SHOULD WOMEN PREACH?

A Christian educator makes the case for female preachers in this debut spiritual study.
Spurred by remarks from fellow Christians that his church’s female pastor transgresses biblical teachings, Mancini deconstructs two often-cited passages from the Bible that directly address women and prophesy. In context, the Timothy passage describes the domestic sphere, with verses that call for women to “learn in silence” and not “to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man’s authority.” Mancini speculates that to learn in silence means to learn with humility, rather than literal muteness or conjugal submission. He indicates that the warning against usurping reflexively refers to men, because neither partner should dominate the other. Instead, he surmises, men and women should work together as one, as in the image they were made in the form of Adam and Eve, subject to only the Lord’s teachings. The second verse Mancini examines revolves around two selections from Corinthians. Mancini places these verses in a historical context, arguing the admonishment of women speaking in church specifically chastises Corinthian women. Citing biblical evidence that Corinthian women were rebuked for being immodest, he suggests they may have also been especially gossipy, distracting from the church’s focus on spiritual matters. He encourages male and female followers to keep the church’s focus on Christ and to leave outside interests at the sanctuary door. This somewhat flimsy reasoning characterizes the book’s conclusions, but Mancini makes clear his earnest support of women as Christian leaders. In addition to adding a measure of cadence, underlined phrases from quoted verses emphasize key diction that Mancini uses to construct his case. That rhythm, coupled with Mancini’s use of second person, give passages a tone closer to a preacher’s sermon than an academic’s explication. His folksy asides about women’s inane chattiness—“let’s face it, if we get a bunch of ladies together and they start giving their opinions, it can turn into ugliness and confusion”—and men’s tendency to dismiss women’s contributions do little to encourage a feminist approach to Christianity, but this slim volume may start the conversation.
An enthusiastic, if not erudite, inquisition of biblical support for women’s leadership in the church. 

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490804583

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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