A Catholic and a Protestant ransack the last 500 years in a search for some unifying characteristics of modern Christianity. Although originating in the Mediterranean world and Europe, Christianity is now a global religion of startling diversity. More than half the world's Christians are either African or of African descent. With tens of thousands of new Christian denominations and independent congregations emerging every decade, it is becoming more difficult to classify them all with the simple label ``Christian.'' Historians Fern†ndez-Armesto (Millennium, 1995, etc.) and Wilson (The Astors 17631992, 1993, etc.) attempt to find common ground amidst the apparent anarchy. They focus on Christian leaders, Christian art, and Christian architecture to illustrate the common themes in Christian history that can be found in apparently incongruous examples of the faith. A spare Baptist preaching house in England and Philip II's massive Spanish Palace, the Escorial, are treated as contrasting instances of Christian devotion. But the authors' examples are often arbitrary and sometimes erroneous. The pioneering innovations in hymnody associated with Dwight L. Moody's revival crusades are attributed to Billy Graham. Their critique of the Pharisees fails to acknowledge the distorting anti-Semitism of the New Testament account, and their celebratory treatment of Christian missions evades the role of missionaries in Western imperialism. Each chapter has a theme, but the authors fail to stick to the subject. A discussion of the Eucharist, for instance, might be embedded in a chapter on heresy and authority. Occasionally, they deliver sweeping generalization about the fate of religion that are not sustained by the illustrative material in the chapter. As anarchic and disorganized as Christianity itself, this book might be useful as a source of anecdotes for sermons or lectures. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 4, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-83104-X

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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