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Faith is not about reifying the American way of life, Marsh insists, or other forms of delusional self-worship; it is about...

“The revolution begins in the pews.” So opens this closely reasoned study of the faith expressed in good works like the Civil Rights Act and antipoverty movement.

At the heart of Marsh’s (Religion/Univ. of Virginia; The Last Days, 2001, etc.) narrative stands Martin Luther King Jr., who, like Jimmy Carter, found inspiration for a socially active Christianity in the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr but became convinced that the Christ of the theologians is an abstraction—and that “abstractions cannot empower acts of compassion and self-sacrifice, or sustain the courage to speak out against the day.” Certain instead that God lives in action, King chose to use faith-based action as an instrument of social change. He inspired many followers but was far from alone, and the great service of Marsh’s book is to introduce readers to inspiring figures they may not have heard of. One is Clarence Leonard Jordan, a former seminarian who founded an agricultural/religious community, Koinonia Farm, that didn’t set out deliberately to work for civil rights but came to be a center for the nascent movement in Georgia in the 1940s as its members created “opportunities for economic development among rural blacks” and “an organic approach to racial healing.” Another is John Perkins, an African-American pastor who came to see racism as an illness and its perpetrators as victims. He remarked that “Racism is satanic, and I knew it would take a supernatural force to defeat it.” Fond of twitting conservatives who profess faith but then flock to the likes of Oliver North, Perkins joins many other progressive Christians in the South who are committed to resisting racism and injustice and to founding that city-on-a-hill vision of “the beloved community,” a body embraced but not contained by any church.

Faith is not about reifying the American way of life, Marsh insists, or other forms of delusional self-worship; it is about doing good. Here, he offers examples of spiritual vision at work—and hard work at that.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-04415-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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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 19, 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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