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Book Review: “The Myth of Equality” by Ken Wytsma

It is difficult for me to state how important I believe Ken Wytsma’s book, The Myth of Equalityis. Wytsma’s work is half about showing that we–and by we I generally mean WASPs- White Anglo-Saxon Protestants–have bought into serious misinformation or myths about equality and half about showing what we can do about it.

Part I of the book, entitled “The Story of Race,” is a well-researched, broad look at racism in the United States. Wytsma shows how the notions of race became so ingrained in our worldview–despite the United States being a nation, mostly, of immigrants. Then, he demonstrates that institutions have existed throughout the history of the United States that have influence stretching into today. This section is perhaps the most important for building up his overall case, as many express doubts about these very conclusions. The notion that slavery was “back then” and has little-to-no impact on today is one that I have run into many times. Wytsma shows that this is a completely mistaken idea. From the immediate re-enslavement of black people in the south through the use of convicts’ labor, the collapse of Reconstruction, to redlining and the war on Drugs, time and again Wytsma doesn’t just outline the woes of our country, but shows how these institutions’ have influence that reaches into today. The facts, details, and data are all brought to bear, however briefly, to demonstrate his points. Not only that, but he provides ways to do more research for those interested.

Part II moves from the “what” of inequality to the “what can we do about it?” Wytsma argues that racial justice does absolutely belong in conversations in church. Biblically, justice is at the center of the truths of Christianity. Racial reconciliation is a worthy end goal for all people of faith. Citing respected theologians like C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wytsma shows that the call to obedience and finding justice apply to all Christians.

Part III, called “The Challenge of Privilege,” brings forward that difficult topic of privilege, that many refuse to even acknowledge as an issue. Wytsma challenges us to see how we lie to ourselves and how the way we perceive things can reinforce racism and make it so that we don’t even see it as it happens.

I cannot recommend The Myth of Equality highly enough. It should be required reading for anyone who wishes to have any kind of informed opinion in discussions of race, inequality, and Christianity. From dismantling the lies we tell ourselves about race to encouraging us to seek justice and showing some avenues to do so, the book is an invaluable asset.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Racism and Ignorance in American Christianity

A Map of Redlining of Chicago, credit: University of Chicago Library – https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/collections/maps/chigov/

I have had an incredibly formative last couple of years, and one of the things that I have been researching and learning about is the issue of race in the United States. I have to admit my own extreme ignorance of the topic going in, and I definitely do not claim to have become an expert in the topic. I still feel I am only beginning to learn about the many interconnected ways race impacts the way we think and act in the United States, as well as the deep history of racial tensions in our country.

I admit, to my shame, that I had kind of rolled my eyes at some of the discussions of race and its impact today. After all, slavery ended in 1865 with the 13th Amendment, right? Why are people still complaining about it? Why do people complain about things that happened before people today were even alive? I ignorantly–foolishly–assumed that we had gotten over it. That I could say that because something happened more than a hundred years ago, we could safely say it was relegated to our past as something that no longer impacted us. I was deeply, badly mistaken and I apologize for my ignorance.

As I read many of the books that have become formative for me, I shared things that I learned and was alarmed to see many people reacting the way I used to. I shouldn’t have been surprised, as I had done the same, but I was and am nevertheless. I’d see people scoff at the term “systemic racism” and dismiss it as a myth. I’d witness bald incredulity when I mentioned how some of the reasoning used regarding people of color to defend slavery parallels arguments today about refugees and immigrants. People would ask for facts, but when provided with them, would filter them through their existing biases–as we all must–and find that the facts did not, in fact, provide evidence for broad, systemic racism. And, as I write this, I know many of these examples will be dismissed as merely trying to appeal to emotions or pandering to liberalism.

Yet I cannot be silent. I cannot continue to learn about the deep, abiding ways our country has managed to continue to recast issues of race in ways that negatively impact people of color. Over some indefinite period, I would like to share with you parts of my journey. My hope is that you will find it informative and interesting, and perhaps we can talk about the issues we need to work to change. I hope we can work together to bring healing and understanding where there has been very little of either. I hope we can change so that American Christianity is not silent in the face of these systemic wrongs, but rather seen as a powerful group of people working together to crush inequity.

I want to issue a true challenge to those who read this. Do not remain in ignorance. It’s not enough to simply rush to search for an article online to “refute” every fact you are uncomfortable with. And yes, I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But time and again in discussions of issues related to inequality–whether race or gender–I find that when I present historical facts based upon digging through many books on the topic, the response is frequently a link to an article that demonstrates little-to-no understanding of those facts and distorts their context. Such historical ignorance is unfortunately common–again, I admit it in myself as something I am seeking to amend–but it is something we must seek to remedy. I want you to join me in this resolution:

When discussing issues of race and faced with a fact or statistic that makes me uncomfortable, I will not rush to find a way to make the fact more comfortable for me as a first reaction.

We need to be uncomfortable. We need to find out things about the past of our country–and perhaps even our ancestors or, even more importantly, ourselves–that make us uncomfortable and make us realize change is needed.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Dynamics of Muslim Worlds”

The reasons to be interested in the current state of Islam cannot be fully numerated. It is one of the world’s largest faith traditions. It is intersecting with other major faith traditions. We need to learn about our Muslim neighbors for all kinds of reasons. Dynamics of Muslim Worlds is a sometimes technical look at Islam around the world today.

The book is divided into three parts which focus on Regional Perspectives, Thematic Analyses, and Missiological Assessments, respectively. The first part is particularly intriguing. Martin Accad’s chapter on “Challenging the Monochromatic View of Islam” is perhaps the best chapter in the book. In it, Accad notes that non-Muslims tend to view Islam as a single, unified entity when it manifestly is not. Among the things that such a faulty view reinforces, the notions that Islam is inherently violent or the “conflict thesis”–the notion that Islam must be in an ideological and direct conflict with any other idea–are examined and shown to be wanting. Other chapters explore Islam in Europe, Asia, and Africa and show how it is shaping the look of religion across the world.

The second part has more extremely important topics, including two of the hot-button issues that arise when people talk about Islam: women and Sharia. Cathy Hine’s chapter on women in Islam demonstrates that, again, mistakes about Islam are abundant in our culture. Far from being silent and wholly without voice in Islam, many women are actually working both to change Islam from within and to preserve its traditions. Sharia law is typically the bogeyman in many discussions of Islam, the implication being that all people will be forced to submit to it (again, hearkening back to Accad’s chapter and the “conflict thesis”). However, the many interpretations of Sharia and its application once again mean that we cannot simply see it as a single, unified tradition in Islam. The final section focuses on missiological questions and challenges facing those doing outreach to Muslims.

Dynamics of Muslim Worlds gives readers a broad base from which to learn more while also providing some quite detailed analyses of Islam. I recommend it for readers interested in getting a deeper perspective on Islam and learning about its influence in the world today.

The Good

+Detailed yet brief analysis of significant issues
+Touches upon Islam across the world
+Gives readers an introduction to numerous topics
+Excellent tone and enagement

The Bad

-Somewhat esoteric for the lay reader

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th Edition” by Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross is perhaps the most well-known advocate of the position known as Old Earth Creationism today. He is the founder of Reasons to Believe, a science-faith think tank that centers on the OEC position. His works have been highly influential in my own life and faith journey. Although I no longer ascribe to Old Earth Creationism of Ross and Reasons to Believe, I have much respect for all those working at Reasons to Believe and appreciate their mission. The Creator and the Cosmos is one of the more broadly applicable books from Reasons to Believe because it focuses not so much on the concordism that defines their position but rather largely on the evidence for cosmic fine-tuning.

The core of Ross’ argument in the book is the fine-tuning argument. Basically, this is the argument that certain constants about our universe are such that any minuscule change to them would mean our universe would no longer be life-permitting. Because there are so many of these factors, the argument goes, that chance is not the best explanation for our universe. Instead, some kind of being that can act on our universe is posited as the best explanation.

Ross begins his work with an autobiographical account of how he became interested in astronomy. His own interest in the night sky led to him deciding to go through the holy books of various religions to see if any aligned with what science has revealed about our universe. His search culminated in the surprising discovery that, he believes, the Bible actually taught first what science has now revealed. This is one of the central aspects of the Reasons to Believe model: the belief in concordism. Concordism is the idea that the Bible and science will not just operate alongside each other but rather confirm and interlink with each other. Thus, as Ross argues, the Bible speaking of things like the stretching out of the heavens (Psalm 104:2, for one example) is said to be not just metaphorical language but rather literal language about the creation of the universe through the Big Bang.

It is in the chapter entitled “The Bible Taught it First” that I find the most with which to take issue in the book. For almost the entirety of my life, I, too, ascribed to concordism, but as I have read more and more I think that it is not what the intention of the Bible is at all. The Bible is not a science textbook, and simply finding a few isolated sentences that seem to correspond to 21st century science does not demonstrate that it is scientifically advanced. Indeed, as many a skeptic would gleefully point out, there are many points in the Bible which seem to speak about the sky as a solid dome or the literal rising and setting of the sun. Groups like Reasons to Believe work to show how these are actually non-literal language or merely figures of speech, but to me this seems ad hoc. The approach seems piecemeal and the idea that the heavens stretching out “like a tent” is meant to teach Big Bang Cosmology is a tenuous link, at best. After all, if the Bible intended to teach Big Bang Cosmology, would it not be quite simple to do so rather more explicitly than an allusion here and there? It seems to speak rather directly about creation, after all. Instead, it seems that writers like John Walton are more on point when they note that the authors of the Bible had background scientific beliefs of their Ancient Near Eastern times, but that the Bible is not intentionally teaching any kind of cosmology. Instead, it is teaching about the ordering of the cosmos by God as creator. This approach allows readers to avoid the difficult questions raised against concordism regarding the difficult passages about creation, while also not completely divorcing it from reality.

Apart from this allegiance to concordism, the rest of the book is almost entirely focused on scientific discoveries of the past hundred or so years regarding the universe. These are covered in some detail, but Ross does a good job covering these discoveries in such a way that they will be generally understood by most readers. Time and again, he shows that major discoveries seem to show that the sheer improbabilities involved in our life-permitting universe undercut the notion of chance as an explanation for reality. These are cosmic-scale fine tuning arguments. They don’t rely on anything related to evolution or anti-evolution. Instead, the things Ross focuses on in this book are all large scale discoveries and constants that impact our universe writ large. A lengthy appendix summarizes much of this evidence, and going through that appendix shows that time and again our universe falls within an extraordinarily limited range for life to exist.

I do still feel some caution, however, even regarding the fine-tuning argument on a cosmic scale. Though many skeptics have acknowledged it to be perhaps the strongest argument for theism, I am wary of completely aligning ourselves as Christians to any scientific view of the day. After all, many are positing oscillating universe models or a big crunch as another possible alternative to a Big Bang and heat death of the universe. Yes, Ross does deal with these alternatives, but as with so many things in science, we can only hold the conclusions as strongly as the evidence allows and we are a single future discovery away from something that overcomes the problems Ross raises with these models. Is it possible that Big Bang cosmology is entirely correct? Absolutely, and it certainly seems to be the strongest model. But I don’t want to base my entire defense of the Christian faith on that. Indeed, I’d rather base very little on it.

The Creator and the Cosmos is a truly marvelous book for learning about the fine-tuning of the universe. Though I have noted my wariness of Ross’s concordism and of other potential pitfalls, I do think that overall, Ross makes a strong argument. As a non-expert in science, it is very impressive to see one piece of evidence after another appear to confirm fine-tuning of the universe. Time, and future discoveries, will tell whether the fine-tuning argument carries the day. As it stands, I believe it is but one piece of the total Christian apologetic, and this book will help Christians in that regard.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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