A short but gently persuasive interpretation of the appeals of modern-day Christianity.



A low-key invitation to the pleasures and reassurances of Christian church community.

Episcopal layperson van Keuren’s (Things Not Quite Past, 2015) slim nonfiction work is aimed at people who’ve been “driven, fatigued, or at least cordially ushered, out the church door”—that is, those who’ve been discouraged by the hidebound exclusivity or lack of imagination of some congregations. In the opening pages, the author expounds, at amusing length, on the occasional close-mindedness of some of these communities, in which “women were expected to stick with cooking fried chicken or tuna casseroles” and gays were expected to “confine themselves to making music or arranging flowers.” Van Keuren then goes on to lay out a basic version of the Christian faith that’s designed to welcome pretty much everybody. These sections expertly outline his ecumenical, humanist view of an inclusive, philosophical Christianity, with none of the fire-breathing absolutism of fundamentalism. He writes about the natures of prayer and sacrifice and of sin as a function of self-hatred: “We all know we can be self-destructive and do ourselves harm; we have all done it,” he writes. “That is sin, and it doesn’t require a single word, written or spoken, to make it so.” He veers away from offering a literal interpretation of the Bible and warns readers of the distinction between morality and respectability. Throughout, he always presents his own view of Christianity in smart, easygoing prose. The appendix, in which the author quickly and comprehensively takes readers through the books of the Bible, is a highlight. This book is not “the entire gospel in one neat meal,” van Keuren chides, but even so, it’s a very clear, highly accessible introduction to the basics of the Christian faith.

A short but gently persuasive interpretation of the appeals of modern-day Christianity.

Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4611-9988-5

Page Count: 114

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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