Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The End of Poverty

"The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs was what I would consider a bold book. Basically, Sachs claims that it is possible to eliminate extreme poverty for the 1.1 billion people in the world currently living in it by the year 2025.

The book could be divided into three parts. The first part is what I would call "Global Economics 101" as Sachs paints with broad strokes the issue of global poverty, how it starts, and why it is difficult to fix. The second part is case studies of different nations that Sachs witnessed and even helped to come out of economic turmoil.

The final, and most in-depth part of the book, was Sachs plan to end extreme poverty by the year 2025. He argues that it can be done by the world's richest nations (read United States) donating just .7% of their GNP (Gross National Product). Obviously it will also take a major organizational effort to distribute the funds and to provide clean drinking water, a sustainable source of food, and basic health care, etc, and Sachs briefly touched on this.

I was impressed by Sach's intrepid attitude that extreme poverty is something that could be fixed. I am certainly not intelligent enough to wrap my brain around this huge issue and offer any type of opinion as to the validity of Sach's claims. I do believe that I have to do my part on an individual level to live in such a way that others are able to simply live, which will hopefully have an impact on my family, and then my community, and then hopefully will continue to have a ripple effect that will extend to the entire world.

Next, I will be reading a book, "The White Man's Burden," which I have been told is a response to Sach's, so I will be curious to see how this will bring a new perspective.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

the god's aren't angry

A few weeks ago Laura and I went to hear Rob Bell on his "the god's aren't angry" tour. I have heard Rob Bell preach through his podcasts at Mars Hill, and I have read both of his books, so I was excited to hear/see him in person. I came away not disappointed in any way. He spoke for about an hour and a half on the origins on religious thought and how the revelation of the Judaic/Christian God was a radical alternative at every point in history to the "gods" created by humans.

As it has been a few weeks, the following 2 thoughts remain with me:

1. He really explained well this idea of progressive revelation. For example, it is easy for us to read the Old Testament and pass it off as barbaric and oppressive. However, Bell did an excellent job of putting it in its context and showing the ways that the OT was transformative and life-giving. Basically, the OT declares that you can know where you stand with the God of the universe, which was a main problem of the ancient mindset (ie not knowing where you stand with the gods).

2. He also did an excellent job of pulling everything into a present context. He gave examples and stories of how these primal urges and fears are still present today. People are still chasing after invisible "gods" and responding to urges such as self-mutilation and hopelessness.

All in all, it was a solid teaching and I would definitely recommend checking it out once it comes out on DVD.

By far the most interesting part of the evening took place after the teaching. Outside, a few loud "protesters" had gathered, preaching "turn or burn." One guy had a big sign that said "God is Angry with your Sins" and another guy was pounding a bible while telling everyone they needed to repent or go to hell. At first I laughed out loud because I thought it was a joke, but I quickly learned that they were dead serious. It left a really awkward feeling inside of me and I felt embarrassed for them and for myself. If outsiders to the faith are turned off to the concept of being in a relationship with God because of examples like I saw that night, I do not blame them, I was pretty turned off myself.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

"The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami was another book on my classical literature list. In reading these works of classical literature, I have been really impressed with the writing capabilities of the authors. In the case of this book, Murakami was able to write a 600 page book based on the simple plot of a man whose wife mysteriously leaves him. Even though the plot was simple, it was still really interesting.

Murakami is a Japanese author and the setting of the book is in Tokyo. I was surprised at how similar the characters were culturally to Americans. In fact, I do not recall at all ever being confused about something that could only be understood in a certain cultural context.

I am not sure whether or not I liked the book. It kept me interested the whole time and I really enjoyed the writing style. However, the book ended with too many loose ends. A lot of mystery was created and nothing much was resolved in the end. The more I recall parts of the book, the more I realize that Murakami never gave any resolution to the story lines he developed. Overall, it was a solid piece of fiction and certainly worth reading.