutes of people’s undivided attention—especially knowing that your own kids could be sitting in the front row?

Introduction

In their book, Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley and Lane Jones focus on seven points needed to communicate effectively. In the first part of the book, they outline the seven points in a truck driving analogy. In the second part of the book, they drive down into the seven points in more detail.

Seven Points

The seven points are:

  1. Determine your goal—what do you hope to communicate? (33)
  1. Focus on a single point—if you provide too much information, your audience will not remember anything (39).
  1. Make a map that helps you travel from information to relationship (44). Stanley talks about ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE as the map or outline of how to structure a sermon.

This ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE map requires some unpacking.  The ME section explains who you are. The WE section moves from what I am thinking and feeling to what we are thinking and feeling. The GOD section introduces biblical truth into the discussion. The YOU section is about application—what are you going to do about this biblical truth? The final WE section casts a common vision (48-49).

  1. Internalize the message—“until you can deliver it with no notes, from memory, then it’s not your message” (52).
  1. Engage your audience emotionally—“You have to connect with your audience around a real need in their lives. Something they feel.” This involves reminding the audience of “tension that they already feel” (58-60). You look for memorable points and go slow on the transition points to keep people engaged (63-64).
  1. Find you voice. Stanley and Jones observe: “You are not talking to people. You are talking at people.” Your voice is the authentic you—present, vulnerable, the real you. The goal of finding your voice is to be able to take people on a journey, rather than give them a sermon (70-72).
  1. Find your traction. Delivering a sermon on time every week is hard if you get stuck in the preparation. Stanley and Jones suggest a checklist of questions: 1. What do they need to know? 2. Why do they need to know it? 3. What do they need to do? And 4. Why do they need to do it? (80)

In parsing the first point, Stanley and Jones observe that pastors have really three primary approaches in preaching:

  1. Teaching the Bible to people;
  2. Teaching people the Bible;
  3. Teach “people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible.” (94-95)

Expert multiple choice test takers always go for the longest answer—Stanley and Jones clearly favor the third approach. Their incentive is captured in this brief statement:

“How would you communicate this message if your eighteen-year old son had made up his mind to walk away from everything you have taught him, morally, ethically, and theologically, unless he had a compelling reason not to? What would you say this morning if you knew that was at stake?” (98-99)

Stanley and Jones’ point is compelling and one of the points of the book that I remember most vividly.

Background

Andy Stanley[1] is the founder of North Point Ministries in the Atlanta area, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and he author of numerous books. Lane Jones[2] is also of North Point Ministries and a graduate of  Dallas Theological Seminary and a Christian author.

Assessment

Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones is a book recommended to me by my pastor when I started entered seminary and began preaching for myself. The book is engaging, easy to read, and proved to be a great help in preaching.

Footnotes

[1] http://www.AndyStanley.com.

[2] Getting to know Lane Jones (https://vimeo.com/24570550)

Stanley and Jones Preach Communication

Also see:

Cloud and Townsend Set Limits; Heal Relationships; Gain Control 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Burns Calls Out the Unclean

Burns_review_20200108Percy Burns.[1] 2020. Glorious Freedom: How to Experience Deliverance Through the Power and Authority of Jesus. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Many people recognize the work of God in their lives through their sensitivity to unexpected blessings. Spiritual warfare often works the same way, through unexpected afflictions usually timed to interfere with a spiritual breakthrough, like the little foxes that can destroy a vineyard in blossom, as King Solomon once wrote (Sol 2:15).

Introduction

In his book, Glorious Freedom, Percy Burns writes:

“I will teach you how you, too, can walk in the power and authority given you by Jesus Christ to be set free from demonic bondages and how to set others free. Glorious Freedom is for all who desire to recognize demonic strongholds in your own life or in your children’s lives, how to deal with those bondages, and how to protect yourself and your family from the strategies of our common enemy Satan.” (14)

The key word here is teach. This book assumes no prior knowledge of the subject matter and provides a fair amount of biblical background for those unacquainted. Frequently, Percy passes the pen to his wife, Sara Jo, when she offers an alternative perspective or interesting story.

Clues to Demonic Influence

While for many people spiritual warfare may appear like Solomon’s little foxes, others find themselves with ongoing demonic oppression. In introducing his chapter on recognizing demonic influence, Percy recounts the story of a man whose life and marriage was falling apart because of his own sexual sin. He knew he had a problem and had hit rock bottom. Wanting to reclaim his life, he approached Percy about deliverance ministry (33-35).

In general, Percy cites these clues to demonic oppression:

  • Extreme fearfulness
  • Consistent confusion
  • Sense of ongoing defeat
  • Sense of foreboding darkness
  • Excessive meanness
  • Overly controlling
  • Addictive personality
  • A drivenness (36)

He follows scripture in his observations and sees deliverance ministry perfectly compatible with Christian counseling, working with a mentor, and striving to improve personal discipline (35-38). Percy has occasionally worked with several psychiatrists in undertaking this ministry (27).

Background and Organization

Percy Burns is a retired Presbyterian pastor who came to deliverance ministry while serving a church next to the French Quarter in New Orleans, which he describes as the center of witchcraft in the United States at that time (29). He received his bachelor’s degree from Belhaven University and his masters of divinity at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. When I met and worked with him, he was a seminary chaplain in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Percy writes in eleven chapters:

  1. The Launching Pad
  2. Recognizing a Demonic Problem
  3. How Demons Gain Access
  4. Step-by-Step Guide to Ministering Deliverance
  5. Ministering Deliverance to Children
  6. Recognizing the Power and Authority of Jesus
  7. Personal Testimonies of Freedom
  8. Questions You May Have
  9. Called to Minister Deliverance?
  10. A Journey through the Scriptures
  11. From My Bookshelves: Insights from Trusted Sources (xi)

These chapters are preceded by a preface and Introduction, and followed by an epilogue and about section.

 Satan not Fair

The longest chapter recounts personal testimonies of people helped by deliverance. The stories represent a cross section of society, all ages and economic classes and they chronicle many different challenges. These stories have been written by those who experienced them, which is obvious from the different writing styles of the authors.

Perhaps the most striking was a story by a parent of a four-year boy, visited by a spirit that he describes as “gray man” who attempted to convince the boy to jump out a window and to dismiss his Sunday school lessons about Jesus (138-144). As a parent, this story really gripped me—we think of childhood as a time of innocence. Yet, as Percy repeatedly reminds his reader—Satan does not play fair.

Scriptural References

The second longest chapter is Percy’s review of biblical teaching about Satan, demons, and the practice of deliverance ministry. In particular, Percy draws attention to:

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead” (Deut 18:10-11 ESV; 180)

Dabbling with the occult is a common thread running through many of the accounts that Percy cites. The prevalence of films today focused on the occult suggests one reason why the need for deliverance ministry has grown in recent years.

Assessment

Key turning points in my seminary training were often accompanied with unexpected family challenges, which led me to introduce myself to Percy and to assist him with his ministry when an occasion would arise. This book, Glorious Freedom, provides an accurate picture of deliverance ministry, as Percy practices it.[2]This work led me to appreciate the power of Christ, strengthened my prayer life, and led to healing in my own life on several occasions. Experiencing spiritual oppression? Curious? Check it out.[3]

Footnotes

[1] https://www.GloriousFreedom.org.

[2] My own experience is chronicle in a chapter on authoritative prayer in my 2019 book, Simple Faith (Centreville, VA: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC).

[3] I would like to thank Percy Burns for making a pre-release copy of Glorious Freedom available to me

Burns Calls Out the Unclea

Also see:

Cloud and Townsend Set Limits; Heal Relationships; Gain Control 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Corner_2020

 

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McCarthy Organizes Fiction Editing

Zoe_McCarthy_20191219Zöe M. McCarthy. 2019. Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. Galax, VA: Sonfire Media LLC.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of my goals for 2020 is to begin writing my first novel, which I have tentatively entitled: Transition. Because I need to edit my current manuscript and need to blog ahead to find the time to write, it will be a couple months before any real work can proceed. Meanwhile, I can lay track to be ready. A good starting point is to look to the experts on how to proceed.

Introduction

In her book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days Zoe M. McCarthy, writes:  

“The writing method in [this book] works for any fiction genre. It’s designed for the writer who has at least a draft of a completed manuscript. The goal is to shape a not-yet-submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines.” (xv)

McCarthy acknowledges that this book draws on her experience as a blog (link) focused on providing fiction writers with advice on how to improve their craft. I picked up a copy of her book at the conference bookstore for the Virginia Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers (link) after hearing her present on a related topic.

The title of this book suggests that it is perfect companion to the popular writer’s challenge: “National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo] began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.” (link) Several author friends of mine have participated in NaNoWriMo to produce their first novel.

Background and Organization

Before becoming a full-time author and speaker, Zöe M. McCarthy was an actuary, which suggests that she studied statistics during her first career.

McCarthy organizes her book according to daily activities over thirty days. She writes in twelve chapters, divided into four sections:

Section 1: High-Level Perspective – Days 1-7

Send Your Characters on a Journey

Will the Real Characters Please Stand Out?

Plant Your Character (and Read) in a Setting

Season Your Story with Voice, Pace, and Humor  

Section 2: Scenes: Book Building Blocks – Days 8-14  

Make a Scene of Your Scene

Add Suspense to Your Scene—Scary or Otherwise

Lure Readers to Commit Identity Theft with Your Characters

Where to Add Zing to Your Story

Section 3: Delight in the Details – Days 15-18

Build Story with Words—the Right Ones

Compose Palatable Paragraphs  

Section 4: The Rest of the Story – Days 19-30  

End Your Story Well to Sell

Read, Reviews, and Revise—Edit Pages Beyond Your SAMPLE (xi-xii)

These chapters are preceded by acknowledgments and an instruction and followed by an afterword, indices, and an about section.

Theme, Plot, and Characters

McCarthy starts with a discussion of theme. Why? She writes:

“You’ll want to be ready to state your theme when you write a proposal, pitch to an editor, write a back-cover blurb, and have conversations with readers.” (3)

Many writing guides gloss over theme, but for Christian writers theme is more important because entertainment is not our only goal. Life itself is experienced on more than one level. God’s hand is on all that we do even when we do not realize it.

McCarthy describes plot as taking the protagonist on a physical, emotional, and spiritual journey (6). She then outlines the hero’s journal following Christopher Vogler’s twelve stages:

Act 1: Separation

Ordinary World

The Call to Adventure

Refusal of the Call

Meeting the Mentor

Crossing the Threshold

Act 2a: Descent

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Approaching the Inmost Cave  

Act 2b: Initiation

Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth

Seizing the Reward  

Act 3: Return

The Road Back

Resurrection 

Return with the Elixer (9-24)

McCarthy looks for both main and secondary characters to resonate with the reader (28). Main characters should have something that they care deeply about. Most scenes are told from the point of view of the main character who should have flaws, but underlying integrity (28-29). Secondary characters should help highlight the main character’s identity, advance the plot, and give the main character someone to talk to (31).

Assessment

Zöe McCarthy ‘s Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days helps organize the many tasks facing the beginning writer as they edit their book. I often forget to return to the basics when I edit so having reminders eases the task. McCarthy is short and to the point, which I appreciate. Perhaps, you will too.

McCarthy Organizes Fiction Editing

Also see:

Warren Writes to Grow Characters

Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Sacks: Why Stories Sell; Why We Care, Part 1

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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Hemingway’s Fish Story Classic

Hemingway_review_20191130Ernest Hemingway. 2003. The Old Man and the Sea (Orig Pub 1952). New York: Scribner.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What do you do to relax? Has your mode of relaxing changed as you have grown older? Although I mostly vacation now with a good book and a quiet place to read it, when I was young my favorite pastime was fishing with my grandfather. For me, it was time outdoors with him; for him, fishing meant a freezer stocked with healthy meat to get through the winter.

 Introduction

In his novella, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway introduces us to a man much like my grandfather, who fishes to put food on the table and, because it is not going well, must live off the charity of others, particularly his young companion. In Hemingway’s first paragraph, we read:

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week.”(9)

So the old man is not only hungry, he is alone and being treated as a pariah in the fishing community in Havana, Cuba. Sword fishing is a dangerous profession for a young man; for an old man working alone, the risk can be life-threatening between the unpredictable weather, normal challenges of old age, and the wiles and brute strength of large game-fish. This is one determined old man.

The Father-Son Relationship

The relationship of the old man and the boy is special, like a father with his son. We read:

“Can I go out to get sardines for you tomorrow?

No. Go and play baseball. I can still row and Rogelio will throw the net.

I would like to go. If I cannot fish with you, I would like to serve in some way.

You bought me a beer, the old man said. You are already a man.” (12)

The boy started fishing with the old man at age five. Interestingly, neither the old man nor the boy are given a name until late in the book suggesting that Hemingway is inviting us to see ourselves in these characters.

Character Self-Image

The old man’s hero is the New York Yankee baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio—when I knew him, he had retired from baseball and became the spokesman for Mr. Coffee, an electric coffeemaker. Writing in 1952, the year before I was born, we read in Hemingway:

“Tell me about the baseball, the boy asked him.

In the American League it is the Yankees as I said, the old man said happily.

They lost today, the boy told him.

That means nothing. The great DiMaggio is himself again.” (21)

Just like the old man has not caught any fish in the three months, DiMaggio is having a bad day. From the many references to DiMaggio, we are left to believe that the old man sees himself as the Joe DiMaggio of sword fishing.

Plot Overview

The old man sails deep into the ocean. Late in his voyage, he hooks a large sword fish who drags his boat out to sea for three days. Later, the fish tires and the old man pulls him in cutting his hands on the fishline. He harpoons the fish that is longer than his skiff and lashes it to the boat. Before his can reach Havana, sharks devour all but the head of the fish leaving him nothing to sell to replace fishing gear destroyed or lost in his fight with the fish and the sharks. Invigored by the fight, the old man motors on and the boy disobeys his parents to return to fish with him.

Background

Ernst Hemingway (1899-1961) grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. After high school he became a journalist and later a war correspondent. The Old Man and the Sea received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1953. It was later made into a feature film in 1958 starring Spenser Tracy.[1]

Assessment

Ernst Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a literary classic. I enjoyed it as a holiday read over Thanksgiving. Because Hemingway died of suicide, this book’s focus on the frustrations of old age is often linked to his ongoing depression. That is an unfortunate inference about this jewel of a book written when Hemingway was in his prime as an author.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway.

Hemingway’s Fish Story Classi

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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Haley Gains Respect

Nikki_Haley

Nikki R. Haley. 2019. With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Even though I am a lifelong newsaholic and a retired federal economist, I seldom read political memoirs. Seminary inspired me; most politicians do not. However, when I heard that Nikki Haley offered talk show interviews to promote a memoir, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about her.

 Why Nikki Haley?

Haley served as South Carolina’s first female governor and was later appointed Ambassador to the United Nations, which makes her a national figure. Historically, the only women governors in the South have served out the remaining terms of their expiring husbands. Haley was elected on her own merits as a republican, having served previously for three terms in the South Carolina legislature. Until preparing this review, I was oblivious to her Indian heritage and education as an accountant.[1]

The Memoir

A memoir differs from an autobiography having a theme. The theme here is Haley’s political career in the Trump administration. Haley promised to campaign for the President in 2020 when she left her position as U.N. Ambassador and this memoir honors that commitment, albeit indirectly.

The allocation of words to topics reflects this commitment. Her time as governor (2 out of 13 chapters) reads more like a political resume than a backgrounder on her life and personal history. She never mentions her education as an accountant, how she met her husband, Michael, or where she attends church, although she tells a few stories to earn her bona fides as a business woman and minority candidate. Yet, we hear with exacting precision and great depth—reported dialogues serve as an accent mark—about her struggles over foreign policy (9 out of 13 chapters) and her access to the president.

Haley’s memoir makes two points about foreign policy that have created controversy. First, in her view Trump’s foreign policy is not only more consistent with our values, especially human rights, than previous administrations. She writes: “Our values are our most potent foreign-policy tool.” (234)

Haley was, for example, highly critical of the Obama vote to abstain when the U.N. General Assembly resolved to blame the United States for lack of freedom and poverty in Cuba. In fact, Cuba never recovered from the loss of Soviet subsidies with the fall of the Iron Curtain and severely restricts the freedoms of its own citizens (220-222).

Second, Trump has been willing to provide leadership to our allies, while previous Administrations have dallied. It is ironic, for example, that impeachment hearings should revolve around Ukraine. While Obama put sanctions on Putin’s government in response to the seizure of Crimea and his promoting armed insurgencies, Trump provided military assistance to Ukraine (100-103). Thus, while Trump has maintained dialogue with Putin, for which he has been criticized in the media, he has also checked Putin’s military adventurism.

Background and Organization

Nikki Haley, maiden name Nimrata Randhawa, grew up in Bamberg, SC, the daughter of immigrants. She is a graduate of Clemson University with a bachelors in accounting. She married her husband, Michael Haley, in 1996 in Sikh and Methodist ceremonies.

Haley writes in thirteen chapters:

  1. The Murders in Charleston
  2. The Flag Comes Down
  3. The Country Turns to Trump
  4. A New Day at the UN
  5. Taking Names
  6. Red Lines and Dictators
  7. Maximum Pressure
  8. Changing the Culture
  9. Beyond the Echo Chamber
  10. “I Don’t Get Confused”
  11. Facing Down a Dictator
  12. The Fight for a Hemisphere of Freedom
  13. Exiting on My Terms (vii-viii)

These chapters are preceded with a prologue and followed by acknowledgments and an index. She dedicates the book with these words: “To the people of America: I hope this is a reminder that on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.” (v)

Assessment

Nikki Haley’s political memoir, With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, is both timely and informative. If you want to understand Donald Trump’s foreign policy, this is your book. Haley writes as a “fly on the wall” observer of Trump’s policies with candor and warm humor. Interestingly, her two chapters on her service as South Carolina’s first female governor demonstrate her competence as a tough, yet warm-hearted, leader after the shooting at Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. If you only read one memoir this year, this is a good candidate.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikki_Haley. 

Haley Gains Respect

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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Carter Explores Strongholds

Carter_review_20191130Lisa Carter. 2016. The Stronghold. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What makes a book a Christian novel? Possibilities include:

  • A leading character is a “Christ figure” or a pastor whose life includes a sacrificial component.
  • God intervenes through circumstances to grow a character (or characters) to realize their potential and they turn to God in gratitude.
  • At least one minor character cites enough Bible verses to warrant their own scriptural index.
  • The hero must overcome a significant character flaw in vanquishing the villain, but relents from physically harming the villain. Instead, encourages the villain to overcome his/her own flaws.

In every case, happy endings rule the Christian novel. In my mind, the ideal Christian character grows to exhibit Christian virtues without speaking them out loud; yet, the context leaves no doubt as to who is ultimately responsible for the growth—subtly is virtue.

Overview

The title of Lisa Carter’s novel, The Stronghold, is a double-entendre. One is a tragic flaw; the other a long-forgotten fortress. An estranged couple—a tribal (Apache) police officer and an FBI (Chicano) agent—must work together to find and arrest a serial killer, and, as we learn later, to save their marriage. Much later in the story, we learn that they have strong Christian roots that they have not drawn attention to but live out in a rough and tumble part of Arizona along the Mexican border. Also noteworthy is the role of strong grandmother that brought them together, protected them, and prepared them for their Christian walk in spite of abuse and life-threatening adversity—a divine stronghold.

Lisa Carter

Lisa Carter describes herself as an author, teacher, speaker, quilter, musician, wife, and mother.[1] I met her at the Virginia chapter[2] of the American Christian Fiction Writer’s[3] annual conference in October 2019 where she served as a conference speaker.

Lisa’s talk interested me enough that I checked out her books in the conference bookstore. The Strongholdcaught my eye because I planned visit my son in Phoenix for Thanksgiving, because I volunteer in Hispanic ministry, and  because I was curious about the romantic suspense genre.[4]

Assessment

Lisa Carter’s The Stronghold is a classic page-turner that had me crying. The Stronghold offered me a good diversion over break during a five-hour flight, albeit not quite in a single sitting.

Footnotes

[1] http://www.LisaCarterAuthor.com.

[2] https://ACFWVirginia.com.

[3] https://www.ACFW.com.

[4] http://rwakod.org/Daphne. Romance Writers of America: Kiss of Death. The website for this award describes it as: The Daphne is a writing contest for published and unpublished authors of romantic suspense, mystery, suspense, and thrillers with romantic subplots and mainstream mystery, suspense, and thrillers.” The sponsors of this award have no religious affiliation.

Carter Explores Strongholds

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019

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Goldberg Chronicles Progressivism, Part 2

Goldberg_review_20191108Jonah Goldberg. 2009. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change. New York: Random House.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the challenges being a social conservative today arises because both political parties drink the same progressive cool-aid. Mainstream politicians in both parties twist the U.S. Constitution to suit their needs, manipulate markets with tax policy, promote corporate interests, and endorse an imperial presidency. Individual freedom and democracy have given away to individualism defined as consumer choice and gender/minority rights.

With most politicians drinking the same cool-aid, the body politic lacks an effective opposition to keep elected officials honest and to offer voters real alternatives. Large corporations control most politicians and, through their media affiliates, they control most public discourseshutting down debate once their perspective is expressed (political correctness). For dedicated news watchers, this means that the national news now looks more like the local news written large—weather, accidents, and human-interest stories has replaced most reporting on political debates. When a book like Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism comes out explaining how this manipulation of the public works, it is both fascinating and hard to evaluate.

In part 1 of this review, I provide an overview of the Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, while in part 2 I examine his arguments in more detail. While a number of topics could be discussed, let me focus on three: progressivism versus classical liberalism, the media, and demythologizing National Socialism.

Progressivism Versus Classical Liberalism

Classical liberalism focused on personal liberties and limiting the power of government. Jeffersonian democracy promoted small business, especially family farms, empowering voters, and limiting government. In the nineteenth century, the U.S. government opened up frontier lands by granting small tracts of land to settlers hoping to give them a stack in managing local communities and governments. Competition in markets (small business), politics (multiple parties), and religion (no state religion) was actively encouraged to limit the development of powerful groups and to maintain an informed electorate. Democracy cannot thrive when voters point to a business, party, or church and just say: me too.

Classical liberalism began to lose its influence after the Civil War because the war effort encouraged the development of large, urban-based corporations to supply federal troops. Wealthy owners entered politics and saw America falling behind Europe in the development of colonies. Large corporations soon controlled both markets and the political process and saw the need to extend their influence worldwide, especially as the old Spanish empire began to come unraveled in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. The Spanish American war set the stage for the election of progressive politicians, such as Teddy Roosevelt. Intervention in foreign markets was soon followed by intervention in domestic markets.

The election of progressive Woodrow Wilson was a turning point in progressive thought because World War One offered him the opportunity to intervene even more deeply into domestic markets and to develop sophisticated propaganda organizations, such as the Committee on Public Information (109). Thanks to the writings of John Dewey, progressives began to focus on education as a tool for social engineering. Goldberg (88) cites Wilson, then president of Princeton University: “Our problem is not merely to help the student to adjust themselves to world life…[but] to make them as unlike their fathers as we can.”

The Lincoln Administration impressed Wilson because he saw war as a tool for implementing his social agenda (84). “War was the midwife of progress” from the progressive view (99). Classic liberalism died off because it did not aid the progressive desire to centralize power and limit debate.

Modern Media

Goldberg articulates the problem with the progressive media better than anyone that I have read. He writes:

“If big business is so right-wing, why do huge banks fund liberal and left-wing charities, activists, and advocacy groups, then brag about it in commercials and publicity campaigns? How [do you] explain that there’s virtually no major issue in the culture wars—from abortion to gay marriages to affirmative action—where big business has played a major role on the American right while there are dozens of examples of corporations supporting the liberal side?” (312)

The uneven playing field is not limited to corporate donations. Goldberg writes:

“These speech regulations in turn give an unfair advantage to some very big businesses—media conglomerates, movie studios, and such—to express their political views exempt from government regulation…[For example] The New York Times is pro-choice and supports pro-choice candidates—openly on its editorial pages, more subtly in its news pages. Pro-life groups need to pay to get their views across, but such paid advertising is heavily regulated, thanks to [republican] McCain, at exactly the moment it might influence people—that is, near Election Day. One can replace abortion with gun control, gay marriage, environmentalism, affirmative action, immigration, and other issues, and the dynamic is the same.” (313)

The same dynamic is working in public schools where Christianity is classified as a religion and Christian participation in the classrooms is severely limited. Meanwhile, other religions and causes are openly taught, especially on college campuses. The operative phrase is ABC (anything but Christian).

Demythologizing National Socialism

Because of the association of National Socialism (Nazism) with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, it has been rightly demonized. As a consequence, it is hard for Americans to understand how much Nazi social policy looks like that of today’s progressives. In Germany today, Hitler is remembered for putting Germans back to work in the Great Depression, building the Autobahn, and promoting the design of the Volkswagen Beetle.

Americans are not anxious to hear that German National Socialists crafted their Jewish legislation after American sterilization (Indiana 1907) and other racially-motivated laws, such as the Davis-Bacon Act (1931; 263-266). Or that many prominent democrats, such as Senator Robert Byrd, were members of the Klu Klux Klan because after the recruiting film (1915), The Birth of a Nation, the Klan was considered a progressive institution, no more racist than Americans more generally (259). This is not the America that we like to remember, but these American ideas influenced National Socialism more than vice versa. The effect on Germany was more profound because the German constitution did not protect minorities as well as the U.S. Constitution and because Germany was more racially homogeneous (263).

What surprised me most about Nazi social policy, beyond the focus on eugenics and euthanasia, was their interest in vegetarianism, environmentalism, and health consciousness (385). The Nazis also promoted animal rights (387). The Nazis were the first to study the effects of smoking on health and actually campaigned against alcoholism. Goldberg cites the Hitler Youth health manual: “You have a duty to be healthy.” (389) The theme here is using social control to make you a better person, but you don’t necessarily get a vote in the matter.

Demythologizing National Socialism makes it obvious that Nazis were truly socialists. While they used draconian methods to implement their social policy, the same policies are being promoted today by progressive politicians using psychology and the media campaigns that most people are simply unaware of.

If you believe that this is not true, why are human resource departments today, especially in large corporations, using psychological testing to screen candidates, including pastors. Armed with a psychological profile of the ideal candidate, the pool of applicants limited before qualifications are even considered. While it is illegal to use racial profiling (negative profiling), positive profiling (filling a racial quota) is legal and emotional intelligence (a highly subjective term) is routinely used to exclude alpha males.

Assessment

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism offers a conservative reading of the last century of progressive politics both in the U.S. and Europe written in journalistic style. The title of the book, Liberal Fascism, is a progressive self-description coined by H.G. Wells in 1932. The cover art depicting a mustached smiley face captures the tension between strong leadership focused on people’s perceived needs and traditional American skepticism of power unchecked by constitutional restraint.

Goldberg’s history of progressivism documents the genealogy of many of today’s most bitterly debated issues. Did you know that the term, culture war (kulturkampf), dates back to the Bismarck period (late nineteenth century) in Germany? I learned a great deal reading Goldberg. Perhaps, you will too

Goldberg Chronicles Progressivism, Part 2

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Goldberg Chronicles Progressivism, Part 1

Goldberg_review_20191108Jonah Goldberg. 2009. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change. New York: Random House.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the challenges of living and working in Washington DC is that you learn to read the political tea-leaves. When you are young, this prospect sounds intriguing and the temptation is to become a news-aholic. As one grows older, understanding politics leads to cynicism and a realization that when something is broken, it is not an accident—lack of information seldom explains bad policy. Ultimately, one begins to suspect that political awareness taints one’s soul—a form of original sin. Still, as voters and functional adults we have an obligation to be informed about the tradeoffs—politics is a necessary evil.

Introduction

In his book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change Jonah Goldberg writes an historical account of the progressive movement in the United States. He compares and contrasts the progressive movement with fascism in Europe and communism in the former Soviet Union. He writes:

“Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life.”(23)

What makes this task of defining progressivism so slippery is that prior to the Second World War, progressives in the United States, such as Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, provided the template for fascists in Europe.

What changed with the war was that Hitler’s anti-Semitism made it difficult for Americans to see anything good in fascism, in spite of the made-in-USA origin of many of Hitler’s ideas (9).[1] Progressives (or liberals) then began describing anything bad (or anything unprogressive) as fascist, making it hard to define fascism with analytical clarity. The book’s title, Liberal Fascism, was coined by H.G. Wells, a noted progressive, in 1932 (21).

The Third Way

Defining progressivism is understandably difficult because it evolved from the Social Gospel movement and the application of the scientific method to social science in the nineteenth century. The Social Gospel movement of the early nineteenth century strove to prepare the world for the coming of Christ (premillennialism) with campaigns for equal rights for women, abolition of slavery, and abstinence from alcohol. The scientific revolution inspired a pragmatic attitude in social policy focused on results and experimentation, not ideology. Progressive leaders therefore eschewed leftist or rightest policies to craft a third way, which was decidedly non-ideological, and led by experts.

This third-way mantra unified American progressives—Wilson, The Roosevelts, Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama—with European fascists (Mussolini and Hitler) and communists (Lenin and Stalin). This non-ideological stance has proven intensely popular over time and has had a lasting impact on American policies, such as the New Deal and the Great Society. The dark side of this experimentation in public policy arises, not from unpopular ideas being imposed by “crazed” leaders, but by the prejudices that societies insist on acting on from time to time.

Background and Organization

Jonah Goldberg (1969+) is a conservative columnist, born and raised Jewish in Manhattan, New York. He attended Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.[2] He writes in ten chapters:

  1. Mussolini: The Father of Fascism
  2. Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left
  3. Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism
  4. Franklin Roosevelt’s Fascist New Deal
  5. The 1960s: Fascism Takes to the Streets
  6. From Kennedy’s Myth to Johnson’s Dream: Liberal Fascism and the Cult of the State
  7. Liberal Racism: The Eugenic Ghost in the Fascist Machine
  8. Liberal Fascist Economics
  9. Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism
  10. The New Age: We’re All Fascists Now

These chapters follow an introduction and are followed by two “afterwords”, acknowledgments, appendices, notes, and an index.

Assessment

In part 1 of this review, I provide an overview of the Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, while in part 2 I examine his argument in more detail.

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism offers a conservative reading of the last century of progressive politics both in the U.S. and Europe written in journalistic style. The title of the book, Liberal Fascism, is a progressive self-description coined by H.G. Wells in 1932. The cover art depicting a mustached smiley face captures the tension between strong leadership focused on people’s perceived needs and traditional American skepticism of power unchecked by constitutional restraint.

Goldberg’s history of progressivism documents the genealogy of many of today’s most bitterly debated issues. Did you know that the term, culture war (kulturkampf), dates back to the Bismarck period (late nineteenth century) in Germany? I learned a great deal reading Goldberg. Perhaps, you will too.

Footnotes

[1] The revulsion of U.S. progressives with Hitler’s anti-Semitism could be seen as conveniently hypocritical because German National Socialists crafted their Jewish legislation after American sterilization (Indiana 1907) and other racially-motivated laws, such as the Davis-Bacon Act (1931; 263-266).

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_Goldberg.

Goldberg Chronicles Progressivis

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Fukuyama Understands Identity

Fukuyama_review_20191025Francis Fukuyama. 2018. Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. New York: Macmillan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The issue of identity is on everyone’s lips today. In the absence of the unity provided by Christian faith, American lives are shrinking into ever-smaller communities of self-interest facilitated by media-friendly cell-phones and social media. As day-to-day, face-to-face interactions, our kids’ social skills leave them ill-prepared to deal with the normal ups and downs of life that threaten their self-worth. Without a solid identity, they are anxious and often leave adolescence with more pills than their grandparents. When I found out that Francis Fukuyama had a book on this subject, I snapped it up.

Introduction

In Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment Francis Fukuyama writes:

“In this book, I will be using identity in a specific sense that helps us understand why it is so important to contemporary politics. Identity, in the first place, out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that does not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity.”(9-10)

In a world where the poorest of the poor anywhere on earth can turn on a television and see how the rich live anywhere else, the sense of what’s fair and what’s not becomes immediately obvious to everyone. Those disrespected through circumstances, law, or persons no longer can be told that that is just the way things are. Dislocation, war, and conflicting demands make it even hard to realize a stable identity and sense of dignity. Fukuyama concludes that the “Demand for recognition of one’s identity is a master concept that unified much of what is going on in world politics today.” (xv)

Origin and Organization

Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (1952-) is an American political scientist, political economist, and writer. He is best known for his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992), which argued that the spread of liberal democracies and free-market capitalism of the West could end sociocultural evolution. Fukuyama earned his BA at Cornell University, studied at Yale University, and received his doctorate from Harvard University. He is currently on the faculty at Stanford University.[1] Fukuyama writes in fourteen chapters:

  1. The Politics of Dignity
  2. The Third Part of the Soul
  3. Inside and Outside
  4. From Dignity to Democracy
  5. Revolutions of Dignity
  6. Expressive Individualism
  7. Nationalism and Religion
  8. The Wrong Address
  9. Invisible Man
  10. The Democratization of Dignity
  11. From Identity to Identities
  12. We the People
  13. Stories of Peoplehood
  14. What is to be Don? (vii)

These chapters are preceded by a preface and followed by notes, a bibliography, and an index.

The Dignity Problem

The visibility of inequities has become more obvious. Fukuyama writes:

“Between 1970 and 2008, the world’s output of goods and services quadrupled and growth extended to virtually all regions of the world, while the number of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries dropped from 42 percent of the total population in 1993 to 17 percent in 211. The percentage of children dying before their fifty birthdays declined from 22 percent in 1960 to less than 5 percent by 2016. This liberal world order did not, however, benefit everyone. In many countries around the world, and particularly in developed democracies, inequity increased dramatically, such that many of the benefits flowed primarily to an elite defined primarily by education.” (4)

Economists talk about the law of one price—with free trade, the price of a good or service should be the same everyone, adjusting for shipment, storage, and other costs.

Fukuyama notes the tension created, writing:

“Huge new middle classes arose in countries such as China and India, but the work they did replaced work that had been done by older middle classes in the developing world…women were displacing men in an increasingly service dominated new economy and low-skilled workers were being replaced by smart machines.” (4)

Inequities create indignities because no one enjoys change and we have seen massive changes. Fukuyama notes: “economic grievances become much more acute when they are attached to feelings of indignity and disrespect.” (11) He sees issues like the #MeToo movement and gay marriage as being driven by the desire, not for economic equality, but the desire for equal respect (19).

The Identity Connection

Fukuyama develops his concept of identity writing:

“The modern concept of identity unites three different phenomena. The first is thymos, a universal aspect of human personality that craves recognition. The second is the distinction between inner and outer self, and the raising of the moral valuation of the inner self over outer society. This emerged only in early modern Europe. The third is an evolving concept of dignity, in which recognition is due not just to a narrow class of people [like soldiers and first responders], but to everyone.” (37)

He sees this question of equal dignity motivating the French Revolution and resent uprisings, like the Arab Spring. He tells a story:

“On December 17, 2010, police confiscated the produce from a vegetable cart of a Tunisian street vendor name Mohamed Bouazizi, ostensibly because he did not have a permit. According to his family, he was publicly slapped by a policewoman, Faida Hamdi, who confiscated his electronic scales as well and spat in his face…Bouazizi went to the governor’s office to complain and to get his scales back, but the governor refused to see him. Bouazizi then doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire, shouting, ‘How do you expect me to make a living.’” (42)

Bouazizi was not a protester or political prisoner, but had been abused and his story set off an uprising—The Arab Spring—that spread across several continents. The problem of indignities of this sort struck a nerve.

Assessment

Francis Fukuyama’s Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment pictures our current political climate with rare clarity. He writes with philosophical and historical precision and tells a good story. I enjoyed this book; perhaps you will too.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Fukuyama.

Fukuyama Understands Identity

Also see:

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/ID_2019  

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O’Donovan Splits Ethics into Faith and Action

ODonovan_review_20191022Oliver O’Donovan. 2001. Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics. Leicester, England: Apollos.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I prepared to defend my doctoral dissertation, I got it all wrong. I practiced the detailed mathematical proofs, thinking that I would be tested on the depth of my understanding of economics. My committee examined me the economic fundamentals. Throughout my career since then, I have come to understand the wisdom of returning to the basics. Ethics works the same way.

In the prologue to Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics, Oliver O’Donovan outlines his book with several important definitions:

“The principal orientations of the book are sketched out in the first part. Purposeful action is determined by what is true about the world into which we act; this can be called the ‘realist’ principal. That truth is constituted by what God has done for his world and mankind in Jesus Christ; this is the ‘evangelical’ principle. The act of God which liberates our action is focused on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which restored and fulfilled the intelligible order of creation; this we can call the ‘Easter’ principal. Each of these contentions has been challenged, or in some way qualified, in the recent literature in Christian ethics. They offer us, a grid on which to register some of the most important alternatives to the account of Christian ethics which this book advocates.” (ix)

Much of his book is devoted to explaining more fully what these definitions mean and imply with special emphasis on one fundamental truth: “Christian ethics must arise from the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (11)

Origin and Organization

Oliver O’Donovan (1945-) is an Anglican priest and scholar focused on Christian ethics educated at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.[1] He writes in twelve chapters divided into three parts:

  1. The gospel and Christian ethics

Part One: The objective reality

  1. Created order
  2. Eschatology and history
  3. Knowledge in Christ

Part Two: The subjective reality

  1. Freedom and reality
  2. Authority
  3. The authority of Christ
  4. The freedom of the church and the believer

Part Three: The form of the moral life

  1. The moral field
  2. The moral subject
  3. The double aspect of the moral life
  4. The end of the moral life (v)

These chapter is preceded by a preface and prologue, and followed by a bibliography and indices.

Two-Level Ethics

Although O’Donovan reviews creation ethics (natural law) at great length in part one on objective reality, he does not stop there. Redemptive history—creation, fall, and redemption—reduces to the dualist notion of “’from’ and ‘towards’, in which all the traditional language of good and evil is reinterpreted.” (63)

This two level of moral evaluation is not a novelty. O’Donovan writes: “There are conceived to be two levels at which moral thought proceeds: a fundamental level of intention—the will, in Kant—which makes a simple moral decision in favour of duty and the universal moral law, and a secondary level of empirical discernment which, as it were, merely administers that decision concretely.”(262)

O’Donovan articulates a similar two-level moral framework in Christian ethics. He writes:

“The ultimate and simple decision is not found in the books of human deeds, but in the book of life, where it is a question of Yes or No: either a name is there, or it is not.” (264)

In other words, the most important ethical decision is the intention to follow Jesus Christ. After that comes all other ethical decisions.

Assessment

Oliver O’Donovan’s Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics provides a deep dive into Christian ethics beginning with a thorough review of creation ethics. This is a fascinating read for seminary students and pastors. I learned a lot. Perhaps, you will too.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_O%27Donovan

O’Donovan Splits Ethics into Faith and Actio

Also See:

Bonhoeffer Introduces Christian Ethics, Part 1 

Top 10 Book Reviews Over the Past 12 Months

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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