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Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg

I am not a novel reader for many good reasons. A lot of it has to do with the old adage “truth is stranger than fiction” and I might add to that a lot more interesting. That said, I had two events come together recently that led me to read The Last Jihad by best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg. Recently I had been watching Glenn Beck on CNN and he had Rosenberg on his program talking about the possibility that the current events in the Middle East are moving towards the end of days scenarios that are prominent in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation. This is not Beck’s usual fare and I was quite impressed that Rosenberg has actually been used in an advisory capacity to the Pentagon on this subject which itself is quite a surprise. The other event that led me to read Rosenberg’s book was that it was put on my desk by our Church librarian asking for my approval. Even though Rosenberg’s works are hot sellers in Christian bookstores across America, my librarian knows I feel books of the “fulfilled prophecy” genre are pretty much anathema (greek for “cursed of God”) to me (yes, I belong to that group of 12 or so who didn’t read any of the Left Behind series). So these two events happening in quick succession led me to at least a tentative conclusion that God wanted me to read this particular book and so I did. Here are my thoughts on The Last Jihad in no particular order of importance: 1.) It didn’t seem overly taut or riveting. I could put it down and I never sacrificed sleep so I could read just one more chapter. 2.) It did have a good tenable plot centered around nuclear intervention on Iraq in retaliation for an attempt to assassinate the POTUS, Queen of England, and Saudi Royal Family in a protracted terrorist strike. 3.) Even though the author is a Christian, he didn’t use the dialogue as a means of preaching to the reader. The references were certainly there and Christian faith was present but in a natural way. 4.) It sets forth an idea that would make Israel the center of world conflict: the discovery of the largest oil deposit in the world. With our current hunger for energy and other nations competing for crude oil, this could bring all the armies of the East and West if push came to shove. I probably won’t ready anymore of Rosenberg’s novels (unless God tells me to!) but I would recommend his work to anyone searching for novels concerning Biblical prophecy.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Generous and American

I’ve just finished Arthur C. Brooks article “A Nation of Givers” in The American (April/May 2008). The article gives hard statistics to some things I’ve known both intuitively and anecdotally for years namely that as a whole, Americans are far more generous with charitable giving than all other Western countries but also that the backbone of charitable giving is the poor and middle-class who tend to donate money and volunteer time in greater proportion to their income than their wealthy counterparts (low income families give 4.5% of annual income to charity while those making more than $100,000 per annum give just 3%). The religiously active and politically conservative person also tends to give more money both formally and informally than their secular and politically liberal counterpart as well. In other words, Churchgoers who believe the government needs to cut back on social programs will predictably support their house of worship, but will also give far more to charitable causes that help the poor and disadvantaged in their community. They also tend to be the people who will stop by a bank and leave a check for someone they don’t even know who needs a liver transplant that they read about in the newspaper. One surprising note that Brooks made in the article is that religious people are 25% more likely to support non-religious but worthy causes (health, safety, and common good of people) and 21% more likely to volunteer their time to these same causes than their secular counterparts. What is truly fascinating is the statistics Brooks supplies on “forced” giving to the disadvantaged through higher tax rates, versus volunteer giving. A 10% increase in the GDP per person would lead to basically a 9% increase in charitable giving the next year. Conversely a 10% increase in taxation (forced giving) to fund social programs for the disadvantaged would lead to only 3% increase in the GDP. When people are making more because of a robust economy, it spurs them on to greater generosity which in turn is much better for the economy. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver but in light of this it would seem the American public ought to be grateful and our lawmakers should take notice that volunteered generosity is far greater force for the common good than coerced redistribution of wealth.