by Matthew Paul Turner ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 19, 2014
An energetic presentation of our complicated relationship with God, whom we have welcomed with “open arms, congressional...
Turner (Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost, 2010, etc.) surveys the American molding and remolding of God to fit our often curious convictions, a tradition as natively ingrained as “playing baseball, cruising strip mall parking lots, and popping antidepressants.”
God is ambiguous and protean, meaning many things to many people—“Jehovah, Jesus, or Allah to believing in Nature, a ‘Spirit Mother,’ or some other grand presence that usually enjoys silence and book clubs”—writes the author in this engaging history that turns a penetrating eye on how God has been shaped to fit the varieties of faith in America, a land in which nearly 80 percent of us identify with a God. This brand of the divine began with the Puritans and their sui generis God—“a sovereign, doctrinally stout, damnation-prone deity”—celebrating a Calvinist embrace of our personal roles in education and enterprise (namely, worldly goods), which spawned Roger Williams’ reactive take on the protection under law of all religious sects. Jonathan Edwards promoted for his followers a God of glory, beauty and divinity, though also one “ready to toss their meaningless sin-ridden souls into a black hole of fiery torment.” Thomas Jefferson, unsurprisingly, magnified God’s ethical wisdom, yet there was also a God of slavery, as well as a Quaker abolitionist God. Turner’s writing has the quality of a primer, with clear language and ideas that are bandied about without getting bogged down in agnostic and atheistic approaches. The author also displays a playfulness that doesn’t obscure where he falls on doctrinal issues: “Evangelicals are quick to give Jesus the glory when your plan succeeds, but it is never Jesus’s fault when your plan fails. Because Jesus never fails. You do. Somehow, a large portion of America’s evangelicals have become convinced that this process is the ideal Christian life.”An energetic presentation of our complicated relationship with God, whom we have welcomed with “open arms, congressional protection, free speech, and tax-exempt status.”
Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Jericho Books/Hachette
Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014
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More by Rachel Held Evans
by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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