Archive for July, 2009

Fair Game – Valerie Plame Wilson

Saturday, July 25th, 2009


Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 10, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416537627
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Valerie Plame Wilson is a former CIA covert agent. She worked for the CIA during the Bush Administration. That is until her cover was blown. Was it done purposefully? Was their political motivations? The questions remain. However this book is her story, and a look back at her life and career in the CIA. This was a life spent very undercover. Most people thought she was in a type of foreign business relations career. This career went great, until the moment her boss asked her to get her husband (a diplomat) to go on a special assignment for them. This assignment uncovered contradictions regarding the Bush Administration, Iraqi WMD’s, and Nigerian “yellow cake” uranium. There were many times throughout the book where she was frightened for her families life. When the story broke, many family members and friends were surprised to discover what she truly did.

I think the book was well written. While a lot of the mission specific stuff was redacted, it did make it hard to get into the flow of the narrative at times. Since she was under no-disclosure agreements, the book was under the approval of the CIA. There was many parts the CIA wouldn’t approve though they were public knowledge. To get around this, the publishers had an independent author go through chapter by chapter and write an appendix of sorts detailing the information that Ms. Plame was not allowed to disclose, but was public knowledge.

It was tough to get into this book at first, because whole pages would be redacted, but once I got through that and could follow the story, it was very interesting. I’d have loved to see all the details that were left out. It goes a lot deeper into things, such as the trials, etc. that came about. However, in the interest of writing a bi-partisan review, I’ll leave information from that out and just tell you if you’d like to read her story in addition to the official administration story, then by all means check this book out. If you can get past all the redacting, it’s really a pretty good book.  You can discuss it here

The Secret Message of Jesus – Brian McLaren

Saturday, July 25th, 2009



Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 3, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0849918928 
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This book is written based on the premise that the Christian religion somewhere along the way missed an important message from Jesus. The Author, Reverend Brian D. McLaren offers readers in many of his books, an alternative look at the Christian faith. Sometimes his views are very controversial. Many have been offended by them. This is the third of his books that I’ve read, and I personally found it a very rewarding reading experience.  This secret message he says, is good news for Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, athiests, etc.  There are also warnings for those same groups though.

The first section covers how to uncover this secret message.  He goes through the political message of Jesus.  This message basically is that we must go beyond what we see as the rules.  The Pharisees followed the rules strictly, even to the point where they killed someone for going against their rules.    The next message was one of inclusion.  Christ was welcoming to all.  I don’t want to give away the whole idea, I want you to read the book and discover it for yourself.

The book includes a study guide, and appendixes.  One of the appendixes nicely goes through The Lord’s Prayer defining exactly what it means according to these ideas.   Some more fundamental types might be set off by the opening of the book, in which Rev. McLaren questions a lot of beliefs.  I feel though, that they should read further.  I feel he really taps into what the whole “Christian” religion is, or at least what it should be.

This book, like “Myth of a Christian Nation”, had a very profound effect on me.  I read the two books as companions (though by different authors), and they shared similar thoughts/ideas.  After reading this, I found myself longing to follow the message he presented.  I’d still love to be able to make this message a reality, but I think it might be a naive possibility.  Regardless though, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book.  It’s one I often suggest my friends read, and if you read it, and keep an open mind, I think it would have a changing effect you as well.

You can discuss it here

The Myth of a Christian Nation – Gregory A. Boyd

Saturday, July 25th, 2009


Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310267315
ISBN-13: 978-0310267317
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After reading this book, I found myself longing for the world Reverend Boyd describes. The book is subtitled “How the quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church”. This book came about in 2004. Reverend Boyd feeling pressure from the right wing and his congregation into leading the church into voting for what they deemed the right candidate, delivered a series of impassioned sermons. This sermons were on the dangers of associating the Chrisitan faith with a political point of view. He titled this series “The Cross and The Sword”. He received overwhelming positive response, but also a lot of negative responses. 20 percent of his congregation [About 1000 people] left the church.

They felt it was the Church’s job to promote an anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-American position. His idea though is simple. He sees two separate kingdoms. The first is the Kingdom of God, the other is the Kingdom of Man. He says the evangelical view is about “taking America back for God”. The right tends to vote for religious candidates, want to outlaw abortion, outlaw gay marriage, and involve the Church in all aspects of our lives, such as keeping God in the pledge of allegiance, prayer in schools, etc. He says that combining these two, is “idolatrous”, and is part of what is destroying the church, and damaging God’s Kingdom. He doesn’t say whether these positions are right or wrong, but these issues are part of the Kingdom of Man.

The Kingdom of God is separate, and somewhat co-exists separately with the Kingdom of Man. The Kingdom of man is initially a power-over paradigm. It concerns our power over other countries, genders, races, etc. The objective is to control, and is used through our military force, etc. The Kingdom of God is strict to Jesus’ teachings. It’s a power-under paradigm. The objective under it is to serve. Help the homeless, help the poor, feed the hungry, heal the sick.

He surmises that Jesus rules over the Kingdom of God, while Satan rules over the Kingdom of Man.  This isn’t to say that any government is evil, but things like War, Genocide, Slavery, etc. are things controlled by the Devil.   As he says, it’s a tit-for-tat arrangment.  Our soldiers bombed Iraq, days later Iraqi soldiers beheaded an American.  When our country struggled with slavery, we should have been out there from the beginning protesting against it. 

The solution is simple but not easy.   He uses the Illustration of Jesus against Pilate.  Jesus had all the power in the world at his hands.  He could have drawn upon that power and defeated all those against him.  He would have been winning by Kingdom of the World standards, but he chose to lose by those standards.  In the Kingdom of the World, Jesus lost the fight.  However, in the Kingdom of God, he managed to show people that being willing to sacrifice everything you have for the love of another person, is much more powerful.  An example showing this was his dis-tasted seeing a war video.  Planes were shown bombing cities, with patriotic music, and people cheering.  His point was that rather than cheering over the deaths of innocents, we should have been in the streets praying for the people that perished.  The bombing was Kingdom of the World, the praying is Kingdom of God.

I thought the book was well written.  The facts/ideas were interspersed with relevant scriptural passages.  While many would consider his ideas Liberal, he is in fact an evangelical minister.  This book is just about concerns that in order to control people and situations, that doing so in the name of God brings a lot of bad thoughts towards the church/country.  It’s due to what Christianity has done to some of these other countries, and the way it was done in not so Christlike manners, that’s made us enemies.  We can correct it, but need to be willing to take the steps to do so.

I know that many who read this review will probably be infuriated, and refuse to read this book. I had doubts about it, but by the time I was through, I was wishing I could step outside the Kingdom of Man and all of it’s biases and control issues, and live within the Kingdom of God. That kingdom was a much more beautiful place to read about than the world seen outside my window.

Pick this book up if you see it, rent it at the library, whatever you need to do, but please read it, and read it with an open mind. I think it might change how you look at things also, it certainly did for me.  You can discuss it here