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Book Review: “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas

Book Review: “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas

There’s always a story to how I get a book and why I read it in the first place. You might find this story interesting.

Earlier this year, I reconnected with my friend Don here in Tampa. He’s the one that introduced me to the people at “County Citizens Defending Freedom” and introduced me to “Kingstone Comics.” In all of my conversations with him, he’s been urging me to read this book. Because I currently don’t have an income, I wasn’t looking to purchase anything extra. It’s on hold at the local library with a bunch of people in line waiting for it.

Olivia had spring break a couple of weeks ago, and my friend Gary asked me if I would be willing to drive a car from Illinois down to Tampa for him. Olivia and I took a flight and drove his car down (and that’s a story for another time) stopping along the way to visit my family that I don’t get to see that often. We had a ball.

When we visited my cousin, Jeremy in Tennessee, he took us to his work and we got to see and sit in the fire trucks and visit the rescue squad equipment depot and also tour his church. They had a lending library and I took a couple of minutes to peruse their selection, and there near the top of a pile of books to be sorted, in this Baptist church, in a small town called Camden, was this book. They let me take it.

Mr. Metaxas is a great writer. A few years ago, I read his Bonhoeffer biography and “7 Men.” My first exposure to him, however, was a speech he gave in Ottawa at the National Prayer Breakfast. He talked about abortion. That was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. I don’t know how Justin Trudeau survived it. He was sitting nearby. As a writer, he makes the rest of us look like we are in kindergarten. His use of a variety of words and interesting turns of phrase I find to be beautiful. His subject matter was engaging.

The basic premise is that the foundation of our country has been forgotten. He was Yale educated and never exposed to the wealth of the thoughts, ideas and even art that produced the United States. In this book, he takes the time to tell some stories that used to be told and haven’t been lately. He also exposes how the founders and their society thought about the US and why it was in their words… “exceptional.” He also gives some historical context that helps us to understand why the US was founded in the first place.

I know now why my friend Don was urging me to read it. It’s needed and necessary and very accessible.

Mr. Metaxas starts with a story of Benjamin Franklin in conversation with a citizen at the close of the Continental Congress. It’s where the line “if you can keep it” comes from. He closes with an incredible story about the Statue of Liberty from his own family’s experience. Within the book is the backstory of Paul Revere, told afresh in the midst of the backstory of Longfellow and his poem, cast in the meilleur of our educational and cultural moment. All of these stories propelled me along, causing me to finish the book faster than I anticipated.

I read the backstory of Squanto to the family over dinner. It’s too good not to tell.

But, the chapter that will leave a lasting impression on me was his recounting of the influence of George Whitfield. He argues that the US would not exist, and would have no national identity without him. I’ve read Whitefield’s biography, I’m familiar with the story. But, this was a story about the US and Whitefield was a character in that story, and to consider the impact he made is quite revelatory.

The other thing I’ll walk away with from this book is another viewing of “Amazing Grace” and the story of William Wilberforce. I haven’t read his biography yet.

Maybe, when I come across that one, I’ll have another interesting story to share. And, hopefully, by that time, my writing skills will improve!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2022 in Book Review

 

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Book Review: “Born Fighting – How the Scots-Irish Shaped America” by Jim Webb

Book Review: “Born Fighting – How the Scots-Irish Shaped America” by Jim Webb

So, a few weeks ago, I was invited to meet a couple of pastors for lunch and fellowship at Calvary Chapel Crystal River in Florida. While we were there, we toured the U-Turn Ranch they have established, and the nearby Thrift Store that is part of that ministry.

I’m a sucker for the book section at Thrift Stores and that’s where I spotted this book.

It was fascinating. The author charts the history of the Scots-Irish people from Scotland at the time of the Roman Empire when they built Hadrian’s wall all the way to the present day. What I didn’t know is that all of that redneck, hillbilly, good-ol’boy, mountain people, country people can be traced back to these Scots-Irish people and their culture.

The author’s premise, is that it’s this culture, shaped by the events starting with the Romans, through the English kings, through the migration to Ireland and the Ulster plantation and eventually to the Appalachian Mountains is the dominant culture that shaped the United States.

When he gets to the American Revolution, his argument begins to take shape, how it was this culture, patriotic, independent, yet able to organize into effective fighters was the main driver of the revolution. It was the soft, aristocratic, educated, plantation owners on the coasts that gave the intellectual reasoning, but these guys got the job done.

Andrew Jackson was the quintessential product of this culture and made the biggest impact as president. He stands in the same line as William Wallace.

I appreciated the time the author took to describe the Civil War from the perspective of families and people from this culture. That story is not often told.

And, then the author finished the book by describing his own parents and grandparents. These are incredible stories and represent many of the experiences of many Americans.

A more recent, and more emotional rendering of this culture is “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance. They made a movie of that book that in my opinion doesn’t capture the full story. I think every pastor in America should read that book.

If you’re short on American history, and like me, weren’t paying attention at all in high school, this book will help you get up to speed pretty quickly, no matter what part of the country you are in.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

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