"AS I SEE
Volume 4, Number 10, October 2001
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
"AIN'T IT THE TRUTH!"
"But for the present let me lay
it down that there is nothing in Holy Writ to warrant the assumption that a man
is likely to be more spiritual if he is an ignoramus; or that prophetic power in
the pulpit especially attaches to the preacher whose heart is full and whose
head is empty. Knowledge is really not a disqualification for the ministry;
neither is there any incompatibility between the seer and the scholar."
C. S. Horne, from, The Romance Of Preaching (New York, 1914),
quoted by Warrren Wiersbe, Walking With The Giants (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 221.
ISLAM--A RELIGION OF PEACE?
In spite of the murder of seven
thousand innocent civilians on September 11, 2001 in the name of Allah by
Islamic "fundamentalists," and in spite of the fact that a long and
bloody series of international terrorist incidents stretching back in one
continuous stream through the 1990s and 1980s and 1970s and beyond has been
perpetrated by zealous adherents of Islam in America, Germany, Scotland, Greece,
France, Russia, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania and more, we are told
that we should believe that Islam is a religion of peace. Perhaps we should ask
for the definition of peace!
As I worked through in my mind the international terrorist acts of the past three decades--the Munich Olympics in 1972, the murder of over 200 Marines in Beirut in 1984 by a suicide bomber, a similar incident involving U.S. airmen in Saudi Arabia in 1999, Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the murder of 60 European tourists in Egypt near the fabled "Valley of the Kings" in the mid-1990s, the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, and many, many others--one fact stood out starkly: in every case, IN EVERY SINGLE CASE of international terrorism that I could recall, the perpetrators were adherents of the Islamic faith. Yes, there have been many cases of domestic terror (such as the Oklahoma City bombing) in the U.S., Britain, Japan, and elsewhere that have involved non-Moslems, yet in every case of international terror, the Islamic religion of those who planned and executed these barbaric acts has been a very prominent factor, indeed must be recognized as a chief, likely the chief motivating factor that brought them to commit such heinous acts.
Such brutality in close association with Islamic devotion should not be a source of surprise to us, for it is perfectly consistent with the conduct and teaching of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, and the repeated admonitions of the "holy book" of Islam, the Koran.
Consider the following quotes from Philip Schaff (he gives requisite documentation)--
"What a difference in the means employed and the results reached! Christianity made its conquest [of the Roman Empire] by peaceful missionaries and the power of persuasion, and carried with it the blessings of home, freedom and civilization. Mohammedanism conquered the fairest portions of the earth by the sword and cursed them by polygamy, slavery, despotism and desolation. The moving power of Christian missions was to love God and man; the moving power of Islam was fanaticism and brute force." (p. 150)
"Mohammedanism has inflamed the simple minded African tribes with the impure fire of fanaticism and given them greater power of resistance to Christianity. Sir William Muir, a very competent judge, thinks that Mohammedanism by the poisoning influence of polygamy and slavery, and by crushing all freedom of judgment in religion has interposed the most effectual barrier against the reception of Christianity. 'No system,' he says, 'could have been devised with more consummate skill for shutting out the nations over which it has sway, from the light of truth. Idolatrous Arabs might have been aroused to the spiritual life and to the adoption of the faith of Jesus; Mahometan Arabia is, to the human eye, sealed against the benign influences of the gospel. . . . The sword of Mahomet and the Coran are the most fatal enemies of civilization, liberty and truth.' " (p. 153)
"At first [Mohammed] proclaimed toleration: 'Let there be no compulsion in religion;' but afterwards he revealed the opposite principle that all unbelievers must be summoned to Islam, tribute, or the sword. With an increasing army of his enthusiastic followers, he took the field against his enemies, gained in [A.D.] 624 his first victory over the Koreish with an army of 305 (mostly citizens of Medina) against a force twice as large, conquered several Jewish and Christian tribes, ordered and watched in person the massacred of six hundred Jews in one day, while their wives and children were sold into slavery. . ." (pp. 165-6)
"Among his last utterances: 'The Lord destroy the Jews and the Christians! . . . Let there not be remain any faith but that of Islam throughout the whole of Arabia. . . .' " (p. 166)
" [Mohammed] believed in the use of the sword as the best missionary, and was utterly unscrupulous as to the means of success." (p. 169)
"Mohammed was a slave of sensual passion. . . . The motives of his excess in polygamy were his sensuality which grew with his years, and his desire for male offspring. . . . He had at least fourteen legal wives, and a number of slave concubines besides. At his death he left nine widows. He claimed special revelations which gave him greater liberty in sexual indulgence than ordinary Moslems (who were restricted to four wives) and exempted him from the prohibition of marrying near relatives. . . . Ayesha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, was his especial favorite. He married her when she was a girl of nine years, and he fifty-three years old." (pp. 169, 170)
"To compare such a man with Jesus, is preposterous and even blasphemous. Jesus was the sinless Saviour of sinners; Mohammed was a sinner, and he knew and confessed it. He falls far below Moses, or Elijah, or any of the prophets and apostles in moral purity." (p. 171)
" 'The sword,' says Mohammed, 'is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer: whoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven.' " (p. 171)
"The death penalty was suspended over every attempt to convert a Mussulman. Apostasy from the faith is also treason to the state, and merits the severest punishment in this world, as well as everlasting damnation in the world to come," (p. 173)
"But the Bible is the genuine revelation of the only true God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself; the Koran is a mock-revelation without Christ and without atonement. Whatever is true in the Koran is borrowed from the Bible; what is original, is false and frivolous. The Bible is historical and embodies the noblest aspirations of the human race in all ages to the final consummation; the Koran begins and stops with Mohammed." (p. 181)
"War against unbelievers is legalized by the Koran. The fighting men are to be slain, the women and children reduced to slavery. . . . The violation of captive women of the enemy is the legitimate reward of the conqueror." (pp. 190, 189)
That practices of modern-day Moslem terrorists are perfectly consistent with the Islamic religion of Mohammed is obvious from these quotations. It is the peaceful, non-bellicose Moslem who does not fully and faithfully follow the religion of Mohammed.
We freely acknowledge that the great majority of Muslims are not terrorists or a violent threat to their neighbors. We further recognize, and with great sorrow of heart, that Muslims one and all are enslaved to a soul-condemning religion of man that offers no redemption, no forgiveness, no salvation and no hope. They are blinded by sin and Satan, as we ourselves once were. We love the Muslim in Jesus' name, but hate the religion of Islam because of the unspeakable barbarism it inspires in many, and the eternal condemnation it guarantees for all who follow it.
There is only one plain and compelling conclusion: Islam is "the focus of evil in the world."--to borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan used by him to describe the world-threatening Soviet empire of the 1980s. Let us fervently pray and diligently work for the similar destruction and overthrow of this present-day "evil empire" by the truth of the Gospel, which truly and alone is "a religion of peace."
[Some suggested and readily accessible sources of information about Muhammad, Islam and the Koran:
Philip Schaff, A History of the Christian Church, vol. IV, pp. 143-202. The best I've found so far.
George W. Gilmore, "Mohammed, Mohammedanism," in vol. 7, pp. 436-444 of The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. by Samuel Jackson.
Robbie Orr, "Islam," in New 20th Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. by J. D. Douglas, pp. 442-445.
John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on Islam. Recent but with a few factual errors
Each of these has helpful bibliography.
Schaff specifically commends the account of Muhammad and the rise of Islam in Edward Gibbon's famous The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. That account, of which I have read only a small portion, is found in chapter 50, with subsequent events involving Islam recounted in chapter 51.
In contrast to the above, Will Durant's treatment of Islam in The Age of Faith, vol. 4 of The Story of Civilization set is long, tedious and practically an apologetic for Islam. (Durant is theologically incapable of accurately evaluating the subject). Don't waste your time.
The chapter "Mahometanism in its relations to the Eastern Church" in A. P. Stanley's History of the Eastern Church (1861; 5th edition, 1876) is a whitewash job that paints Islam in the most glowing of terms.
Likewise, C. George Fry and James R. King, Islam: A Survey of the Muslim Faith (Baker, 1980) is trash. It seeks to portray Islam as though it were a great good, not all that far from Christianity, and beneficial to its adherents, in spite of the fact that it enslaves and impoverishes its devoted adherents in this life and sends them to eternal doom in the world to come.]
THE READING--AND WRITING--OF HISTORY
Perhaps some will fault me (I haven't actually heard any complaints) about my reading and reviewing so many books on historical subjects not directly connected with Biblical studies. I do not repent of it; indeed I only regret that I have not read more.
Not infrequently when I tell someone that I used to be a high school history teacher, or I tell them with enthusiasm of some book on history I recently read (or more likely purchased with hopes of future reading--I've got a lot of those around here), I will get the reply "I hate history" or "I think history is b-o-r-i-n-g." When I hear that, I always recall H. L. Mencken's declaration that "there are no dull subjects, only dull writers." And dull teachers, I must add. Pity the poor student who was turned against the study of history because of some incompetent time-serving dullard who droned out history in some high school or college course, or because of some really awful "textbook" that he was forced to read.
The truth is, the study of history can be and ought to be a huge delight. I for one have always enjoyed reading history, especially biography--a specialized category of history. In grade school I devoured biographies of frontier heroes by the armload. Someone has well said that he who is ignorant of events before his own birth remains forever a child. I always told my history classes, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." They knew precisely what I meant.
From a biblical perspective, history is a subject of supreme importance. A very large part of the Old Testament is historical narrative--all or much of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the books of Samuel, Kings, & Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, and even parts of Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and some of the Minor Prophets. In the New Testament, of course the Gospels and Acts are historic narratives of persons and events of utmost interest and importance. And even the prophecies of Revelation are history reported and recorded in advance. If no other history interests the Christian (a circumstance I cannot comprehend), surely Biblical history must.
From a homiletic perspective (as a teacher and preacher and sometime writer, this is my perspective), history is a rich field. The abundance in history of highly suitable illustrations for messages is boundless. Indeed, though I preach or teach Bible messages close to a hundred times each year, I do not now nor have I in the past owned a single book of "sermon illustrations." First, most such books are largely worthless, with shop-worn or dubious examples drawn from long-forgotten incidents or even examples wholly fictitious. And second, by way of contrast, biographies and histories are brim full with apt examples and instances to illustrate virtually any message on any Bible topic. When I need an illustration for a message, I simply draw on my history reading and never fail to recall something precisely answering to the need at hand (and often as not, two or three apt examples).
As an illustration of history as both interesting and useful, let me refer you to David G. McCullough's The Johnstown Flood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968; 302 pp.). McCullough is the distinguished-looking, white-haired, mellifluous-voiced narrator of the PBS series "The Civil War" by Ken Burns, and a historian of genuine competence. He has written besides a book on the building of the Panama Canal (The Path Between the Seas), a biography of Harry Truman, and several other works.
The famous "Johnstown Flood" of May 31, 1889 was likely the single most newsworthy item in American history between the assassination of Lincoln and World War I. It certainly received the heaviest news coverage.
At 3:10 p.m. on May 31, 1889, following a full-day of unprecedentedly heavy rains, a 450-acre man-made lake, detained by a fifty-year-old earthen dam and owned by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club (the exclusive reserve of a select group of Pittsburgh's crustiest upper-crust), ruptured its barrier and its liberated waters raced down the South Fork Creek, into the Little Conemaugh River, on its way to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, some 15 miles downstream. It took about 40 minutes for the lake to empty completely, but it did so with the force of the Niagara River at its famous falls. The estimated 20 million tons of water roared through the narrow confines of the mountain valleys at speeds sometimes in excess of 40 miles an hour and with a roiling wall of water and debris at times more than 70 feet high. The water scoured the valleys and hillsides to the bare bedrock, uprooting massive trees, shattering and pushing along all man-made structures: houses, stores, railroad beds and equipment, telegraph and telephone poles, stone and wooden bridges, plus uncountable tons of soil, loose rocks and huge boulders, and livestock and people and whatever else was in the path of its irresistible plunge downward as it descended some 500 feet in the 15-mile race to Johnstown.
Before the flood, Johnstown was scarcely known outside of Western Pennsylvania. Some 50 miles east of Pittsburgh at the junction of the Stony Creek and Little Conemaugh rivers in a wide mountain valley, it had grown in its century of existence to about 10,000 souls (the nearby valley communities pushed the area's population to about 23,000 or perhaps a bit more). The biggest employer, and indeed the town's economic anchor, was a large steel mill which had been the largest in the entire country in terms of production in the 1870s and early 1880s. The lower parts of town had been subject to flooding by the converging rivers with some frequency in the past, but the water at its deepest rarely rose to more than six feet. The houses in the "better" and higher parts of town never had flooded, beyond having occasional standing water in the streets.
At 4:07 p.m., the juggernaut of water and wreckage crashed into Johnstown (already experiencing serious flooding in the lower parts of town due the heavy rains), and swept unstoppably over the whole town and over its several sister towns. Whole houses and businesses, and whole blocks of houses and businesses were torn loose and shattered by the impact. The wave collided with the hillside at the far side of town and returned as a massive wave of backwash surging through the ruins in the opposite direction, leveling most of what little had survived the first impact. From start to finish, the devastation took a mere ten minutes.
After dumping some of its load of mud and rock and wreckage on Johnstown and collecting a new load from the town itself, the water resumed its downhill course, slamming with incredible impact into a stone railroad bridge close to the ironworks. Huge quantities of debris were jammed next to and into the bridge, mounding as much as 80 feet high and all but entirely blocking the escape path of the flood waters (and incidentally trapping in the tangled mess some 80 living human beings). This left the town underwater until the flood eroded a new path around one end of the bridge, and began once again sweeping onward, this time with the floating ruins of Johnstown, including people clinging to rooftops and planks and whatever else they could hold on to, who were hoping against hope to find rescue somehow further downstream. In the rushing waters were the corpses of hundreds of Johnstown's citizens. Towns and villages all the way to Pittsburgh recovered bodies, and in many fewer cases, rescued victims.
The immediate outpouring of aid was heartening. At a public meeting in Pittsburgh the day after the flood, $48,000 in relief funds were collected in 50 minutes. Ultimately, over $3,000,000 were collected across the country and even in foreign countries. Material aid in the form of food, clothes, medicine, tents, tools, building materials came in by the hundreds of train carloads. Thousands of workers came to help clean up the disaster. Clara Baron and her Red Cross organization stayed for five months.
The official death toll ultimately was fixed at 2,209. One third of the corpses were never identified and hundreds of missing were never recovered. Human remains from the flood were found as late as 1906. Ninety-nine whole families perished; 396 children age 10 or less died; 98 children lost both parents; 124 women were left widows; 198 men were made widowers. It took five years to rebuild the town.
In the three hours before the dam gave way, three urgent warnings were telegraphed from the town near the lake down river to Johnstown and points in between, and indeed all the way to Pittsburgh. And all three warnings were callously disregarded by those who were responsible to inform others. Had the warnings been taken seriously and the word spread abroad--and had the hearers heeded the warning--, the loss of life would have been a mere fraction of its actual toll, though the material loss would have been virtually the same.
This calamity drew vast armies of news reporters and photographers. Newspapers across the nation issued special edition after special edition as the news came in in bits and pieces. Magazine articles by the score were written and sermons by the thousands were preached. There's nothing like a good disaster to spark human interest. As Gibbon remarked, "History is indeed little more than a record of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind." At least those are the things that get the most attention. And this was a combination of crime, folly and misfortune in vast dimensions.
Besides the mere historic interest of the Johnstown flood (and McCullough's account is history-writing at its finest; if this account can't interest you, perhaps it would be best if you just returned to your video games or "the Price is Right"). . . . As I was saying, besides historic interest, there are dozens of suitable illustrations of spiritual truth in this account. Let me illustrate--
First--the utter devastation caused by so relatively small a body of water exposes the utter folly of the "tranquil flood" theory by which some try to explain away the Flood of Genesis 6-8. The notion that the earth could be covered with water without doing much damage to whatever is on the surface is discredited as preposterous. The Johnstown flood illustrates in microcosm what must have taken place on an immensely larger scale when God sent the great flood.
Then there are the unforeseen future consequences of actions, or as some call it, "the law of unintended consequences." When the dam had fallen into disrepair more than a decade before the flood, repairs were made by an unqualified body of laborers who knew nothing of civil engineering and dam building. They removed five drain pipes with valves that had originally been installed at the lowest point of the dam to facilitate controlled drainage of the water if necessary. There was no means to lower the waters in May of 1889 because of what had been done to save costs a decade before. Further, the repairmen, instead of using proper materials--clay and rock--to fix the dam, used whatever materials came to hand, including straw, manure, dirt, wood. And there was no proper packing of the materials layer by layer. The disaster, though it slumbered ten long years, was virtually guaranteed by the unforeseen consequences of ill-considered human actions.
And there is that great fact that all our actions affect others, not just ourselves. No one sins in a vacuum. There are no "victimless" crimes. Those who negligently repaired the dam in the 1870s so as to "save a buck or two," may or may not have been directly affected by their actions (I don't think McCulloch ever said); their actions certainly affected others.
"He who, being often reproved, hardens his neck, will be suddenly cut off, and that without remedy." For years, there had been repeated warnings that the dam at the South Fork Club was in danger of failure, and every time it didn't happen, the indifference of the masses had grown. "They're just crying wolf!"
Courage and heroism. A young engineer, responsible for maintenance of the dam, when he first recognized the portends of looming disaster, rode on horseback not once or twice but three times through the rain and mud down the mountain road to the nearest telegraph office and urged, almost compelled them to wire a warning downstream to Johnstown. Before the dam failed, others courageously tried to strengthen the dam, or ease the pressure on it, at great risk to themselves. In Johnstown, and elsewhere along the route of the flood waters, individuals imperiled their own lives and safety to rescue others in grave and mortal danger.
"I have appointed you as a watchman." Those at the telegraph office who received fully three times the advance warnings of the threatened collapse of the dam failed in their responsibility to pass the dire news on to others and spread the alarm throughout the town. The blood of the 2,000-plus victims will be required at those watchmen's hands. How many lost souls must we each give an accounting for, as unfaithful watchmen who failed to sound the alarm?
Why do people suffer? The Johnstown Flood answers in part one question of great moment which is asked every time there is substantial human suffering: at Johnstown, and at the World Trade Center, and in countless other instances, human suffering was caused by man, not God. Why is there suffering in this world? The answer for much of it is that man directly inflicts it on himself and on his fellows.
"When they say peace and safety, sudden destruction comes upon them." Though there was some small concern that day about flooding in the lower parts of town due to the heavy rains, yet nearly the whole of Johnstown was content to watch the rains, go about their business, do their shopping, converse with their neighbors as on any other ordinary day. "Until the flood came and took them all away," to cite another text from Scripture. Being unaware of imminent danger does not negate the reality of that danger, nor slow its approach.
"One shall be taken, another left." Neighbors conversing through upstairs windows when the Flood hit often suffered vastly different fates: one was spared by a chance floating log or door or roof, while the other was swept to sudden death. Death seems so capricious. Who can therefore foreknow the day of his death?
"Almost but lost." As the muddy torrent swept through Johnstown, people raced toward distant hillsides and high ground, hoping against hope to escape the hot breath of impeding death. More than one was within a few feet or at most yards from safety when run down from behind by the merciless waters, and literally swept into eternity.
"Remember Lot's wife." McCullough recounts one particular woman who, though out of her house and running with her family to safety, stopped and returned to the house to retrieve some unidentified item. She turned back when she only had time enough to flee. She fell victim to her own folly.
"He lingered." More than one Johnstownian, knowing--seeing--the waters of certain death sweeping in irresistible and unstoppable rage toward them, nevertheless hesitated to leave their doomed houses and seek refuge elsewhere. Some few of these managed to survive. Most hesitated to their own destruction.
The certainty of death/ the uncertainty of the circumstances of death. Surely nearly every Johnstown resident had at some time considered the fact of his own mortality--at funerals, during Sunday sermons, from accounts of deaths in the newspapers--yet how few, perhaps none at all, thought that May 31, 1889 would be their final day among the living! Their appointment with death, though unexpected, was kept that day.
Transitory nature of this life's "things." Modern man is obsessed with "the abundance of things which he possesses." Even two- and three-car garages are not enough to hold all the stuff we own. We have abundance and too much, and yet want more. We cling to it as though it is ours forever. But how fleeting are this world's treasures! Like Babylon the Great (Revelation 18) in one hour all the wealth and labor of generations of Johnstown residences came to nothing.
Luke 13:1-5. Did this disaster befall the people of Johnstown because they were especially and uncommonly wicked? Hardly. Being no worse nor any better than the run-of-the-mill, they nevertheless like all others, faced certain death someday, and their only hope of preparation was repentance from sin. How many had prepared for death through "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" we could only speculate. But all, whether "respectable" or disreputable, had need of repentance while there was opportunity for such.
Human kindness and compassion. In spite of his fallen nature, man, who yet bears the image of the God who created him (though marred by sin inside and out), can nevertheless at times display the noblest of qualities--mercy, compassion, selflessness, self-sacrifice. The outpouring of generosity and direct, hands-on personal assistance given to the victims of Johnstown exemplifies what man might be and can be. "What a piece of work is man." Shades of "the good Samaritan" and "loving your neighbor as yourself."
These and a dozen more illustrations of Biblical truths came to mind as I read McCullough's account. As a source of apt illustrations, nothing surpasses the treasures of human history. "Take up and read."
GHOST SOLDIERS by Hampton Sides. New York: Doubleday, 2001. 342 pp., hardback. $24.95
Yet one more in a growing number of recent accounts of events in World War II (Steven Ambrose has written at least three or four of these, including Citizen Soldiers, reviewed in AISI 1:7; James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers, AISI 3:7, is another). As veterans of that war are now dying off at a rate of about 1,000 per day, the urgency has been felt by numerous writers to record their eye-witness accounts before that becomes everlastingly impossible. I welcome these books inasmuch as most of the present American populace, especially the segment 40 and under, is all but wholly ignorant if not in fact entirely ignorant of the events that made up World War II, and virtually none of the post-war populace knows anything from personal experience of the kind of personal sacrifice demanded by that war.
Sides' account is regarding an action in the Philippines very early in 1945. The American forces had returned some 280,000 strong, as General Douglas MacArthur had promised, to drive the 250,000 Japanese out of the Philippines which they had occupied since early 1942. The big northern island of Luzon had been invaded by the Americans and they were driving the Japanese south toward Manila.
Reports from the frontlines indicated that the Japanese, as they were retreating, were executing any POWs they had in their possession. When the Japanese had overpowered the under-armed, under-ready, and unrelieved American forces on Luzon in February, 1942, they took some 20,000 Americans prisoner. In the three years of imprisonment, many died from Japanese brutality, summary executions, malicious neglect, malnutrition and disease and a great many were shipped out to slave labor camps in Japan and elsewhere. A group of some 500 were known to be still in Japanese custody at a particular prison camp named Cabanatuan. They had been left in the Philippines simply because they were too sick or weak to be of any value in the slave labor camps.
To save these men from anticipated execution at the hands of the retreating Japanese, a rescue mission was mounted by 121 men of the Army's 6th Ranger Battalion. With the assistance of some Philippino guerillas as guides and protection on their flanks, the Rangers trekked 30 miles on foot into enemy-held territory, assaulted the camp, killed all the Japanese guards, rescued all the prisoners, and virtually annihilated a Japanese tank battalion camped a mile away. The Rangers lost one man to enemy fire. Encumbered with more than 500 weak and in many cases seriously sick now-ex POWs, they traveled the 15 miles back to the advancing American lines, assisted by Philippino farmers with water buffalo-drawn carts. Mission accomplished, and all in just 72 hours.
Sides' account is highly-readable and informative. I read it at one sitting on a trans-Atlantic flight (usually one or two hours' reading on a flight is all I can handle). Get it and learn to appreciate your heritage of freedom just a little more.
THE 21 IRREFUTABLE LAWS OF LEADERSHIP by John C. Maxwell. Nashville: Nelson, 1998. 234 pp, hardback. $22.99
THE WEST POINT WAY OF LEADERSHIP by Col. Larry R. Donnithorne. New York: Currency Doubleday, 1993. 179 pp., hardback. $24.95
Books on leadership are all the rage (and probably have been for a decade or more, for all I know), and I decided to discover what the big to-do was all about by reading two volumes that had come to my attention (my primary study of "leadership" has been in studying the lives of leaders by reading their biographies, and practical examination of real-life examples of leaders, good or ill). The first of those books noted above was written by an ex-pastor-turned "leadership guru," John Maxwell who cranks out "leadership" books in amazing proliferation. The latter was written by West Point graduate and career army officer-turned small college president, Larry Donnithorne. I very much liked Donnithorne's book and found very little to commend itself in Maxwell's.
Maxwell is a former Methodist pastor, who in three successive pastorates experienced pretty substantial "success" (assuming numerical growth is the standard of such success). Yet, I am compelled to ask: if Maxwell was God-called to the ministry, why isn't he still in the ministry (since he apparently did not leave that calling due to health or issues of moral disqualification); why is he now, instead of an influential spiritual leader, a mere cheerleader for the "success syndrome" that plagues contemporary Christianity?
Maxwell gives "21 laws" (really, aphorisms, often with cutsie titles) of leadership--"do these things and be the success I am" stuff, but rarely gives any information about how to implement or develop these "essential" qualities. Over and over, I marked in the margin--"yes, but how?" As a typical example, he speaks of the necessity of good timing in leadership, but says nothing about how to develop this quality.
When Maxwell chooses examples from politics and history to illustrate his points, the examples are usually poorly selected, poorly analyzed, or simply factually erroneous.
Frankly, Maxwell seems, judging from this book, to be full of himself, and the hero of all of his stories. In one instance, he displays an arrogant, cold-hearted treatment of staff at a church, a third of whom he summarily fired upon assuming the pastorate (an act Donnithorne, by contrast, would have found appalling).
And I detected one immense omission, in a book aimed at pastors--not a word is said anywhere about the work of the Holy Spirit in the success of the author in his pastorates or the hoped-for success of the pastor readers.
Really a ho-hum book. I'll not read another by Maxwell. I don't respect his opinion on this subject, because, frankly, I found no reason to respect him personally ("law" #7).
Donnithorne, in marked contrast, writes of the method employed at The United States Military Academy, West Point, in transforming 18-year-old, pimply-faced, fresh-out-of-high-school plebes into leaders of character by means of a four-year program of discipline, training, progressive increases in personal responsibility, authority, and accountability, and experience. He writes with authority on the subject, having completed the West Point course in the 1960s, followed by a 27-year career as an officer in the U. S. Army, which included a number of years as the Academy's strategic planner, as well as teacher of economic, leadership, and moral philosophy.
The over-riding thing taught at West Point (and, similarly, I would add, at other military colleges--VMI, The Citadel, Annapolis, etc.) is character: a principled approach to life that seeks to do what is right and honorable, rather than that which is expedient or easy. Honor codes, instilling of principles, punishment for infractions--all are designed to build character. And without character, there is no greatness. "When individuals agree to behave with a prescribed set of high values they can have a much finer life than if they merely follow orders only because they have to, always looking for what they can get away with." (p. 60)
Donnithorne describes the various desirable qualities of leadership, and explains how they can be developed (in sharp contrast to Maxwell). Suitable examples both good and bad, mostly drawn from military life, are used to illustrate most major points along the way. And the examples are entirely appropriate to the point at hand.
Near the end of the book, the author explains some of the changes made at West Point in recent years in the initiation and integration of plebes into the West Point corps of cadets, controversial changes that involved less intimidation, harsh language, harassment, "hazing," and what some characterized as "abuse." The verdict is still out on whether all such changes were beneficial (Donnithorne speaks of them only favorably).
(One aspect of the book's style that I did not like was the frequent switching back and forth between the use of he/his/him and she/her/her when referring to a West Point cadet in the abstract. Since the vast majority of West Pointers are and have been men, the use of "he" as the generic form would have served adequately. I suspect this defect was the fault of an excessively 'politically-correct' editor).
If you want a first-rate book on leadership development, Donnithorne's is the one to get.