AMERICANISM: The Fourth Great World Religion
David Gelernter


David Gelernter is brilliant (he's a professor of computer science at Yale University) and multitalented (he's published fiction in Commentary; after receiving a little present from the Unabomber who wrecked his right hand, he learned how to draw), and he's a superb essayist as well as the author of many sharply argued books. Maybe he's bored. Are there any worlds left to conquer?
The fruit of this restlessness is a book in which he starts with an absurd premise and makes a case for it with a straight face and all the powerful intelligence at his disposal. Americanism—the distinctive values we associate with the American experiment—a religion? Maybe, just maybe, what looks like a straight face is actually a Swiftian grimace. Maybe this is Gelernter's Modest Proposal.
Do high-minded observers wring their hands at the intrusion of religion in public life? Well, Gelernter says, Americanism is a religion, a religion built on Judaism and Christianity, though "you don't have to believe in the Bible or Judaism or Christianity to believe in America or the American Religion." It's a dazzling move. Gelernter clearly wasn't bored while writing this book, and you won't be bored while reading it. But don't be surprised if the check bounces.

3:16: The Numbers of Hope
Max Lucado


It's good to read outside our comfort zones now and then. For me, that includes forays into the realm of evangelical bestsellerdom. Max Lucado is superb at what he does: a streamlined form of communication that grabs many readers (and generates "multiple licensed products"). His latest strives to make us really attend to John 3:16, whether we're hearing that verse for the first time or the ten-thousandth. ...
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October 2007

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