Almighty

Almighty: Courage, Resistance & Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age

Dan Zak

Obama’s recent visit to Hiroshima pushed the threat of nuclear war back onto the public mind, even if only lasting for a week. But reports of North Korea’s development of nuclear capability continues to raise concern. Even our own presidential election could bear on the use of nuclear arms.

Given these events, it might be wise to learn from history. As one not prone to read history, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed (Is that the right word?) Almighty. The book gives an easy-to-read history lesson on the Manhattan Project, while issuing a stern warning about the misuse of nuclear power. But it does so by combining the suspense of a thriller, with the facts of well-researched history.

The opening chapter feels like a scene from a science-fiction movie, as a diverse band of rebels plot the sabotage of a nuclear research facility. As the book unfolds three narrative lines interweave, educating the reader while driving the “plot” forward. As one reviewer points out, almost all the activists are religiously motivated. Religion should certainly motivate concern for the deadliest use of force in history. If you believe that God created humanity and somehow placed his divine stamp on us, nuclear threat is perhaps the greatest social justice issue possible. After all, the impact of a nuclear bomb can eradicate more people that homelessness, sex trafficking, and poverty combined. Of course, disarmament is a not just a religious concern; it is a human concern. Concerned secular citizens seek to subvert nuclear peril through the power of policy-making.

Despite your religious or non-religious status, the possibility of an extinction level event should raise deep philosophical and religious questions. This book forced me to think about my response to this issue. What can I do to help prevent such an event? It also forced me to ponder existential questions: Am I using my life the best way possible? Would I change anything if I knew a nuclear bomb was going to go off in my lifetime?

Almighty reads like a novel but packs the punch of cultural criticism. It raises a warning and calls us to courageous action, an important book on an often forgotten issue.

Thanks to First to Read for an advance copy of this book.

5 Standout Books on the Incarnation

Although I didn’t grow up observing Advent, we instituted the tradition at City Life when we planted the church in 2008. Year after year, I marvel at depth, promise, wonder, complexity of the notion that God would become a baby. It is, as Kierkegaard said, “an absurd idea, the strangest of all happenings.” Over the years I’ve tried to look at this strangest of all happenings from various perspectives: biblical, theological, philosophical, skeptical, and literary. My wonder grows year by year. Here are a five standout books from five categories I’ve found especially helpful:

Biblical

The God Who Became Human, Graham Cole

Theological

The Man Christ Jesus, Bruce Ware

Philosophical

Philosophical Fragments, Soren Kierkegaard

Skeptical

Christ Actually: The Son of God for a Secular Age, James Carroll

Literary

On Fairy Stories, J. R. R. Tolkien (free)

My Best Books of the Summer (2015)

Here are some of my best books from the summer:

MOST ENTERTAINING FICTION

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

BEST LITERATURE

Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo

BEST SHORT STORIES

Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway

MOST UNUSUAL SCI-FI

A tie between:

Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess & Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

MOST PROFOUND

Faith Beyond Reason: A Kierkegaardian Account, C. Stephen Evans & Philosophical Fragments, Soren Kierkegaard

BEST CHARACTER FORMATION

The Road to Character, David Brooks

MOST SPIRITUALLY FORMATIVE

Sermons on the Mount, Martin-Lloyd Jones

BEST ACADEMIC on CULTURE

The Slain God, Larsen

BEST ON APOLOGETICS/EVANGELISM

Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness

 

 

 

Reading as Resistance

I couldn’t have done it without him. A lot was going on at the time, difficulty in work, rumors circulating, and personal trial, but he helped me through it. Under his influence, I slowed down in a demanding season.

One particular afternoon is dyed into my memory. I drove to my local coffeeshop and got the usual, cappuccino. The expresso is rich and smooth. Some coffeeshops use too much milk and water down the espresso but not here. It takes time to make so I take time to enjoy it.

I displaced swirling anxieties like a cannonball in a pool on a hot summer day. Plopping down in a chair in the warm sun, I opened The Old Man and the Sea. It was an act of resistance. I was fighting a big fish and Hemingway’s’ prose helped me surrender. It was an invitation that couldn’t be turned down.

Reading, sustained page turning not bouncing through click bait, is an act of resistance. It focuses a hurried, technologically charged mind. Page by page we say no to the speed of productivity. Thought by thought we learn to resist efficient ideology. Slowly we evolve, chapter by chapter, from consumer to pupil.

Ernest Hemingway taught me to observe. In order to observe, I have to be still. In being observantly still, I uncover some of the richer texture to life, the experiences and people right in front of me, the scents curling up from a hot sandwich, the crunch of lays potato chips, the vapid look of a stranger’s face, the plea for attention in a child’s cry, the realism of food-encrusted dishes waiting for a wash.

Life deserves a better look.

Thank you, Ernest Hemingway, for taking me to school in such a delightful way. Oh, and happy birthday (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961).