Category Archives: Current Events

The Journey by Sanna

As I lay down on the ground with my 7 and 10 year old boys to read this book I considered the reasons for doing so. This book is not your typical children’s book with an upbeat and happy story. This is a story about war, death, destruction, fear, migration and refugees. Why should I read this to my young boys? Because I want them to understand the crisis and to empathize with those who have lost almost everything. Empathy is so powerful and it’s so lacking in the world today.

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna
Flying Eye Books
September 2016

We took turns reading the beautifully illustrated pages about the war (obviously Syria based on the starting point and the journey). The reading level was higher than my first grader but fine for my fourth grader. As we finished, I took a minute to unpack this for them. We discussed what happened and what it would be like to live through this. I explained that this is a true story and it really happens. I showed them before and after pictures of the destruction in Syria (careful to avoid pictures of casualties and injuries). “Why don’t we stop this?” they asked. I said it wasn’t that easy. In language they could understand I told them about the crisis and encouraged them to care and to pray for these people.

Hours later when they told mom about this story they were still upset that we couldn’t save these people – the nearly 6 million displaced, the over 4 million refugees, and the nearly half a million deaths. My hope is that thanks to a book like this children and their adult readers can come to empathize and care. That this isn’t just a news story that can be ignored.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

God’s Not Dead 2

gods-not-dead-2Is this not-quite-a-direct-sequel just another overly simplistic “Christian” film serving to highlight the Newsboys on stage again – or is there a story worth telling here? The quick answer: Unfortunately, it’s more the former.

God’s Not Dead 2
PureFlix Entertainment
April 2016

The first God’s Not Dead was an emotional punch to the intellect with some really interesting data for Christians looking for apologetics-lite, (which is to say the apologetics data without the details.) The presentations in the classroom of the first movie were outstanding but shallow and too quick. The interactions between characters were under-developed and the atheist was an offensive caricature. The ending was far too tidy. Some of these same problems infest God’s Not Dead 2 as well.

Grace Wesley (a constantly concerned and very earnest Melissa Joan Hart) is a school teacher who, while talking to Brooke Thawley (Hayley Orrantia), one of her students after school and off campus about the loss of her brother, says that she finds hope in Jesus. Brooke then (very coincidentally) finds that her brother had a Bible and was keeping his faith a secret from their unbelieving parents. After reading some of the Bible, Brooke brings up a quote by Jesus in a class on non-violent civil disobedience and asks her teacher if the quote fits the discussion. Grace says it does. The movie is very careful to show the only time Grace proselytizes is off campus, while in the classroom Grace only answers the question raised by a student in a very reasonable, non-religious way.

No matter how reasonable, Grace’s school decides to hold a disciplinary hearing for bringing religion up in class. Grace refuses to recant – simultaneously affirming her Constitutional right to free speech and her religious duties to follow God first – and so the discussion goes to court to allow the judicial system to determine wrongdoing (or not).

Here’s where it get’s very shallow. The lawyers who take up the case are (of course) from the ACLU and are depicted as preying on the situation and Brooke’s parent (even selling them on how this case will help Brooke get into college). Pete Kane (yes, like in killing Abel), played by Ray Wise, is nefarious, self-serving, one dimensional and unbelievable. The only thing we know about him personally is that he wears and respects shiny shoes. We know literally nothing more about him. I say unbelievable, but what I mean is that it is only unbelievable outside of a “Christian” film. In this film, it makes total sense since much of the message is clear pandering to the Religious Right.

In a promising change from the first film, there is an unbeliever in the film who is reasonable, more fleshed out and who grows throughout: Tom Endler, Grace’s lawyer (played by Jesse Metcalfe.) While Tom does read some of the apologetics information he doesn’t do a quick death-bed confession of Jesus or couple up with Grace, thankfully. He is consistently himself throughout and believable.

Rev. Dave (reprised by David A.R. White) is what connects this movie to the last (along with a couple cameos from the previous film) when he gets jury duty for the case. Rev. Dave has to make a troubling decision – completely unrelated to the court case – to turn in three years of his sermons to the government. Why he was asked to do this or to what entity in the government is unclear. This sub-plot felt like pandering and fear mongering, but then I looked it up. In 2014, Houston asked five pastors to do just this. From Snopes.com, “The subpoena asked the religious leaders to turn over “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” (HERO stands for Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.) So, still unrelated, but yikes!?

Like the first movie, the courtroom allows for some interesting apologetics to be clearly explained in what I think are the best scenes (and possibly most redeeming scenes) in the movie. Specifically the scene with J. Warner Wallace, the author of Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. In one scene he says, “I’m not a Christian today because I was raised that way or because it satisfies some need or accomplishes some goal. I’m simply a Christian because it’s evidentially true.” Scenes like this are when the movie shines.

How the court case comes out – if you need a hint just remember this is a “Christian” film – isn’t the biggest issue to the filmmakers. Like the last film, at the end you’ll see a list of many court cases like this one that purport to prove Christian persecution in the United States. But I’m left wondering if this storyline was a good example of the “persecution.” I always ask the question, “What if the actions being discussed were done by an [X] instead of a Christian? Would I be cool with that?” In this case, what if the teacher discussed Mohammed and was open about her Muslim faith? Not a big deal since the class room scene wasn’t against the law; there was no proselytizing. But what if that same Muslim teacher met with your daughter after a significant loss and pointed her to the Quran? Would you still be ok? Probably not, which means it was probably not cool to do that as a Christian – at least legally in pluralistic America. This is one view. We either need to be ok with everyone sharing their faith or none. But like a lot of propositions by the Religious Right, Christians want to be free to share our faith but we don’t like it when others do. (Just check out all the posts about kids learning about Islam in school for evidence.)

A reasonable conversation about the issue of religious freedom doesn’t happen in these movies. Instead we get straw man arguments and over simplistic motivations. The other teachers and principle are unrelentingly anti-Christian, the lawyers are one sided, the only reasonable people in these films are the Christians and that’s just too simple for a movie trying to shed light on a complicated problem. Christians have the right to be Christians everywhere we are. We have freedom of speech. But we need to balance the rights and expectations of who we work for and those we are talking to. What if Brooke was offended by Grace’s recommendation to look in the Bible? What if Brooke were Hindu or Muslim and this proselytizing created a hostile environment in the classroom? Because it didn’t in this story doesn’t mean it wouldn’t or couldn’t in real life. We have to be mindful of this.

All this to say that this is exactly the movie you’d expect. It’s shallow, quick and affirms the fears of Christian Americans that atheists are out to get us and to take away our rights. Atheists are evil and have nothing better to do (like scientist professors in the previous film). They are in power and we are the underdogs. And because everything wraps up too cleanly at the end of every film (with a Newsboys concert, of course) we have hope. Blah.

Christian entertainment could be so much more. The scripts could be more complex, with at least some measure of nuance. Not every opponent is an enemy and out to get us. There are some situations where the courts, the ACLU or schools have gone too far and it is great that there are legal defense groups out there to fight for religious liberty. But telling the stories could be so much better.

(It also doesn’t build trust that this movie is only out to help shed light on serious issues rather than make money when there are so many books, CDs and journals and so on for sale already a month ahead of the release. Search Amazon. It’s incredible – in a sad way.)

Because of the shallow characters, the mostly vanilla acting, and the overly one dimensional plot that doesn’t take it’s issues seriously I recommend you pass on this one.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This pre-release movie was screened by the studio.

Strong Female Characters Panel Video #WizardWorld Comic Con Nashville

BookGateway.com Highlights from the panel on Strong Female Characters: What They Are And What They’re Not from Wizard World Comic Con Nashville on 9/26/2015.

Moderator:
Jenna Busch is the founder of Legion of Leia and has hosted and written for sites like IGN, AOL, Huffington Post and more. She co-hosted Cocktails With Stan with the legendary Stan Lee and has appeared on G4’s Attack of the Show, Fresh Ink, Tabletop with Wil Wheaton, NPR and Al Jazeera America, covers film/TV/gaming/comics. She’s currently a co-host on the entertainment web series Most Craved. She’s been published in the comics anthology Womanthology, is a chapter author for Star Wars Psychology and Game of Thrones Psychology, moderates and appears on panels at cons around the country and owns a terrifying amount of swords and 20-sided dice. There are also those My Little Pony voice overs that give one nightmares.

Panelists:
Writer, editor and publisher Renee Witterstaetter is the author of “Nick Cardy: The Aritst at War,” “Excess: The Art of Michael Golden,” “Tex: The Art or Mark Texeira,” the children’s book “Kerry and the Scary Things,” and “Dying for Action: The Life and Films of Jackie Chan,” among many others. In addition to on-going film work, she is the President of Little Eva Ink Publishing and Eva Ink Artist Group, which represents artists and writers in comics, storyboards, fine art painting and more (www.evainkartistgroup.). Renee is also one of the producers of the “Creator Chronicles” DVD series with Woodcrest Productions, featuring interviews with major industry creators such as George Perez, Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Joe Jusko, Matt Wagner and many more.

Genese Davis is an American author, host, columnist, and media personality. She is the author of The Holder’s Dominion, a next-generation thriller heralded as a breakthrough novel by Publishers Weekly. Her writing expertise expands across various genres including thriller, fantasy, gamer-lit, and new adult, as well as screenplay, playwriting, and video game lore. Davis is an in-demand host, speaker, and moderator for TV, radio, web-series, conventions, academic fairs, publishing workshops, and literary and entertainment expos. Davis is a featured columnist at MMORPG.com, and she is the founder of The Gamer In You. She was awarded the iGR Woman of the Year for her outstanding efforts in debunking stereotypes and for bringing the video game industry the first new adult, gaming-thriller, The Holder’s Dominion.

If you’re not familiar with Jacque, it’s probably a good bet you’re at least familiar with her name, Nodell, as in Martin Nodell. That’s her grandfather. Yup, the story of how Jacque got into comics started way back in 1940, with the creation of the Golden Age Green Lantern. After being toted to countless comic book conventions as a child, it was only natural that Jacque wanted to contribute to the comic book industry. After a brief stint lettering the Ape Entertainment series Super Human Resources, Jacque put her academic training to work by starting the popular site, Sequential Crush — a blog devoted to preserving the memory of romance comic books and the creative teams that published them throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Jacque’s writing has been featured in the new Rosy Press anthology Fresh Romance, and the Oni Press romantic comedy, Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars. She was also featured on PBS’s History Detectives, and has been called a “must-read for anyone with an interest in American pop culture of the era.” In addition to blogging, Jacque is currently working on her first book about the romance comics that will be out this spring.

Janet Lee (artist, the Return of the Dappermen)

**Details taken from Wizard World press releases. See http://www.wizardworld.com/nashville2015.html

You Can’t Sit With Us by Nancy Rue

CantSitWithUsThis is the second novel in a fascinating trilogy that deals with the same events but from different perspectives.

You Can’t Sit With Us: An Honest Look at Bullying from the Victim
Mean Girl Makeover
By Nancy Rue
Thomas Nelson
December 2014

Book 1 of the series, So Not Ok, dealt with the bullying of Ginger from the perspective of Tori, a bystander. This book is from the perspective of Ginger, the bullied girl. The final book will be from the perspective of the bully, Kylie – [SPOILER] and progresses the story to what happens after she is caught [SPOILER]. Here are the descriptions of the first two books:

So Not Okay tells the story of Tori Taylor, a quiet sixth grader at Gold Country Middle School in Grass Valley, California. Tori knows to stay out of the way of Kylie, the queen bee of GCMS. When an awkward new student named Ginger becomes Kylie’s new target, Tori whispers a prayer of thanks that it’s not her. But as Kylie’s bullying of Ginger continues to build, Tori feels guilty and tries to be kind to Ginger. Pretty soon, the bullying line of fire directed toward Ginger starts deflecting onto Tori, who must decide if she and her friends can befriend Ginger and withstand Kylie’s taunts, or do nothing and resume their status quo. Tori’s decision dramatically changes her trajectory for the rest of the school year.

You Can’t Sit With Us tells the story of Ginger Hollingberry, a new sixth grader at Gold Country Middle School. Ginger has been the brunt of teasing and taunting from the queen bee of GCMS, Kylie Steppe, and her so-called Wolf Pack. Kylie and the Pack favor a new and especially hurtful medium of taunting: social networking. What follows is a candid look into the growing world of cruel cyberbullying, showing kids that bullying doesn’t always end at school—it can now follow you even into your home and torture 24 hours a day.

The focus, of course, is to teach empathy and encourage young readers to attack bullying – not the bully. An important distinctive.

Here’s what my tween daughter said of the book: In the book “You Cant Sit With Us” I realized that bullying is a serious thing and that even though at times some people take it as a joke it can become very serious. I also learned that to a bully, bullying is just a joke to them but to the victim it hurts deeply. This book helped me see what bullying is really like. It gave me a new vision of real life problems that needed solving. I can now understand what its like to be seriously bullied or hurt because of this book. I really enjoyed this book because of the way the characters solved the problem and how it was all sorted out. I saw that even though your problem is big and scary you can still fix it no matter how hard it looks because nothing is impossible.

This is a “Christian” book and there are some references to spirituality and to the Bible. However, it is done in a very natural way that connects the dots between God, his will for us, and our situations. This is an intriguing trilogy that young readers will learn a lot from, parents will rejoice in their children reading, and will teach empathy in a world that sorely needs a lesson in it.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Wizard World Comic Con Nashville Coming!

Ron Garney, Peter Bagge, Ethan Van Sciver, Phil Ortiz Top Comics Creators At Wizard World Nashville Comic Con, September 26-28

BookGateway.com will be there live! Pictures, interviews and all the events. Watch BookGateway.com and BuddyHollywood.com for live coverage!

Arthur Suydam, Tom Raney, Roland Boschi, Kevin Maguire Among Leaders Of 50+ In Artist Alley At Music City Center

NASHVILLE, Tenn., September 5, 2014Ron Garney (“Thor,” “Uncanny X-Force”), Peter Bagge (“Hate,” “MAD”), Ethan Van Sciver (“Green Lantern,” “Flash”) and Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons,” “Muppet Babies”) are among the leading comics creators scheduled to attend william-shatner-68Wizard World Nashville Comic Con, September 26-28 at the Music City Center. In all, more than 50 writers and artists will populate Artist Alley at the show.

Other superstar comics creators scheduled to attend include Arthur eliza-dushku-3Suydam (“Marvel Zombies,” “Army of Darkness”), Tom Raney (“AVX: Consequences,” “Avengers Academy”), Roland Boschi (“Wolverine MAX,” “X-Men”), Michael Golden (“Spider-Man,” “Hulk”), Greg Horn levar-burton-13(“Walt Disney,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Rob Prior (“Heavy Metal,” “Spawn the Impaler”) and many others.

Additionally, Wizard World Nashville VIP attendees will receive a free copy of the God of Thunder #25, limited-edition variant cover drawn by Raney, at registration.

ron-garney-10Wizard World Nashville Comic Con is the 12th of 16 events in the 2014 series produced by Wizard World, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD). It will also feature leading celebrities such as tom-raney-4William Shatner (Star Trek, “T.J. Hooker”), Lauren Cohan (“The Walking Dead,” “The Vampire Diaries”), WWE® Superstar Kane®, WWE® Divas The Bella Twins™, Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past, American Horror Story), Eliza Dushku (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (“Charmed”)and Alan Tudyk (“Firefly,” 42), and a variety of activities, exhibitors and special attractions.

For more on the 2014 Wizard World Nashville Comic Con, visit http://www.wizd.me/NashvillePR.

About Wizard World: Wizard World (OTCBB: WIZD) produces Comic Cons and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, television, cosplay, comics, graphic novels, toys, video gaming, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, the Wizard World Film Festival, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Full event information can be found at http://www.wizd.me/PR.

Wizard World Remaining 2014 Schedule

September 12-14 – Wizard World Richmond Comic Con
September 26-28 – Wizard World Nashville Comic Con
October 2-4 – Wizard World Austin Comic Con
October 31-November 2 – Wizard World Ohio Comic Con
November 7-9 – Wizard World Tulsa Comic Con
November 21-23 – Wizard World Reno Comic Con


Press release (c) Wizard World.

Beyond: Edward Snowden by D’Orazio and Lauer

Let’s get this out of the way: if Snowden is right then the NSA just cached this review and could use it to aggregate data on what we at BookGateway.com and I personally believe about a variety of topics, including America, the President, political views, beliefs and more. If that bothers you then you may have Snowden to thank (or blame) for illegally leaking info about these programs to the public. The real question is: what now?

Beyond: Edward Snowden
Written by Valerie D’Orazio
Illustrated by Dan Lauer
Bluewater Productions
May 2014

Is Snowden a whistleblower or a traitor? How did he get access to so much sensitive data? What has he done with the data? That’s one side of the coin. The other side is more about why the NSA is collecting all this data? What will the NSA do with the data? And how did the NSA get approval to collect so much data on American citizens? Yeah, no answers here. Just questions. Exactly like the comic.

Like an illustrated Wikipedia page, Bluewater and D’Orazio’s Snowden is a brief biographical illustrated article that gives insight and asks questions that are missing from so much of the nation’s dialog on this subject. Not simply traitor or patriot but more real life. Nuanced. And complicated. A great starting place for those interested in Snowden and aren’t sure they are getting the whole story by just reading the headlines.

D’Orazio does a good job of building a biography of Snowden prior to his leaks and then posing questions. She doesn’t answer them and does a good job at walking the line between journalist and editorial. Lauer does an adequate job of illustration. It’s stilted and stiff, but the style matches the almost realism of the topic. It won’t win awards and isn’t pandering to the Jim Lee fanboys. It works though.

For more information about Snowden, check out this video of his recent interview with Brian Williams.


Inside The Mind of Edward Snowden ~ NBC News… by HumanSlinky

If you are interested in these kinds of instructive, editorial comics then check out the rest of the Bluewater lineup. They’ve also covered newsworthy people and topics such as Colin Powell, the Tea Party Movement, Hillary Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Christie, Anderson Cooper, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Barak Obama.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Future by Gore

In the future, according to the former vice president, national governments will hold less sway than multinational corporations, there will be no privacy and all the world’s information will be freely available, we will struggle with basic strategic resources like topsoil and fresh water all the while we will try to change the genetic make-up of humanity (with possibly costly genetic failures) and continue to ruin our planet’s ecology and climate by the reckless use of greenhouse gasses. Yeah, the future looks a lot like Blade Runner.

The Future
By Al Gore
Random House
January 2013

The problem with Gore’s book? It’s right on. The changes that science fiction writers have seen and envisioned coming are coming and are even here. (Consider The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi for a recent, excellent novel with similar themes.)

Unlike Science Fiction, the Vice President breaks down the coming changes in deep, but easier to understand sections:

1) Earth, Inc. – the globalization of economic factors, the movement of labor from developed to developing countries and “robosourcing” (the movement of labor from humans to robots.
2) The Global Mind –the rise of the internet to connect all of mankind in network similar to the way a mind works with billions of bits of information travelling instantaneously around the globe and (frighteningly) the complete lack of privacy users can expect.
3) The change in power – from U.S. centric to global, from governments to corporations.
4) Strategic Resource Loss – the depletion of strategic resources like topsoil and fresh water due to the increase in the world’s population.
5) Future Science – the technology that is rapidly changing the way we practice medicine, how we have the power to manipulate DNA and the path of our genetic future along with new techs that will impact our world and lives.
6) Climate Change – (of course) the impact of manmade global warming and climate changes due to reckless use of greenhouse gases.

This book is so dense that the audio book is 18 hours long and filled with words that would make your average young adult reader grimace in lack of comprehension. There are some great call-outs, though, that everyone should be able to understand. (And some movies that warn of a similar issue, for those who do read at a young adult level 🙂

“When I became Vice President in 1993, there were on average four different offices representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture located within every one of the 3000 counties in the United States yet the percentage of total jobs represented by farm jobs had declined to 2%. In other words, a determined and expensive national policy to promote agriculture for a century and a half did little or nothing to prevent the massive loss of employment opportunities on farms. Although these policies arguably contributed to the massive increase in agricultural productivity. But the larger point is that many systemic technology driven changes are simply too powerful for any set of policies to hold back.”

The Vice President rightly points out that the changes are coming and will be more and more difficult to stop or slow if action isn’t taken now. Unlike the above situation, which Republicans would likely love to read out of context, we are still early on in the genetic modification of humans and need to get ahead of the curve by making changes to our DNA illegal now, before they become commonplace. (Ala, the Island or Gattaca.)

A theme that comes up over and again is the Vice President’s call to change accounting practices to count the costs of natural resources utilization and ecological impact: “The emergence of rapid unsustainable growth in population, cities, resources consumption, depletion of top soil, fresh water supplies and living species, pollution flows, and economic output that is measured and guided by an absurd and guided by a distorted set of universally accepted methods that blind us to the destructive consequences of self deceiving choices we are routinely making.”

Some may jump at that “self deceiving choices” phrase and go for the cheap shot about the Vice President selling his cable TV channel to Al Jazeera, the fact is that the future envisioned in the book is coming and no amount of character assault should distract us from quick choices and changes. (Also seen in Mad Max and every other post-apocalyptic movie about the fall of society based on a scarcity of natural resources).

The scariest section in my opinion was the section on the Global Mind and the lack of privacy we should expect. I immediately drew a connection between this book’s concerns and Arther C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter’s prophetic novel, the Light of Other Days, where characters wore privacy suits to hide their gender and keep private their DNA.

This book reads like a cautionary tale of what our society is coming to and the massively important decisions we need to make. To make them, though, we need to get past the arguments over global warming and climate change and the partisan politics (Gore hasn’t been in any elected office for 13 years!) I can’t see any logical reason to oppose the conclusion that man has negatively impacted global climate change and we need to make adjustments. Even if you don’t believe in climate change can’t we at least agree that less smog is good for us?

I highly recommend this book. And if you enjoy audio books, I recommend the audio book version of this even more than the print version. The Vice President reads it himself, and while he can come across as the long winded professor who’s lecture we all doodled through in High School, when he get’s passionate about the subject you can hear it and frankly that helps with some who may doubt the veracity of Mr. Gore. This should build empathy; a great starting point for discussion and positive change.

A note to my Christian friends: why are you against climate change? Is it only because you are Republican and this is a Democrat issue? Have we looked at the research or just the Facebook timeline pictures with the snarky bumper sticker phrases? Taking care of the environment IS a Christian virtue and responsibility.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Almond Tree Michelle by Corasanti

This is a tragically touching story about how a Palestinian family learns to cope with having to start over during the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip and how two people learn to get along despite the history their people’s suffered at the hands of one another.

The Almond Tree
By Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Garnet Publishing
September 2012

One is a young Palestinian man and the other an older, wiser Israeli teacher. Each grew up hating each other for what had transpired between their countries. They reluctantly end up working together and do so for 40 years with amazing results.

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend this to others.


Shelley Walling is a 43 year male who is on disability retirement from complications from brain surgery. He was an Electrical Dispatcher for 11 years until the surgeries, he now enjoys spending time with his wife and two girls who are still at home along with four grown boys as well. He and his wife have an interest in sustainable and off-grid living and hope to live off-grid one day. He likes to read books about nutrition and medicine, Christian fiction and end times theology.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Twilight’s Last Gleaming by Robert Jeffress

To be upfront with you, I asked to review this book because I have strong and mostly negative views of Christian leaders who use their pulpits for political influence and based on what I’d seen of Pastor Jeffress in the news and the title of the book I was seeing red flags. After reading the book, though, most of the alarms were false.

Twilight’s Last Gleaming
How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days
by Pastor Robert Jeffress
Worthy
March 2012

Christian leaders who set aside their faith for political expediency and influence are more than a pet peeve for me – they are a hindrance to the Gospel of Christ. For instance, when Christian leaders, so-called champions of “Family Values,” endorse Newt Gingrich, an admitted adulterer who has been married three times instead of others in the primary who also claim to be Christian and happen to have been married to the same wife for decades like Ron Paul or Rick Santorum something smells bad. And the non-Christians out there see the hypocrisy and see nothing in Christianity worth their time.

In the news, all I’d seen from Pastor Jeffress were his comments about Muslims and Mitt Romney’s Mormonism tied to his endorsement of Rick Perry. Frankly, he was portrayed as an attention grabbing, right winger. I admit that I bought into that a bit because of my preconception that most pastors, when they step out on to the national stage and start talking politics, are focused more on politics than God. Along with a title talking up the end of America, all the evidence seemed to put the pastor squarely into that same box. But what I found – and this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – is that the media has not been fair at all to the pastor. And, possibly, pastor Jeffress hasn’t been very fair to himself either.

The book is not about the end of America, but actually a call for Christians to take up our God given role as salt and light in the world. The pastor sees our calling as salt as a calling to preserve culture as long as we can by working to pass laws that are in line with the moral precepts of the Bible. So the call to be salt is fulfilled by a calling to be “culture warriors” for Christian values in America.

He makes compelling arguments. A favorite section for me was Pastor Jeffress’ passages on what “true tolerance” and what passes for tolerance today. To have true tolerance for something, he says, you have to disagree with it. Brilliant and right. But in today’s America tolerance is completely misunderstood as agreement. Christians can be salt by remembering and practicing true tolerance.

Another argument made by the pastor I found persuasive is his argument that as Americans – with a right, and responsibility to vote – have a responsibility to vote our conscience based on our faith. Many people, Pastor Jeffress points out, believe that we cannot or are not allowed to make Christian faith a litmus test for people we vote for because of “Separation of Church and State.” Pastor Jeffress shatters this myth by pointing out that everyone has a litmus test, or bias, to vote for those who would best represent our beliefs and he also makes the argument that excluding faith in decision making is not a part of the law or a prescription that the founders would have understood or agreed to. He makes this case primarily based on the writings of the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who basically says that we should vote for Christians because of the superiority of Biblical values.

But I didn’t find myself agreeing with everything the pastor said. For instance, I think some of Pastor Jeffress’ complaints are short sighted. Say that it was a bad idea to take prayer out of public schools, which he argues is Explosion #1 in the implosion of the United States. If we put prayer back in, won’t the prayer time have to be pluralistic or give equal time to non-Christian beliefs since it was being done in public school? (The answer is, “yes.”) As much as I like the idea of kids praying, I don’t want a Muslim or Hindu or Atheist leading prayer/ meditation time at my child’s school – something that would happen in our pluralistic country. And, as so many church marquees show, “As long as there are tests, there will always be prayer in school.”

Pastor Jeffress is right to call out abortion as Explosion #2 and sheds light on the pro-abortion agenda by quoting arguments made before the Supreme Court that clearly show that abortionists know that they are killing a human but find it less relevant than the mother’s choice. But Explosion #3, legalizing gay sex in Texas, is much less clear and represents the struggles of Christians over this topic of salting the culture around them.

Should the government keep laws about sexuality in the privacy of a home? Pastor Jeffress makes the argument that the government does make laws about what can happen in the bedroom all the time. For instance, it is illegal to have sexual relations with your daughter or son, or with animals. The question is always where the line is drawn. Many Christians will take a libertarian view that it isn’t our business whether two men have sex in their home. Jeffress argues that it is our business because it is dangerous to the men, because it’s an unnatural act (and sin), and because the government makes rules prohibiting these kinds of acts all the time. In fact, the current debate over Gay Marriage comes down to not the question of whether the government should legislate morality in the bedroom, but where the government should draw the line. I’m not a fan of everything Molotov Mitchell does, but this video on Drawing the Line shows that, when you get right down to it, everyone draws the line somewhere. Jeffress is making a case for drawing it prior to legalizing homosexual sex.

While I don’t agree with everything that Pastor Jeffress says I did come to respect his opinions and believe that he has a Biblically informed world view. One of the greatest parts of being the Body of Christ is that God has given us different roles and different methods to accomplish His plans. If Pastor Jeffress is able to help in the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade then God bless him! On the other hand, if he never succeeds in some of the goals he may have, which I consider secondary non-essentials like prayer in school, then that’s fine too. For me, I will respect and love my brother who fights the way that he believes God has called him to and pray for him to ensure that he truly is sticking to the things God asks and not indulging his personal goals.

And then I’ll pray that I do the same.

A great read with excellent incite by an author who does a very good job justifying his actions through his faith in God. Highly recommended.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Back to Work by Bill Clinton

In America today, we suffer from high unemployment, two wars and a couple of non-war war-like engagements, the looming threat of Iran and a Middle East filled with unrest, an economy that is stagnant and threatening to tumble down again, and two political parties that seem to believe that their only job is to thwart each other. Where are those who can speak calm into this storm with ideas instead of complaints and finger pointing? Apparently, only former Presidents.

Back to Work
Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy
By Bill Clinton
Random House Audio / Knopf
November 2011

The book is separated into two main sections starting with the situation we are in, then moving into some ideas on how we can get out of the malaise. The first section is the most obviously leftist section of the book as he unashamedly defends some of President Obama’s actions over the last three years. But he doesn’t dwell there and quickly moves into ideas and a call to work together. It is in this section that the book shines.

Clinton gives dozens and dozens of ideas on how to get the economy back on track offering them along with evidence from other countrieswho have implimented similar ideas, or top thinkers in the fields saying how the ideas may work. Anyone who reads this book can’t help but come away with admiration for the vastness of options offered, especially in contrast to the current President and Congress where it seems that ideas are mostly counterarguments.

Clinton’s book is assuredly left-center and mostly left at times, but it is a book about ideas and ideas shouldn’t have labels like left and right, rather wrong and right. Some on the right may be immediately inclined to ignore President Clinton’s ideas, but that is the mistake that has America in the situation it is: stagnant where ideology rules and everyone suffers under its cruel reign.

Clinton says at one point, “If you ask the right question you may get the wrong answer, but if you ask the wrong question you cannot get the right answer.” Exactly. This book is about ideas and the politicians in Washington ought to take them seriously and both parties should consider these and every other good idea to focus on turning the economy around.

Highly recommended for all concerned Americans, and especially for Republicans who would never pick something up written by Clinton and Democrats who don’t think they need any ideas because they already know everything.

A note about the audio book version: Bill Clinton does a great job reading his work and his inflection and charm shine through. Authors almost always do a better job reading their works, and having a President read their work is even more compelling and works to build empathy – something increasingly missing in America.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This audio book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.