Friday, April 06, 2007

Fist Stick Knife Gun

The blog title is the title of one of the most stirring books I've read in a good long while. Written by a dynamic man named Geoffrey Canada, Fist Stick Knife Gun is a heartbreaking story of one child's journey through an inner-city environment so dangerous it seems possible only to the cinematic imagination. Sadly, however, Canada's evocative portrayal of life in New York's city is far from fantasy. It is real.

I cannot encourage you enough to buy or inter-library loan this book. It is a quick and gripping read and it is filled with real-life stories that break your heart slowly, like a branch beneath a sluggish tractor. Canada, an alumnus of my alma mater, Bowdoin College, interweaves an episodic narrative of his early years with commentary on the violence problem that attacks America's inner cities. I certainly do not agree with all of his diagnoses, nor do I agree with all of his solutions. For example, I believe that the problem facing the inner-city is not the handgun that kills the child, but the breakdown of a family through which the child is left without guidance or protection. Attacking the right to bear arms by private citizens is a classic case of reading the symptom as the problem. Such fallacy-prone thinking must be avoided, even as we can recognize that it is probably not the best policy to blithely support handguns but rather to grimly and conscionably push for their legality. Canada is also particularly weak on the problem of where violence comes from. He doesn't believe that it is generated by a sinful human heart, but thinks it comes from external factors. How this could be I have no idea, and can only respond that the human heart needs no teacher to master evil. In a world filled with tutors, it is nevertheless the instructor that exceeds them all.

I needed to point out those weaknesses (and there are others), but I want you to read this book nonetheless. Christians who only read books that align with their worldview only impoverish themselves. We must be those who can read all types of material and yet do so with discernment, sifting through the chaff to find the wheat. Don't fall prey to the mindset that says only Christian books are worth reading. That's silly and undeveloped thinking. Tackle books like Fist Stick Knife Gun. In such books, we find beauty in the writer's style, and some priceless insights in the writer's mind. Yes, buy this book, and consider for yourself the problems of America's inner cities. What can we do to help this situation of catastrophic proportions? Who will teach young men to be leaders and husbands and young women to be wives and mothers? Will we leave this work to lost but good-hearted men like Geoffrey Canada? Or will we ourselves bring the only true hope of any man, the gospel, to a place that desperately needs it?

Let us pray for the proper answer for ourselves and for our churches.


Blogger Jed said...

Fist Stick Knife Gun was the summer reading for my incoming class at Bowdoin. So, Owen, a lot of your friends (and readers of this blog) have read this book. However, frankly, I had forgotten all about it.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vividly remember not reading this book.


8:07 PM  

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