Book Reviews: World In Conflict, Reset, Answering Jihad & Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And Me

June 16, 2017

By DRIES BRUNT & ROB HOFMEYR

 

World In Conflict by John Andrews                                                    9

Reset by Nick Hall                                                                                 7

Answering Jihad by Nabeel Qureshi                                                    9

Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And Me by Marianne Thamm                 9

 

An historical overview, including source and reference information and who’s who in recent global upheaval, World In Conflict makes for an interesting read.  The why-where-what of conflict is dealt with in great detail, covering trouble spots large and small, terrorist action and outright wars that cause world-wide disturbance. Reading this, one realises that recent developments in world politics have upset a social balance that, for better or worse, held regions together for centuries. One also realises that the nature and origin of conflict is such that there is little hope the situation will improve or be moderated by world  powers and institutions. The book explores the causes for conflict that range from religious, ethnic and tribal intolerance to national security issues and resource-grabbing.  This book is excellent if you want to understand the mechanism of world politics and the threat it holds for regional and world peace. How do world powers react to this threat and what policies have so far been followed by them – it’s all part of this exciting overview. By its very nature, the book casts gloom on world order and stability, but one encouraging aspect is that South Africa’s name does not appear in the index list.- DB

 

Reset is a good, fresh book for new converts, lapsed folk and those wanting to build a better life in Christ. It is aimed at young people. It has an enthusiasm that carries the reader through to the end. I say all this, conscious of my own bias against “campaign Christianity”. The stage, the amphitheatre and the lights always raise doubts. I am old enough to remember a very good book many years ago entitled The Harringay Story, an account of Billy Graham’s first campaign in Britain marked by the immaculate preparation, the back-up, the involvement of the churches and the integrity of the whole enterprise. Too many evangelists fall far short of those marks. Nick Hall is conscious of Graham as an exemplar and I am impressed that he acknowledges what he has learned from the older man. Once we have covered the campaigns, we come to the challenge to individuals to realign themselves, resetting our faith, plans, self-image, relationships, purity, habits and affections. None of this is dealt with in depth.  He does not cover issues such as abortion, homosexuality, living together before marriage and a host of questions that pastors face on a daily basis. Salvation is, as Paul knew, an untidy, often ragged business. The resetting of  my “generation” is thin. Salvation is communal and has huge implications for the structures within which we live, work, earn and vote. But all that cannot be covered in a book of this scope. Let’s, though, not have too narrow and personal a concept of the Kingdom. This is only one of a number of “How To” books, but it’s good, sound and engaging. – RH

 

Answering Jihad is an exceptionally useful and valuable book. Nabeel Qureshi has a profound understanding of the Muslim faith (he is the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus) and engages with Muslims in the United States. In this very readable book, he sets out, with great clarity, the origins of Jihad, in other words its place in the Quran, in the life of the Prophet, in the traditions and writings of early Muslim teachers and scholars. There is also Jihad today, dealing with radical Islam, Al-Quaida, ISIS and Boko Haram, the issue of peaceful versus militant Muslims, the radicalisation of the faith, and the spread of sharia law; Jihad in the Judaeo-Christian context and the question of Old Testament warfare; as well as the Crusades and the teachings of Jesus on violence. He makes it clear that although many Muslims are responsible citizens and caring people, the fundamental teachings of the faith lend themselves readily to radical politics and violence. Qureshi is a Christian apologist. This is not a work of scholarship but relies very heavily on scholars, especially Professor David Cook of Rice University. We have here a distillation of scholarship in readily accessible form. Some problems may arise from that, but this is an honest attempt to set out the present challenges for lay readers and to suggest ways forward for individuals, churches and the wider community. It is a call for deeper understanding, for avoiding slogans and propaganda and for meaningful discussion. Qureshi concludes with this paragraph: “My suggestion is that we engage Muslims proactively with love and friendship while simultaneously acknowledging the truth about Islam. This is not the final step in answering jihad, but it is the correct first step, and it offers a better way forward.” There are many “small” books on the subject. This is the best I have read. – RH

 

Marianne Thamm is a feminist, a lesbian in a committed partnership, an adoptive parent to two black girls and an accomplished journalist and writer. Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And Me is her autobiography and it is determinedly frank and open. Writing about her own childhood, her friendships and her escapades, she is quite brilliant. She evokes the life of suburban white Pretoria, “a seething cauldron of cultural rivalry that occasionally turned violent”. One of her principal narratives is the story of her complex relationship with her parents, particularly her father. He was a member of the Hitler Youth, an officer in the Wehrmacht, and a prisoner-of-war in England, where he had married Barbara, a Portugese migrant. They moved to South Africa, where he took a job with South African Department of Defence. Thamm’s growing awareness of the political landscape of South Africa coincided with her horror at discovering that her father had fought in Hitler’s army. Thamm pins her father down on a specimen board, his heart still beating, shows him no mercy, yet helps him as he faces the death of Barbara and copes with frail old age. It is only in his love or her two adopted children that he achieves some redemption. Her career as a journalist and writer is amusingly depicted, with a wry self-deprecation. Through this lens we learn the story of her own political history and perceptions. She writes revealingly and helpfully of the discovery of her homosexuality and her life as a lesbian woman and lover, showing great respect for the anonymity and privacy of those with whom she has encounters or partnerships. She and her partner decide to adopt two children. Here follows some of the best writing in the book, certainly the best account I have yet come across of the travails of the bureaucratic process and the very real joy in meeting a child who is to be your own. There are moments of blazing self-righteousness, but for the most part, there is humour and insight and the sharing of unforgettable moments. These narratives are all interwoven. Thamm’s personality is the product, as she admits, of Teutonic and Mediterranean forebears. That is only the beginning. She is a brilliant writer, with an astonishing memory for personalities and incidents, often harsh towards those whom she finds unsympathetic to herself. This book informs and challenges. It also entertains and amuses.

 

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