My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Review: Strangers and Scapegoats: Extending God's Welcome to Those on the Margins

Strangers and Scapegoats: Extending God's Welcome to Those on the Margins Strangers and Scapegoats: Extending God's Welcome to Those on the Margins by Matthew S Vos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book is divided into two (2) parts, with the first part focused on identifying the stranger in terms of in groups and out groups (were I typically use the terms self and other). A lot of effort goes into explaining how the poor treatment of out groups is a mechanism for preserving group boundaries; however, the analysis was not convincing at times; his anecdotal evidence just didn’t match my anecdotal experience (which tended to be a lot more nuanced and less an argument of absolutes). For example … in discussing a lynching of a black man in TN, the author makes this curious statement: “ Of course, their actions showed little concern for the traumatized African Americans among them.” My own conclusion is the exact opposite … the whole reason the mob lynched the man was because of the impact they believed that would have on the “African Americans among them.” The author is looking at the desired effect for the “in-group” where I see a desired effect on the “out-group” … while the net may be the same (preserving group boundaries), the difference in motivational assignment (group cohesion vs power security) makes it difficult to fully accept the author’s over all point.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated example … making the book a more difficult read than I had hoped because of the generated dissonance with my own [admittedly amateur] understanding of social interactions … and while I may not be professional educated in the subject, I have enough personal experience and self-directed study in the field to have pre-existing and well formed opinions on just about everything the book covered. Before too long, I kept hearing Inigo Montoya’s voice in my head saying “I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Ultimately I do understand the message the author is trying to convey (and which I generally agree with), I just had to work harder at it than I was hoping for. As with many discussions/arguments, it is such easier to see where we disagree than where we agree (since we only critically examine the former). That is not to say that I could not find a few hidden gems here … such as the rather poignant observation that “in American culture we accept violence as legitimate, exciting, and necessary.”

Major props for taking a stab at unpacking how our society creates and treats strangers with respect to social ills; however, there were too many points that just didn’t seem to work in my head and there wasn’t much there to change my mind on most of those. Unfortunately, the book diverged even further from my own perspectives when it turned to the criminal justice system with a claim that “crime” is actually necessary for group boundary definitions … I am fairly sure that is completely backwards … crime exists because of group boundaries (and studies have indicated social limits to group sizes, so boundaries will always exist). Again … I have a fair amount of direct experience from multiple perspectives with the US Justice System here … In the end, I just didn’t get what I was looking for here. I had hoped to get more specifics on the psychology of how and why we demonize others … and while I got the how … the why was mostly missing. This understanding is key in countering our human nature here … instead the book appears to rely on simply showing how terrible this activity is and relying heavily on [biblical inspired] guilt to promote change (which I believe is not a viable solution to this particular problem). Still … given my own belief that this is a very important topic and the fact that the author has bravely introduced much needed talking points on the subject … I am rounding up to 4*

Introduction: Strangers Among Us

Part 1: Strangers and Scapegoats in Sociological Perspective
1. Constructing Identity: The Self, the Social, and the Stranger
2. A Stranger World: In-groups, Out-group, and the Space Between
3. No More Scapegoats: A Stranger Theology

Part 2: Strangers in the Margins
4. Strangers in the Pew: Girls and Symbolic Exclusion
5. From Stranger to Neighbor: Intersex Persons and the Church
6. Strangers at the Borders: Immigrants and the Heart of the Gospel Message
7. Strangers Behind Bars: Examining the System of Mass Incarceration
8. Competing in Cedar: Nike, Superstar Athletes, and the Unseen Strangers Who Make Our Shoes

Part 3: Inviting Strangers
9. Challenging the Normal: The Strange(r) Reality of the Gospel
10. Pursuing the Common Good: Three Stories of the Neighbor

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#StrangersAndScapegoats #NetGalley.

View all my reviews

No comments:

My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.