Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: Over and Over Again

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Over and Over Again (Volume 1), Over and Over Again (Volume 2)

Editor: Ronald Alan Knott

Publisher: Seventh-Day Adventist Church

ISBN: none

Length: 222 pages (each volume) including index

Quote: "150 Adventists declare what God has done for them through the joys of faithful stewardship."

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church owns a few publishing houses. None of these publishers claims responsibility for these books. That's a clue.

But if you want to read about people who feel that obedience to Bible principles, including giving money to their church, has been rewarded by special blessings, the Seventh-Day Adventist church is a good place to look for those people. I came to own these books because I know some of the contributors personally. None of them is too "flaky" to be responsible for jobs and families. Some of them operate successful businesses. And these are stories they seriously believe and report as true.

A few names may be familiar even to non-Adventists. Tennessee readers, for example, should recognize Ellsworth McKee, the manufacturer of Little Debbie cookies, and Roy Drusky, who, for many profitable years, sang "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home?" and "O Canada Our Home Our Native Land" at the Grand Ole Opry.

While those two names are in your minds, I will mention the tendency for people who take miracle stories seriously to report mundane events as miracles. A baker in search of a radio show on which to advertise, and a singer in search of a sponsor who appreciates his commitment to sing only wholesome songs, happen to meet each other at church...not exactly a miracle. I grew up listening to their show and was glad McKee and Drusky did reserve a segment of the Grand Ole Opry for wholesome performances only. The show was a good thing, but it was a predictable, if not inevitable, thing.

My favorite Adventist bogus-miracle story goes back to the year when all my college friends were recognized as a single social group. In previous years, although social cliques hadn't been organized as clubs and people had been free to visit a different cafeteria table if they chose, demographics had created social barriers--especially language demographics. This was the first time in the history of the school when a recognized group was multiethnic and bilingual. Of 24 people who usually sat at one cafeteria table, 8 spoke Spanish as a native language and 13 had taken Spanish classes. We often spoke Spanish; we switched back to English when the other three people were present.

So one day one of those "English Only" types was working with me at an urban mission project. A man who spoke only Spanish asked him a question. After seven months of exposure to the words he'd heard, if this guy had thought carefully he would have said "Sorry, I don't speak Spanish," but without thinking he blurted out a sensible answer to the question he'd just heard...in Spanish. Then he heard what he'd just said, and he was thrilled. "That's what the gift of tongues means, in the Bible!" Right. Whatever.

Booton Herndon told another great bogus-miracle story, years ago, in The Seventh Day. During the revolutionary period in Kenya, a child who'd heard that the Mau-Maus were an antichristian cult was locked in jail, then "miraculously" released by an "angel" in the shape of a young man carrying keys. One can imagine the conversation between the other Mau-Maus and the "angel"--"The child is how old? What were you thinking? That's just the kind of thing the enemies want to report! Give me those keys!" It's hard to dispute that the cosmic power of good motivated this mundane human reaction, but...miracle? Right. Whatever.

So, with those examples in your mind...how many of the stories in Over and Over Again represent this kind of sincere self-dramatization, or self-delusion? You'd have to make your own count. What I can tell you firsthand is that at least two dozen competent and intelligent adults believe the stories they've written, the way they've written them, to be true.

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