Book Review

Book Review

BOOK REVIEWS

NOV 14

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation

by Matthew Kelly

(Beacon Publishing, 2015)

Running into forty short chapters, this book gives us in the simplest language what a real encounter with Jesus can mean and how it can change our lives.  Kelly says: “I only ask that you stay open to the possibility. He wants to have a dynamic relationship with you.” The book is “not about the words on the page. It’s about an encounter. … because, whether we are aware of it or not, what you and I need more than anything else is to encounter Jesus.”

God the Father wants us to know His Son. The important question for the Christian is how well we know Him, not through books, but through a personal encounter. Becoming a true Christian means developing a personal relationship with Christ.  “It is time to stop looking for something and start looking for someone—Jesus of Nazareth.” This is what we are invited to. In the early chapters Kelly deals with the person of Christ—his historicity, his personality and the claims to divinity, the radical nature of his life and teachings, and the fact of the Resurrection that is perhaps the most compelling truth of all his claims. The ‘main event’ in Christian history is the Resurrection. Kelly quotes the experience of the atheistic journalist Lee Strobel who studied the Resurrection, leading him into faith. For Kelly, “the soul and the heart of the Gospel” is “give and forgive.” Forgiveness brings peace. Life is a course designed to teach us love.  Prayer brings us closer and closer to Christ. “If you want to stay warm, it is best to stay close to the fire. If you want to live a Christian life, it is best to stay close to Jesus.” Sin is the problem, the sickness that keeps us away from God. We are called to lead joyful lives and share the joy of the Gospel to inspire others. “Allow God to inspire you, to fill you with His power, because he wants to send you to inspire others.”

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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It.

By Paul Collier

(Oxford University Press, 2007).

The book has received superb reviews, such as:

“The best book on international affairs so far this year”; “set to become a classic”; “Terrifically readable”; “Read this book. You will learn much you do not know”; “Provides a penetrating reassessment of why vast populations remain trapped in poverty”; “”One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time”; “If you care about the fate of the poorest people in the world, and want to understand what can be done to help them, read it.”

The author is the director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former World Bank economist. It was Collier who pointed out that nearly two-fifths of Africa’s private wealth is held abroad, much of it in Swiss bank accounts.

Collier speaks of four traps that keep the poorest countries poor: Conflict, presence of natural resources (!), which often increases the corruption and violence, being landlocked with bad neighbours, and bad governance.

Aid alone does not solve these problems. Globalization often makes the situation worse. What Collier proposes is a bold new plan supported by the Group of Eight industrialized nations. If failed states are ever to be helped, the G8 will have to adopt preferential trade policies, new laws against corruption, new international charters, and even conduct carefully calibrated military interventions.

Collier recognizes the need for international cooperation in addressing the four traps.

A book that makes the reader look at a tragic situation in a new way.

 

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Dr.Gigy

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THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN BY THOMAS MERTON

(PUBLISHER: HARCOURT BRACE, 1948)

Thomas Merton is one of the most remarkable minds of the mid-20th century Catholic world. The Seven Storey Mountain is his autobiography. Born in France, Merton came from an anti-Catholic background. He had a tempestuous life till his entry into the Catholic faith at age 23. After years of moral confusion, sexual profligacy and personal search, he became a Trappist monk at 31. Merton’s self-revelation appeals to the modern mind, especially the young in their deep-seated aspirations disappointments and confusions. God is not to be sought in visions and mystical raptures—not everyone gets them—but in the humdrum events and trials of ordinary life. The title is drawn from Book II of Dante’s epic The Divine Comedy, Purgatorio which presents Purgatory as a seven storey mountain. Leaving Cambridge after a life of debauchery, Merton at Columbia University courted Marxism. In the end he realised that he was “sick of being sick.” His observation at one moment is an incisive comment on the modern world: “Men who live only according to their five senses, and seek nothing beyond the gratification of their natural appetites for pleasure and reputation and power, cut themselves off from that charity which is the principle of all spiritual vitality and happiness because it alone saves us from the barren wilderness of our own abominable selfishness.” Merton also introduces us to some of the remarkable individuals that influenced him one way or other. In the conclusion his words echo St Augustine: “My God, it is that gap and that distance which kills me…That is the only reason why I desire Solitude… to be lost to all create things, to die to them… for they remind me of my distance from you.” Surprisingly the book became an instant success and continues to be read widely by seekers of faith a well as the faithful. Time magazine and The New York Times listed it among the best sellers for about a year. The critic William J. Petersen lists it in the 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century. Fulton J. Sheen called it “a twentieth century form of The Confessions of St. Augustine.”

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PROPHETS WITH WINGS: ACCOMPANYING THE YOUNG IN TODAY’S INDIA.

EDITED BY JESU PUDUMAI DOSS & SAHAYADAS FERNANDO (NEW DELHI: AIDBES, 2018. RS 300)

The sixteen chapters of this book, each written by a Salesian author and looking at one aspect of youth ministry today, bring us a fresh and competent look at the youth scene today and the ways we need to respond to it. Here are the themes dealt with: Responses of the young to a questionnaire; Rights in the Church; Intercultural approach to catechesis; Vocational discernment; Biblical models of accompaniment; The Centurion of Capernaum as a leadership model; Socio-political discernment of youth; Peace education for India; Perspectives of Indian educationists; Human enhancements and moral discernment; Accompanying the young in the spirit of Laudato Si; Social responsibility; Accompaniment of tribal youth; Motivational approaches; Spirituality beyond religions; Psychospiritual perspective. Much information and many insights and clarifications are found in the 369 large pages. India is a country of young people; the church needs to reach out to youth in loving and effective ways. This book provides much information on the world of the young, and sensible suggestions on how to make a difference for the better.

 

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Book Reviews

Sep 10

Christ and the Media

By Malcolm Muggeridge  

Publisher: Regent College Publishing, 1977

Malcolm Muggeridge was one of the most celebrated British media personalities of the last century. During his production of the BBC TV programme  Something Beautiful for God (1968), he met Mother Teresa—an experience that radically changed this former skeptic and led him to the Catholic faith. Christ and the Media is a collection of his lectures on the mass media. Spiced with his caustic wit and sharp insights into the influence of the mass media in contemporary civilization, Muggeridge draws our attention to the way the mass media tries to substitute dangerous illusions in place of truth.

Muggeridge writes that future historians would see today’s people “as having created in the media a Frankenstein monster which no one knows how to control or direct, and marvel that we should have so meekly subjected ourselves to its destructive and often malign influence.”  He also takes note of the fake experiments and surveys attempting to gain scientific legitimacy to prove that violence and pornography on TV do not influence social behavior, while ironically the advertisers who spend huge sums of money for prime time know better!  “I find it fascinating that credulity about scientifically stated absurdities should thus exceed the wildest examples of religious superstition.” Recalling his refreshing experience of interviewing Mother Theresa, he observes : “What is required to make a successful Christian television programme is merely to find a true Christian  and put him or her on the screen.”

The book makes engaging reading for the common reader as cultural commentary sprinkled with personal anecdotes and witty comments and at the same time evaluating the modern mass media in light of the Gospel truths.  His main argument is that “the media have created and belongs to, a world of fantasy, the more dangerous because it purports to be, and is largely taken as being, the real world. Christ, on the other hand, proclaimed a new dimension of reality.”

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Mere Christianity

C S Lewis.

Fontana, 1952.

C S Lewis is one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the 20th century, besides being a brilliant academic, popular novelist and literary critic. At age forty, he gave up atheism and went on to write some brilliant works that are considered classics. Mere Christianity is based on a series of BBC radio broadcasts given at Oxford during World War II. It addresses Christian belief and Biblical truths from a rational and common sense point of view with sound logic.

Lewis writes about basic Christian beliefs. He speaks of it as ‘mere’ Christianity, as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions.  He sees Christianity “as a great house with a large hall. Different rooms leading off the hall are the different denominations.” He is not primarily concerned about which room Christians occupy, but he is concerned about getting them into the hall. He divides the book into four sections beginning with the moral argument for the existence of God. In the second part he deals with the basic doctrines, examining the rival conceptions of   God in the world. Presenting the arguments for the divinity of Christ, Lewis makes note of the attempts of various secular thinkers to reduce him to the status of a simple preacher, a sage or a good man. Lewis counters by saying that “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic or else he would be the Devil. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” In the third Section, he elaborates on the Christian virtues, social morality, marriage, forgiveness, charity, hope and faith. The heartiest thing about the book is that it is theology accessible to the commoner written in a colloquial style.

 

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Book Reviews

AUGUST 13

The Last Lecture

By Randy Pausch (Hyperion, 2008)

A touching bestseller that sold 5 million copies.

Randy Pausch was professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania. The book is based on the last lecture he gave, just months before his death at age 47. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a few months of life. The lecture was given in September 2007; Pausch died in July 2008.

Carnegie Mellon has the practice of inviting faculty members to give a “Last Lecture’’—a lecture in which a professor would share whatever s/he would consider his/her final message to the world.

The talk was moving, not only because of its contents and the enthusiastic and humorous way Pausch spoke, with but especially because his four hundred colleagues attending the lecture knew of his condition. His wife sat in the front row, struggling not to weep.

Pausch began with his childhood dreams, offering some lessons which he wants his children to learn from him. We should have fun in everything we do, he said, and life should be lived to the fullest, because we do not know when we will lose it.  He said making our life meaningful is about “enabling the dreams of others.” The key statement he makes is an inspiration for all. “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams; it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself; the dreams will come to you.” He has this message for educators: “The best gift an educator can give is to get someone to become self-reflective.” The 2012 edition of the book features a short foreword written by Jai, his widow, reflecting on the time since her husband’s death…

 

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Book Review

JULY 13

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 

Rachel Carson was an American biologist who wrote two popular books on sea life. But her third book, Silent Spring, created an epoch—the epoch of environmentalism that has become the most vital global issue today, because human civilization stands threatened by a variety of man-made disasters in the making. The book changed the way we perceived the idea of unbridled progress based on industrialism and what was designated as the ‘Green Revolution’ dependent on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used indiscriminately.  Carson was inspired by a letter written by her friend making a note of the disappearance of birds in rural America during the spring season. Many creatures including fishes and other forms of aquatic life were fast becoming extinct from the water bodies in Europe and America. Carson made an intensive investigation and came up with the book that graphically describes what happened. The extensive use of pesticides, particularly DDT, which was considered a magic solution to a variety of pest troubles during the years following the World War II. These synthetic insecticides were poisoning food chains, from insects upwards. Till that time the effect of chemicals in farming and domestic life had never been considered a serious threat to the various forms of life on earth. Carson’s book became controversial, inviting attacks from the industrial lobby and the political establishment that supported them. She was even branded a ‘communist.’  But she stood her ground, despite the fact that she was suffering from breast cancer…

 

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Review by Dr. Gigy Joseph

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BOOK REVIEWS

JUNE 16

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

By Nujood Ali. Delphine Minoui Linda Coverdale, Translator. 2010.

 This book is the autobiography of Nujood Ali, an illiterate Yemeni girl who received international attention for her courageous stand against barbaric social practices.

Nujood was born into a large Muslim family in Yemen. Her father practiced polygamy. Her brothers went to school. At age nine, she was taken out of school and married to a thirty-one-year old man. There is a Yemeni tribal proverb: “To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.”  Raped by her husband on the very first night, mentally and physically abused by her mother-in-law, Nujood found life a horror. After two months of this, she escaped from the in-laws’ house. Her father’s second wife advised her to seek a divorce. In Yemen, such a thing was unimaginable. She ran away with the money given to her to buy bread, and went to the court. A judge took her into his protection and ordered her husband and father to be taken into custody. The advocates in the city and the press supported her cause.

The young girl’s courage and determination became a sensation in Yemen.  International media and human rights activists made her a heroine of human rights. Her case served to highlight the cause of young girls facing sexual slavery in the name of marriage. Nujood says, “I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”  Shada Nasser (Nujood calls her as “second mother”), a women’s rights activist and advocate, represented her in court. Nujood became the first child bride in Yemen to win a divorce in a country where nearly half the prepubescent girls are married off to senior men. She returned to school with the dream of becoming a lawyer and helping girls in similar situations.  She faced government persecution. In 2008, Glamour magazine chose her, along with Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, as Women of the Year. One result of her action: Yemen raised the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18.

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Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time.

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Penguin. 2006.

This memoir of Greg Mortenson, the co-founder of non-profit ‘Central Asia Institute (CAI), Pennies for Peace’ tells his experience of trying to build schools and hospitals in the remote villages of  Afghanistan and Pakistan during the days of Taliban terror. The title refers to the Afghan custom of hospitality according to which the third cup of tea shared with a guest makes him almost a family member. Mortenson had such an experience when he stumbled into Korphe, after his failed attempt to climb K 2, the second tallest mountain in the world to honour his late sister Christa, who was disabled. He ended up building a school for girls in the remote Korphe, tucked away among the Karakoram Mountains.  He saw children attempting to learn writing without the help of a trained teacher, writing with sticks in mud. In return for the villagers’ hospitality, he promised to build a school for them.

Mortenson saved money from his salary as a nurse. His missionary parents had built a hospital and a school in Tanzania where he and his sister grew up.  His struggle to raise funds received the generous support of the wealthy physicist and mountaineer Jean Horni.

Despite the perils of traveling and living in the difficult terrain, as well as personal tragedies at home, he finished the project. His wife and friends also joined in for support.

The CAI helped to build more schools in the mountains. But the violent Taliban and some mullahs were against girls’ education. The Taliban destroyed some of these schools. Mortenson himself survived two kidnappings and two fatwas. Organisational problems also plagued him in America. The Taliban terrorist groups built madrassas in place of secular schools where they trained boys for terror. He faced opposition and hate from both sides.  This book became an instant best seller and Time Magazine’s Asia Book of The Year.


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BOOK REVIEWS

MAY 14

Amazing Grace for Those Who Suffer: Ten Life-Changing Stories of Hope and Healing. by Jeff Cavins & Matthew Pinto (Eds.). 2002

This book presents ten real life stories of suffering and faith. These are people who have gone through it and have actually experienced the work of God’s grace in their individual circumstances.
Each experience is unique. Some are plagued by physical disabilities and pain. Some struggle with unexpected losses—a child or spouse, or an unborn child Some struggle with addictions, persecution or abandonment.
Janet Moylan speaks about how she faced up to the loss of her husband and a child in the sea and she had to choose between God and despair.
Carl Cleveland was a successful lawyer who was framed on false grounds and had to spend a year and a half in prison, which changed his life in a way he could not have imagined. But he believes that God was sending him a message. “If we accept suffering in faith and turn to God without recrimination, salvation is truly ours,” he concludes. Peggy Stokes, a victim of childhood sexual abuse and its devastating consequences, finally finds peace in the assurance that in Christ there is hope, there is healing. Grace Mc Kinnnon has to struggle with poverty and cerebral palsy and survive.
In each of these stories we find people asking the question that we all ask: “Why does God allow me to suffer” Where is He when we need him? The answer is presented in the final section of the book in the words of St John Paul, “Down through the centuries and generations, it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace” (Salvifici Doloris, n. 26).

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Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Henri Nouwen had a distinguished career as an academic, preacher and writer. He quit his post as a Harvard University professor and spent the last ten years of his life looking after the physically and mentally challenged. He wrote over forty books that enjoy wide readership.
This book was sparked by an encounter with a young journalist named Fred. Nouwen developed a deep friendship with him and the book is addressed to Fred. Fred’s life makes Nouwen realise that there are millions of undistinguished people who are possessed by a deep spiritual hunger. He, like Fred, is among them as a “fellow-traveller searching for life, light and truth.” The key idea is from the Gospel of Matthew 3:17: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” It applies to each one of us who must take possession of that belovedness and grow into it. “The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection,” the “enemy of the spiritual life, because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Each one therefore has to make that great spiritual journey to claim belovedness, transforming ourselves into that state of belovedness, letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do.”
How different would our life be, were we truly able to trust that it multiplies in being given away! How different would our life be if we could but believe that every little act of faithfulness, every gesture of love, every word of forgiveness, every little bit of joy and peace, will multiply and multiply as long as there are people to receive it…and that—even then—there will be leftovers!”


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April 12

The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows. Mother Dolores Hart, OSB and Richard De Neut (Chicago: Ignatius Press, 2013)

Movie fans were stunned when Dolores Hart, a glamorous young star with ten highly successful movies to her credit, announced her decision to join a cloistered monastery. She was leaving her family, many film contracts and a fiancé with whom she was getting ready to marry. Dolores was initiated into the Church while in school. Bright, talented and beautiful, she yearned to become a movie star. While at the university, she was spotted by producer Hal Wallis. She soon became America’s sweetheart, starring with prominent actors like Stephen Boyd, Anthony Quinn and Montgomery Clift, reaching the top with Come Fly with Me (1963). She also made her mark in Broadway theatres. But she had a vague feeling from her early days that she had been destined for God.  In 1963, while shooting for her roles as Saint Clare in Francis of Assisi (1961), she had a chance meeting with Pope John XXIII, who made a deep impression on her.

Her life in the convent was by no means an easy one, but she never doubted the choice. Fifty years later, she would say, “I left the world I knew in order to re-enter it on a more profound level.  Many people don’t understand the difference between a vocation and your own idea of something. A vocation is a call—one you don’t necessarily want. The only thing I ever wanted was to be an actress. But I was called by God.” She later became the Abbess and helped to make her institute gain great prominence and attract new vocations too. She was also made member of the Academy awards Committee. A film based on her experience titled, God is the Bigger than Elvis, won an Oscar nomination. In one of her interviews she reflected that turning to religious life is not giving up one’s personality or one’s God-given gifts. “Religious life has to become an expression of the gifts of the person.” The highly readable Ear of the Heart presents the remarkable picture of a woman of admirable courage, faith and humour.

A Human Being Among, Not Above, Other Human Beings: Priests Speak from the Heart, edited by Joseph Thenasseril SSP (Mumbai: St. Paul’s, 2010). Rs 95.00.

In this simple and very readable book, twenty-four priests share their experience of the priesthood. It is not a theoretical book about the theology or spirituality of priesthood, but first person accounts of how each has lived this vocation. The writers come from different backgrounds and ministries—parish work, missionary life, formation, leadership role as bishops. The personal nature of the writing, the diversity in backgrounds and ministries, and the evident honesty of the writers make this an attractive, easy and inspiring book to read.

The writers are: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II; Bishops Thomas Menamparambil SDB, Vincent M. Concessao, Kevin McDonald, Malcolm McMahon OP, Agnelo Gracias, Michael Fitzgerald M. Afr., John Mone and Ferdinand J. Fonseca; Fathers Kurien Kunnumpuram SJ, Praveen Fernandes, George Kaitholil SSP, Joe Anthony SJ, James Valladares, Cyril Axelrod, Paul Thelakat, Timothy Radcliffe OP, Sebastian Kizhakkeyil MST, Vincent Barboza, Michael Peters CPPS, Lesser, Larry Pereira and Joe Mannath SDB.


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HEALING FROM SEXUAL ABUSE

MARCH 16

Instead of presenting one or two book reviews, as we normally do, we present six books on healing from the effects of sexual abuse. We have in mind especially superiors, formators, counsellors and spiritual directors—persons who are in a privileged position to help survivors of sexual abuse. Healing is possible, but victims and survivors need help. Since the prevalence of sexual abuse in India is high, all of us (parents, priests, religious and counsellors) would do well to learn more about helping victims and survivors. (Editor)

1. Wendy Maltz. Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Third Edition). William Morrow Paperbacks, 2012. (Indian Price: Rs 799.00). Its three parts deal with: (1) Becoming aware; (2) Making the Changes; (3) Creating Positive Experiences.
2. Dan Allender. The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. 2008 (Rs 816.00). Writes with knowledge of Church settings.
3. Ellen Bass & Laura Davis. Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Men and Women Who Were Sexually Abused as Children. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2003. ($7.98). A simple book for those who are beginning the process of healing.
4. Beverly Engel. The Right to Innocence: Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Therapeutic 7-Step Self-Help Program for Men and Women, Including How to Choose a Therapist and Find a Support Group. Ivy Books, 1990. (Rs 896.90). Another simple, short and introductory book written in non-technical language.
5. Karen A. Duncan. Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Journey for Women. Praeger, 2004 ($19.95). The author, a family therapist, presents the true stories of eighteen women survivors, and how healing occurs in stages.
6. William Lee Carter. It Happened to Me: A Teen’s Guide to Overcoming Sexual Abuse (workbook). New Harbinger Publications, 2002. ($22.93). A simple book written for teenagers and those who work with them.


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BOOK REVIEWS

14

C S Lewis – The Problem of Pain.

(First published 1940; HarperCollins revised edition 2009)

Scholar, teacher, novelist, literary critic and Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) is highly popular in the English-speaking world even today. The Problem of Pain focuses on the fundamental issues of evil and human suffering: Whence came evil? Is God truly good? Why did God create human beings, knowing beforehand that they would fall?

Lewis begins with a recollection of his early atheistic view of life—of the vastness of the universe controlled by chance, seemingly indifferent to human fate, purposeless and constantly moving towards dissolution and, above all, human cruelty, pain and suffering which rule out a benevolent God.  “If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He were almighty He would be able to do what he wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.” The answer to the problem starts with the question: “If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?”  He observes that “the spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been ground for religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.”

Lewis explores the source of the notion of God from the experience of the “Numinous” (meaning ‘the uncanny supernatural or God’) of moral experience that are shared by all religions. But the Judeo-Christian tradition adds God into the question. Jewish tradition combines God with morality. Later in history God becomes a human being in Christ. Lewis puts forth his argument for the divinity of Christ looking at what He did and said and declares: “Either He was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else He was, and is, precisely what He said.” A description of Christ as a ‘simple preacher’ or a ‘wise man’ etc. would be a reduction. Lewis discusses related issues, like human evil, heaven, hell, etc., in a most engaging colloquial manner that even the average reader can understand.

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Mitch Albom:

Have a Little Faith: A True Story.

Hyperion Books, 2009.

This book, coming after Albom’s bestselling Tuesdays with Morrie, is about the author’s re-entry into the world of his lost Jewish faith after a long absence. Rabbi Albert Lewis (The Reb), sensing that he is nearing death, asks Mitch to do the eulogy at his funeral. Never serious about religion, the author is perplexed by the request, but agrees. He conducts many interviews with him, which helps him understand the man deeply and also find his own way back to faith.

There is also the parallel story of African-American Pastor Henry Covington, an ex-convict and reformed drug addict. Covington is the founder- pastor of a church ‘I am My Brother’s Keeper.’  The homeless people of downtown Detroit find refuge there. But the building is in a state of decay. Over eight years, Mitch builds up a relationship with these two religious leaders. It transforms him into a true believer.

He also comes to learn that there are many paths to God. At the heart of things there is a deep unity of the human spirit that builds a community which only true faith can create. His interviews with the Reb and Covington bring him to the awareness that, although we may have lots of contacts and acquaintances, they are not a community. Community is built upon faith and deeper relationships, which make the whole humankind an extended family.

At the climax of the story, Mitch delivers the eulogy for the Reb. The mourners are also delightfully surprised by a pre-recorded goodbye speech by the Reb played at his funeral by Teela Singh, a Hindu friend, in which the Reb speaks to his friends as if he is speaking from heaven. In the speech the Reb has answers to two questions raised to him before.  One is whether he believed in God. The answer is yes. The second is about life after death, to which the Reb replies posthumously (!) ” My answer… yes.. .But friends, I am sorry. Now that I know, I can’t even tell you.” Mitch later sets up a charity meant to help the homeless people of Detroit with Covington. Ten percent of the proceeds of this book are dedicated to this purpose.


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