Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Good Books

Religion writers get books. Lots of books. My desk sags with books. I have an overflow bookshelf at home that runs the religious gamut, from what the heck George Bush actually believes to how Jesus (according to the author) was actually a compilation of five or six dudes.

I don't get to read every book that comes across my desk, but I'm reading a couple right now that are worth the time. Both deal with major religious figures in our community, and both provide insights as to what drives some of evangelicalism's most powerful men.

"Family Man" by Dale Buss focuses on, er, Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson. Dobson gave his own stamp of approval to the book and Focus officials rave about it, so you're obviously not going to get a critical expose on arguably the religious right's most powerful kingmaker. Still, it's not overtly fawning, and it's an interesting chronicle of Dobson's rise. Plus, it's fun to learn that Dobson, during his basketball-playing days, played with wild, aggressive abandon and camped in the lane a lot. The three-second rule apparently does not apply to major evangelical figures.

"Too Small to Ignore: Why Children are the Next Big Thing" is a different sort of book altogether. Written by Compassion International CEO Wess Stafford (with an assist from Dean Merrill), the book is more or less a plea to love kids and take them seriously. But the book has an autobiographical feel, because Stafford points to his own upbringing as examples of how to raise children -- and how not to. Stafford grew up in a small village in West Africa, an alternating heaven and hell. Heaven was vacation -- he hunted baboons, helped his missionary dad preach by scaring away noisy birds and became a crack shot with a slingshot. Hell was a mission-run boarding school, where teachers would beat him and others with little or no provocation. He's done OK for himself since that boarding school experience -- thanks, he says, to God -- but he still bears the scars. And, he told me, he's still a pretty good shot with the slingshot.


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