Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Booksneeze review: The Grace Effect

God's grace can be found in unexpected places as this book clearly demonstrates. Essentially a book about the adoption process for a 10-year-old girl, Sasha, from the Ukraine by an American family, the author uses this experience to demonstrate his thesis “...the ‘grace effect’ is an observable phenomenon—that life is demonstrably better where authentic Christianity flourishes.”

The author, Larry Taunton, a Christian apologist, takes on the "New Atheists", such as the late Christopher Hitchens, and seeks to demonstrate the folly of their arguments for Atheism. By looking at the effects of the atheist system of communism/socialism on the Ukraine, he seeks to demonstrate that those systems fail every time to make life a better place for their people.

When I first started reading this book, I was actually not very impressed with the way that the author imposed his western way of thinking onto the essentially eastern culture of the Ukraine. I thought much of his analysis came from a place of cultural stress and shock. After my first year here in Bosnia, I was writing about the culture for course of study I was taking. My supervisor read what I had written and sent back a one line email "are you going through culture shock?" When going through cultural shock, it is easy to get negative about a different culture and see everything as bad and not be able to see the good and the positive in anything. And I felt to an extent his inability to see anything good in the secular society of the Ukraine might have been because he was experiencing this shock effect.

That said, I continued reading and was surprised to see that I did agree with the underlying premise of the book. The grace of God produces something in people who are genuinely following Him that overflows into the society surrounding it. It isn't something that can be explained easily, but I have seen some of the effects here in Bosnia of a system that did not have grace.

An example that comes to mind: I teach English to adults and some of my students grew up under the Yugoslavian socialist system: they freak out when I tell them we will have a test - they fear that if they fail that I will shame them in front of everyone. Thus, it is difficult to get them not to cheat, even though the test is more for me to know if I have actually taught them anything than a pass/fail thing. But with time, they realise that I am not going to shame them, that they are actually usually congratulated for having done well on the test, and so the fear subsides and the need to cheat does too (and they actually do better on the tests as a result!)

I enjoyed reading this book: the intertwining of theology and Sasha's story made it an easy read and I was touched by the effect grace had in Sasha's life. If nothing else, we can all be challenged to make a difference one life at a time!

I got "The Grace Effect" by Larry Alex Taunton through the Booksneeze program of Thomas Nelson publishers, but this opinion is my own.

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