Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pershing: Commander of the Great War by John Perry

Let's not talk high-sounding phrases.  Let's not use old words, shopworn words, words like "glory" and "peace" without thinking exactly what they mean.  There's no "glory" in killing.  There's no "glory" in maiming men.  There are the glorious dead, but they would be more glorious living.  The most glorious thing is life.  And we who are alive must cling to it, each of us helping.  (John Pershing- from the book)

Pershing is one of America's unsung heroes. The first man to be promoted to General of the Armies, he's largely responsible for winning WWI but is all but forgotten today. John Perry does an admirable job of reminding the rest of us who General John J. Pershing was and why he deserves our respect and a place in history.

A graduate of West Point, Pershing was a inflexible, impeccable leader that cut no slack with himself or anyone else. As one reporter wrote, “no one will be calling him 'Papa Pershing'.” But it was this minute attention to detail that whipped every troop under him into tip top fighting shape and insured the success of every battle Pershing and his armies were engaged in.

Perry traces Pershing's career through commanding the Buffalo soldiers out west, fighting Pancho Villa during the Mexican War,  fighting with Teddy Roosevelt against the Spanish in Cuba and again in the Philippines and ultimately taking inexperienced American soldiers and training them to push back the Germans and regain the land the Allies had lost in WWI.

Perry shows a man who refused to compromise his principles when the French and English demanded that the untrained Americans be absorbed into their own armies. He insisted the Americans had to fight on their own under his command. When he was relieved of duty, he ignored it, took his untrained troops and in a very short time trained them into an army the Germans couldn't push back and ultimately surrendered to.

Yet Pershing was a man of justice and wisdom as well. He took the command over black soldiers, the “Buffalo Soldiers”- when nobody else was willing to take on the job of leading black men- and turned them into a powerful fighting force. With the American Indians he treated them with respect and always chose peace talks rather than battles with them, earning their trust and cooperation. He worked the same way with the Muslim Phillipino natives, and as a result acquired peace there as well.

Perry does a good job showing Pershing's courageous and strong sense of honor that made him only fight when there was no other alternative and treating all men-regardless of race- as he would himself expect to be treated.

The descriptions of the battles and strategies that caused so much unnecessary death and carnage in WWI as well as Pershing's own strategies and battles that led to the German defeat is especially interesting to read and, in short, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Military history and an extremely important epoch of American and European history.

Additional links:

I received the book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Book To Think By: Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey

Because the word secular is the opposite of religious, many assume that the rise of secularism is a problem for religious groups only,” Pearcey says. “Not so. When politics loses its moral dimension, we all lose. When public discourse is debased, the entire society suffers.”
In this riveting account, Pearcey exposes the stealth secularism that permeates society through education, media, politics, art, literature, and movies. (from Nancy Pearcey's blog.  For the entire review you can go here)

I'm reviewing a couple of books that were on my TBR pile that I bought for myself and were not given to me by a publishing company. They're excellent books and should shake off the notion that Christian literature is limited to self help non fiction or mediocre fiction.

The first one, Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey, is one of many books and lectures that I have been reading and listening to that confronts the image that Christians are not intellectual or cultural leaders in our society. Pearcey has so much meat and thought provoking essays that I rank this book right up with anything C.S. Lewis wrote and as a sequel to Francis Schaeffer's book, How Should We Then Live?

Pearcey takes us on a trip through history showing how originally Christians were the intellectual powerhouses of Europe and were the ones to develop Europe from tribal savagery to a sophisticated society. This is in line with many other sources I've read. It was the Christian church that started the universities, hospitals, orphanages, were the forerunners of fine art and preserved writing and history.

Then in the 17th century, the “Enlightenment” thinkers came and decided that life had no meaning and the only thing any one could believe in was what they could quantify. This created an upper story/lower story mentality that resulted in our society, including Christians, believing that anything “scientific” was objective and anything that had to do with God or religion was subjective.

Pearcey traces the development of this thinking, how the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Voltaire colored Darwin's thinking, giving him a predetermined interpretation of his findings and consequently the development of his theory of evolution (yes folks, it's still a theory-yet to be proven) and the consequences of his “scientific discoveries” that we are living with (or suffering from) to this day.

She exposes the hypocrisy and circular thinking of secularists, showing how when they reject the truth of the Bible they derail their own ability to understand truth. One highly relevant example is the pre born child. When Roe vs Wade was in court, the conclusion of the courts was that it was impossible to know when life began so the woman's right to privacy took precedence. With today's technology proving beyond a shadow of a doubt when a baby's life begins, the secularists comfortably changed their argument. Now it's now longer a matter of when life begins, but rather who is a person. Unfortunately, secularists can't agree on who qualifies. In fact in order to prove their points on any subject they have to disqualify their own line of thought from the, “nothing is knowable” philosophy they impose on the rest of us. They continually defeat their own argument against absolutes by asserting one absolute argument after another.

According to some secular philosophers, many people who have already been born aren't qualified to be considered a person with all the rights a person is entitled to. And, of course, the downfall of the person hood amendment in Mississippi is an excellent example of a population group who are mostly pro life refusing to take a stand for pre born babies. No doubt their “upper story” believed in the person hood of pre born babies, but their “lower story” told them they weren't allowed to impose their personal beliefs on others. The secularist culture has done its job well.

Pearcey describes how secular thinkers have taken over as leaders in science, art and popular culture-not to mention public education- and this has impacted our society in profound ways. But she also explains how Christians can once again become vital leaders of culture and shed our anti-intellectual image by using our minds and becoming engaged in the public arena. Not just how we vote but in the world of music, fine art, literature and philosophy.

One group who is attempting to do that are the writers of World Magazine. “World” is a Christian magazine that engages the culture in a relevant way in the areas of sociology, politics, news around the world, art, music and philosophy that I have never seen in any other Christian magazine. They are now in the process of airing a radio show constructed along the same lines as NPR- only from the Christian worldview rather than the secular. I hope they will also play classical and jazz music.

In my next post I will be reviewing a very interesting book by Gene Edward Veith called, The Spirituality of the Cross. This is a thought provoking look at the history of the Lutheran church.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby


Audra Shelby with her husband and three children lived nine years as missionares in Yemen. This is an account of their journey into a far away place-not only globally but also culturally and religiously- as they attempted to share the love of Christ and His good news to Muslim women.

Shelby writes in an exceptionally good style so I was not surprised to find out that she, in fact, is a professional writer in addition to being a dedicated missionary. I found this book easy to read and hard to put down.

At the get go suspense is created when Shelby describes her husband's tangle with a life threatening but mysterious infection that almost wasn't discovered until it was too late. After he recovers they continue with their trip to Yemen.

As Shelby learns the Arabic language, she develops a special relationship with Fatima, her language instructor. Fatima is a strict Muslim who faithfully makes a huge show of her traditional cleansing and praying-all the way down to greeting the two angels that “sit on her shoulders.” She is openly scornful of Audra's Bible that is “corrupt” and Audra's lack of cleansing rituals before her prayers.

However, Audra and Fatima develop a special relationship and Fatima is Audra's door to a culture and people that she would not otherwise have access to. Because of Fatima, Audra attends a wedding (all three days of sweat soaking dancing “just shake what you have” and waiting for the bride) and visiting family members and others-all who have never met an “infidel.”

Fatima comes to rely on Audra in ways that she can not turn to her fellow Yemenites, not even her family. Life in the Muslim world is not filled with joy but with fear and hatred. Whatever happens, no matter how unjust or cruel, is viewed as, “Emsha'allah,” (God's will). Girls are openly physically abused by their own brothers while their qat-chewing fathers calmly look on. Audra is angered and horrified to see an eight month old baby girl lying in the dirt in the middle of the street, screaming with no one attending her. Although this was not normal, apparently it was acceptable to treat a baby girl like this if it was believed that she brought ill fortune to her family. Every woman she met had lost a child before the age of five.

Fatima draws a strength from Audra that she cannot get from anyone else. Still, she wants the hope and joy she sees in Audra without truly surrendering to the One who is the source of that hope and joy. We don't know what becomes of Fatima because after their language training, Audra and her family move to another area of the country.

Audra struggles to overcome her own discouragement and distaste at the ignorance and impoverished living conditions of these Muslim women and reach out to them with the love of Jesus.
This is exceptionally hard as family and friends back home are unsupportive and the few European and American women in Yemen shun her when they see her wearing a bulgar and head covering and interacting with the poverty-stricken Muslim women.

Also, Audra sees such a desperate need for missionaries to come to a land that is darkened by fear and superstition. Frankly, she doesn't paint an appealing picture. I myself would prefer to be a missionary many places other than a Muslim country. She doesn't sugarcoat the hardship.

One thing I found wanting was her naming any fruit that she and her family produced. Audra focuses on her relationships with the Muslim women she encountered (even her family is kept in the background) but never mentions if any come to salvation. I would have liked to have read whether any of the Muslims became Christians.

Other than that, this book is an eye opener and I recommend it to anyone considering the mission fields and for all of us because we need to know and understand how many people across the globe live. Not everyone lives in an air conditioned house and drives an SUV.   

To learn more about Audra and her work you can go to her website:

For other book reviews about Muslims you can go:  herehere, and here.  To read another review about modern day missionaries you can go here

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany Publishers in exchange for my honest review.