A reading list for high school seniors

Posted: Feb 09, 2004 12:00 AM

?A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of
his reading.?  C.S. Lewis

Over the course of the last year, many parents expressing concern over the increasing hostility towards both conservatism and Christianity on America?s college campuses have written me. A number of them, with children in high school, have asked me to recommend books that might help reinforce some of the principles they have been trying to teach their children throughout their upbringing.

Because I abandoned religion early in college and conservatism later in college, I can certainly identify with such concerns. And since I found my way back to religion and to conservatism largely by reading good books, I am able to offer some specific suggestions. Here they are:

1. The Seeker?s Bible, New Testament: New Living Translation, with notes by Greg Laurie. College students do not have to enroll in courses in ?sexuality studies? in order to be exposed to writings that distort the Bible in the name of ?diversity? and ?tolerance.? For example, the university where I teach promotes such readings through the Office of Campus Diversity and through various speakers and university-sponsored programs. Even the wildest distortions of the Bible can be persuasive for those who haven?t taken the time to read it. Most high school students will not have the time or patience to read the entire Bible, but they can easily read the New Testament, especially in the New Living Translation. The version I recommend also has notes from the man I consider the best preacher in America. If you have never heard Greg Laurie preach, log on to http://www.harvest.org. Laurie knows how to appeal to young people without compromising the message.

2. More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell. This is a very fast-reading apologetic that helps to refute some of the common arguments against the deity of Christ. Frequently, even avowed atheists will acknowledge that Christ was the most important person to walk the face of the Earth. Nonetheless, they will argue that more books have been written about Christ than anyone else, simply because He was a ?great moral leader.? McDowell walks the reader through all of the different options a person has when deciding ?what to do? with Christ. For me, only one of those options makes sense.

3. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. In April of 1992, when I was a graduate student and professional musician, I first publicly proclaimed myself to be an atheist. This happened shortly after finishing a performance at a bar called ?The Gin? in Oxford, Mississippi. Someone who overheard me calling myself an atheist pleaded with me to read this book. I read it nine years later. Make sure that your child doesn?t put off reading this one for nine years.

4. How to Win the Culture War, by Peter Kreeft. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states that, ?The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.? After reading Kreeft?s book, I was forced to re-evaluate Lewis? statement. This is a quick read, which flows forcefully and logically from point to point. There are so many good quotes in this book that I found myself saying ?I wish I had said that? at least two dozen times over the course of 120 pages. Here is a good example: ?The cops in a ?soft totalitarianism? wield pens rather than swords-for example, speech codes that see ?hate speech,? ?right wing extremism,? and ?homophobia? in more places than medieval inquisitors saw devils and witches.? And another: ?Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when there were still more communists in Russia than in American universities, Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say that Russia was like the cross without Christ and that America was like the Christ without the cross. Neither sacrifice without love nor love without sacrifice will win.? Make sure they read this one, but only after buying a highlighter.

5. Darwin on Trial, by Phillip Johnson. Every semester I conduct an informal survey designed to assess the status of free expression at my university. One of the open-ended questions I ask my students follows: ?Is there anything you have ever wanted to say in one of your classes that you refrained from saying for fear that it would expose you to ridicule? If so, say it now.? Often, students respond by saying that they frequently suppress their doubts about evolution. These students usually indicate that they accept Darwinism as an explanation of gradual changes within a given species. However, the same students find evolution to be an absurd theory when applied to the origin of mankind. This book will help students see the weaknesses of ?macro-evolution.? In other words, it will help to nurture their doubts. It will also help them to formulate questions that will make their biology professors very nervous.

6. How Now Shall We Live?, by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. In another of his books, Colson refers to C.S. Lewis as a prophet of the 20th century. Perhaps the same could be said of Colson in the 21st century. He is, without question, my favorite author. This book, written with Nancy Pearcey is his best work to date. There is nothing better suited to help adults of all ages to solidify a Christian worldview. His list of recommend readings in the back of the book is also rich with suggestions for further reading. But beware; this book is a little thicker than my other recommendations. If it is not practical for your teenagers to read this, make sure that they read something else by Colson. Two of my other favorites are Born Again and Against the Night.

7. The Vision of the Anointed, by Thomas Sowell. At this point, the list makes a transition from the realm of religion into the realm of politics. I understand the complications that arise from mixing the two but, nonetheless, they cannot be fully divorced. This book explains the real difference between conservatives and liberals. Before your children read this book, ask them what the Bible says about human nature. I offer this book as a partial response to those who ask, ?How can you be so conservative and still call yourself a Christian??

8. Persecution, by David Limbaugh. A couple of months ago, I wrote a review of this book (see ?David Limbaugh is Not a Big Fat Idiot?). I got a lot of hate mail from readers of that review. Most of them said something like the following: ?Why do you and Limbaugh write about all of the instances of anti-religious bigotry perpetrated by liberals against orthodox Christians? And why did you focus on the educational climate? For example, I?m sure that there are plenty of cases of right-wing Christian teachers suppressing the views of dissenting students.? I asked every person making that assertion to forward evidence of such cases. No one took me up on the offer. Checkmate.

--Read Townhall.com's review of Persecution--

9. Shadow University, by Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate. This book changed the direction of my career. After I finished this one, I realized that the problems on my campus concerning both free speech and due process were not unique. The success of this book also served as a springboard for the indispensable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (or FIRE, see www.thefire.org).  This book is also a little longer than most of my other recommendations. If your teenager cannot plow through this book, make sure that they go to the FIRE website to access The FIRE?s Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus, or The FIRE?s Guide to Due Process and Fair Procedure on Campus.

10. Letters To a Young Conservative, by Dinesh D?Souza. By the time they get to this entry, your teenagers should have learned something of the importance of worldview. They should also be more knowledgeable about their rights and how they are presently under siege in this country. Now, it?s time to have some fun. Warning: you may decide that you want to go back to college after reading this one.

Well, I really thought that I would be able to round out this list on a nice, even number like ?10.? But, just in case you still think that conservatives are in favor of the status quo and that they blindly accept the authority of their government, check out either Invasion, by Michelle Malkin <read Townhall.com's review> or Dangerous Diplomacy, by Joel Mowbray. These are two of the most talented young conservative writers in America. They will make you angry and they will disabuse you of any notion that the Republican Party is simply the party of the status quo.

Before they go off to college, students need to know what they believe, they need to know their rights, and they need to be motivated to fight for what is important. There is a cultural war being waged on America?s campuses today. I hope your kids will join the fight, but only after they have finished their assignments.

Enjoy the reading! I?ll see you on the battlefield.

Mike Adams can be reached at http://www.DrAdams.org.