Browse Tag: Book Reviews

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Book Review – Between Flesh and Steel: A History of Military Medicine from the Middle Ages to the War in Afghanistan

“Between Flesh and Steel” is a book written by Gabriel, a great historian with a purpose of describing the military medicine evolution from the middle ages to the 21st century. The book gives detailed information on how soldiers in the battle field have been treated from the time the battle weapons were less severe to the current era where severe and more sophisticated weapons are used. Gabriel achieves greatly in demonstrating the advancement of military medicine and how it has been refined with time as the need to take care and preserve military troop grew in important to different countries. Initially, caring for the wounded soldiers was regard as a waste of resources. This made it almost impossible for the wounded soldiers to receive good treatment. Despite of weak weapons compared to the current situation, more soldiers died in the battle field due to lack of medical care. Gabriel has narrated how the advancement in military medicine has brought the contrast of low battle field mortality rate with advancement of military weapons (p. 36).

The book is considerably detailed, demonstrating various events that took place in different times, especially centuries and the changes that were made. Gabriel demonstrates his great ability to research to obtain detailed information regarding medical evolution in the military field. The book gives small details of how certain medical procedures especially surgeries were conducted and how these practices have changed with time. It has also managed to demonstrate the relation between the general medical discoveries and military treatment advancement. A good example in this case is experiencing more deaths from infectious diseases than war inflicted wounds (p.200). The book also demonstrates how change of weapons and the inflicted injuries and wounds has influenced advancements in surgical medical field. Gabriel thus demonstrates his knowledge in military medicine and war history, providing a rich source of information on the relation between the two. He also provides names of individuals who contributed to various medical breakthroughs in history, especially in military medicine, making his book quite informative, not just to history lovers, but also to anyone interested in specific historical details in the medical field. He gives finer details including the number of soldiers that died in various events for different reasons. For instance Gabriel states that “in Spanish-American War, typhoid killed 1580 men while only 23 died in action” (p. 200). This makes the book to be among the most informative historical work in the military medicine evolution field.

In this book, Gabriel has collected suitable information to contribute to the weapon invention versus military medical invention trend. He has arranged his sequence of events on increments of centuries though not on a constant 100 years interval. This has created disjoint in his work especially regarding major military medical advancements and discovery and events that initiated them. Probably he could have managed a better connection with the use of different warfare or specific wars as denoted by the history, based on change of military technology, or based on the changing medical practices and knowledge in the world in general. The current topic breaks fails in giving continuous narrative which can easily make it easy to recognize and identify major changes and trends. The current arrangement is considerably confusing and can only be understood by attentive readers who are keen in identifying the effect of certain identified procedures with time.

Gabriel, Richard A.  Between Flesh and Steel: A History of Military Medicine from the Middle Ages to the War in Afghanistan. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2013.

Book Review – Forgiveness and Reconciliation : Religion, Public Policy, and Conflict Transformation

This book is written by a group of experts who explore conflict resolution and emphasizes on the importance of forgiveness. It digs into theology, public policy, psychology as well as social theory. This book is important because it serves to educate the society and the public on the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. Conflicts are inherent and are part of our daily lives. The need for conflict resolution is therefore inevitable and forgiveness being a moral responsibility, acts as the best solution to conflicts. The essence of life is to live harmoniously amongst ourselves and serve our purpose in the best interest of the society. Forgiveness and reconciliation is an essential moral obligation for the society and a very critical aspect in conflict resolution. The writers of this book have discussed forgiveness and reconciliation in relation to religion while at the same time tailoring the content to societal context.

Article nine of this book deals with forgiveness and reconciliation. Definitions of forgiveness, unforgiveness, dispute resolution and reconciliation are the opening statements in article nine. Everett Worthington definitions are justifiable and well-thought because they are drafted in the perspective of international and societal relations thus showing relevance in terms of purpose. According to him Everett, forgiveness is the superposition or the inclination to embrace positive emotions against the negative emotions of hate and resentment.He says that people forgive but one cannot tell whether they have actually forgiven others. He defines forgiveness as an altruistic gift that we give to others. I agree because forgiveness makes us get over the hurt while at the same time creating a harmonious environment which is good for peaceful coexistence. He defines conflict resolution as a way of solving differences between people in a society and that it involves skills of communication as well as negotiation. While people, families, and friends can be able to solve conflicts, it does not mean that problems are eliminated.

Everett in article talks about forgiveness as a personal decision and I agree with him. However,it is important to note that forgiveness is not as easy as the Bible states. God recommends that we forgive and forget, but the emotional nature of human beings makes forgiveness very difficult. Article nine expounds on the importance of managing emotions when we are hurt so that we can be able to forgive and forget as the Bible recommends. Reconciliation as discussed in this article involves another party and therefore is not a personal decision. Reconciliation according to the article is defined as the restoration of trust between two or more parties. It involves forgiveness. Everett explains the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation by attempting to show how one can bridge the gap between forgiveness and reconciliation. I however disagree with the thought that forgiveness precedes reconciliation. In my opinion, the process of forgiveness comes after reconciliation and it is what determines the success of reconciliation process.

Naturally, human beings develop bonds of love and when such bonds are broken, hatred comes in. The consequence of hate is that we tend to objectify those who wrong us and alienate ourselves from them and the longer we hold on to hate and resentment the deeper it eats into us. It is therefore important to learn how to forgive before we get overwhelmed with hatred. Religion is also playing a critical role in justifying and encouraging the need for forgiveness and peaceful coexistence. This book is a masterpiece given the in-depth analysis and scholarly input from its writers. Research to promote forgiveness and reconciliation has been done to help reduce the act of unforgiveness.The acrostic REACH is used to explain the five step model for forgiveness.

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Book Review – Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple of Judais

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Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple of Judas, provides a very incisive look at an academic art work that argues clearly the need for the recognition of the Jewish roots of Christianity’s most sacred text, “The Holy Bible.” The writers were doctoral students at Durham University and it is pleasing to note that inherent their work is the a contribution of several women.

There is an elaborate introduction and an overview of the Second Temple Period and the writings it produced. The overview starts us off with Abraham with the intention of placing the time period firmly within the historical time frame. In particular, the introduction provides a very interesting rejoinder to John Piper’s sceptism about about utilization of background resources to interpret NT texts.  It is brief, clear and precise.  There are footnotes and a great many bibliographies hence anybody wanting to find and learn more about any topic or about the times in general will easily access the good  resources inherent this book.

“Reading Romans in Context,” is in summary an essay collection that looks at various themes found in Romans and in Second Temple Jewish literature. Paul sometimes counters an argument that he believes will be brought against his teachings, but it is not clear what that argument is. By looking at Second Temple Jewish literaturelike the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha and the writings of Philo, we make a sterling discovery of what other Jews around thay time were teaching. The authors endeavour to compare these to Romans to find similarities and where the teachings diverge.

Theres a stark realisation that the authors had a good understanding of Pauls teachings and they use the comparison to add insights and nuances to our understanding of Romans but not to reinterpret them. The essays are extremely interesting and the most outstanding of them is the one on distinctive food habits. It is very easy to follow their arguments. The glossary is placed at the back but the terms in it are well defined that theres no neeed to refer to the glossary.

The phrases and themes that were studied in the text were: “son of God,” God’s wrath and divine justice, circumcisiom and covenant identity, “works of the law,” “righteousnessof God,” the faith of Abraham, suffering of the righteous, death through Adam, slavery to sin or to righteousness, the law’s role, evil desires, human glorification linked to death, why God blesses or curses a person, righteous by law Vs by faith and one’s ability to keep the law, gentile inclussion, right living, self mastery vs divine enabling, how one should interact with the government, distinctive food habits, God’s role in our giving to the poor , and women in church ministry and leadership.

In my opinion, Reading Romans in Contextseems to provide answers to those wondering how their cultural background affects their understanding of the Bible and may be wished there was a way to know how early christians understood the scipture. The material in this book tries to explain what the Bible meant to the early church.  The book seeks to demonstrate for non- specialists the benefits that accrue when we study the Scripture alongside extrabiblical texts. It focusses on “how Paul and his contemporaries understood ‘getting in’ and ‘staying in’the people of God.

Theres no way everything discussed in Reading Romans in Contextcan be covered in a book review because the book is indeed immense and very rich in content. Overally, the the book is readable; its articles were short, precise and to the point. The book is logically structured and well explained especially if one was to follow Paul’s arguments in Romans. The different authorial styles blended so well that the work had a flow and not jerky as one would expect. The major reinforcement I got from reading this work wsa the fact that Jesus brought something totally new to our world. I did find the discussion on righteousness and suffering very helpful just as was  the Christian and the state and the final chapter on women.

Reading Romans in Contextis to me is a book to read and absorb and perhaps digging further deep into areas that are especially interesting. While reading this text, readers can expect to have their belirfs challenged, and their minds enlightened. This is a worthwhile text that can be very well utilized aspart of one’s daily devotional time. I recommend it to the entire makind.

About the authors:

Ben C. Blackwell

Ben C. Blackwell (PhD, Universityof Durham) is Assistant Professor of Christianity at Houston Baptist University and is former research assistant for N. T Wright and John Barclay. He is the author of Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus and Cyril.

John K. Goodrich

John K. Goodrich (PhD, University of Durham) is assistant Professor of Bible at Moody Bible institute, Chicago. He is the author of Paul as an Adminstrator of God in 1 Corinthians.

Jason Maston

Jaston Maston (PhD, University of Durham) is Lecturer in New Testament at Highland Theological College UHI (UK). Heis the author of Divine and Human Agency in Second TempleJudaism and Paul: A Comparative  Approach and contributor to and co- editor (with Michael F. Bird) of Earliest Christian History: History, Literature and Theology. Essays from the Tyndale Fellowship in Honorof Martin Hengel.

Book Review – No God But God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam

A Review Of  No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam By Reza Aslan

Introduction

The author of this book Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American and a Shia by persuasion. He writes in his book that a time is coming when he will be denounced an apostate by a group of people. Another group however, will also declare him and an apologist. He however says that, the latter does not bother him a bit because “there’s no higher calling than to defend one’s faith” especially amidst ignorance and sheer hatred. In this book he points out that the essence of his writing by insisting that the book is basically an argument that objectively aims at reform. In his conclusion he puts a warning “like the previous reformations, this will be a horrifying event, an event that has begun engulfing the world” (Reza, 2006).

Summary

The Islamic religion is indeed facing hard times. However,it is not merely the tension that exists between the Islamic religion and other religions. Much trouble is brewing within the Islamic religion and the Abode of Peace is being brought down; the notional ummah of the Islam is no longer what it used to be. It is important to appreciate the change that has happened within the Muslim community as a result of the rapid expansion of literacy as well as the readily available and access to communication. The change basically seeks to redefine the interpretation of the Jihad and how to apply the Islamic law. Muslims minorities are also subjected to this change as to how they are supposed to engage with the society within which they reside.

Reza Aslan in his book talks about “No god But God”.  This is nothing less than a fight or a movement that seeks to totally redefine the Islamic religion and reform the system and Reza Aslan believe the struggle is already underway and the Muslim community is indeed on the verge of transformation. The surge of the western interest in the Islamic states is pointer to the reformation of Islam. While others may view it as a just a mere clash of civilizations, the fact of the matter is that the struggle is an internal struggle within the Islamic religion (Reza, 2006).

The book generally talks of reformation of the Islamic religion in reference to the proclaimed perpetual war between the Islamic nations and the west. The author says that the violence and bloodshed witnessed in the Islamic nations is not in reality a war between the Muslims and the west but rather an internal war between Muslims themselves. While there may exist a struggle between Christianity and Islam, this does not provide enough justification for the war because it is merely a universally typical religion war. However, the author says that the war is derived from within as to who has the authority to define faith. Is it the institution or the individual?

Considering the social and the political setting from which the Islamic religion emerged, Reza Aslan presents a credible case for viewing the Islamic religion as a product of its own age. Aslan points out that the Koran itself calls for other faiths, the Jews and Christians to come together and embrace the things they hold common as far as religion is concerned. The author seems to emphasize on the tolerant and merciful side of the Islamic religion and this poses a big blow to the religion especially the doctrines that seem to be undermine humanity and the course for which the religion is supposed to act on (Reza, 2006).

The author argues that these problems spring up from the fact that the Islamic religion has no central religious authority for example, Muslim pope or something of that kind. Instead, the Islamic religious authority is scattered across a wide collection of competing institutions. For this reason, the stronger institutions have maintained a virtual monopoly over the Islamic faith as well as the meaning and message of Islam.

Personal reflection

Although the Islamic religion is the fastest growing religion in the world today, it remains one of the religions that are masked with ignorance and fear. What is the meaning of this new faith? Could it be guided by peace or war? What is the difference between Allah and the God of Christians/Jews? Reza Aslan one of the greatest scholars of comparative religions has pointed out and clarified that the issue is not merely a clash of civilizations, a mentality that has gained ground among the people. In his book “Not god But God”, he challenges this mentality by explaining this faith in totality, beauty and compassion. According to Reza Aslan, the western perception of the Islamic religion is ill-founded. He says that the Islamic religion owes its existence to the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Reza Aslan provides a detailed development of the Islamic religion from its inception in the Arabian Peninsula to the emergence of Muhammad in Mecca and Medina and the subsequent change and manipulation of the religion by the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.  He tries to bring into perspective the diversion that the radical Islamic communities have made to the true meaning of the Islamic religion, a course that has not only put to risk the future of the Islam affiliated individuals but the world at large.

In actual sense, this book is written to appease the West. The west is known for its ideologies in regards to clash of civilizations and therefore, this book points out clearly the fight for modernity by appreciating the west for their efforts towards making civilization a reality. The author views the occupation of Iraq by the US as liberation. This contradicts the views of the astute and dogmatic Muslims who believe that the US is against the Islamic religion and will do anything to bring it down.

Ordinarily, the book is underplayed by the economic and social challenges in the peninsula that informed the founding moment of Islam. While it is true that Muhammad was not a member of the Meccan trading elites, the part of the Koran that talks about him generally talks about commerce. This makes sense why the Islamic religion is portrayed to have underprivileged merchants and traders. Allah in this case is the merchant and life is viewed as a business that can either gain or lose. The common/ordinary Muslims are forced to sell their soul to Allah in order to enter the Islamic paradise.

The most critical part of this book is the discussion of the Sufi Beliefs and literature. Reza Aslan’s knowledge of the Attar’s, The Conference of Birds is fascinating. His mastery of the Punjab traditions makes his writing exciting and captivating however limited it is. In addition to his quest on reformation, he calls for the enlightenment of the Islamic Religion. The world is calling for global reformation especially in religion. This book is therefore important to the Islamic religion and the west that are engaged in a religious war that has sought to annihilate the entire religion.

The book by Reza Aslan is an interesting piece of well written narrative the explains religious history and the controversies that dig into religions that are likely to cause more harm than good to the world. The text also provides a glossary and detailed section of notes and references. Apart from just the historical appeal the book displays, this is indeed and excellent piece of work that doubles as an impassioned call to reform.

Conclusion

Today, religion is on the rise in the western countries. The United States is best victim of this circumstance. Previously, New Labor has always been Christian and so this begs the question as to why the Islamic religion should be marginalized? Reza Aslan alongside other Islamic modernists calls for reformation in the Islamic religion. They are campaigning for a modern Islamic religion that can favorably compete in the west with Christianity and other religions such as Judaism.

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Farming the Home Place – Book Review

The author of Farming the Home Place attempted to provide a broad survey of the work of farm women, impact on agriculture, adoption of technology, social ideology about farm women’s role, government agricultural policy and farm women’s labor in the Midwest. The book illustrated the major changes of the time period as well as defining significant difference and similarities in the lives of urban and farm women. Farming the Home Place is accessible and sophisticated but contributes significant information in the field of history. Farming the Home Place is a book with wide range than what the title suggest. The author used the small Japanese-American farming area in California’s Central Valley to expand the concept of community. Initially, the author highlighted how the minority group was integrated into the mainstream of American society regardless of the extreme trauma of confinement during World War II.

Matsumoto systematically illustrated the early years of struggle in the Cortez Colony, where the first farm families fought to overcome legal barriers and racism to establish small fruits and vegetable farming in a harsh environment. The author demonstrated how immigrant farmers registered land using the names of their children born in America to circumvent discriminatory land ownership laws; how good business practices that brought together colony to form a Cortez Growers Association, which was driven by well-organized marketing structures that were the basis of California’s agribusiness formation during the first half of the century; how Anglo business agent cared for Cortez growers farms and how they broke the web of community after being released despite the brutal vigilantism and adopted the modernization practices such as mechanization and farming of orchard crops such as almond.

According to the author, Japanese Americans resorted to the agriculture because urban occupation was curtailed in the early twentieth century. The Japanese Americans discovered that farming was the only means to achieve success and earn respect by the foreign-born citizens. This move saw other minority ethnic communities adopted agriculture in other regions outside California for the same reasons. For example, the Croatians engaged in grape farming, Punjabis in cotton and Portuguese in dairy farming. All these foreign-born farmers became successful in these different agricultural practices after World War II. These communities were respected by Anglo landowners and they preferred them to be their tenants due to strong work ethics. However, it is the Japanese Americans who experienced the worst humiliation experience and tragic internship more than the Croatians, Portuguese, and other immigrants before the World War II. The author argued that the revival of Cortez Colony after internment and the continued production of crops by Japanese Americans was attributed to hard-bitten resilience.

The use of family labor by all the ethnic farmers in the Central Valley significantly contributed to their success since it was practical. This was one of the major secrets that make ethnic farmers to succeed. At one time Japanese farmer came under criticism from nativists for using their older daughters and wives as labors in the farms. These criticism was driven by the fact that nativists feared stiff competition from the Japanese who were hard-working. As a result, the nativists opted to disregard the fact that the Japanese were organized in the society since they produced bountiful crops, settled their bills on time, founded and supported the development of institutions such as schools, sports and churches, thus their children thrived in school. Nativists though that by raising the issue of older and Japanese wives toiling in the farmland would reduce the competition from the Japanese.

Out of their hard work, the Sansei who was the Japanese third-generation made their ethnic identity known. However, in the late twentieth-century the rural life of Sansei was threatened by the postmodern world. Nonetheless, their education achievement made the Japanese to be competitively advantage and marry outward. Despite Sansei being attracted to the slower pace of life on the rural areas and giving up lucrative career in the urban centers so that they continue to farm, mechanization and capital intensive operations as well as the increasing competition made the small-scale Japanese American fruit farm redundant. These development in the postmodern world made the Japanese third-generation to take up lucrative career and slowly withdraw from entirely depending on the farming.

The review of this book indicated that Farming the Home Place provide the important methodological model for the researchers and scholar that are interested in exploring  ethnic, community and family history. The author managed to incorporate oral evidence in her writing which is a valuable aspect in making the reader to comprehend the reality of that time. In addition, the book used the latest theories of assimilation to enhance sophisticated understanding and explication of the subject matter. In conclusion, Farming the Home Place serves as a model for community and family history in the 20th century.

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Book Review: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is an expertly written environmental science book published in 1962. It focuses on the documentation of detrimental effects that the haphazard use of pesticides has on the environment. In the book, she is vocal about her criticism of chemical industry which she blames for the rampant disinformation that is aimed at ensuring that public official accepts their claims unquestioningly (Carson and Lear). Carson had earlier focused all her attention on conservation efforts and in particular in environmental problems caused pesticides.The result of her new found passion culminated in the writing of Silent Spring(1962) that brought out her environmental concerns with the aim of sharing them with the American public. The following is a review of the book and an analysis of its content.

 

            Content and themes

An overriding theme throughout the book is the negative effect that human beings bring to the natural world. Her main argument posits that the chemical pesticides used in farms have far-reaching effects on the environment. She describes them as “biocides” as their effects are not only limited to the specific pests that they aim to exterminate. A prime example Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane popularly known as DDT, notorious for bioaccumulation (Rios). A large chunk of the book is dedicated to pesticides and how they affect the natural ecosystem with the portion consisting of four chapters providing detailed cases of the manner in which pesticide poisoning in human beings causes cancer and illnesses that are linked to pesticides(Carson 12). She eloquently questions the faith of humanity in this destructive portion of technological progress while helping set a base for an environmental conservation movement.

The book is as a result of an in-depth research undertaking into the subject and even meticulously describes the process of DDT entering the food chain and then consequently accumulating in animals, especially in their fatty tissues ( a leading cause of cancer and damage to the genetic material).  She further writes that a single application of a pesticide on a crop continues to kill insects for months on end with most of those dying being the unintended target. Furthermore, the book is written in a manner that seems to suggest that it is a public awareness campaign with the intention of demonstrating to society how vulnerable nature is to human intervention (Lytle 45). Carson makes radical proposals, one of them being that it is the duty of the government to curtail progress in technology as there are times when it is essentially at odds with the natural process. Hers is a call to environmentalism calling for the need to regulate this industry for the sake of nature’s protection.

The book also seeks to ignite a form of social revolution amongst the citizens of the country to keep the government in check in terms its accountability. Carson urges the readers to ensure that they always seek questions from the government, especially in regards to what they have promised the citizenry in term of protection of the environment. In particular, she points to the government is at the forefront in battling this epidemic but she still notes that the federal government is also partly to blame for this turn of events. Controlling the advancement in science and technology is one of the suggestions she gives for dealing with this problem in future because these development are often on a collision course with the natural world. Hers was a prophetic call to action to protect the environment that we live in for the purpose of balancing the laws of survival in nature. Human beings are thus expected to be in harmony as equal players in nature, instead of enforcing their will and playing master over all.

 

Book Review: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel is a book in its own league. Nothing confirms this more than the fact that it is a winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for non-fictional books and became a best seller in 1998. Diamond does a superb job at catching the attention of the reader by providing them with a fascinating and detailed account of about 13,000 years of societal development and human evolution. Although there have been a few points of controversy that the book has raised among scientists, the book has tasked itself with answering very many complex questions that had largely remained unanswered for decades. In its preface, Diamond first begins by recounting how he was initially intrigued when Yali, his New Guinean friend once asked him once; “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had a little cargo of our own?”(Diamond 14). The “cargo” mentioned so fondly by Yali is technology, and in particular simple tools such as axes, other accessories like umbrellas together with complex inventions such as cell phones, computers, and the Internet. Diamond notes that two centuries before his meeting with Yali, the communities native to New Guinea had already been using their own form of stone tools. It is this sudden realization that makes him interrogate the main factors that led to this stark gap in development between these two cultures.

At first, many would wrongly assume that Diamond could be writing the book to celebrate European conquest over other nations. Conversely, Diamond is not on a mission to glorify anything or anyone but simply tries his level best to describe what happened in history, and why events took the course that they did. He also clarifies that his is just a descriptive work of literature and does not, in any way, judge anyone. However, there are several occasions in the book where he voices his own opinion and in particular, his utter disgust for the racism that European colonialists harbored. For the most part of this meticulously written book, his tone is dispassionate and scientific. He searches for a conclusive answer to his question by first examining history over the millions of years that have passed, mapping out those first migrations of hominids from Africa to their destination in Eurasia and later from the Eastern Asia region towards the Pacific Ocean Islands, Siberia to the Americas. He follows the biological evolution of human beings and later focuses on certain representative societies which he uses to illustrate the truth that is there in his findings. While emphasizing the difference that exists between the developing cultures, he emphasizes on the writing, food production, government, technology, and religion. Using his opinions, he then demonstrates the reason why a difference among the cultures occurred.

From the onset, it is easy for one to misinterpret the rhetoric of the book as Diamond’s simple argument that the hunter-gatherer culture such as that of the aborigines and Native Americans as being inferior to that of the industrialized civilizations. In truth,  he doesn’t argue that one society is better than the other but surprisingly mentions that before contact, these hunter-gatherers were better off without the “development” that was brought. He shows how human beings learned how to effectively replace these practices with the onset of industrial and agricultural practices. He is also not saying that hunting and gathering are inferior to agriculture but simply stating that farming was more efficient in extracting food for certain areas. It is also important to note that throughout the book, Diamond seems to have written the book to refute persistent unscientific claims that Westerners were superior in comparison to people from other regions in the world. He makes specific mention to the racist’s attempts to twist science as seen in their use of Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species to justify their subjugation of these people and their brutality towards them during the conquest. (Guns, Germs, & Steel by Jared Diamond | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: The Fates of Human Societies 25). He is insistent on there is no scientific link between culture/race and the intelligence of a people. To bolster this point, he describes his personal experience working as an anthropologist in New Guinea. It was in this island nation that he met some of the most brilliant people. He even seems convinced that these people could be smarter than the Westerners. In this society, survival was determined by luck and health meaning that individuals did not die from infectious diseases such as smallpox and the plague. Survival was more of a product of intelligence and talent such as being able to avoid accidents and their ability to hunt food successfully(Diamond 21). Additionally, Diamond points out that the average New Guinean spent more time out exploring the world around them than the average Westerner who would spend more time watching TV.

In conclusion, the main argument in Diamond’s book is that that the differences that exist between different peoples and societies around the world are large as a result of the geographical differences present around the world. There are certain parts of the world where human beings decided to pursue agriculture due to the temperate climate and fertile soils while making good use of the time and resources available. These agricultural societies would, in turn, gain tremendous advantages over the other non-agricultural semi-sedentary societies as there was a subsequent increase in free leisure time to conquer other nations. The sheer depth of Diamonds argument makes for a smooth exposition that is used in combination with a didactic style during his narrations. Guns, Germs, and Steel is an impressive milestone of imagination that manages to succinctly describe the interaction between ‘primitive’ peoples and ‘civilized’ minds.

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Book Review : Disaster Ministry Handbook by David Boan and Jasmie Aten

Among most communities, it is the churches that people turn to as centers for assistance and response during times of disaster. Whenever tornados or floods destroy property and devastate an area, or when a community is shaken by shocking acts of violence knowing what to do in such a situation can be the ultimate difference between life and death, calm and chaos or courage and fear 1. Few churches take the time to plan in advance for such eventualities and are more often than not being caught off guard when the storms of disaster hit. Disaster Ministry by David Boan and Jasmie Aten is a practical guide for churches in disaster preparedness. The book is critically important to the church in preparing for the unthinkable and providing relief to victims of such a catastrophic event. Both authors are co-directors at the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HID) 2 which bolsters the book’s credibility in providing a resource with information regarding planning for local congregations in a community. Stephen Bauman, the Chief Executive Officer and president of World Relief puts, while giving a commentary about the book underscored its importance by describing it as a handbook for the church and will help all those who follow Jesus to march to the front line that disaster creates, whether it is natural or man-made 3. The primary goal is to assist those most in need during periods of crisis. Below is an in-depth review of Disaster Ministry Handbook by David Boan and Jasmie Aten and its perspective on how best the Church can deal with disasters.

There are various critical roles that the church can play in disaster response and resilience. The handbook provides the reader with valuable lessons and answers especially to the question of what type of assistance local churches can provide, especially in regions that are regarded as high-risk. It is common knowledge that there are churches that have members living in disaster prone areas and there are also those who sincerely want to go the extra mile and provide help for these individuals3. It seems the sole aim of the authors is to prepare those individuals with servant hearts to these two perspectives and in doing so introduce them to the importance of disaster assistance. They suggest the reasons why churches should participate in such initiatives and propose ways in which the local church can assist the community specifically due to the trust that the community has in them and their structure. They are in essence, the first line of help for the community that they come from and should thus make is a point to increase their engagement level and participate wholly in this noble quest.

David Boan and Jasmie Aten’s opinions on the role of the church during periods of disasters

Disaster can come in various forms which are perhaps the reason why the authors had to break them down into four distinct categories: terrorist hazards, natural disasters, public health emergencies, technological and accidental hazards. Additionally, the authors go on to elaborate the various phases of disaster response after its initial identification4. In most cases, local churches are ill-prepared to implement a meticulously planned response to combat disasters that require urgent attention. The layout of the book is a buildup of crucial information designed to help local churches plan on how to best deal with it and how it can support its congregation and the community at large. If and when disaster strikes, the church first dedicates itself to the community in response to the matter at hand as seen in the case of the Salvation Army in the United States5. They often act as first responders whenever there is a crisis as they are aware that it is their Christian duty to assist those struck by tragedy.  Furthermore, this handbook is also designed to prepare the church leadership (the pastor being at the top) to make a local response whenever they are called upon to do so.  The first responders, for example, will me individuals in the health profession and mental health providers who also happen to be members of the church’s congregation 6. Such a group becomes the target audience for this book to assist them to formulate an orderly response policy.

The book also builds a solid case on why churches should be in direct involvement in efforts of disaster recovery and the provision of practical tools that can be put to use to create a fitting reaction plan. In responding to disasters, churches also need to learn how to integrate their response so that other partners, be it government or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), can lend a helping hand and lighten their load. The authors of this book also present the notion that the church’s involvement during periods of crisis also creates an opportunity for the local churches to interact and minister within the community that surrounds them5. They can serve these individuals with Christ’s love during the dark times and give them the hope that they need to soldier on. Moreover, the book advises local churches to try starting small and then joining with other partners as the main goal of their efforts is to create resilience to disaster in the local population. An observation brought up in the book is that disasters have been on a steady rise, but the resources that are made available to respond to these calamities have been decreasing. In a time where the frequency of the disasters has been increasing and government resources decreasing, a unique opportunity for the church presents itself where it is able to reach out to the people during their time of need.

Throughout the book, these two authors bring the audience to the realization that vulnerable individuals in the society often suffer disproportionately. An example that they provide is that of persons with disabilities as their likelihood of survival is two to four times lesser. The needs of those regarded as vulnerable in the society are unique whenever there is a disaster7. Those in this group include the young or very old, fragile individuals, the poor and those with few resources and the necessary connections to enable the, face these difficult experiences. It is important for the churches to understand fully how these disasters affect vulnerable people to ensure that they are not overlooked during rescue efforts.  Of importance to these efforts is the fact that vulnerable put family first and thus the need to keep them together at all times. Those that face severe crisis are mainly those who lose contact with their caregivers and those people that they depend upon. Some of these individuals do not have complete comprehension of their condition, posing a danger to them when they are separated from those who understand their condition. It has been noted by experts in palliative care that the surge in flu outbreaks can have deadly consequences for vulnerable people more so if they find themselves in a catastrophe8.  The authors also issue a challenge for persons with intentions to start a disaster that in light of the plight of the vulnerable, they should be included in the disaster management policy.

Congregational response to disaster through planning

It is also crucial to remember that response to a disaster is a communal effort with disaster relief groups being advised to liaise with specialists in planning for and managing such crisis, for instance, the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA). Churches are also encouraged to urge members of their congregation not to visit sites of these disasters with no organizational affiliation.  When individuals participate with organizations, chances are that their expertise will be put to good use as compared to if they were to go at it autonomously.  Relief efforts that are already on-going can then be integrated with that of the disaster ministry. The reasoning behind this strategy is to leverage one’s experience, adding a creative variety to increase the interest of those already in the ministries, avoid the duplication of leadership and ministry together with better planning9. The handbook is practical and clearly written and most importantly is that it provides the local church with effective tools that it can utilize in the planning, execution, and implementation of their strategies. Churches can now get an insight into how they can take good care of their congregation in a more sustainable and smarter way.

Underscored in the book is the importance of preparedness which is the surest way of reducing the impact of the disaster. A church that is already prepared has the local congregation as its number one asset, the reason being that those in this demographic are in a unique position to provide help to their communities as far as disaster vigilance, response and recovery are concerned. Congregational leaders that support the disaster ministry claim that the congregations that they minister to are able to provide the community with a broad-based prevention scheme and holistic care for those affected physically, spiritually and emotionally by the disaster10. It was also an important point to note is that the congregations in these local churches can reach those individuals that other groups and agencies were unable to come to contact with help reaching all those requiring it.  To add to this, congregations can also act as a source for drastic action on the community due to their connection with them, assisting them in assessing their risks and needs while trying to identify all possible appropriate actions. The congregation has been put in a position that gives them the opportunity to act as advocates for the vulnerable and all marginalized people in a population. If this notion is implemented, the church can expect the fair distribution of food and health care by determining who requires help urgently. Provision of resources by the congregation is also listed as an advantage of the church’s involvement during these trying times. Some may provide evacuation centers, meeting spaces, facilities to store food, equipment, water and all resources relevant to the work that they are pursuing. As a center for communication, the congregation allows messages and meetings to pass on vital information to a significant audience on a timely regular basis. A willing body of committed volunteers is thus found in the congregation as their foundation is built on love and their motivation being compassion.

It is vital to acknowledge that this handbook has had a profound effect on my ideas about urban ministry. It is the Christian duty of all those in a congregation to prepare for disaster and those it may affect as it is what they would require during their time of need. From the handbook, I have come to the apprehension that using the three-stage approach to deal with a disaster can be one of the many practical ways that members of a church and the congregational leaders can use as a starting point. The approach revolves around people coming up with pragmatic ways of taking action even when in the midst of disaster. To develop high-quality emergency strategies, most Christian organizations and government agencies that are typically involved in emergency response use this approach. The disaster ministry thus has to take into consideration the unique calling, talent and gifts that the congregation possesses. From the manuscript, it is evident that those churches that were successful in developing a disaster ministry first started small and later on made a concerted effort to build on their strengths.

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Middle East Literature – Books Review

The media is filled with stories about the Middle East, yet many people lack adequate knowledge about this region (Webb, 2009). Various authors have written stories about the Middle East and their literature help to bring the diverse experiences of this part of the world to the readers. Modern Middle Eastern Literature helps readers to replace old stereotypes about the region and to develop personal connections with the Arab countries. Some of the notable books written by authors from the Middle East, and that will be used for this analysis, include Wild Thorns written by Sahar Khalifeh, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter, and Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Readers can also use contemporary films and videos about these books to gain a proper understanding of Middle Eastern Literature (Webb, 2009).

The Middle East is a historically complex and diverse region where a large percentage of the world’s population resides. Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh addresses the crisis between Israeli and Palestine and it gives the reader an important opportunity to rethink the presumptions about the Arabic people. Khalifeh is known in the Middle East as the first female in history to write about Palestinian life. Wild Thorns is a very good book to introduce young readers to the lives of people living in the Middle East, especially in Palestine (Khalifeh, 2000).

Wild Thorns is centered on Al-Karmi family who live in the town of Nablus that is largely occupied by the Israelis. Members of this family have varied viewpoints and experiences. Nuwar who is the only daughter in the family is in love with a revolutionary. Adil, Nuwar’s brother, is working in Israel against his father’s wishes. Adil’s cousin, Usama, has just returned from work in Gulf States and he is now interested in becoming a resistance fighter. Basil, Adil’s brother, has been described in the text as a teenager who likes throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and who later on ends up in prison (Khalifeh, 2000).

Wild Thorns portrays the challenges that Palestinians are facing in their everyday life such as military domination and unemployment. When reading Wild Thorns, readers can draw personal connections with characters in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the text. Many people have read it in the news about the endless conflict between Iraq and Afghanistan. By identifying with characters in Wild Thorns, readers can transform their understanding and build a bridge between Palestines and the lives they are leading in territories that are largely occupied by Israelis (Webb, 2009).

The West Bank which is largely occupied by Israelis is portrayed as a society that is facing both internal and external assaults. However, that society has a positive spirit to remain strong and moving despite the misfortunes faced by its citizens. Wild Thorns gives the reader more information on how the Palestinians can survive under the current occupation. The lives of Adil and his cousin Usama tell the reader that political independence is directly related to survival. The two cousins are confident that even if the Israeli occupation continues, they will continue to survive through resistance. These characters are a true representation of the Palestine and the conflict that the country is currently facing. For Palestine to survive through the war, it must deal with it on its own through resistance (Webb, 2009).

In Wild Thorns, Basil and Usama have been prompted to destroy their family by the concept of nationalism. Here, Khalifeh views nationalism merely as a castle that us devoid of any foundation. Instead, what is evident in the book is a form of resigned solidarity. Currently, there are no national networks in the Middle East. However, the society is less connected as compared to the years after the Arab revolt (Khalifeh, 2000).

Usama in Wild Thorns represents politically active refugees from Palestine who were displaced in 1967 following the defeat of pan-Arabism and Nasser. He has just come back to Palestines from the Gulf of States and he is willing to execute attacks in those areas that are controlled by Israeli. Yasser Arafat from Palestine had gone to study in the Gulf States, but has some connections behind. Following his risky cross-border raids, it is the Palestines who suffered when Israeli chose to retaliate. Khalifeh has organized his characters into different figures by giving them different attitudes throughout the text. It is this difference in attitudes that plays a big role in building cleavages in the Palestinian society (Webb, 2009).

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter is another book that provides valuable background information about the life experiences of people in the Middle East (Webb, 2009). In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter, the former President of the United States claims that Israel is responsible for the apartheid system in Gaza and West Bank. According to Carter, the conflict between Palestine and Israel has been influenced by Israel who has colonized the Palestinian lands and has deprived residents of their basic human rights (Webb, 2009). Jimmy Carter is greatly involved in policies affecting the Middle East, and he emphasizes that there is lack of a comprehensive peace agreement in Palestine due to the primary obstacles that have been created by Israel (Carter, 2006). Jimmy Carter accuses Israel for building an ‘imprisonment wall’ in the West Bank and for strangling Gaza residents. He also writes about the role played by the United States in fueling the war between Israel and Palestine. He claims that Washington is abetting the colonization of Palestinian territories by the Israeli (Webb, 2009).

By connecting with characters in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the reader is able to gain a clear picture of the cause of the war between Palestine and Israel, as well as the painful experiences faced by Palestine citizens (Goodman, 2006). This book is good for both the young people and adults who are interested in learning the political atmosphere of the Middle East. Additionally, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid helps readers to understand that the conflict between Israel and Palestine does not only involve countries in the Middle East, but also those in the United States such as Washington. In his views, Carter feels that Washington State is one of the contributors of the apartheid system that Israel has built against Palestine (Webb, 2009).

Many innocent civilians have died as a result of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Israel has occupied Palestinian land for approximately 38 years and Palestinians are suffering in the Israeli territory. Carter’s goal is to find long lasting solution for the war between Palestine and Israel (Carter, 2006). According to Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the wall that is encircling the Palestinian people is a big threat to the peace process that is initiated to end the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Carter’s book perfectly explains a very controversial and complicated history of the Middle East. The timeline that the author has provided at the beginning of the book helps the reader to understand the role played by past events in enhancing understanding of the history of the Middle East. Throughout Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter has taken a unique position to give the reader a different perspective from that applied by other books on the same topic (Goodman, 2006).

Under The Persimmon Tree is a book written by Suzzane Fisher Staples and that involves a story of two families in Afghanistan barely on month after the September 11th attacks in New York. The story in Under The Persimmon Tree begins in Northern Afghanistan in a village called Golestan (Staples, 2005). In the book, Najmah lives with her father Baba-jan, her brother Nur, and her mother who is currently expectant. The family starts their day well but ends in a frightening mood when the Taliban attacks the family, taking their food, and kidnapping Najmah’s father and brother to become soldiers. Najmah’s mother gives birth to a baby boy just a few days after the attack. Surprisingly, Mohiuddin, Najmah’s uncle, who supports the Taliban, comes home and tells her and her mother to leave the Kunduz Hills, but they refuse (Staples, 2005).

Suzzane’s describes the pain and suffering that Najmah and her family goes through in the hand of the Taliban throughout their journey. Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzzane Fisher Staples is a touching story where the author has effectively applied her literary skills. Suzzane has used different characters to paint a representation of a society that is completely destroyed by the Taliban rule. The author also describes a painful suffering of people affected by religious cruelty. Under The Persimmon Tree also narrates how poor farmers in Afghanistan are unable to protect themselves from becoming part of Taliban’s kidnappings. The reader will be able to gain a proper understanding of Under The Persimmon Tree if he or she connects with the characters in the literature (Staples, 2005).

The author of Under the Persimmon Tree applies multiculturalism in the text to describe the different cultures that inhabit the Middle East (Staples, 2005). Both students and teachers alike related the Middle East with the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The society may form stereotypes based on limited information that they have about the Middle East. However, people should realize that the Middle East is not just about terrorism and Taliban, but a nation where citizens can show love to one another. For instance, Najman is treated with compassion and kindness by Khalida’s family. Khalida’s family has gone an extra mile to risk their lives by disguising Najmah as a boy and escorting her on the road to Pakistan (Staples, 2005).

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Why Culture Counts-Teaching Children Of Poverty – Book Review

The book ‘Why Culture Counts: Teaching Children of Poverty’ has broadened most people’s perspectives about education especially me, the book introduces readers to various new concepts as well as strategies for ensuring success to all children in a school environment. The authors therefore argumentatively inform people that education is possible to all. From the book, I, therefore, perceive education to be dependent on many aspects such as theculture of the child, poverty issues and general social background of the child. This new perspective is, therefore, different from the initial one where I believed that education was self-dependent and associated with uniformity in all aspects of the instructional materials and methods.

The book has many relations to the trend of the future of education. The future of education refers to those educational practices that guaranteefuture success of better quality of teaching (Peterson, 1968). The authors suggest various approaches to education and their significant roles in enhancing thefinal quality of teaching. For example, different from the traditional practices that involved teachersteaching their learners uniformly in a classroom using stipulated instructional strategies, the authors exposes us to the need and relevance of assessing the studentsto establish their educational baselines and future success in the educational fields.

In chapter three of the book, the authors dwell much on differentiating for economically and culturally diverse learners (Tileston et al., 20080. The authors clarify the role of establishing both the cultural and economic impacts on education. To ensure the future of education, the authors are encouraging teachers to be “turnaround teachers.” According to them, teachers should take it upon themselves to adequately provide conditions in school that ensure success among all the children in a school. Secondly, to ensure the future of education, the authors suggest ways of planning for the needs of all those children living in poverty. These children left unconsidered will miss their educational chances coupled with success, as we know consistent failure among children always leads to their dropouts. The author, therefore, outlines the considerations that help teachers plan for these children

Analysis of the current educational processes reveals the ongoing incorporation of special needs education whereby learners’ individual needs getattended to by the special needs teachers. In the leading public universities, special needs teachers are currently trained for the same purpose. The authors’ ideas of modification of instructional strategies, re-teaching of essential vocabulary, contextualization of the content for learner’s particular culture and many more are all elements of special needs education where before teaching a concept, the teacher has to create a condition or an environment conducive for the learner putting considerations of the learners baseline factors like the both cultural and economic educational implications.

The authors’ perspectives or theories that address the current educational practices are such like their suggestions for the need for differentiating assessment in chapter eight, thedifferentiating context in chapter five among other chapters. Theprimary current educational practices that are addressed by the authors include the school counseling programs, the family units and cultural school days. Through these programs,a comprehensive school is created (Villa & Thousand, 2005), insights about issues affecting the child educational progress are pursued by professional teachers in the various schools, especially through the counseling programs.  In the book, especially in the fifth chapter, the authors talk about ‘theinclusion of students’ languages, cultures, and daily experiences into the academic and social context of school’. Most of these aspects are discussed in school counseling programs by teachers with extensive training.

The teachers show guidance and alternatives that incorporate the learners’ indifferences. During the cultural school days, cultural songs, as well as other practices, are integrated into the social and academic context of the school. Additionally, in the last chapter of their book, the authors dwelt much on ‘bringing it together to build resilience in diverse students’. It implies the different ways the teachers daily strive to associate success with all students despite their particular difficulties and barriers. In the current educational practices, there is also an evidenced profound teachings on most dominant cultures and expectations coupled with evidence-based teaching methods (Moran & Malott, 2004) as suggested by the authors. These lessons are relevant for the learners to know what to anticipate.

Current educational practices also encompass the differentiation of the content to suit best the individual student. It is the topic of considerable discussion in chapter six of ‘Why Culture Counts: Teaching Children of Poverty’. The authors, primary focus in on the relevance of the available content to the learners both cultural and economic aspects of education. Today, teachers are encouraged to assess the relevancy of the content to the learners’ appropriate age, class, and individual differences. In general, the focus of the theme of the book is to promote equal access to quality education to all children irrespective to their economic or cultural backgrounds.

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