Reviews - Pamela C. (pammalamma)

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Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery
Review Date: 1/18/2009


"I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs inspiration to "fight the good fight."

In William Wilberforce, I feel that I've found a kindred soul: one who sought to fight evil in spite of his health, in spite of the hatred of the world directed at him for "forcing his religious beliefs on others," in spite of cultural stigmata against all his beliefs and even who he was. It really inspired me to fight the evil that I see in our world, and gave me ideas on how success could be achieved, and how long it will most likely take to see change.

Eric Metaxas, the author, focused mainly on the man himself and his fight against slavery. Unlike the movie, there is less of a storyline, but the main events of his life are all there: election to parliament, conversion, marriage, children, illness, and so on. The political situation in England is described in much greater detail than in the movie, as is Wilberforce's conversion. Metaxas accomplishes his history with a lot of wit, to his credit. I laughed out loud several times while reading it, and some parts warranted an immediate, "Honey, you have to read this part" by my husband.

From his childhood, Wilberforce always showed remarkable compassion and sensitivity. Though his parents were nominal Christians at best (the norm for English people of the day) Wilberforce had the blessing, at a young age, to become a foster child in the home of some extended family who were Methodists.

To understand Wilberforce's upbringing, we must also understand the connotation of the word "Methodist" to Wilberforce's contemporaries. To explain that attitude, we have to remember the fallout of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and all the bloodshed and burnings that resulted. With some of these events less than 200 years in the past, the prevailing attitude about religion was that it was dangerous. Everyone pretty much believed that we all have to take our religion lightly, and just go to church, and not get too excited about it, because "we all know" what happens when people get too excited about religion. English churches were boring, and didn't attempt to be anything else.

George Whitefield, a Methodist preacher without a pulpit who was cross-eyed and preached in the fields, had unusual religious fervor at this time, and it was contagious. Because of the Methodists' emotional fervor and disregard for conventional restraint, the term "Methodist" quickly came to be almost synonymous with "religious wacko." The term "fundamentalist" is comparable, today, in its connotation.

It was in this house of Methodist relatives that William first became interested in Christianity, and showed every sign of turning from his parents' life of frivolity and carnality to an austere spiritual life. But, his mother, seeing the change in her son, soon put an end to that, by bringing him home to be "cultured" by attending the opera and theater.

From the book, "Wilberforce was one of the brightest, wittiest, best connected, and generally talented men of his day, someone who might well have become prime minister of Great Britain if he had, in the words of one historian, 'preferred the party to mankind.' But his accomplishments far transcend any mere political victory. Wilberforce can be pictured as standing as a kind of hinge in the middle of history: he pulled the world around a corner, and we can't even look back to see where we've come from."

It wasn't until after Wilberforce was elected to parliament and some conversations with a very thoughtful and spiritual friend that he began to return to his childhood love of Christ. This friend, Isaac Milner, was a physical and intellectual giant.

"By anyone's judgment, Milner was simply his own category, a fantastically outsized figure--a veritable giant--literally and otherwise. We don't know what he weighed or how tall he was, but according to Henry Thornton's daughter Marianne, he was 'the most enormous man it was ever my fate to see in a drawing-room.' He was a behemoth.

As for his mind, it was entirely beyond reckoning: indeed, while at Cambridge, he'd been given the unprecedented distinction of being pronounced 'incomparabilis.' He was what we would today call a super-genius, but the closer one looks, the more one gets the impression that even that superlative doesn't quite capture him, which is both ridiculous and true."

Milner was from Yorkshire, and not a refined gentleman, but a jocular, unpolished man. An ordained Anglican minister who was a scholar of math, chemistry, and physics, Milner's wit was compared to that of Dr. Johnson. He occupied the Cambridge Lucasian Chair of mathematics (currently occupied by Stephen Hawking.) After listing Milner's many distinctions and achievements, the author concludes: "Milner simply cannot really have existed, except perhaps in a tale by Baron von Munchausen."

It was on a journey with Isaac Milner that Wilberforce expressed his opinion that a mutual friend of theirs "carried things too far" (religiously).

The author expresses Wilberforce's opinions of religion:

"It was all good, up to a point. The old doctrines of Christianity and the Bible had served their purposes in their day, but the idea of believing them and preaching them in the late eighteenth century simply seemed willfully anachronistic and silly. Why drag one's feet against the inevitable pull of Progress?"

But, not long after his long talks with Milner, Wilberforce became a Methodist, which of course greatly worried many of his friends. It was this "Great Change," as he called it, that was the beginning of Wilberforce's philanthropic feelings. Really, this seems to me so meaningful to all of us as Christians. Because of Isaac Milner openly talking about Methodism, Wilberforce was born again. Because Wilberforce was born again, he fought for abolition. Because he brought public attention to the suffering of the slaves, people's conscience's were pricked. Because the public conscience was improved, a whole philanthropic movement began, and all of society benefited.

"Wilberforce overturned not just European civilization's view of slavery, but its view of almost everything in the human sphere; and that is why it's nearly impossible to do justice to he enormity of this accomplishment: it was nothing less than a fundamental and important shift in human consciousness."

Wilberforce not only got slavery abolished, but with his popularity and persuasiveness actually did the unthinkable at the time: He made loving your fellow man fashionable. Before Wilberforce, there was no such thing as "noblesse oblige." Everyone simply assumed that the poor and unfortunate were being punished by God. To intervene and try to help them would be to interfere in the Divine plan.

However, after Wilberforce, by the Victorian era, philanthropy had been popular so long that it was actually mocked (for example, by Mark Twain, in one short story I've read.) To think that this great change in what society accepts was initiated by only two people, one of whom was a Yorkshire man of common stock, is all the inspiration any of us should need to try and initiate change in the world we live in today. The climax, when slavery is finally abolished in Britain, brings tears of hope and joy to one's eyes.

All quotes taken from Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas, HarperSanFrancisco, copyright 2007."


Can a Christian Have a Demon?
Can a Christian Have a Demon?
Author: Donald Basham
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/27/2009
4 member(s) found this review helpful.


"There is much disagreement amongst Christians about whether Christians can be inhabited by a demon. From much experience in deliverance ministry, the conclusion Basham comes to is, "Yes, they can." He tells many stories of deliverance done on Christians that set them free from various forms of bondage they were under. A short, easy read that could make you think or simply confirm your suspicions, depending on your opinion."


God and His Creations : Tales from the Old Testament
God and His Creations : Tales from the Old Testament
Author: Marcia Williams
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/26/2009
1 member(s) found this review helpful.


"This book is done in comic book format. It's a very large-format book, with big pages that have plenty of room for art. On each page, angels and other curious characters hover and make comments on the action in the story, like a cartoon Greek chorus. It has 11 Bible stories, including "God's Creations," "The Garden of Eden," "Noah's Ark," "Abraham and Isaac," "Joseph and His Fabulous Robe," "The Story of Moses," "The Battle of Jericho," "Samson and Delilah," "David and Goliath," "Daniel and the Lion's Den," and "Jonah and the Great Fish." Each story has beautiful, colorful cartoons with cartoon characters for all the Bible personalities in these stories, including God. The text under the frames of the pictures tells the story, and the characters make their own candid remarks in the picture in cartoon style. All the stories are short, some only two pages long--perfect for a short bedtime story. This is a nice, big picture book to add to your collection--very good for children who prefer the comic format to a storybook with less pictures. In this book, every single page is covered with a picture!"


How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace)
Review Date: 3/17/2010
1 member(s) found this review helpful.


"I really enjoyed this book. Like many others, Harry Stein's political views changed after having children. He began to view the world not only in terms of freedom, but also in light of responsibility. He is an excellent writer with a lifetime of experience in wordcraft, and it shows. He shows how his opinions began to swing in the conservative direction and makes many good points that it would do certain closed-minded liberals a bit of good to hear."


The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands
Author: Laura Schlessinger
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 138
Review Date: 1/23/2009
11 member(s) found this review helpful.


"Laura is not going to try to tell you what your itching ears are longing to hear. She is against man-bashing and the bias against masculinity in our culture. It was good to have some of the reminders in her book, such as that a man should be honored in his own home. I always try to keep that in mind, and was very upset recently when I had to make a choice between honoring my mother and honoring my husband in his home. Men have certain natural instincts, such as to protect their families, that they shouldn't be beaten up about. Also, I think Laura is right that men do need to have sex frequently to feel loved and to relieve stress, so that's a good reminder for us wives to have. It's too easy to get caught up in our day-to-day caring for the children, careers, and other work, and forget our man's needs. They can't help it that they have needs any more than women can help that they have needs. I think this book is a good, realistic, and conservative view of what a woman can do to keep her man happy and *around.* It's typical Laura Schlessinger, so if you like her radio show, you will probably like this book."


What to Expect When You're Expecting
What to Expect When You're Expecting
Author: Heidi E. Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 640
Review Date: 1/16/2009
3 member(s) found this review helpful.


"I didn't really like the way this book emphasizes the mother's weight so much. There are many more important issues to focus on that would give the book a more positive bent. There was plenty of good information, but none that cannot be gleaned from surfing the internet or looking at other childbirth books. I also wish it had more information and guidance about unmedicated birth, which is best for the baby."


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