Inspirational Thought

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 7:13 NIV

Friday, January 6, 2012

Still Worth the Read

Courageous Living: Dare to Take a StandCourageous Living: Dare to Take a Stand by Michael Catt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was very much looking forward to reading this book. After the whoopla about Courageous the movie, I was really hoping for a strong "accompanying" book that would help me (and the target audience) dig deeper into the renewed drive for men to step up in their families and retake the family leadership role that feminism has taken from them.

Let me preface my next thoughts by saying that I come at this review not only as a reader, but as a professional editor. My day-to-day work involves analyzing, correcting, reorganizing to get the message out of the writing most effectively.

I had a hard time turning off my editorial hat for this one. My comments have nothing to do with the message of this book, more the literary presentation of it. Others have given it a 5-star rating, so obviously they enjoyed it.

Despite the chapter headings, my main criticism about this book is it seemed disorganized, disjointed and jumped from one paragraph to the next. There was very little flow to this book. It gave me the sense that it was written under pressure and not really out of inspiration. Like the writer was struggling to come up with a message for a third book. I guess I expected the book to be more teaching oriented than it was, reinforcing the concepts from the movie and challenging men to take up the challenge if they hadn't seen the movie.

What I found is he seems to jump from one adage or anecdote to another and from Bible analogy to life application with no connecting language. I don't believe you have to play connect the dots with readers, but there is a way of drawing figurative lines that are obvious without being direct, and they're very effective at connecting with the reader. There were many Scripture passages or stories that could have been delved into to drive home his point, which, branched together with smoother transitions I think would have had a deeper impact.

I had a few issues with the expression of his political and doctrinal view points and name calling (bigots, racists, cowards), which could turn off many readers. There is a way to challenge people with certain viewpoints (bigots, racists) tactfully, but I found several areas of this book where the tone was outwardly offensive, as opposed to challenging; guilt-tripping and condemning instead of encouraging and compelling. God deals with everyone through grace; I didn't see any of that in this book. There is room for bluntness and telling it like it is, but to be effective it needs to be tempered with compassion and grace and backed up by Scripture. This book needed a whole lot more of this than it came with.

By the time I reached chapter 4, I was reading simply because I believed in the message and I wanted to see what other things he had to say. Chapter 4 was better, smoother. Perhaps it was the curse of the first three chapters - trying to get something written (early chapters are often rougher) and by the time you reach Chapter 4 or so, you've finally smoothed out your voice, your message, etc.

The entire intended message of this book, and the Courageous movement can be summed up in this statement from page 93: "Men are more committed to hunting, fishing, and sports than to Christ. They would never think of turning down tickets to a ball game or an invitation to a hunting trip, but they'll roll over and turn the alarm off if it's raining on Sunday morning. I don't care how old you are, you aren't a man until you take responsibility and live in accountability...If you spent as much time on your hobbies as you do on your walk with God, how good would you be at your hobbies? If you spent as much time on your walk with God as you do on your hobbies, what kind of man would you be?"

So many men today are plagued by "I'm good enough. I don't need to learn anything new. I'm good just the way I am." Women grab up Christian living books and desire to know how to become Proverbs 31 women and better wives and mothers, while trying to get a husband or father to read "How to Become a Godly Father/Husband" books is like pulling teeth. Where are the men who are courageous enough to want to learn what the Bible says about husbands and fathers, and to examine their lives and see where they need to make some changes, and then actually strive to make those challenges and hold themselves accountable to God's placement of them in their families.

This is the whole crux of the Courageous message and, like the author, I believe it is desperately needed. Men have been undervalued for so long that fathers have become unnecessary and expendable. But our families need strong, courageous men to take back the leadership role that God intended for them to have. Leadership that is respectful and understanding and involved, not domineering, abusive and disconnected.

Don't let my review of this book stop you on that journey. Perhaps you'll find something in it that will inspire and teach you.

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