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Robert Morgan’s historical narrative of the massive land expansion that became the American West is well written and interesting. Since I like history, especially 17th and 18th Century American history, I thought this book was a winner before I opened the cover.

Morgan tells the story of the exploration, early settlement, and acquisition of the West—in that order by the way: note that acquisition generally came after Americans were already there—through the lives of major figures who played key roles. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Nicholas Trist, Kit Carson and others stand tall (even the relatively short in stature Carson) in this incredible saga of how vast acres, environmental riches, and beauty became the American West.

Manifest Destiny, that ambition that captured the national consciousness in the 19th Century, made its mark. So did a desire for Pacific harbors, river routes to the sea, furs, gold, and other commercial inclinations.

Morgan doesn’t sidestep or gloss over less attractive parts of the story: slavery, Native American displacement and extermination, greed, and self-aggrandizement. All made an impact and all follow us to this day.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803, British cession of parts of northern North Dakota and Minnesota in 1818, Spanish cession of Florida and parts of Louisiana in 1819, Texas War for Independence in 1836 and annexation in 1845, British cession of Oregon Territory in 1846, Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ceding millions of acres of territory, including California, ending the Mexican-American War in 1848, Gadsden Purchase in 1853. The fledgling United States acquired every acre from the Mississippi River to the Pacific in 50 years. It’s an astounding record of toughness and tenacity, tragedy, some travesty, and triumph.

I can think of no better wrap than to say this book is “A good read.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

In Memphis April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, unelected but indisputable leader of what today we call the Civil Rights Movement. In Hellhound On His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History (Anchor Books, 2010, 2011), Hampton Sides tells the pre and post-assassination story of the strange, smart but disturbed James Earl Ray aka Eric S. Galt aka Harvey Lowmeyer aka John Willard aka Ramon George Sneyd.

Sides writes a quite readable book, a kind of combination biography and historical novel. He digs deep on Ray: the man’s odd flophouse life, prison terms, and seeming creativity in finding ways to escape prison. Sides also uncovers Ray’s racism, a longtime part of his life but interestingly not often blatantly expressed—until he took one minute standing in a dirty bathroom tub to end the life of one the more gifted American orators of the 20th Century.

Conspiracy theories rage on to this day. Just google it and you’ll see. But Sides lays out the overwhelming amount of evidence that points to Ray and concludes without reservation that Ray acted alone.

I was in high school in April 1968. It was a challenging year for America, to say the least. A few months before MLK, Jr succumbed to a bullet, the Tet Offensive was launched in Viet Nam. In March, LBJ said he would not run for a second term as President. A few months after MLK, Jr died, Robert F. Kennedy, RFK, joined him when Sirhan Sirhan took his life in a California hotel June 6, 1968. In August, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was marred by violent protest. The Counter Culture Movement had not yet reached its zenith. All of this is seared in my memory.

MLK, Jr, was a flawed leader, as Sides doesn’t hesitate to note, but MLK, Jr’s essential message from his most well-known speech continues to resonate: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

If it’s true that racism is not what it once was in the United States, it is also true that it yet exists. So books like this remind us we've yet got work to do.

This book is not “fun” to read because its topic is serious and sad, but I recommend it highly.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Frank R. Wolf has served in the United States Congress for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District since 1981. In that time he’s become known as a tireless worker on behalf of the oppressed, downtrodden, suppressed, poor and hungry, and marginalized the world over.

This book, Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights, was written by Frank R. Wolf with Anne Morse and has just been released. Stories from Congressman Wolf’s career form the outline, with chapters focusing upon famine in Ethiopia, Romanian political oppression, prisons in Russia and China, suppression of rights and religion in Tibet, tribal missions in Ecuador, genocide in Sudan, and more recent adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Beijing Olympics. He ends the book with a chapter called “Our Fiscal Time Bomb,” followed by a conclusion discussing America’s potential for collapse or rejuvenation.

There’s no question Rep. Wolf is a kind of modern-day Wilberforce. Wolf is consistent in his Christian faith, wants not just to be but to do, tries over and again to change the world for the better, and most of all, works to advance human rights and the strength of the United States of America in whose founding ideals he still believes.

I first encountered Congressman Wolf in the mid-1990s when I was writing my first book on legalized commercial gambling. At that time, few people understood the negative social and economic potential hidden within gambling's gleaming temptation. Yet Congressman Wolf was, at that time, one of the earliest and is still one of the few national leaders to speak against the advance of legalized commercial gambling. I cited him in my book, Gambling: Don’t Bet On It, first published in 1997 and revised and republished in 2005. While most Democrat and Republican leaders have fallen over themselves assisting Native American tribes and localities in installing this perceived panacea for all fiscal crises, Rep. Wolf knew better then and now. I salute him for this.

Congressman Wolf’s conscience, his concern for the freedom and wellbeing of others worldwide, is rooted in his Christian faith. He is a man who understands his Christian worldview and its implications and he’s never shied from speaking up, speaking out, and speaking truth to power when he felt he needed to do so.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was in some sense like a trip down memory lane, for it catalogs many of the political issues I’ve read about and followed in the past twenty years. Some of the reading wasn’t fun in the sense that gulag oppression doesn’t make for light reading. But the tale that’s told in this book needs to be told.

This book is not just about one man’s work. It’s about what we all need to be, know, and do in the service of the Lord and others.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


Horror is not my cup of tea. I generally avoid horror films, though I’ve watched a few over the years and maybe even enjoyed one or two. But I don’t seek them, don’t rent them, don’t get into them around Halloween. Though I am fairly described as an avid reader, meaning I read and take a break to read some more, I have never read a Stephen King novel. Not my cup of tea.

But I just finished reading the original Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker. I read this because I was recently given a Nook for my birthday and on it discovered about 6 books installed for free. In this set was the eBook Dracula, a book now considered one of the classics. Since awhile back I decided to read a number of first edition classics I thought, “Why not start with the Count?”

It was a strange book, bloodier than I expected given the date and times in which it was written. For me, Stoker made his characters spend too much time traipsing through the woods or road to who knows where. I skipped some of these passages. But there’s no question the book is a classic for several reasons: original ideas applied to scary storyline, interposition of religion, the occult, and outright fantasy, sexual overtones that were at once twisted and common, a building run to the finish.

Dracula has been adapted, presented, and re-adapted in story and film. Vampires in general are enjoying a new run in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Series” books and films, a storyline featuring youthful love and lust, vampires and wolves. And vampires lead the way in HBO’s “True Blood,” a television series that tries to outdo itself in picturing the occult, blood and gore, homosexuality or hints of it, fractured relationships, witches, other assorted odd creatures, and a huge dose of sexuality mixed in with all this in a manner that reaches beyond kinky to creepy.

As I said, horror isn’t my cup of tea. And I recommend Dracula only for those who want to experience a well-written story featuring distasteful topics. The Count is hateful and anti-religion. Indeed he is a satanic Antichrist archetype, and the book is filled with religious references, both respectful and disparaging.

I have no favorite characters in a book like this, even the heroes of the story. All in all, I can check if off my reading list and let the book, like the Count himself, vanish into dust particles and out of my life.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate Of Every Person Who Ever Lived has taken the Christian community, if not the general public, by storm. It’s become a bestseller in the process. It’s also become a highly controversial book provoking considerable backlash from opponents and impassioned affirmations from proponents. These reactions have been immediate and continuing. Some reactions have been based on reasoned consideration, some pretty much on emotion, but reaction nonetheless. And controversy sells books.

Commentary based upon in-depth study from people schooled in relevant disciplines usually takes more time to develop. This is one thing that makes Michael E. Wittmer’s Christ Alone interesting. Reports indicate he and his publisher wrote and produced the book, respectively, in less than two months, yet Wittmer, a seminary professor with an earned doctorate in theology, gave Bell’s book and viewpoints the careful, thorough, theologically astute evaluation they deserve.

The core of the controversy generated around Love Wins deals with whether there is indeed a real hell, whether the Scripture teaches people who reject Jesus Christ will one day be eternally punished in hell, and whether a God who loves can allow such a thing to happen, thus perhaps giving people who need it an after-death chance at salvation. In the end, Bell seems to suggest no one can be consigned to hell by a God whose “love wins” over all forces, including an individual’s rejection.

While Bell argues otherwise, rejecting or even re-envisioning the idea of hell, asserting the existence of post-mortem salvation, and claiming everyone, universally, ultimately goes to heaven are ideas on the edge if not out of the mainstream of historic orthodox Christianity. Hence the noisy reactions.

Wittmer approaches the matter with a Christian’s fellowship, avoiding denigrating Bell as a person, and a scholar’s care, evaluating Bell’s theological arguments with Scripture. He does both well.

The crux of Wittmer’s critique is that Bell does the following in his book:

--frequently omits without comment consideration of multiple important passages of Scripture dealing with topics the book addresses, including salvation or the “lake of fire";

--constructs a weak, one dimensional, humanized view of God that does not align with the Sovereign God of the Bible;

--offers hope he cannot substantiate scripturally, or as Wittmer says, “Our hopes are only as strong as the reasons we have for holding them”;

--argues for post-mortem, that is after-death, second chances to accept salvation, yet provides no scriptural justification for this view;

--presents a view of heaven more in common with Purgatory than with Scripture’s description of a New Heaven and a New Earth;

--contends all men and women are saved or at least will be saved, a view called universalism, and does not seem to grasp the depth of human depravity and sin described in the Bible and evident in the world, or recognize that if this view is true, it effectively eliminates a need for redemption and Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection;

--presents hell as not much more than our worst days and worst issues here on earth, a place people may stay for only a time and experience purging, none of which aligns with Scripture’s description of hell as an eternal place of judgment, suffering, and separation from God;

--opens the door to other religious views and interpretations, particularly as apply to salvation, that do not comport with Scripture;

--changes the meaning of the Gospel creating as Wittmer puts it, a “tale of limitless happy endings” wherein “nothing is ever really at stake.” In this approach, Wittmer says the Gospel is “the tepid news that you don’t really need saving, that you’ve never been lost except in your imagination, and that God already accepts you just the way you are.”

Wittmer graciously and effectively demonstrates why Rob Bells’s Love Wins should not be considered an expression of historic orthodox Christianity or of latter day evangelicalism. By so doing Wittmer has done a service to the Christian community, offering theological and philosophical perspective on what Bell shares, thus helping people develop their own understanding of the worthiness of Bell’s writing.

Bell is entitled to his doctrinal views. It is, after all, a free country. But the popularity, good feeling, creative communication, and contemporary nature of his views do not make them correct in terms of what the Bible says.

While Bell’s earlier books were quirky, interesting, and thought-provoking considerations of tradition and culture, Love Wins jettisons what the New Testament books of 1, 2 Timothy and Titus call “sound doctrine.” Bell is no longer tossing aside traditions that may no longer be justifiable. He’s tossing aside biblical teaching he finds uncomfortable or doesn’t believe fits his view of what he wants to be true. Love Wins is therefore not simply controversial but careless and confusing. Consequently, the book should not be trusted as a guide to what the Bible teaches.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

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