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Culture Books

Welcoming others

Matthew Kaemingk (Handout)


Welcoming others

Views on immigrants and outsiders

Matthew Kaemingk’s Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear (Eerdmans, 2018) has both good specific detail and thoughtful abstractions. He praises attempts in Amsterdam to break down walls between citizens and refugees by cooking and sewing together. Kaemingk also understands that neutrality doesn’t exist, and we often learn more from reading strong positions than from attempts to be value-free. He criticizes panels on immigration that either exchange sweet nothings or debate theology without first preparing the ground through hospitality.

Kaemingk also tries to apply to Christian-Muslim relations the thought of Dutch theologian and journalist Abraham Kuyper, who died in 1920. Here, Kaemingk seems to miss Kuyper’s prophetic warning, given at a time when the Islamic world was weak: “It would be a serious miscalculation to regard Islam as fallen from power. What people have repeatedly feared in its summons to holy war is no phantasm. … If zealotry were to take on a more general character … the impact could be horrifying.”

While Kaemingk rightly advocates peace whenever possible, pluralism might not be possible when radical Islamists, like Nazis and Communists before them, feel they have not only a license but an obligation to kill. Gandhi was skillful at torturing the British via civil disobedience. Had he tried that on the Nazis, they would have tortured and killed him. Kaemingk’s proposed pluralistic strategy would work with many American Muslims but not with ISIS devotees.

Libby Garland’s After They Closed the Gates (University of Chicago Press, 2014) documents illegal Jewish immigration to the United States during the decades of tiny quotas for Eastern Europeans. Some used smugglers to enter from Mexico, as scholars said “Jews, Slavs, and Italians were of a lower racial order that threatened to pollute the nation’s racial stock.” Such thinking, especially as Adolf Hitler put his Final Solution into practice, left some would-be immigrants only with a right to die.

Obianuju Ekeocha’s Target Africa: Ideological Neocolonialism in the Twenty-First Century (Ignatius, 2018) gives specifics on how liberal Americans and Europeans are trying to force Africans to accept population control, radical feminism, abortion, and homosexuality. Graham Allison’s Destined for War (Houghton Mifflin, 2017) is a political scientist’s plea that China and the United States find a way to avoid that “destiny.” His advice is good—clarify vital interests, increase understanding, strategize—but he leaves out the most important potential difference-makers: increasing Christian influence in China, stopping the decrease of Christian influence in America.


Bennet Omalu’s Truth Doesn’t Have a Side (Zondervan, 2017) tells how a doctor from Nigeria bravely fought the medical-industrial complex to reveal the dangers of youth tackle football. Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning (Nation Books, 2016) argues that America has always been racist: Kendi criticizes Barack Obama from the left and lavishes praise on communist Angela Davis. Jeffrey Engel’s When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War (Houghton Mifflin, 2017) is 494 pages of praise, much of it warranted.

James Dolezal’s All That Is in God (Reformation Heritage, 2017) points out problems of “theistic mutualism,” where God shares sovereignty with those He created. Tim Chester’s Bible Matters (IVP, 2018) clearly explains why the Bible is not just a part of culture, since it is the record of “The God Who Speaks.” Jeremiah Johnston’s Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity (Bethany House, 2017) is a good book for high-school graduates heading to a college where they’ll hear that Christianity is an evil reactionary force.

Gary Moulton’s The Lewis and Clark Expedition Day by Day (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) exhaustively shows what the great explorers did all day from 1804 to 1806. Frank Holt’s The Treasures of Alexander the Great (Oxford, 2016) lays out all the bling the young general plundered following his triumphant battles. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (Oxford, 2018) includes biographical information on Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many more. —M.O.