Book Tour – Night of the Living Dead Christian

I usually don’t go for books about zombies, vampires and werewolves or any other “sci-fi/fantasy” book for that matter.  But having read Matt Mikalatos’ first book Imaginary Jesus and knowing how completely off the wall that one was, I knew I had to give Night of the Living Dead Christians a shot.  We join Mikalatos on his one-man Neighborhood Watch tour and are soon up to our eyeballs in wacky encounters with the undead of various shapes and sizes.  Chief among them are his one of neighbors, Luther Martin, who has the misfortune to be a werewolf.  Determined to help Martin find a cure for this malady, Mikalatos and a few other sidekicks try various methods, including attending a church that ends up being full of brainless zombies.  The journey is hilarious and, when you least expect it, thought-provoking.  Interspersed between the off-kilter narrative are more heady chapters written by “Martin” as he contemplates his life as a werewolf and his journey through the various methods of losing his werewolfishness.

Although the narration is very quirky and often downright weird, the meaning of the book is surprisingly clear and well thought out.  As the book’s subtitle indicates, Night of the Living Dead Christian is about being transformed or more clearly perhaps, what it doesn’t mean.  The zombie Christians we meet along the way show the absurdities of those who blindly follow some Christian leader’s teachings without a second thought (giving a whole new meaning to “Brains! Brains! We want your brains!”)  Then there are the vampires, those who “steal the life force of others to increase their own longevity…to increase their own quality of life.”  And then there is the guy relentlessly hunting down these monsters, who is eventually revealed to be the embodiment of the law.

Through these characters, Mikalatos shows many of the follies bound up in the heart of a man and where true freedom is found.  Perhaps the most poignant moment in the book comes toward the end.  (SPOILER ALERT) Martin eventually finds freedom from being a werewolf, but not everything ends up perfectly in his life.  One night, he is found out in the rain, with his old wolf skin tied on with string.  “He thought that everything would be wonderful when he was born again, but he was wrong.” (p.234)  There is pain and a recognition of the struggle against the old flesh.  But as Mikalatos so beautifully points out, “It’s not all wonderful. It’s worth it, but it’s not wonderful.” (p.234)

Night of the Living Dead Christian is a fast read, but one that is chock full of thought-provoking situations.  I would recommend it not so much because of the zombie genre, but for the insightful glance into a struggle for transformation that should be in every Christian. (5/5 stars)

(Thanks to Tyndale House for providing a review copy of this book.)

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Book Review – Bringing Up Girls

When it comes to family psychology, there is perhaps no other name more well known among conservative evangelicals than Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  Ten years after publishing his popular book on parenting boys, Dobson has penned the companion book, Bringing Up Girls.  In it, Dobson offers advice and insight from a clearly conservative viewpoint.  Speaking mainly to fathers, Dobson addresses issues such as femininity, beauty, sex, bullying, education and purity.  Much of the book addresses the physiological and psychological make up of “the fairer sex.”

The chapters that I appreciated the most were, oddly enough, the ones in which Dobson does relatively little talking.  One such chapter is devoted to young women talking about the things they remember – whether good or bad – about the fathers.  Reading about the profound impact of even the smallest things that their fathers had done impressed on me the importance of fathers in the lives of their daughters.   It is to this point that Dobson returns continually throughout the book and with good reason.  He quotes many statistical studies that emphasis the importance of fathers.

Another such chapter that was helpful and very practical was the contribution by Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In department in which he offers advice on “protecting your daughter from invasive technology.”  He encourages parents to be involved in and aware of the media activity that their daughters are involved in (including but certainly not limited to the Internet).  He lists “Ten practical steps  every parent should take” in how to “train up your daughter to plot a safe course through today’s entertainment and technological land mines.”  These steps include “teach the WWJD [what would Jesus do?] principle,” “instill media-related biblical principles,” “model it”, “develop a written family media covenant,” and encouraging accountability with a friend.

While most of the book was somewhat informative on the psychological level, I found it to be lacking in practicality.  Additionally, Dobson’s conservatism constantly came across as overblown hype, decrying the decadent culture in which we live.  While our modern culture is most assuredly headed in the wrong direction, it seems that Dobson can’t help but highlight the most discouraging and depressing aspects of it, even while attempting to point out “the good news.”  He often seems to go overboard in denouncing things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but that he simply doesn’t like.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that while Dobson dedicates his last chapter to teaching the gospel and Scriptures, this addition seems almost like an afterthought or just an extra safeguard to help parents.  The emphasis of the power of the gospel in all our lives including parenting is missing, but I’m not sure whether I should have expected more in this area from Dobson.  This book should not be read as coming from the standpoint of Scripture, but rather from the standpoint of moral and social conservativism.

While the book has some merits to it especially for dads, I feel like there are other books that are more worthwhile to read on this subject.

(Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a review copy of this book.)

Blog Tour – I Love God’s Green Earth

Part of parenting is wanting to see your children grow in understanding, maturity and responsibility in how they deal not only with those around them but the things around them too.  We teach them to take care of their toys in order to get the longest life and enjoyment out of the toy.  The same is true for the world around us.  We want them to be responsible by not littering, helping to clean things up, etc.

In I Love God’s Green Earth, Michael & Caroline Carroll seek to teach about God’s creation and how to take care of it.  In 90 short “devotionals” they discuss things like how various parts of the earth work together, how natural disasters change the environment, how different sources of energy can be used, and concerns over animals that are facing extinction.  Each “devotion” includes a Scripture reference and application along with fun facts about nature, various activities that children can do and a few jokes thrown in for good measure.

The Carrolls do a great job of presenting various facts about Earth in a way that is simple and understandable to readers in the suggested 9-12 reading age.  They present many different aspects of taking care of Earth while not coming across as sounding environmentally “preachy.”  I especially appreciated the emphasis captured in the following paragraph:

“When some people do things for the environment, it is because they love the Earth.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not the whole story.  When Christians take care of God’s creation, we have an extra good reason: we do it out of love for our Father in heaven—the one ‘who made heaven and earth.’” (p.11)

The book seems to fit more into the category of daily science readings than “devotions” in the spiritual sense of the word.  While there are Scripture passages at the beginning of each reading and an application made, the applications often seem stretched beyond what the passage is saying.  But overall the book shows the importance of caring for the world around us all while giving great lessons in science.  I Love God’s Green Earth would make an excellent book to use for science lessons, especially for homeschooling families.

(Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a review copy of this book.)