Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Daniel Code by OS Hawkins

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 a free book isn't enough to assuage my cutting honesty. If I've failed to write a bad review, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

OS Hawkins opens The Daniel Code with a summary of his experience by decade. He speaks glowingly of the '60s, both its exploration and introspection; reservedly about the '70s; optimistically about the '80s, and forgets the '90s altogether, lumping it in with all the years of the new millennium. Context is everything. I know this is just his experience, but he could have talked about the '20s and the introspection following WWI; the '30s skepticism following the stock market crash, the optimism of the '40s, and the forgotten '50s. History does tend to repeat itself.

I also noticed this personal context because I am a child of the '90s. More than any other decade, this one, often forgotten between the end of the cold war and 9/11, shaped who I am. I see the world differently than OS Hawkins because I remember the '90s with great fondness and respect. I ordered The Daniel Code to review largely because of the subtitle: Living Out Truth in a Culture That is Losing Its Way. I suspected that my understanding of what's implied by "culture" and "losing its way" would vary greatly from what the author had in mind. I wasn't wrong.

Hawkins talks about the "de-Christianizing" of US society. He's one of many children of the '50s and early '60s who look longingly on that time as "the good old days." You can tell this almost instantly (like when he doesn't talk about Civil Rights or protest in his description of the '60s; it's like he's living a decade behind US history). That's not to knock his experience. It was a different time and context and people should be allowed to experience what they experience and process it in their own way.

What he's expressing here is very true... for a specific group of white, largely suburban, people, born during the Baby Boom. It's not universal.

I assumed, therefore, that I could take the universal principles presented in The Daniel Code and apply them to the accomodationist fundamentalism of modern evangelical culture that I presumed the book represented and that I seek to distance myself from. I was hoping to "decode" The Daniel Code and use its biblical secrets against it. Sadly, though, the ideas presented by Hawkins in this book don't appear particularly effective and certainly feel, in many cases, anti-biblical and counter-productive. It's a real stretch to find something redeeming in these pages and I suspect readers who take The Daniel Code seriously are far more likely to be harmed than helped in the experience.

It's an irresponsible book that should never have been published, finding more in common with the great cultural sins of individualism, consumerism, and nationalism than with faith, hope, and love. There's a presumption that Christendom, with all its faults, was actually somehow more reflective of Christian life and values than any other time period, that Christians now have a difficult mission of subversion and cultural combat that didn't exist in the 1950s or the 1800s. It betrays an extreme lack of historical understanding and a cultural blindness that is downright disturbing (and I didn't even mention a selling out to conservative US electoral positions and passing them off as biblical).

I was hoping The Daniel Code would represent a general call to live differently in the world as Christians with ideas and true biblical support that would encourage life in the Kingdom of God as an alternative to the kingdoms of the world. Instead, it seems, we have a thoroughly ignorant primer on how to win over the kingdoms of the world by playing their own game, or die in the process. This book plays games of power and control and attempts to sanctify them with poor exegesis and baseless theological malpractice.

I briefly thought about countering the bad ideas contained in this book, as I often do in these reviews, but I realized were I to do so, the review would be longer than the book itself. Hawkins presents vaguely good ideas like, "Stand up for what you believe and resist cultural pressure to change," with very little discussion of how you might do that. When such explanation comes, it's in the form of conservative political talking points or unfounded generalizations.

Towards the middle of the book he uses the phrase "you have what you tolerate" to once again attack the notion of tolerance as anti-Christian and argue for throwing out wholesale that with which you disagree. I have read every word of every book I've reviewed in this BookLook program since I joined, even those with no redeeming value that ended up being utter disappointments. I have broken with that tradition here, because this isn't an intellectual argument or a presentation of ideas with which I disagree, it's a blatant, uncharitable attack on people for whom Christ died, and it contains none of the love, grace, or compassion that are personified in that Christ.

I'd like to think Hawkins knows better, but he can't. I'm sure he's a kind old man who genuinely believes he's serving the Church and his God with this book. I couldn't imagine someone saying the things in this book simply to serve a policy position or back an agenda. The Daniel Code represents a perspective on scripture and theology that exists all too commonly in the world, but there is something to be said for the idea that "the medium is the message." Even if this is a cry from the heart of a concerned pastor, it has to be delivered in a way that reflects the nature of the truth it claims to present. The Daniel Code fails on that account.

I wanted to say this book isn't worth the paper it's printed on, but I suppose it's worth exactly the paper its printed on; the words certainly add nothing to the value. Typically I donate the free books I receive but do not wish to own to Goodwill so someone else who might appreciate them can. In this case I've used the paper so kindly provided to help start a fire - one that we routinely sit around with our neighbors in conversation about things that matter in life, with some hope that our love and acceptance can model Jesus' life and ministry, counteracting the negative, unholy message they've received from people who represent Christ in the ways this book does, to the utter detriment of everyone involved.

For God's sake, literally (and for everyone else's), please do not read The Daniel Code.

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.”

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