altNo, We Can't:  Radical Islam, Militant Secularism, and the Myth of Coexistence by Robert Stearns (Chosen, 2011)

I received this book for review under false pretenses, but it was my fault entirely.  This was the blurb that caught my eye:

The world is shifting, and a war for world domination is raging between radical Islam, militant secularism and Judeo-Christianity. But what does it mean for you—and why should you care?  With clarity and astonishing depth, Robert Stearns lays out the dire ramifications of this coming culture clash for Christians. Based on years of global outreach, he shows what believers can and must do. The tipping point in global culture is upon us. What role will you play?

Normally, words like "a war for world domination" wouldn't encourage me to pick up a book.  But I thought this would be a word from the trenches, from one known for his care for the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized all over the world.  I was eager to hear about "radical Islam" from one whose organization has experienced tragedy at the hands of the Taliban, yet continues to provide humanitarian aid to "all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender."  I was expecting "he shows what believers can and must do" to focus on the need for more church involvement in fighting the causes of poverty and injustice worldwide.  I was hoping to hear about World Vision International's experiences dealing with culture clashes, and was especially interested to hear the warnings of such a man about "dire ramifications of this coming culture clash."  I wanted to know what led such a man, who claims we have the knowledge and ability to end most extreme poverty if only we had the will, to write a book entitled, "No, We Can't."

My mistake was in not checking up on the author.  It turns out that the president of World Vision is Richard Stearns, while the author of this book is Robert Stearns.  As far as I know, they are not related, and they certainly have different perspectives.

Having agreed to review the book, however mistakenly, I was obligated to read it.  It's a pity that Robert Stearns' language is so strident and his logic sometimes shaky, because I think he has some good points; it's just too hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The author's basic premise:

[F]rom the stage of world history have arisen three primary houses of thought, three perspectives of the world, three cultural kingdoms that are currently contending for global ascendancy:  Radical Islam, Militant Secularism and the Judeo-Christian worldview.  They are not the only three houses in existence today, but as we survey the landscape of global affairs, we see that their pervasiveness is uncontestable, and their shaping influence beyond doubt.

The author's point of view:

[W]e can plainly see that the Judeo-Christian worldview is the best possible means of providing a platform of liberty for the human race.

I happen to agree with him in this, but his book fails to make this point convincingly.  Part of the problem lies in his over-broad classifications, e.g. viewing all Islam as Radical Islam, and treating "Judeo-Christianity" as one religion, instead of two, albeit with common roots and many important interlinkages.

The heads of state in Germany, France and the United Kingdom have each done an about-face on the subject of multiculturalism.  Just recently, these distinguished leaders have, one by one, publicly stated that their nations have erred in promoting segmented multiculturalism with their borders, particularly in light of the dangerous advancement of Radical Islam in Europe.  All three leaders pointed to the need to uphold their national identity and values among all who immigrate, so as to guard against the rise of these destructive patterns in their communities.

I sympathize with both Stearns and the heads of state he mentions, and grant that immigrants have a "when in Rome" obligation to respect their host culture.  But this swing of the pendulum is a two-edged sword, and has been used to persecute homeschoolers in Germany.

There are no easy answers, and Stearns is right that ignoring problems does not solve them.  An easy, "Why can't we all get along?" approach severely underestimates the differences in how different cultures view the world, and as Stearns points out, Westerners—and especially Americans—are peculiarly prone to assuming that deep down, everyone thinks like us.  Or that they will, as soon as they are sufficiently enlightened.

Hear what Dr. Taj Hargey, chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford and imam of the Summertown Islamic Congregation had to say in an article entitled, What Has Britain Come To When It Takes a Muslim Like Me to Defend Christianity?  (My quote is from the book's excerpt (ellipses in the original), but you can read the entire article here.)

Christianity is under siege in this country:  Britain's national religion has never been so marginalized and derided, especially by the public institutions that should be defending it. ... [A] new form of virulent secularism is sweeping through society—and its target is Christianity. ... It is no coincidence that as Christianity is repeatedly attacked, so the social fabric of Britain becomes increasingly frayed.  As we lose our strong moral compass, family breakdown and violent crime are at record levels, while our once famous sense of community spirit is evaporating.

No, We Can't may be a feel-good, inspirational book for those who already share Robert Stearns' philosophies, and it might be convincing for someone leaning significantly in his direction, but it's too alarmist to be a tool for drawing in the mainstream audience I think he's hoping for.  That's a pity, because some of his points are worth considering.

I still want to read the same book as written by Richard Stearns.

Legal Blather Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Edit
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If he offers us choices between RADICAL Islam, MILITANT Secularism, and (implicitly neither radical nor militant) Judeo-Christianity, that's a leading question, no?

Posted by Stephan on Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 3:30 pm

That's the flavor of the whole book, unfortunately.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I guess if one has a prophetic edge, sound reasoning is less important. That's too bad - he seems to have a good amount of experience to share!

Posted by Stephan on Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 4:37 pm
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