New book on fundamentalism

bbReview posted on BaptistBoard.com. A friend on the BB wrote and asked if I knew anything about the latest book on Fundamentalism, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family by Andrew Himes. So I thought I'd better review it here. 

The truth is, my older brother wrote the book! I've read the book in four different versions since he began writing it, as he asked for my input all along and the input of various other family members, Fundamentalists and others.

I do recommend the book highly. There are some things in it not complimentary to us Fundamentalists, but Andrew has approached the subject humbly and with a scholar's heart. It is copiously researched and when critical, it is gentle and kind. 

The gist of the book is that Andrew traces the development of modern Fundamentalism through the history of our family. Our grandfather was John R. Rice, the famous evangelist (1896-1980) who founded and edited the Sword of the Lord, and wrote over 200 books and pamphlets including his best sellers Prayer: Asking and Receiving, and Bible Facts About Heaven.

Along this journey we learn some fascinating things such as what Rice ancestors fought in the Civil War, but we also learn some embarassing things such as what Rice ancestors owned slaves, and how Great Grandpa Rice was in the KKK (something that John R. Rice did not approve of).

My brother Andrew himself has lead a life that leads like a novel, and he shares some of that in the book. (He is working on an autobiography that will be a humdinger.) He was the black sheep of the John R. Rice clan, quitting church and going to the U. of Wis. at Madison, one of the most radical schools in the country in 1968. There he was elected vice president of the huge student body, and led demonstrations against the war in Viet Nam.

After that Andrew was at one time or another: a factory worker, a union agitator, a civil rights worker in the South, a motor cycle racer (one race, crashed, almost died), a Maoist revolutionary, a computer expert. Oh yes, I forgot to mention his stint at a little company out in Seattle called Microsoft! There he edited the developer's journal for the company and designed the first MSN website. And since his MS stint he's been a philanthropist and a film producer as well as an author.

Just one caveat about the book: Andrew has come a long way back to the family and the faith of his childhood. However, if you had to classify him he'd probably be in the emergent camp--though his life and beliefs really defy classification. So there are places in the book where evolution and higher criticism, for example, are spoken favorably of. But don't let that stop you. Buy the book and be fascinated!

One final note for my friends here on the BB. He does mention me (John R. Himes) several times as his brother who is a missionary in Japan. And in Chapter 26 he quotes from an unpublished essay by me about Grandpa John R. Rice's death.