I would recommend William J. Bennett’s “A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Thomas Nelson for review purposes. You can purchase a copy for under $17 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Century-Turns-Fears-Hopes-America-1988/dp/1595551697/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264456985&sr=1-1)or directly from the publisher at http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=1595551697&title=A_Century_Turns.
I was a bit skeptical of the quality and direction that this book would take. Though I do not endorse all of the author’s positions, I highly respect his political experience and place in the national discussion. However, I think that writing a historical account of the past twenty years is a bit early – there has not been enough time to properly evaluate the events and personalities with fairness. To make matters even more difficult, Bennett was greatly involved in some of those issues and thus cannot claim impartiality in such matters. The reader will see much of this come out in how he treats certain political figures (his treatment of President Clinton was a bit harsher than President George H.W. Bush who employed him). That being said, he does not shy away from revealing some of his positions and convictions and attempts to look at all angles (for example, he ends the book by speaking favorably of what it means for our nation to elect our first African-American President). Overall, the read was fascinating. Though we might know the full implications of what has taken place over the past two decades, it was an enjoyable experience to read through events that occurred from the moment that I turned ten years old. There has been a whole lot that has changes in my lifetime, a whole lot of accomplishments have been made, and a whole lot of challenges that lay ahead for all of us.
I kept on thinking about the words of the bible which read, “As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age? And Jesus answered them, See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains (Matthew 24:3-8, ESV).
We often look at breaking news as the sign of Second Coming. I hesitate in taking such an approach. Conflict. Crisis. Chaos. Suffering. They have been around since the Fall. All these signs are just the beginning. The Last Days began the day that Christ ascended into Heaven and his Spirit was given to the Church. Whether we live in the Last of the Last Days is up to your own discernment. I choose not to paint my enemies as the Anti-Christ. That will be revealed in due season. On that note though, I will choose to live in such a way as if I believed that the Return will happen at any time. Because it very well could. There is a sense of Urgency. I am talking not of the urgency that is born out of fear and surely not of complacency. I am speaking of the urgency that comes out of the message and the mind of Christ – that wishes all of humanity to be saved.
The author spent a lot of time writing about the rise of an Islamic radicalism in the Middle East and now abroad. He showed how the last twenty years has brought about a transition from the Cold War to now one of an enemy who chooses not to play by “the rules.” He poses questions and makes comparisons between the approaches of different presidents. Every reader must make his or her own conclusions on which approach is more effective and necessary in the world in which we currently live. He quotes G.K. Chesterton who once proposed, “In truth it is inequality that is the illusion. The extreme disproportion between men, that we seem to see life, is a thing of changing lights and lengthening shadows, a twilight full of fancies and distortions . . . it is the experience of men that always returns to the equality of men” (Bennett, 271).
My concern with the issue of terrorism, and most notably with much of the Muslim world, is how might I as a Christian AND an American (which are anything but all-inclusive – but in my personal experience due in fact co-exist) deal with it? How do I, or do I, reconcile my desire to protect my family and freedoms with my devotion to the Kingdom of God? Where does my patriotism end and my allegiance to Christ begin? My support of certain wars and my hope for peace? The stance of defeating the enemy and my call to love my enemy? How will the church respond to the rise of Islam in the 21st Century? Will we be proactive? Will we begin discussions? Will we be about the mission of Jesus? What exactly does that mean? These are tough questions that must be answered in the years ahead.
Official Book Description: Author, historian, and educator William J. Bennett examines America’s last two decades. Twenty years ago, John McCain was serving his second year in the Senate, and Colin Powell had just been promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There was no Fox News Channel, no American Idol. Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni ruled Iraq and Iran, respectively. George W. Bush was the fairly unnoticeable son of the then-president. If you asked someone to “email me,” you would have received a blank stare, and “Amazon” was a forest in South America. Finally, 20 years ago a young man named Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The two decades from 1988 to 2008 have proved to be some of the most pivotal in America’s history. Based on a lifetime of experience in government and education, William J. Bennett defines the events that shaped American history during the final years of the century.