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ss triple helix - Spring 2020,  Reviews


Dementia from the Inside
A Doctor's personal journey of hope
Dr Jennifer Bute with Louise Morse
  • SPCKPublishing, 2018, £9.00, 116pp, ISBN: 9780281080694
  • Reviewed by David G Smithard, Visiting Professor, University of Greenwich and Consultant Geriatrician
This small book provides a rare insight into the onset and progression of dementia. The first seven pages are comments/reviews by people from the medical and theological fields. There is little I can add to these. Not many people would accept the diagnosis of dementia as a gift from God, an opportunity to be a witness. It is a reminder to many of us that God can use any situation that we are in for the good of ourselves and others. Dr Bute provides a window for us to share her life both before and after her diagnosis. She demonstrates a fantastic ability to share her faith and reflect God's glory to all those around her. With the help of her family, she has developed leaflets and online resources for those caring and looking after people with dementia. It is a book of hope and opportunity rather than one of despair. I have tried to remember her comments when I am undertaking my ward rounds and when teaching my trainee doctors.

Desperate Prayer
Johnson Redden

  • John Ritchie Publishing, 2019, £7.99, 112pp, ISBN: 9781912522507
  • Reviewed by Mark Houghton, a retired GP
As a much-loved relative was dying, I reached for this book and heard the voice of God speaking to me - immediate help! It is a genuinely easy read in bite-sized chapters of about two pages each. Every chapter stands alone, because each is a short, desperate prayer by someone in the Bible, flowing out of their relationship with God. For example, the chapter 'God Is Just,' is based on, 'And Cain said to the Lord, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear…' ' (Genesis 4:13) It's written for the many who desperately want to pray more and need to pray when desperate. The author, a retired orthopaedic surgeon and experienced Bible teacher, writes a moving Preface, '... when I uttered the most desperate prayer of my life... ' during illnesses in both himself and his wife. His personal experiences reappear at times. It is practical, compassionate and to the point. This is a worthy addition to a niche in everyone's library on prayer. Perhaps wisely, the author avoided the Psalms, 'since many preachers and writers have commented on the Psalms... Full of desperate prayers which deserve a fuller separate treatment. ' It's a book to wait on your shelf for your moment of need, with a brief ready-made prayer at the end of each chapter.

Dominion The Making of the Western Mind
Tom Holland

  • Little, Brown Book Group, 2019, £16.16, 624pp, ISBN: 9781408706954
  • Reviewed by Steve Fouch, CMF Head of Communications
In his introduction, Holland admits he is a bit like the character from the 90s British sketch show, Goodness, Gracious Me!, who points to everything in British society and proclaims that it is really Indian before proceeding to give a detailed exposition for his claim. In this case, Holland claims that almost everything we can say and understand about Western culture has deep, nearly invisible Christian roots. His starting point is the history of Christianity, and throughout this massive tome, he shows us how the Scriptures, church practice and the thinking of Christians down the ages have shaped everything around us. The sacred/secular divide? Look to St Augustine and his ideas about religio (the realm of the church) and seculae (the realm of the state), and at the catastrophic falling out between the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII, for the separation of church and state. 'Intersectionality' in modern identity politics and social justice movements? Go back to the struggles of Wilberforce and the abolitionists who saw their biblical arguments against slavery applicable to everything from women's rights to animal rights (Wilberforce founded the RSPCA, and others in his movement greatly influenced the suffragists and suffragettes).

And the list goes on and on. Central to the Christian impact on the West, Holland argues, is the idea of a God who dignified the human form by the incarnation and raised the value of all humanity by dying on the cross for it. These events revolutionised our understanding of what it was to be human and the intrinsic value of everyone, regardless of race, gender, age or social class. Dominion is a long and detailed read that demands commitment from the reader. However, Holland is a consummate storyteller, drawing you into obscure tales about little-known characters from Christian history and bringing them to startling life. He is someone who clearly loves the stories he tells and the implications they have for how we live today. Holland is an agnostic who struggles to reconcile Christianity with science, yet who sees a profound truth in the stories and outworking of the Christian faith in which he clearly wants to believe.

Gender Ideology What do Christians need to know?
Sharon James

  • Christian Focus, 2019, £7.99, 132pp, ISBN: 9781527104815
  • Reviewed by Ashley Stewart, CMF Associate Head of Student Ministries
Sharon James sets out to do two things: firstly to explain in an accessible way what gender theory is and the intense danger it presents to society, and secondly to enable the reader to feel more confident in the truth that we are created male and female. She achieves exactly what she intended. She presents a clear argument that gender theory, which teaches that a person's true gender identity is determined by their feelings and internal sense of self rather than by their biological sex, is a false and deceptive ideology. She explains how this belief has spread like wildfire, been accepted almost without question, impacted laws and policies and has rapidly become embedded in our children's education. Importantly she makes a distinction between the ideology itself and the people who have been deceived by it and are the victims of this sexual revolution. While this way of thinking, she argues, must be rejected and opposed by Christians, the person suffering the effects of it should be met with compassion and respect. However, Sharon's exploration of gender theory, whilst illuminating, does feel at times as if the complexity and the challenges it presents have been lost in the interest of brevity and simplicity. Likewise, whilst I agreed overall with her message, I would have chosen more sensitive and compassionate language when talking to a gender dysphoric or transgender patient. As someone who works in youth mental health, I found it a helpful introduction to the topic. However, I am still left with many questions about how I should respond in practice to a struggling individual or help a parent to support their child. The CMF 1st incision podcasts on caring for transgender patients [1] offer a helpfully introduction to a highly complex issue which requires much further consideration.

1. Caring for transgender patients, 1st incision 30 August 2019,, The issues surrounding transgender children. 1st incision 27 September 2019. and Love thy body. 1st incision 29 November 2019.

Living with Alzheimer's
A love story
Robin Thomson
  • Instant Apostle, 2020, £8.99, 186pp, ISBN: 9781912726196
  • Reviewed by Tim Billington, a retired GP
Do we need another book from someone who has lovingly looked after his wife with Alzheimer's? I would say 'yes'. In this book, Robin not only tells his story of caring for his wife, Shoko, but has the insight not to assume that his experience is the same as others. Some people, he realises, prefer to know everything well in advance, while others prefer to deal with problems as they arise. Robin comes into the first category of wanting to be as informed as early as possible. In the Appendix, he has some constructive suggestions under the heading of 'What I wish I had known sooner and done better'. In particular, body language is more important than what you say to someone with dementia; realising that it best not to 'Disagree but instead Distract and Divert'; and discovering that Alzheimer's affects different aspects of the brain - cognitive, emotional and functional, helped change the way he dealt with Shoko. Predictably, he has a lot to say about the need for someone with authority, along with a warm relationship, who can interpret the different stages as they pass through them. For Robin and Shoko, this was someone from the Alzheimer's Association who had an excellent relationship with their GP. When we make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's, it is essential to direct the carer to such a person, if at all possible. This book is a useful one to offer to a carer of a patient with Alzheimer's early on in their diagnosis to provide a roadmap for the future.

Setting Up Community Health and Development Programmes in Low & Middle Income Settings (4th Edition)
Ted Lankester and Nathan Grills (eds)

  • Oxford University Press, 2019, £24.79, 544pp, ISBN: 9780198806653
  • Reviewed by Marko Kerac, Clinical Associate Professor in Public Health Nutrition, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
The first edition of this classic book was written by Ted Lankester in 1992 and the fact that it is still in demand and going strong almost 30 years on is a testament to its quality and importance. It is targeted at a broad audience ranging from front-line healthcare workers to students to government and civil society policymakers and programme managers; there's lots of valuable material here for everyone working towards 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. As well as extensively updating current chapters, the new editorial team have added seven new chapters focusing on topical issues such as non-communicable disease, disaster reduction, disability mental health and use of information & communications technology (ICT). With this expanded scope, it's great, however, that two things remain constant: - A focus on working with and empowering local communities which it sees as core to the 'global health jigsaw'. - A highly practical and applied approach with plenty of frameworks, illustrations and examples which both help communicate key messages and can be used in teaching and training for a wide variety of audiences. In summary, this is an excellent resource for all interested in global health. With many challenges remaining, it will certainly stay in individual and organisational 'core reading' lists for many years to come.
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