Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Hope Rising by Scott C Todd

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

I chose Hope Rising, by Scott C Todd, a VP with Compassion International, as a book to review mostly because I really enjoyed The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns. Stearns' book was a powerful, formative part of my life in recent years. As the President of World Vision and with the success of the book, I thought perhaps Hope Rising would be a similar attempt to connect with people by Compassion International.

*Another little disclaimer here: I know about half a dozen people who work for Compassion. I, myself, was an employee for about 16 months over the span of four years during and immediately after college.*

When I compare the two books, you can see the real reflection of the organizations behind them. While both are evangelical development organizations, Compassion was always known as the more conservative - not just in theology, but practice as well. World Vision partakes in a variety of different systems and avenues to alleviate all kids of different problems. They accept a lot of different funding sources and work with many different people, including government.

Compassion has kept a single-minded focus on children. They do primarily one-to-one sponsorship and all the extraneous programming revolves around the care and well-being of children and are administered through partnerships with local congregations around the world.

These do not represent a good way and less good way of working. They are different, but equally important and valuable. They're two of the absolute best charities in the world - but they are different.

Rich Stearns in a businessman; he understands the power of a story. His personal story is quite remarkable and his candor in sharing it is inspiring. Scott Todd is more of a scientist. He's a doctor or works in the medical field (it's not quite clear in the book). He's much more comfortable with numbers and explanations. That shows through.

I am a strong supporter of care for the poor. People say that, I suppose, to sound righteous and generous and all that, but relief and development is my thing. I am interested and committed. You do not have to do any convincing to get me to sign up to help. I am the kind of person Hope Rising was written to engage.

Still, I had a hard time getting through the book. I wouldn't have finished it if I didn't think reading the whole thing was important for this review, which I agreed to write. The first half of the book is the strongest part - it lays out some of the misconceptions about poverty within evangelicalism, builds a strong case for the need, and presents solid biblical foundations for action. It is, however, a bit repetitive. The same case could have been made better in about 40% the space.

The second half of the book is supposed to be the part laying out specific actions and concrete steps each person can take to participate in the elimination of extreme poverty. There are some steps, but they're rather vague or sparse. I finished the book with many of the same questions I had going in. It's great to show us how most congregations spend 96% of their income on themselves and to encourage us to do better, but outside of giving the Compassion website a few times, there isn't much in the way of guidance for going about it. I have similar issues with the personal engagement side of things.

Nothing Todd says in the book is wrong. I am not a huge fan of some of his biblical interpretation or his political assumptions, but I can recommend the book - at least given the critiques above. There's a lot of good stuff here and he represents an organization doing it well.

It's not the easiest book to read and it doesn't engage the imagination in profound ways, but I suppose I'd describe Compassion International the same way I'd describe Hope Rising - they're relentless. Nothing special, nothing overly emotional, but straight-forward efficient work towards a worthy goal.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

No comments: