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Reading List for July, 2022: Just Two (Really Good) Books

Actually, I did finish a few others, but as they are part of a series, I’m saving them for one mega-review. Meanwhile, here’s what else I read in July.

The Great Debate by Yuval Levin

By this point few people are unaware of the extreme polarization of American society. What is often less clear is how we got here. Many associate the current left vs. right division with Marx. Others point to revolutionary France and the seating arrangements of the legislative assembly.

According to author Yuval Levin, neither of these are quite correct, although the French Revolution does indeed play a part. Rather, the roots of our current cultural debate trace back to the political philosophies of two 18th century statesmen: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.

In “The Great Debate!”, Levin examines the writings of these two men – who knew each other and publicly rebutted each other’s writings – and demonstrates how their divergent opinions form the backdrop for many of today’s controversies.
Most American readers will be, I suspect, at least a little familiar with Thomas Paine – he of “Common Sense” fame. Fewer will have much knowledge of the British politician and political philosopher Edmund Burke. Though a member of British Parliament, Burke was sympathetic to the American cause for independence. His divergence with Paine came after the latter’s full-throated support of the French Revolution, which Burke saw to be a completely different animal.

According to Levin, the resultant debate between the two – carried out in newspapers and pamphlets – has set the stage for two competing ideas regarding how free, enlightened societies should be governed.

“The Great Debate” is not light reading, but I found it to be very profitable indeed.

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

This book has been on my “to read” list for a while. My interest was initially piqued by the controversy surrounding its debut. There was enormous pressure on the publisher not to release it, and tech companies not to platform it. Mainstream pundits decried it from the moment it hit the shelves, many of them without having ever read it.

If they HAD read it, they would have doubtless redoubled their efforts, as Ms Shrier does her own sort of “irreversible damage” to the philosophical underpinnings of the trans movement.

Focusing on the recent epidemic of teenage girls declaring themselves “transsexual”, she explores possible causes (insecurity, peer pressure, internet communities, etc) that LGBTQ+ activists have essentially made verboten in today’s society.

I must admit that, due to the negative publicity surrounding the book, I thought I knew what to expect. And to a certain extent, I was right. Shrier pulls no punches as she explains the permanent damage that can be done to young girls who elect for hormone and surgical treatments in the quixotic quest to remove all vestiges of their womanhood.

What I did not expect was the emotions “Irreversible Damage” would evoke. To put it simply, I got mad. What Shrier documents amounts to nothing less than a conspiracy (although she does not use that word, to the best of my knowledge) to destroy the womanhood of teenage girls. Participants include the medical and pharmaceutical companies, public school teachers and administrators, college administration, tech platforms, Hollywood and the mainstream media, and (often unwittingly) parents. The result is that young girls, at the most vulnerable stage of their lives, are funneled into a system that encourages them to take the most radical steps to mutilate their bodies in horrific ways. This is sinister, evil…and happening at a public school near you.

Shrier does not approach this subject from a Christian standpoint – and this has advantages and disadvantages.

Among the advantages is the demonstration that one need not be religious to see a problem with this. Someone who might be turned off by a Christian framing of the subject could read the book and come away seeing how terribly awful the current trans-trend really is.
One of the main disadvantages to her secular approach is that she has no tools to see the ultimate causes for the current situation – and by that I don’t mean a simple “it’s the sin nature” catch-all. For a thorough treatment on how we got here, I highly recommend Carl Trueman’s outstanding book “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self“.

Still, in writing “Irreversible Damage”, Shrier has given us a valuable tool. A few personal takeaways:

1) Get your kids out of public schools. It’s one common thread that runs through every one of Shier’s examples. If the school has a GSA, get them out now.

2) Where is the Christian survivor community? It seems like this widespread abuse of minors should be a major focus – greater even then the SBC. But I’m not seeing it. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places?

3) Christian leaders who justified voting for the current administration – also an eager participant in this vast conspiracy – have a lot to answer for.

Read the book. You will probably regret it. Read it anyway.

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