Category Archives: Book Review

The Measure of America 2008 – 2009

The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008–2009, the very first of its kind. It’s a human development report about the United States of America.

This report uses a Human Development Index that provides a single measure of well-being for all Americans. The disturbing results reveal huge disparities in the health, education, and living standards of different groups across the nation.

This is a fascinating book. It’s based on the United Nations Development Programme methodology for developing countries, putting a lens on ourselves to see how we measure up, using, for example, these three categories of measurement: access to knowledge, health, and livelihood.

Over the past 25 years or so, from 1980 to 2005, of the top 12 countries in the world, the United States started out as number 2, right below Switzerland, and has fallen all the way to the bottom, number 12, in 2005. It started in 1980.

So what is this concept of “human development”? Basically, the definition we use is that it’s the process of improving people’s well-being and enlarging their freedoms and opportunities. The idea draws heavily on the capabilities work of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and uses that as its conceptual framework. The model emphasizes the everyday experience of ordinary people. It includes the economic, social, cultural, political, and so forth, processes that shape the range of options that are available to people.

So human development is about two things. It’s about what people themselves can do to enhance their well-being and expand their opportunities. It’s also about how institutions of society constrain or expand the choices and opportunities that people have. Basically, human development is about what ordinary people can do and become.

The concept of human development is far-reaching. It includes things like political participation, personal and community security, and environmental sustainability—basically, a range of things. But the index measures just three factors. It measures education, health, and income. These three components are valued by people the world over as the building blocks of a good life and the ones that we would argue that Americans care about the most. These are the things that people are talking about around the kitchen table, that they are worried about when they are thinking of the future. They are areas where there is not too much debate around whether they are important or not. Everyone pretty much agrees that they are important.

WATCH the video presentation of this report here!

READ the transcript of the video presentation here!

Purchase a copy of  The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009 (A Columbia / SSRC Book) by Sarah Burd-Sharps, Kristen Lewis, Eduardo Borges Martins, and Amartya Sen (Hardcover – Jun 27, 2008) from

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American Socialist Movement: A Book Review

Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America
by Jacob H. Dorn

Greenwood Press

Publication: 8/30/1998
List Price: $131.95 
Media Type: Hardcover
Trim Size: 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

272 pages

Description: Despite an anti-religious reputation and the anti-religious worldview of many members, the American Socialist movement held a primarily religious and moral attraction for a small but highly articulate group of American Christians of diverse religious tradition. This study explores the dramatic and at times dangerous lives of individuals who found in the vibrant, growing socialist movement before World War I the grounds for hope that the biblical ideals of human worth and economic justice would at last be fulfilled. Its subjects are male and female, black and white, native- and foreign-born, clergy and lay people, and products of Christian traditions ranging from African-American Baptist to Episcopalian. Readers will find not Milquetoasts standing hesitantly on the sidelines, but Christians with an unequivocal commitment to the complete socialist program who made major contributions to socialist work as authors, political candidates, and party leaders. Biographical chapters examine the interaction between their subjects’ experiences amidst the suffering of an urban-industrial society and their religious commitments, the perspectives on the meaning of socialism they brought to their work for the Socialist Party of America, and their careers after war and the rise of communism shattered the socialist movement. These biographies and an introductory chapter on the wider relationships between religion and socialism in Progressive-era America demonstrate that Christians made quite substantial contributions to the party, and that, far from being a monolithic group, they spread out across the spectrum of socialist ideology and tactics. Other issues include attempts to spread socialism within the churches, the Socialist Party’s debates over religion, Roman Catholic efforts to prevent Catholic workers’ acceptance of socialism, and the ethical qualities that made socialism appealing to Christians.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • “The Oldest and Youngest of the Idealistic Forces at Work in Our Civilization”: Encounters Between Christianity and Socialism by Jacob H. Dorn
  • “An Active and Unceasing Campaign of Social Education”: J. Stitt Wilson and Herronite Socialist Christianity by Douglas Firth Anderson
  • From Slavery to Socialism: George Washington Woodbey, Black Socialist Preacher by Philip S. Foner
  • A Path Approaching Full Circle: Kate Richards O’Hare by Sally M. Miller
  • “A Spiritual and Moral Socialism”: Franklin Spencer Spalding and Christian Socialism, 1901-1914 by John R. Sillito
  • “Not a Substitute for Religion, but a Means of Fulfilling It”: The Sacramental Socialism of Irwin St. John Tucker by Jacob H. Dorn
  • Christianity, Democracy, and Socialism: Bouck White’s Kingdom of Self-Respect by Mary E. Kenton
  • Millionaire Socialist and Omnist Episcopalian: J. G. Phelps Stokes’s Political and Spiritual Search for the “All” by Robert D. Reynolds, Jr.
  • Essay on Sources by Jacob H. Dorn
  • Index
LC Card Number: 98-11104
LCC Class: HX83
Dewey Class: 320

Source:  Greenwood Publishing Group

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2 Book Reviews: On War & Peace an Orthodox Perspective

Orthodoxy Today | Book Review | by James V. Schall, S.J.

The Virtue of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West

Alexander F. C. Webster and Darrell Cole
Regina Orthodox Press, $19.95, 252 pages

This book represents the tradition of war in the West. It is unique because of its extensive treatment of the church fathers, the military saints, canon law, and experiences of Oriental Christendom.

Indeed, “The Virtue of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West” is occasioned by the recent wars with Muslim opponents. Ironically, much of the history of the Near East has been the failure of Byzantine armies finally to defend their own territory. Islam’s major expansion has been into historic Christian territories through successful military conquest and subsequent, almost total cultural control that saw the elimination or subordination of remaining Christian presence.

Father Webster and Mr. Cole argue within the traditions of Scripture, of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, with similar arguments in the Protestant and Orthodox sources. They reject any “just war” theory that would not follow the classic arguments about the justice of war and the warrior’s efforts. They do not think that war can be justified on the principle of a “lesser evil,” or on a consequentialist premise that would allow the doing of evil to obtain good.

Modern thinking on war, as opposed to the classic writers, has not clearly seen that there are obligations to fight wars and to establish justice. This is a theory of “justifiable” war. The authors do not hold that it is necessary always to apologize or be ashamed because war is undertaken for a just cause. Quite the opposite, they consider it wrong not to enter and fight a just war with all the proper criteria in place, criteria still best defined, in their view, by Aquinas. Read the Full Review

In Communion | Intl. Orthodox Peace Fellowship | Book Review | by anonymous

The Pacifist Option: The Moral Argument Against War in Eastern Orthodox Theology.
By Alexander F. C. Webster.
International Scholars Publications, 351 pp., $31.50 paperback.

“A thoroughly documented contribution to the study of peace and war deserving wide attention… A most valuable resource.” — Very Rev. Fr. Stanley S. Harakas

Few scholars in religious studies or theologians in Western countries would link pacifism with Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In this pathbreaking historico-moral study, Fr. Alexander Webster demonstrates convincingly that a distinctive pacifist trajectory — characterized by the moral virtues of non-violence, nonresistance, voluntary kenotic suffering, and universal forgiveness — has endured through two millennia of Orthodox history in unbroken continuity with the ancient Church.

Drawing from a variety of disciplines in the fields of moral theology and religious studies, Fr. Alexander first shows that Orthodoxy embraces two simultaneously valid fundamental trajectories on the moral issues of war and peace: a mainstream “justifiable war” perspective and an “absolute pacifist” perspective. The second and main part of the study adduces the evidence for the “pacifist option” through a rigorous examination of the key sources of Orthodox moral tradition. Fr. Alexander consults a vast array of primary texts, including Holy Scripture, patristic writings through the Byzantine era that terminated in A.D. 1453, Orthodox canon law, the lives of the saints, devotional literature, and the works of modern Russian Orthodox theologians such as St. Tikhon of Zadonsk and the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky.

read the Full Review

Hat Tip: the folks at Ancient Christian Defender blog and Joe at Orthodox Christian Musings

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An Orthodox View of Contemporary Economics, Politics, and Culture

Orthodoxy | Book Review | by John Courtas

Facing the World: Orthodox Christian Essays on Global Concerns
Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos)
St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003
216 pp. Paperback: $15.95

Anastasios’ ecumenical vision for social change, seen through the lens of Orthodox theology, has been admirably captured in a new collection of essays from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press titled Facing the World: Orthodox Christian Essays on Global Concerns. The essays, published during a period of 30 years, touch on topics such as human rights, Islam, globalization, and Church and culture. The book serves as an excellent introduction to the Orthodox mindset, and its interpretation of divine life and worldly affairs through scripture, holy tradition, and a trusty reliance on Greek patristics.

Anastasios’ understanding of social and political events is, of course, characteristically rooted in the miracle of Easter. While not denying that it was the cross that reconciled humanity with God, Anastasios points out that in Orthodox Christianity the “emphasis on the Resurrection is the crucial element in the Christian ethos of the east; it pervades every thought and action, intensifies faith in miracles, and deepens the certainty that every impasse in human life will ultimately be overcome.”

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Religious Right has Perverted the Message

Religious right has perverted dad’s message, says son of a pioneer of the movement

Religion Blog | Dallas Morning News | by Bruce Tomaso

Francis Schaeffer, an evangelist who died in 1984, urged conservative Christians to become politically involved to battle what he regarded as the evils of secular culture, including abortion.

He is widely regarded as one of the forefathers of the religious right.

His son, Frank Schaeffer, has written a memoir — just out in paperback — in which he says his father’s message has been twisted by today’s Christian conservatives.  Read the Full Article.

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Sinful Silence – When Christians neglect their civil duty

Orthodoxy Today | Book Review | by Chris Banescu

Sinful Silence – When Christians neglect their civil duty
Ken Connor and John Revell
Ginosko Publishing, Inc.
July 25, 2004 176 pages

In the book ” Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Civic Duty” authors Ken Connor and John Revell make a strong case that Christians have a sacred responsibility to apply and uphold God’s laws and biblical principles in all areas of civil government. They correctly point out that “we as citizens are liable for the decisions of our elected representative leaders, even if we are not directly involved in their activities.” Christians living in a secular world cannot neglect their civil duties and ignore their responsibilities to choose moral, just, and God-fearing leaders.

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