Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review: We Choose Life: Authentic Stories (ed. Dave Sterrett) [Clinton Wilcox]

Special thanks to Dave Sterrett and Hendrickson Publishers for the free copy of the book to review.

In a person's lifetime, there are only so many books that he/she can read. That's why it's important to be as honest as possible in a book review, so someone can honestly gauge which book is a good use of their time. Unfortunately, while there were several really good essays in this compilation, I can't really give it my full endorsement, as there were too many bad essays to weigh against the good ones.

You would probably be better served by picking up David Reardon's book Aborted Women: Silent No More for compelling stories and Scott Klusendorf's book The Case for Life for the defense of the pro-life position.

I'll start with the pros of the collection before moving on to the cons.


As I mentioned, there are several good essays in this collection. Scott Klusendorf's essay on making the pro-life case is excellent, of course. And I was surprised to see an essay written by Mike Adams in this collection. I am a regular reader of Mike's Townhall column, and it was great to read about how he became a pro-life Christian. I also thought Jewels Green's essay "How I Finally Chose Life" was one that stood out from the others. I enjoyed the philosophical reflections in Bernard and Amber Mauser's essay regarding usage of contraception and fertility treatments. It filled my little Thomist heart with joy. And the late Kortney Blythe Gordon's father, Larry Blythe, shared an essay chronicling the life and ministry of this young pro-life advocate who was taken from us too soon.

Another pro for the collection is that there is a wide range of perspectives from many different people in the movement, some well-known and some not so well-known. You'll get to learn what runs through the head of a staunch pro-choice advocate who eventually becomes pro-life, what it's like to have a child with spina bifida, etc.

Another pro is that the book is easy to read. You can probably finish it in just a couple of days, depending on how much time you have.

Now on to the cons:

I really felt that the editing could have been tightened up. There were spelling and grammatical errors, as well as sentence fragments. There were also too many instances of sentences going on and on, and several things being repeated over and over again unnecessarily. Several of the essays were just not well-written at all, and some only needed to be half as long as they were. Plus, many of the claims made in some of the essays were not sourced.

Additionally, the term "preborn" was overbearing throughout the collection, which seems more like a rhetorical move. It was even in Scott's essay on how to make the case for life, when Scott used the term "unborn" in the original (which you can find on the LTI website, without indicating that the editor made those changes (usually indicated by brackets: [preborn]). I'm guessing what happened is that they used the "search and replace" feature to replace all instances of "unborn" with "preborn". What tipped me off to this is the fact that in endnote 2 on page 170, they changed the title of Greg Koukl's book, Precious Unborn Human Persons, to Precious Preborn Human Persons (emphasis mine).

Another minor complaint is that I had no idea who several of these people were. The collection would have been helped by including a short paragraph or two about who each of the contributors were.

One major issue with many of these essays is that they were less about abortion and more about trying to evangelize. Now, I'm a Christian. There's nothing wrong with evangelization, but in the proper contexts. For example, if I want to evangelize a friend, I'd give them a copy of Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, or The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. I wouldn't give them Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time by William Lane Craig or An Essay on Free Will by Peter van Inwagen. That's not the purpose of those books. The purpose of this book should focus on abortion, not on evangelization.

Now, some of the essays used Biblical quotations and ideas without it seeming out of place. That's fine, because in the life of Christians I should expect Biblical influence. But in several of the essays, it felt like they weren't trying to tell their story so much as trying to make converts out of whoever would read the book. There were many Biblical quotations out of place, and "Christianese" scattered throughout these essays. Frank Gray's essay is representative of the essays that I'm talking about. His essay is fully of Bible verses thrown in and Christianese used. I really didn't get the sense that he struggled because he didn't really expound on what he said he was going through in the essay because he felt evangelizing was more important in the moment. It really detracted from his story and didn't give me the sense he was really struggling or suffering during these times.

Again, I don't want to give off the wrong idea. I'm a Christian, and I believe evangelizing is the Church's mission. But there's a time and place for everything, and a book on abortion experiences isn't the place for writing a Gospel tract. As I said, there were several essays that used Scripture references to good effect. But there were several, like the aforementioned, that were overbearing with it and it detracted from their story.

Some of the essays in this compilation are definitely worth reading. Unfortunately, there were more that I felt were poorly written than good, so that unbalances this collection. So I can't wholeheartedly endorse this book, although it's only $7 on Amazon, so that might be a price you can justify for the number of good essays.

1 comment:

  1. I have no doubt Dave Sterrett was unaware of those changes.He is fantastic. But you are right: The editor who changed my essay and Koukl's book title has a whole lotta explaining to do! (I did not authorize "preborn" for "unborn" in my essay. I'm shocked by this.


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