newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: August, 2017

REVIEW: “Why the Light Is Winning”; or, Why a decline in church attendance might be a good thing.

This is a review of the book The Light is Winning by Zach Hoag.

 

Start life as a religious fundamentalist. Get involved with ministry. Become cynical towards religion. Realize the cynicism is really a rebirth towards genuine faith. Faith becomes reborn. This is the premise of Zach Hoag’s semi-memoir/semi-treatise on the condition of the American Church, The Light is Winning. Along the way he takes time to dissect some of the Barna Research Group’s findings over the last decade regarding the “Nones” and “Dones” whose increasing numbers has the implication of church attendance and engagement decreasing.

His thesis can be summed up like this: the increasing number of “Nones” and “Dones” can be viewed as a sort of apocalypse for the American church. But apocalypse does not mean “ending,” but “revealing” or “rebirth.” This rebirth should bring about a change in the way the church is doing things, because otherwise a return to business as usual will not change things. He calls the reader/American church to be intentional, not just about relationships but about tearing down and altering structures that resemble American empire or a “business model of Christianity” in favor of something that is truly Gospel and Jesus centered.

I appreciated the vulnerability of the text. Coming from a different type of fundamentalist background, his reflections on the damage caused by the environment resonated with me. Also, his anecdotes about how fallout from his upbringing caused a sense of cynicism was something that I could really follow. His writing about these subjects and mixing them with his larger project about how the apocalypse of the American church can provide us with a lot of room for positive growth was well done.

What bummed me out was that I felt right when Hoag was at a point where he could have really made an articulate mic drop in the second to last chapter of the book, he instead does an anticlimactic analysis of how the Church should engage in politics. But for all the negative moments, just keeping a running list of all the books he references makes this a worthwhile read on its own.

The Light is Winning is a book anyone interested in how to increase the impact of Church in the community should consider picking up. It is ultimately an enjoyable read.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Advertisements

Review: Luke Mogelson’s “These Heroic, Happy Dead”

This is a review of the book These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson.

41dovavokyl-_ss300_

Given my choice, I gravitate towards non-fiction reading. I find real life compelling, and so much of the fiction world comes across as repetitive and unimaginative. This collection of Luke Mogelson’s short stories, These Heroic, Happy Dead is not repetitive, and it certainly is imaginative in a fashion that could plausibly happen in real life (and at points, reminds the reader of wartime events that have actually happened). I could not put the book down.

These Heroic, Happy Dead is a ten-story collection of some of Mogelson’s Afghanistan/Iraq  war-centric short reads. Each story is around fifteen pages in length, but they read so quickly that they seem to be a lot shorter. Though not all of them are set in the Middle East, each story reflects how the conflict in the Middle East has had an effect on the lives of people in the United States. Mogelson’s stories are full of emotion, reflecting on different dynamics war-related trauma. He manages, however, to write about these stories in ways that don’t pull any cheap shots to the reader. A lot of his heavy hits actually come in the last sentence of each story. None of the stories really have a tidy ending because war in itself is not neat or tidy.

My favorite stories in this collection are either “To the Lake” -the story of an alcoholic veteran who ends up in jail and makes the acquaintance of another vet, or the last story, “Total Solar,” which is a story about a news correspondent who is involved in an attack and by the end may or may not be getting ready to be abducted by terrorists.

If this book did anything, it made me want to find more of Mogelson’s work and read it. The stories in These Heroic, Happy Dead are worth reading multiple times, as nuance is easily overlooked in these narratives. Pick up this book and be prepared to be confronted with all the subtle ways that war impacts those around us.

I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are my own.