Dec 05

Esther & Trump

By Kenneth Feucht books No Comments »

Esther & Trump, by Robert Case ★★★★★

This book is the result of a series of Sunday School lessons of which I most fortunate to be a participant. I know Robert well, and would consider him a dear friend. (He might not consider me the same after reading my review!) Perhaps the reader may consider my review as heavily biased, but I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, and thus will also include criticisms of the book. Robert is a compelling speaker and writer, leaving one spell-bound when hearing or reading him. This book was a delight to read, and offered fresh perspectives on Esther. True, it is now trendy to offer fresh perspectives on biblical themes, such as the new perspectives on Paul, Genesis, Jesus, or Isaiah, just to name a few. Where I find most of these new perspectives to be dull and unoriginal if not patently heretical, the same is not true of Robert’s “new perspective” on Esther. He offers a perspective of the book of Esther which is not offensive to a mindset that holds Scripture to be the directly inspired word of God. 

The first several chapters of the book outline the historical context of Esther, mostly by detailing the lineage of Kings of Persia from the fall of Babylon through to Alexander the Great. The character and historical details of Xerxes is elaborated, which is most important in understanding the book of Esther. 

Subsequent chapters offer a textual commentary of the book of Esther. In this section, Robert manages to illuminate aspects of the text which are very clear but completely missed, as we traditionally read the book of Esther with our eyes wide shut. The character of Esther  is shown for what it really is—a person without sexual moral principles, and willing to break the laws of the Torah to achieve her own end. She is NOT a role model of virtue. But then, neither is the Jewish community living in Persia, where their sins are also laid bare. With the absence of narrative evaluative judgements as seen in all other Scripture, we miss those details that Robert Case is able to illuminate. Particularly evil was Mordecai in administrating the slaughter of all of the known enemies of the Jews, which is a story that would best be found in the book of Judges, everybody doing what was right in their own eyes. There is good reason why Esther is not portrayed as a model of faith in Hebrews, even though other quite sinful people like Samson and Gideon are mentioned. 

Toward the end of the book of Esther & Trump, Robert attempts to make a plea for the political nature of this book. He is correct that it is a book laden with politics, in that the story centers around the King (Xerxes) and his appointed officials (Mordecai and Haman, as well as other unnamed personnel). Referring to the Jews in Persia as “the church”, it is made to seem that Mordecai and Esther serve as representative agents of the church. This unfortunately is an extrapolation of the text rather than an overt claim, as we don’t really have a clue how involved Esther and Mordecai were with the Jewish community. If they were highly involved, then they show the Jewish “church” to be quite wayward. There is too much not mentioned in the book to allow strong conclusions to be made. 

Perhaps Esther really is included as a part of the canon of Scripture as a lesson in politics, as Robert claims. Yet, it is troubling that the absence of evaluative judgements leave the reader puzzled as to what amounts to proper interactions of the church and state, rather than to simply have the church infiltrating the state government. Perhaps brought to mind by me is another book I have read in the distant past, the Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder. In the Politics of Jesus, Yoder effectually demonstrates the strong political nature of Jesus and his teachings. With the aspect of pacifism aside (which Yoder does a very poor job defending), there is a strong reason why even the teachings of Jesus offer the Christian or Jew a reason to interact if not participate in a political fashion with the state. Certainly, Case makes a good case from Esther for Christian involvement with state functions. 

The book has problems. There are many typographical errors, way too many sidebar distractions, and arguments on the political nature of the book of Esther which I think could have been better developed. Most distracting though was the title of the book. The book title is misfit, in that Trump is barely spoken of, except in passing toward the very end of the book. Are we to think of Trump as a form of Xerxes? If so, why was Obama not chosen as a far better choice, or Bush, or Clinton, all of which in many ways share more of Xerxes’ characteristics than Trump? If God was obscure in the Esther text, well, so is Trump, and I fail to see a connection between Trump and the politics of Persia. For such a seminal and needed text on Esther, this commentary truly deserves a more fitting title. 

In spite of problems, Esther & Trump still deserves a five star rating. There is great scholarship, brilliance in thinking, and illumination of the text in a way that is perfectly clear once one opens their eyes to what is plainly in the text. Case provides some hints as to why Esther was included in the canon of Scripture. To that end, I highly recommend Biblical scholars to give this book a fair reading.

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Dec 04

Liberalism: Find a Cure, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

This book was just published, and I read it while on vacation in Jamaica. I have found Mark to be most enjoyable to read, and so was delighted when this text came out. The book is perhaps slightly mis-named. He does not focus on many of the problems of the 21st century liberal mindset like economics, political social thinking, the environment, etc. Instead, he hones in only on those delusional aspects of their thinking, thinking that leaves conservatives most bewildered as why certain people are not being confined to an insane asylum rather than being the poster children and darlings of the now liberal press. I am specifically referring to the new liberal trends toward mentally re-designing their personal life, and expecting others to find the new design acceptable. Such things as voluntarily re-defining one’s race, sex, and even species are dealt with at length in Mark’s book. Mark also speaks at length about the new political incorrectness that is sweeping the land, how the names of things like sports teams are found to be offensive, how just about anything and everything from the American past is now considered either racist or sexist, because they reflect a time when values and behavior were differ from today. Mark has a lengthy chapter on the sickness of feminism, and ends by sadly accounting how the most important structures of society, like family, are now relegated to the dustbin of history. 

Mark spends little time in the book describing a cure, but suggests the importance of getting political and getting Jesus. Sadly, I think Mark’s cure is too little and too late. His suggestion of hope through the Republican Party deflects from the truth that both parties have betrayed the American public. Most certainly, we are seeing the death of the Republic, not because we did not stand up for Republican values, but because we have lost our moral base. Mark  hints at this truth at the end of the book.

The book is a great read, Mr. Dice is a delight to read, and I strongly recommend all, liberal and conservative, to read this book. 

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Dec 04

John Adams

By Kenneth Feucht books No Comments »

John Adams, by David McCullough ★★★★★

John Adams is a biography of the man who would serve as the second president of the United States, and who played a seminal role in instigating the Revolutionary War, writing the constitution, and forming the character of our new nation. It never seemed as though John Adams would be a particularly interesting person, but McCullough successfully paints him as a most fascinating character. The book starts with him in childhood, through growing up, starting a law career in Boston, only to be sidetracked by the cry for independence from Britain. Adams led the charge, helped get Washington appointed as commander in chief of the army, and then became the American ambassador to France during the war, and later, to Britain after the war. Serving two terms under Washington as vice-president, he eventually was voted in to the presidency for one term, losing then to vice-president Thomas Jefferson in his bid for a second term. His life afterwards was spent in mostly retirement, working his farm south of Boston, and writing lots of letters. He was eventually able to see his son John Quincy Adams win the presidency. Adams and Jefferson both died on the same day, the 4th of July, both being several of the last living singers of the Declaration of Independence. 

McCullough spends much time exploring many personal details of Adams’ life, including his Christian faith, and how that faith affected the writing of the constitution. You learn that in spite of common goals, the rancorous differences between personalities leaves one wondering how we ever survived as a young nation, though it seems that enough commonalities acted as the glue that held a fragmented society together. Particularly noxious was the fighting between the two parties, the Federalists and the Republicans. The salvation through it all was that even the two  parties had grave divisions, with many party members not strict to their own party. The extensive scholarship of those in governmental service, like Adams and Jefferson, is also noted, at a time when CP Snow’s “two cultures” did not exist, and the arts and sciences were often found mixed in all men of letters. The love of books and reading was assumed among the educated class, and many large personal libraries were noted.

Most notable was the reading style of the book. McCullough has a wonderful way with words, and holds the reader’s interest, leaving the book void of dry spells. I appreciated the extensive research that was performed in forming this book, with virtually every page packed with subtle details and information that would have never been brought out without the remarkable scholarship of McCullough. The author cannot be faulted for not having done his homework. John Adams is an important and valuable read for anybody that loves the USA and it’s history.

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Dec 04

Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom has Become its Greatest Threat, by Os Guiness ★★★★★

I first read one of Os Guiness’s books in the 1970’s, the Dust of Death. I later purchased one of his books at a book signing (I don’t remember which one!), and when I mentioned how I appreciated The Dust of Death, he snidely asked why I hadn’t read any of his other books. Well, without giving him an answer then, I noted that I generally dislike reading books on contemporary politics or social commentary. (Os excels in the department of politics and Christian interaction in the public square.) With politics now appearing like we have completely lost our country, our true freedoms, and any sense of public civility, this book seemed to be worth reading. Indeed, it was most enjoyable, even though there were a few parts that I tended to disagree with. This book was read electronically via the Kindle app.

Guiness begins by comparing the American and French revolutions, which he labels 1776 vs 1789. The distinctions between the two revolutions were quite notable, with the French revolution having a distinctly secular basis, and based on a contract between the government and the people, and the American revolution with its Judeo-Christian orientation, and based on a covenant between the government and the people. The covenant is fundamental to understanding the nature of liberty, since it requires a Judeo-Christian morality and assumes that the citizens are fallen creatures bound to do wrong. Without integrity and a sense of Judeo-Christian moral right and wrong, the constitution becomes an unstable document that simply will not work in the long term. Much of the book elaborates on the differences found between a secular society and a Judeo-Christian society, and, since the book is about freedom, the book goes into length as to how freedom would be defined differently and enacted differently between the two competing systems. 

Typically, books seem to run out after the first few chapters, the author having stated the fundamental ideas of the book, and then tying up space in order to create a book-length document. Os does anything but that, and the next to last chapter (Question 10) is the crowning chapter of the entire book. This is the only chapter that I will VERY briefly summarize. In this chapter, Guiness essentially demolishes much of the new liberal mindset, developing sound arguments against identity politics, the super-primitives vs. the super progressives, victim politics, multiculturalism, and the like. Quoting Guiness,

With the notion of the melting pot scorned, with civic education abandoned, and with a de facto open border policy in place, there was no unity and no clear national identity to balance the diversity. Indeed, notions such as sovereignty, unity, and identity were themselves viewed as coercive or white colonialism, and therefore to be rejected. Newcomers no longer needed to adapt to their new country or even to gain a legal standing if it was difficult. The country needed to adapt to them, and sanctuary cities were opened. 

Political correctness is attacked…

But political correctness is far deadlier than [a form of amusement]. The term can be traced back to 1930s communism, but its roots go back to the French Revolution and the notion that controlling language is the way to control people.

and

categories such as racism, sexism, and ageism were used to replace sin as the egregious evils of the day that still needed confronting.

Tolerance, political correctness, social justice, social constructionism (i.e., the “right” to re-define the nature of your own existence) all are addressed, and multiple worthy quotes would be spared. As Guiness summaries, 

Man can now be God…[] … for everything is socially constructed, and humanity can therefore deconstruct and reconstruct itself at will.

and

what we call reality is only “reality” as socially accepted, and if it was socially constructed in the first place, then it can be socially deconstructed now–and reconstructed as we wish, whenever we wish, and as many times as we wish. We are free, totally free…

Guiness summarizes with “Freedom is not the permission to do what you want, but the power to do what you ought”. Nobody could have said it better. Guiness speaks at length then of “liberty” as expressed in the sexual revolution and its destructive consequences, which is written so well, I’ll spare a summary but only encourage the dear reader to purchase a copy and read it themselves. Indeed, the sexual revolution has decreased rather than increased our freedom! Quoting Guiness, “Ideas have consequences, but bad ideas have victims.”. Too true. 

My only complaint with the book is that Guiness might have shown how the liberal politics of 1789 France is imbedded in our constitution, and resulted in the seeds of destruction for our country. Indeed, many of the country’s founders, like Jefferson, were endeared to the style and philosophy of the French revolution, much to our detriment. I think that Os could have explored or brought that out better. Remembering that the US constitution was formalized in 1786-7, much thinking in the USA had changed since the start of the revolution in 1776. Secular liberalism already had a creep into our society. Thus, I think that to compare the USA to France in 1776/1789 is a touch unfair. 

Complaints aside, this book was outstanding. Most of his thoughts were already on my mind before reading this book, but Os Guiness has a way of categorizing and clarifying one’s thinking, marking him as truly a genius to be commended. This book is thus not only recommended by me, but suggested as something that should be on each and everybody’s MUST READ list. 

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