Books With Which I Wrestle

There are books that I love and can read again and again (Lord of the Rings, Gods and Generals, and Cold Mountain).  There are books that I pick up and stop reading intentionally because either the book meanders and doesn’t seem to have a point or that the author has a point of view to which I am diametrically opposed.  And then sometimes I run across books that seem to have both something in them that intrigues me and something else that doesn’t sit right with me.  These are the books I wrestle with.  Is this a growth area or is this truth mixed up with fallacy?  Or is there truth that can be mined out of them even though the fallacy mix is still there?

Saving Jesus by Robin Meyer is such a book.  The author basically takes the point of view that the church has become so wedded to saying who Jesus was and what he did that how Jesus taught us to live is increasingly becoming lost.  Meyer is a Unitarian minister and his beliefs are unorthodox to say the least.  Nary a miracle happened in his view (at least in any physical sense).  So, I am not with him at all there.  But I do find him on target with how we take Jesus’ words and make them secondary to our wanting to argue about who he was exactly and the nature of how we run churches (or whether it is even important to attend them).

Another book like this is War Without End by Michael Swartz.  In it, he paints the complex scene in both Iraq and Afghanistan well and shows how our good intentions may be far from reaching their intended targets because their country is so alien to us.  I guess it would be like taking some well meaning Iraqis and placing them in the middle of our state government.  How much could they help, even with the power, when they really wouldn’t understand all the dynamics at play?  And yet, when you read about how messed up the situation is over there, I surely ask if it would really be better if we weren’t there?  The opening scene of the Taliban in the soccer stadium is incredible that this kind of thing happens in the 21st century world.

A final book I am reading and wrestling with is Autobiography of an Execution by David Dow.  Dow is a defense attorney who defends people accused of horrible crimes.  His goal is not to get them released but he is simply completely opposed to the death penalty.  He makes a super argument of how the death penalty is by no means offered up justly and isn’t even based upon the crimes completely but depends on who the judge is, who the defense attorneys are, where the trial happens, and even random timing of events.  He also shows how much the death penalty costs compared to life imprisonment (believe it or not, it is much more expensive to put them to death).  This all makes sense to me.  It really does.  But when I read about the actual crimes it gives me pause.  Jesus called on us to judge not but that was judging concerning the eternal fate of someone’s souls – not using discretion on how to best handle them in society.  What bothers me about life imprisonment is not that we are paying for it.  It is that if someone is a monster on the outside, they very likely are the same monster in the prison system and likely continue to terrorize their fellow inmates.  Is there a point where we can say – enough is enough?  Nevertheless, I am continuing to read because Dow goes the distance for his beliefs and doesn’t follow the crowd.

Do you have books with which you wrestle?

All the best,

Tom

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