Category Archives: American History

STUCK IN THE PRESENT

When I wrote Stuck in the Present, I was not thinking about megachurches per se, but this excerpt describes a concern that seems more formidable in larger churches:

“A community, especially a Christian one, is a group of people who share something in common that transcends socioeconomic or racial backgrounds. What Christians share is a common history—a living tradition. When we lose sight of this living tradition, we put ourselves in a perilous situation. With a sketchy understanding of our common identity as Christians, we are no longer able to have true community with one another.”

David George Moore, Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians, p. 93.

THE TRAGEDY OF AMERICAN COMPASSION

This is the third Olasky book I’ve read. Though they are very different books, all three have been terrific reads. 

The Tragedy of American Compassion is the book that Olasky is best known for. Even though it was published thirty years ago, it stands up very well.

A compelling case is made that the prior ways of understanding compassion and therefore dispensing aid are superior to our modern policies and programs. By “prior ways,” we are talking about the nineteenth century.

Books like this can so easily fall prey to trotting out an endless stream of statistics. Numbers matter to be sure, but they don’t tell a story. W.E.B. DuBois learned that lesson in a graphic way when he realized that his fascination with numbers could not adequately convey seeing “the barbecued parts of a lynched man.”

Olasky peppers his seminal book with loads of stories that help us better understand what true compassion entails. In other words, Olasky appropriately moves both our minds and affections to consider a wiser approach.

Highly recommended!

A WRITER WHO HAUNTS YOU…IN IMPORTANT WAYS

Baldwin’s writing lingers because it is haunted.

His essay on his troubled father kept me up one night. He is describing terribly important things, but Baldwin is one of those gifted and visceral writers. I’m glad to have read him but he does haunt the reader to wrestle with difficult truths.

I’m sad that he never could find compelling resources in Christianity.

WE THE FALLEN PEOPLE: THE FOUNDERS AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

I just finished We the Fallen People. Truly amazing. If I could wave a wand every American would have to read it as part of their citizenship.

Years ago, I developed “Moore’s Law of Worthwhile Reading.” I take the number of pages in a book and divide it by two. If my marginalia exceeds that number it was a worthwhile read. Some books that make the cut are ones I disagree with, but not this one. For this one, I made 321 marginal notes. These can be anything from an exclamation point to a few sentences. I never put one question mark in the margins which is rare.

In any case, I am going to be recommending this book far and wide!

My interview with Tracy will be coming soon…

EDEN’S OUTCASTS

I am writing a book on Ralph Waldo Emerson so I am very interested in his cadre of friends. Bronson Alcott and his more famous daughter Louisa are numbered among the stellar group.

Matteston’s book is fast-paced, well-written, and does a great job in describing two of the indispensable figures of nineteenth century America.

Highly recommended!