Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Implosion

Recently, I listened as a couple friends tried to pick the one thing which they could present as uniquely American. Perhaps they had experienced some disillusionment, because the only thing they could name was the hamburger…

I don’t agree with them—there are any number of things that we could associate with the American identity, from apple pies to reality TV—but their question returned to me with new significance as I was reading Joel Rosenberg’s Implosion, a nonfiction look at the United States’s current state of health. What does the US have to offer the world? Or, rather, what is left of our greatness that we can protect, revive, and restore to a world in chaos and fear?

Rosenberg, an author, political expert and homeschooling dad, writes that he has built his career in the two things other people don’t talk about—religion and politics. He deals with both in Implosion, taking a broad look at America’s political, economic, and religious health. While I have not read much of Rosenberg’s fiction, I am familiar with it, and he deals with many of the same themes in this book.

In Implosion, Rosenberg doesn’t offer immediate reforms, or sure-fire cures, but he does highlight major problems in American society, and the disturbing reality of where we're at.

In the first couple of chapters, Rosenberg gives a sweeping overview of the doomsday predictions from political leaders and pollsters. I found these chapters difficult to read, but once past them, Rosenberg addresses a wide array of issues, from the role of Scripture in looking at current events to the accuracy of prophetic revelation to major dangers the US faces today. He looks at the possibility of a crippling terrorist attack, an economic meltdown, a devastating earthquake, and even the likely impact that the Rapture could have on today’s society and economy.

I disagreed with Rosenberg on a couple issues, the first being that America is in a uniquely catastrophic state. We are in bad condition, yes—but much of his evidence relies on pundits’ hyperbole. He speaks of recent natural disasters as the ‘worst’ earthquake ever, the ‘most dangerous’ point in our history. I can’t cite chapter and verse like Rosenberg, but I know that many other eras saw their own time as “End Times.” From the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWII, and every era in between, people have proclaimed that theirs is the highest, or the worst, the most advanced, or the most degenerate of societies. It’s the way we think as humans because we so often lack historical perspective.

In the chapters describing the US’s immanent collapse, therefore, I tended to discount some of Rosenberg’s predictions. This did not affect, however, the urgency of his message that we need to shape up, and we need to shape up now.

Moreover, for me, this urgency raised another question—if this is how things are now, where will we be raising our children? Rosenberg doesn’t address this question in Implosion, apparently because he doesn’t think it will be relevant if we can’t turn our country around at once.

Even when he lays out a devastating case for change, though, Rosenberg doesn’t point to political cures. Instead, he argues for a religious reawakening. The last third of the book reviews America’s original Great Awakenings, analyzing those turning points in our history and describing the influence of several key religious leaders. These include leaders many people know—Charles and John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield—and ones we aren’t so familiar with like Lyman Beecher, Francis Asbury, Charles Finny, Timothy Dwight (a president at Yale, as well as a major leader in the Second Great Awakening).

My second, relatively minor disagreement with Rosenberg stems from his arguments for a pre-wrath Rapture. I don’t necessarily think Rosenberg is wrong on this point, but I don’t agree with some of his definitions on this position. (Rosenberg thinks the ‘wrath’ which Christians do not need to fear means the Tribulation, while I think it means the final judgment; he takes the churches in the first chapters of Revelation as figurative types, while I think they were actual 1st century churches, though they could serve as types as well.)

Rosenberg does make good points, however, and defines his position well. He particularly hammers the urgency of evangelism—that we don’t know the day or the hour, and so we should take advantage of the time that we have, always working as if it is our last opportunity. He demonstrates his own passion for evangelism both by describing what it means to be a Christian and by outlining key steps for Christians to take for their own growth.

This last point forms a strong theme throughout Implosion. Rosenberg argues repeatedly that we should be passionate about the Gospel. And, he asks—what you are passionate about, what you love, do you spend time on that?

In the end, I found Implosion to be a well-written engaging survey of America’s current state. Rosenberg covers some areas more in depth than he does others, and it is easy to see his passion for finding the right lens for understanding current events. If you don’t read much nonfiction, or if you aren’t interested in the topics Rosenberg addresses, this might not be the book for you—but it might be a good read anyway.

[My thanks to Tyndale Publishing House for sending me a review copy of Implosion, in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.]


Daniel Sauble said...

Awesome review. I'm always a bit leery about those who attempt to draw a connection between Biblical prophecy and America's demise.

The Bible talks about Babylon, Greece, Rome, and probably modern countries, including Russia. But... the lack of prophecy around the United States is readily apparent.

Audrey said...

Thanks, Daniel! Rosenberg actually mentions that point as well, and it's one of the big questions he tries to address without using prophecy to 'prove' either the U.S.'s survival or its demise.

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