Category Archives: Writings Shared

Book Review: Mayflower, A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, Nathaniel Philbrick (Penguin, 2006). 463 pp. $20. ISBN 9780143111979. Reviewed by Terry Smith, minister and executive secretary.

Ever hear of “King Philip’s War”? Darryl Klassen’s question and suggested book title led me to this look at the Pilgrims’ first few decades (about 1620 to 1676) in what is now the U.S.

Canadians know that First Nations helped the first Pilgrims in the U.S. to survive and about the first Thanksgiving feast they celebrated together. As Darryl has said, Mayflower puts a different spin on traditional images. In my view, if they had known what was ahead, the First Nations people might have let the first Pilgrims starve or freeze to death.

The Pilgrims, who had left the Anglican Church in England, sought to establish a pure, separate lifestyle in the New World. Their ideals hit the reality of living in a mixed European community and the struggle for survival. The second generation of Pilgrims forgot how reliant their parents were on the First Nations. The European population grew; the fur trade and spirituality declined; and, as farming developed, more land was sought.

Some First Nations, observing their loss of lands and control, began a short-lived war (1675-76), partly under Philip, who had adopted a European name. In response, the Europeans distrusted even the “Praying Indians,” converts to Christianity; they were exiled to an island where harsh conditions killed many. As Praying Indians began to be trusted, they were used, with Mohawks, to turn the war.

The ugliness of war, not one-sided, is revealed here. Only rare voices on various sides can be found to object to the conflict, or to advocate for social justice for First Nations and show spiritual concern for them. Nor did the ugliness end with the war; when the war was over, many First Nations people were shipped as slaves to the West Indies.

Philbrick’s assessment tempers mythology with reality.

Review: Kingdom Come: Living What Jesus Taught

Kingdom Come: Living What Jesus Taught (Irwin, Ohio: Conservative Mennonite Conference, 2014). $35 Can. Reviewed by Lisa Schau (St. Vital), homemaker and educator.

This 13-week curriculum would be fascinating to do with older teens or adults. The lessons start with the history of God’s covenants with his people and move through the development of group identities (us versus them), to biblical view of lifestyles and relationships, and then the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

The lessons are interactive, mixing video clips (of songs, interviews, man-on-the-street, story-telling), role-play, choric readings, trivia games, and scripture readings with group discussions and prayer.

There is far more material available than could be covered in one session, which allows the leader the freedom to choose activities suitable to the group’s interests and comfort-level. This requires more preparation on the part of the leader, since simply pressing “play” will take you to a menu of very different options. Depending on the group, certain options will be more appropriate and helpful in stimulating discussions than others.

The content of the stories told comes from across history to current day, in North America and around the world. Expression of the concepts comes not only in the didactic style of definitions, doctrine or theory, but also in the form of art, poetry, and music.

The best experience would certainly be to go through this curriculum as a group, because the variety of media will touch different people in different ways, and so the discussion portions of each lesson will allow for a richer interaction with the material for all.

A great strength of this material is that the wide cross-section of personal experiences explored makes it necessarily deeply personal for the participants. This is no theoretical exercise; this study is meant to evoke change in the attitudes and actions of those who engage.

Note: This is a teacher led curriculum with more than 70 video clips. The topics are:

  1. Fill’er Up: Covenant—Old to New
  2. Free at Last: Righteousness—Law to Grace
  3. Pledge of Allegiance: Identity—Nation to Church
  4. Away from Home: World—In It but Not Of It
  5. The In-Group: Belonging—Bloodlines to Choice
  6. Give It Up: Posture—Self-Ambition to Servanthood
  7. Real Simple: Lifestyle—More to Less
  8. Peace on Earth: Relationships—Enemies to Friends
  9. Blowing in the Wind: Empowerment—Flesh to Spirit
  10. Appetizers: Epilogue—From Earth to Heaven

Book Review: People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue, Preston Sprinkle (Zondervan, 2015). 224 pp. $19. ISBN 9780310519652. Reviewed by Jessica Wichers, BCM chair. 

The Bible is very clear.” When confronted with the hotly debated topic of the Church and homosexuality, evangelicals may be tempted to quote Bible verses and come to hasty conclusions. But do they really know what the Bible says? It’s too important an issue for quick answers.

Preston Sprinkle’s book People to Be Loved is an in-depth biblical analysis of homosexuality, which employs historical context to study scripture passages used to affirm or condemn homosexuality. Sprinkle demonstrates both affirming and non-affirming arguments, making the reader work for the conclusion that marriage was designed to be between a man and a woman.

He then discusses whether same-sex attracted individuals were “born this way” and the factors that contribute. Sprinkle gives stories of people who have gone through the struggles of same-sex attraction. He identifies ways that believers can show love to LGBT individuals, acknowledge their humanity, and make the church a safe place for them to experience the love of Christ. Sprinkle reminds pastors that their pews are filled with more same-sex attracted people than they realize, and they need to choose their words carefully when they teach.

Sprinkle suggests that evangelical believers may need to modify their attitudes about certain things. For instance, same-sex attracted individuals may choose to glorify God by remaining celibate., but the Church tends to overlook unmarried people. An environment that values singles will also be a place where same-sex attracted people may find a chance to thrive.

People to Be Loved is a helpful addition to the conversation about homosexuality and the Church. It is written by a person who upholds marriage to be between a man and a woman (as I do), and I believe the book is a well-balanced exploration of a most urgent and essential topic. It deals thoroughly with what the Bible says about same-sex attraction and marriage in a tone that is engaging, humble, and respectful. It is a recommended read for any believer.