"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September Books

So this month I ended up reading two books dealing with China, and two memoirs about people leaving their faiths.  I didn't know the two latter books would delve so much into childhood sexual abuse when I started them.  I was thoroughly disgusted at how two powerful churches (one for sure; the other maybe was falsely accused) have used their money and clout to cover abuse for the sake of their churches' reputations!  Children be damned as long as the faith is protected?  Horrible!  And even though these two churches are not my own, I condemn any who cover abuse for the sake of their reputations. How about some character, people...not hypocrisy!   And I would dare to speak for God and say He is thoroughly disgusted by this as well.  Yes, your church might go through bad publicity - as it should!  And it IS shameful.  And it IS a horrible testimony. And it DOES cause unbelievers to blaspheme God in many cases (see II Samuel 12).  But these things must be dealt with. You can't expect sin to stay hidden, that you will always be able to protect the guilty. God knows what is going on. He's not giving you a free pass.  Sorry, I had to get this out. I see my precious nephews. One is ten and a half, the other almost 17 months old, and I cannot stand the thought of anyone abusing them and getting by with it because some church doesn't want bad publicity.  And don't get me started on churches that know of sexual predators and reassign them to other posts where they can prey on a new batch of children. Grrrrr.

Boy, I rarely get this testy when doing my monthly book reports, huh?

Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust's Long Reach Into Arab Lands
by Robert Satloff -- This Jewish man researches the stories of Arab treatment of Jews in North Africa.  I enjoyed the story of Khaled Abdul-Wahab and the author's attempt to get him accepted as the first Arab remembered by Yad Vashem for his role in saving Jews during the Holocaust. He comes across many roadblocks as more recent politics play into whether Arabs want to be known for helping Jews. Also Jews sometimes deny the Holocaust's reach into the Arab countries.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang  -- I didn't realize this book was so long when I picked it up, but over 500 pages later, I must say that I enjoyed learning the story of these three women. The author shared about her grandmother who was a concubine to a general and later married to a much older doctor.  The family dynamics of her coming into this family made me appreciate the simplicity of marriage in my own culture.  (Her new husband's oldest son ended up shooting himself in a fit of rage because of this proposed marriage. He died.)  This story involved the author's mother and father, and their commitment to the Communist Party. I enjoyed the examples of life in China at this time and during the reign of Mao and the Cultural Revolution.  I had to smile when she told of how "eat all your food because there are poor capitalists in the West who are starving and would love to have the food you are eating" was used on them as children.  (I've heard a similar version growing up.)  I was struck by the patriarchy of this traditional society and how Communism declared women and men more equal. I got to wondering just how far back patriarchy goes and where did repressing women and elevating men begin? 

I just thought this was interesting.

"Following the custom, my great-grandfather was married young, at fourteen, to a woman six years his senior.  It was considered one of the duties of a wife to help bring up her husband."  (pg. 22)

With some exceptions like books on Mao's writings and "revolutionary operas," among the many things banned or seen as too "bourgeois" during the Cultural Revolution in China -- books, paintings, musical instruments, sports, cards, chess, teahouses, bars, flowers, grass (yes, grass was pulled up as if it were an enemy!), films, plays, concerts, long hair for women...  (pg. 332)

"To me, the ultimate proof of freedom in the West was that there seemed to be so many people there attacking the West and praising China.  Almost every other day the front page of Reference, the newspaper which carried foreign press items, would feature some eulogy of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. At first I was angered by these, but they soon made me see how tolerant another society could be.  I realized that this was the kind of society I wanted to live in: where people were allowed to hold different, even outrageous views. I began to see that it was the very tolerance of opposition, of protestors, that kept the West progressing."  (pg. 472)

The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans - a friend sent me this book thinking I'd like it and I did!  The author and her husband adopted a little girl from China (two actually),and she tells some of their story and also bits of stories from others. She explores the reasons women would give up their daughters, the hardship of life in China, orphanage life and adjusting to life in the US among other things. I shed a few tears for the innocent ones who are abandoned and left behind in orphanages as well as the ones who never have a chance at life because they are either aborted or killed upon delivery. Also I cried for those women who would have chosen to keep their children, but could not for the sake of society.  I can't imagine how difficult that must be.

Here is one excerpt I wanted to share.

Re: the only-children of China being spoiled:  "'Many parents of the nineties,'...'were part of the lost generation of the Cultural Revolution. After suffering so much themselves, they were determined not to deprive their only child. Beijing's biggest toy store was always jammed with parents buying toddler-sized fake fur coats, imported baby shampoo and red Porsche pedal cars.'

Yet she saw good things coming out of the situation. 'Many people thought that a country populated with Little Emperors was headed for disaster. I disagreed.  Granted it might be unpleasant to live in a nation of me-first onlies, yet I saw a social revolution in the making. For generations, Chinese society had emphasized the family, the clan, the collective over the individual. Now, for the first time in four thousand years of history, the relationship was reversed. Where the Mao generation failed, the Me generation just might succeed.' She quoted a British friend, Michael Crook, 'If you have a population of Little Emperors, you can't have little slaves. Everyone will want to tell everyone else what to do. You'll have democracy.'"  (pg. 234)

Losing My Religion by William Lobdell - I found this at the local Friends of the Library book sale; a reporter talks about his faith in Christ, how he got a job reporting religious news for a newspaper and eventually lost his faith.  The book was very respectful, really, but made me sad because he admits he saw very little difference in the majority of Christians' lives compared to the general population.  I don't think it's supposed to work like that!

"So what has taken the place of God in my life? A tremendous sense of gratitude. I sense how fortunate I am to be alive in this thin sliver of time in the history of the universe. This gives me a renewed sense of urgency to live this short life well. I don't have eternity to fall back on, so my focus on the present has sharpened.   I find myself being more grateful for each day and more quickly making corrections in my life to avoid wasted time.  I've tightened my circle of friends, wanting to maximize time with people I love and enjoy the most. I've become more true to myself because I'm not as worried about what others think of me. ... That's what losing God has done for me. Permanent death - I don't think I have the escape hatch to heaven anymore - now sits squarely in front of me, unmoving as I rapidly approach.  And you know what? My breakfast does taste better. I feel the love of my family and friends more deeply. And my dreams for my life have an urgency to them that won't allow me to put them off any longer. I can no longer slog through each day, knowing that if my time on Earth isn't used to its fullest potential, it's no big thing, that I have eternity with God ahead of me."  (pg. 278-279)

Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck -- I've often been driven to tears and disgust and anger and laughter and joy, but I don't think a nonfiction book has creeped me out until I read this book. Really it wasn't that creepy, but I just so happened to read a part (about Danites if you must know) right before bed and it must have upped the "creep factor" in my mind.  Like I told someone else, I take most leaving the faith stories with a huge dose of salt (as opposed to a mere grain) because I realize sometimes people won't present their former faiths in the best lights due to their own personal experiences. For others, the faith is a hugely wonderful thing partly because they haven't experienced those awful things. So, that said, I enjoyed this book and some of the talk of sealing in the temple (she didn't go into great detail because she knows it's sacred), wards (I often wondered what those were pg. 54), heavenly mothers (yes, plural, since God is a polygamist, too pg. 75), BYU (pg. 77), the Mormon view of heaven and its levels (pg. 87), the Egyptian papyri that early Mormons bought from a traveling guy who showed the papyri for a living (pg. 155), more talk on polygamy and how women and men viewed it (pg. 177), the victimization of the Saints in history (pg. 181) and much more. I stopped noting it after awhile.

By the way, this lady came out as sexually abused by her father, apparently a well-known Mormon apologist. I decided to look him up.

This is her father, Hugh Nibley

A Q&A with her after the Mormon Church responded and a sampling of some of the responses she's received by email.  It's sad how many others have been sexually abused.

A collection of sites about this book - not sure how fair these are, but there are a number of links.

And when I mentioned this book to a Mormon blogger, she said she'd read the book, it did not ring true and she wasn't the only one who thought this way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Books and My Pretty Picture Book!

These are books I got within the last few days. One was sent to me by a friend who thought I'd enjoy a book she'd finished.  Two I bought at our local Friends of the Library sale, and five I got today when I traded in ten books of my own.

I made this book on Shutterfly.com last week, and received it today. It looks great! I love making books like this so I can remember our trips.  Here are a few pages from it. Unfortunately they loaded sideways so tilt your head to the right.  You can click to enlarge them, I think.

We were here three weeks ago right now...sigh. I loved it.  God really blessed us with wonderful weather, and a truly great trip!

Innsbruck, Austria

Eagle's Nest, Bayern, Germany

Salzburg, Austria