Monday, February 8, 2010
Title: Tithing: Test Me in This
Author: Douglas LeBlanc
Source: Publisher, via Booksneeze
Challenges: Read 'n' Review challenge
Summary (From book jacket):
Douglas LeBlanc traveled to seven states and a dozen cities within those states to talk to the people you'll read about here -- from a pastor on Chicago's tough South Side to a progressive Episcopal priest ... from a best-selling author to journalists reporting on religion issues ... from an Eastern Orthodox priest to a Seventh-day Adventist to an orthodox rabbi ... and from political and social activists. But LeBlanc discovered they have one important thing in common: a fervent belief that the ancient practice of tithing has enriched their lives and filled them with uncommon joy.
In fact, the phrase starting point crops up again and again in LeBlanc's interviews, because tithing isn't necessarily the endpoint of generosity. "What I always say to people," says interviewee Randy Alcorn, "is that if you take the standard of 10 percent and say God required it of the poorest people in Old Testament Israel, and now that we're under the grace of Jesus and ... we live in this incredibly affluent culture, do you think he would expect less of us?"
My Two Cents:
I had to give myself a couple of days away from this book to solidify my thoughts on it because, when reviewing books of a religious nature, it's hard not to let one's own beliefs creep in somewhat. I try really hard to be as impartial (In terms of politics and beliefs, not opinions) on here as I can be, so I'll try to leave any personal feelings about religion and the practice of tithing out of the way.
Personal disclaimer over.
This book is fairly well-written. It's obvious that LeBlanc is a journalist, as his prose is precise and clean. However, it lacks something that even good non-fiction writing can have -- It has no real heart behind it. Sure, the words flow well and it's easy to read this book, but there's just no feeling behind any of it. A lot of times, it seems as if LeBlanc is just relating his interview subjects' life stories instead of giving the reader any real sense of who these people are. That sense of the person -- What's felt and believed and held up as important -- is something I think should be really clear and present when dealing with a fairly polarizing topic such as religious tithing.
While all LeBlanc's interview subjects got the point across easily -- Tithing is good and good things will happen to you if you tithe, according to Scripture -- it felt as if there was a little too much of the same. No one disagreed with the tithing mandate in Scripture. Sure, the conflict among the religious community was occasionally alluded to, but LeBlanc did not seek out interview subjects who don't tithe to find out why. I felt that, because of this lack of conflict, it was a really one-sided and repetitive book. By about the third story, I was kind of bored, but I plowed through anyway. If he had found someone who doesn't tithe for whatever reason, or who doesn't believe that the Old Testament version of tithing (Which is basically what LeBlanc was dealing with here) should be adhered to anymore, I think it would have made the book more interesting.
Also, I thought LeBlanc chose his subjects a little too carefully. They were all either clergy of various denominations (There's even a rabbi in here) or they ran specific religious charities. Common sense would dictate that people who have made religious work their livelihood would ascribe to the tithing mandate. I think this book would have been much more interesting and well-rounded if LeBlanc had sought out the common churchgoer and asked for his or her opinion.
I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone. This is a book for someone who is really interested in religious topics and wants to learn more about the specific practice of tithing.