Jesse Ancona's Reviews: Book List
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Book List

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General Spiritual Topics Mind control Antidotes for Sick Attitudes

General Spiritual Topics

Frankl, Viktor
(preface by Allport, Gordon W.)

Manís Search for Meaning

Mass Market Paperback - 221 pages Rev&Updtd edition (January 1998) Washington Square Pr; ISBN: 0671023373

Originally published anonymously, Viktor Frankl's honest account of his time in a concentration camp has, ironically, become better-known than any of his other books. Unlike many other books by camp survivors, it does not dwell on the horrific events, but chronicles the inmates' reactions to them. The sudden shock to the psyche from so much extreme change of circumstances into the nightmarish setting of the camp did much to alter people's mental state. This is probably the "snapping" phenomenon discussed in the book by that name. Frankl struggled to transcend this morass, and tells how he, and others who survived, not just physically, but psychologically, managed to do it. He built his revolutionary psychotherapy, Logotherapy, on this insight.

I found this book very comforting when I was going through the difficult adjustment back to normalcy from the WCG cult; the fact that his experiences were so extreme gave me nothing but comfort and encouragement. I knew something that could help someone come out of such extremity could help me in lesser distress, and it did.

Frankl, Viktor

The Doctor and the Soul : From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy

Paperback - 318 pages Reissue edition (November 1986) Random House (Paper); ISBN: 0394743172

This book helped me understand that my ex-husband's behaviour was beyond eccentric, and in the realm of mental illness. Since I left the WCG primarily because I could no longer live with him, and they did not permit separation and divorce, I needed to understand what had gone on. If I had truly understood when I was with him, I would have tried harder to influence him to get therapy, though I recall my pleas did fall on deaf ears. Years later, when his family informed me that he had finally been diagnosed with mental illness, I got the sad confirmation of what I learned from this book. I also learned a great deal about mental health, and the personal responsibility everyone can take to improve on their own mental health, though this may not have been the direct intention of the author.

This book also helped me work out my own psychological issues with leaving the Worldwide Church of God, and the brainwashing I was struggling to free myself from.

Frankl, Viktor

The Unconscious God

ISBN: 0671224263 Availability: This title is out of print.

This is the first book to give me a hint that I could not only rescue my mind, emotions, and life from the Worldwide Church of God, but my spiritual life, as well. Frankl helped me regain my hope in recovering to the point of true wholeness.

James, William

The Will to Believe

an essay from Will to Believe and Human Immortality
Paperback - 70 pages (May 1985) Dover Pubns; ISBN: 0486202917

This essay clarified, for me, the psychological issue of what it is possible for an individual to believe. James' discussion of "live options," that is, things one could bring one's self to believe, versus things a person cannot imagine believing, made sense to me. I don't think that just because one option is "live" for an individual, it is more likely to be true, or "dead" it is more likely to be false, but it helped me to understand my own journey in the context of what was possible for me at any time. This essay was a bit of an anchor for me, that way, because I found my "live options" changed over time.

Lewis, C. S.

Examples of The Tao

from The Abolition of Man. Lewis quotes from various religions and philosophies to show the fundamental agreement among all faiths and systems of thought on the basics of ethical behaviour. He makes the point that we all know what right and wrong are, and it's no point insisting Jews and Christians just made it all up. Very enlightening, especially for those not familiar with other religions. A small essay, fitting, since "The Tao," itself, is a very small book. It just refers to "the way." Interesting that in the New Testament, Christianity is referred to as "this way."

Mind Control

Atack, Jon

A Piece of Blue Sky

A book on a particularly destructive cult; recommended to me, but one I have not read. Now available to read on-line. While this particular organization makes the WCG seem like a walk in the park, it is very instructive to see how far you can push people once you have control of their minds.

A quote from the now-dead founder of that group:

"THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. The only way you can control anybody is to lie to them.
"[An] individual is lying to you because he is trying to control you---because if they give you enough misinformation they will pull you down that they can control you."

L. Ron Hubbard, "Technique 88"

Quote taken from Operation Clambake,

Barr, James


(referred to by Robert Price as being anti-evangelical; donít know much more about it). [Still searching out fuller information on obtaining this information, either on the web, or in print.]

Botting, Heather and Gary

The Orwellian World of Jehovahís Witnesses.

Paperback - 213 pages (May 1984), Univ of Toronto Pr (Trd); ISBN: 0802065457

This careful study of the literature and beliefs of this group, including the ways they alter history and manipulate the perceptions of their members is really a case history into how a cult works. I recognized the Worldwide Church of God in this book, and donít doubt people from other destructive groups could also find value in it. It is written with such careful research, and reported so objectively, that its message is more powerful than books which base too much on emotional responses alone.

Conway, Flo, and Siegelman, Jim

Snapping : America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change

Paperback - 401 pages 2nd edition (December 1995)
Stillpoint Pr Inc; ISBN: 0964765004

A book on brainwashing by cults; recommended to me as one of the best books on the subject, by someone who has dealt with cults and ex-cult members for years. This is a book I have not yet read. When I read the following excerpt, though, I was impressed by the contrast between the descriptions of the speed of recovery from the deprogramming process, versus the milder, watered-down version done by "exit counsellors," whose therapies seem to be built first and foremost on avoiding lawsuits, rather than being most effective for the victim of brainwashing. Even the psychological associations did not want to acknowledge the existence of brainwashing, something that has been well-known and used in military contexts for decades, if not longer. Read this bit and decide for yourself if you'd like to buy the book and read more:

Holbrook, David (Editor)

The Case against Pornography

ISBN: 0912050284 , out of print
This book discusses the human cost of pornography; it is where I got my parallels between religious manipulation and pornography, and the similar psychological effects.

McGuire, Christine (Carla Norton, Contributor)

Perfect Victim: The Girl in the Box

Dell Pub Co; ISBN: 0440204429

A horrible true-crime story of a young woman held captive for many years; a very interesting study of how much freedom someone brainwashed can be given, without fear they will try to escape. A good answer for people asking, "Why didnít you just leave?" A chilling example of what happens when you alter someoneís view of reality to the point of denying their free choice. Interestingly, the woman in this case, was vindicated in court partly because of Patty Hearst's struggle to have her kidnapping and brainwashing understood. Her successful court appeal helped people like this woman, but also raised the topic of brainwashing as a serious modern issue.

From review:

"Called the "sex slave," and "the girl in the box" case, this is the story behind Colleen Stan's terrifying, seven-year-long imprisonment by Cameron Hooker as told by the district attorney who tried the case. Too bizarre to be anything but true, it is a tale of riveting intensity and gripping courtroom drama."

Orwell, George (afterword by Fromm, Erich)


Mass Market Paperback - 268 pages Reissue edition (May 1990) New Amer Library Classics; ISBN: 0451524934

This classic dystopia is a good example of how a mind-control cult works, and gave a shock of recognition to Heather and Gary Botting, inspiring the title and theme of their book, "The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses", though this connection is with any destructive cult, not just JW's.

Peck, M. Scott

People of the Lie : The Hope for Healing Human Evil

Paperback - 269 pages 2nd touchs edition (December 1997) Simon & Schuster (Paper); ISBN: 0684848597

A very good book for understanding the nature of evil. Evil needs to hide itself by lying, and an examination of the twisted nature of deceit makes for fascinating reading.

Price, Robert

Beyond Born Again.

The author says, "What I will be proposing is a really new Evangelicalism, something transcending Harold J. Ockenga's "Neo-Evangelicalism" (fundamentalism with better manners) and Richard Quebedeaux's "Young Evangelicalism" (politically and behaviorally liberalized Neo-Evangelicals). While I had not seen this book before writing my article, it comes closest to dealing with the issues I heard about when listening to interviews with members of Fundamentalists Anonymous. Price discusses the narrow world-view that clouds free thought among evangelicals ("the hard religious line"), based on his own experiences with moving beyond its boundaries. I found his points very relevant to my discussions on the Worldwide Church of God, in a similar way that The Orwellian World of Jehovahís Witnesses is relevant: the details of belief are different, but the mind-traps and emotional results are very familiar. I found this to be a very helpful read.

Antidotes for Sick Attitudes

Breese, Dave

Satan's Ten Most Believable Lies

PB, 1987, 144 pp. (Original Title: His Infernal Majesty, pub. 1974)
Moody Press, Chicago   ISBN: 0-8024-7675-9

A short list of the various lies about God abroad in the world and the church, this book is a breezy corrective for many wrong assumptions that can come between ourselves and God, and take away our peace of mind.

Campolo, Tony

Following Jesus without Embarrassing God

PB, Dallas, 1997.
Word Publishing. ISBN 0-8499-4068-0

This is an interesting book that looks at a number of aspects of daily living, and attempts to show how Christians can apply Biblical principles to their lives without becoming just plain weird. While the gospel is "foolishness to the world," we ourselves are to be "a light to the world," so our conduct must be exemplary, even if our beliefs seem odd. If we, too, allow ourselves to become odd, our witness is lost, and we are easily dismissed as "nut cases."

This book is the first one I have seen to tackle this problem head-on, and it is well-written and interesting, and worth reading. In a way, its purpose is like the book of Proverbs, attempting to show people how to use common sense and sanity when applying true religion to all aspects of their lives.

I particularly liked the chapter on "Dealing with Technology without becoming Amish," and the author's account of a field trip he took with his Bible students to visit an Amish leader. In it, many misapprehensions about the Amish way are dispelled, and the leader makes many astute points. Each chapter deals with a practical aspect of day-to-day living, and shows how Biblical principles can be applied to it in a balanced way.

This book does assume that the Christians reading the book are acting embarrassing because they are OK deep down inside, but just need some practical pointers. The prospect must be faced that many embarrassing actions occur because one's heart is wrong. Philip Yancey's books, particularly "Soul Survivor", deal with this problem very clearly, and Steven Mosley's "Burned out on Being Good" approaches the problem of superficial religion being based on wrong assumptions and motivations. But then, none of these books get into the kind of nitty-gritty detail, offering practical guidance using the number of life examples that Campolo does, and I think this approach, as well as his title, is brave, and taken in context with an understanding that one's actions must proceed out of a right heart, can be a useful one.

I must admit that this is another book I read on retreat, and had to return to the library before finishing it, but I liked its balanced approach towards a Christian's external behaviour.

Crabb, Larry

Shattered Dreams: Godís Unexpected Pathway to Joy.

PB, Colorado, 218 pp., 2001. Springs, Colorado
WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. ISBN 1-57856-506-5

This is the best book on Christian living and spiritual maturity I have ever read. It compares favorably to the best of C. S. Lewis in its content, though it does not quite have the same felicitous style or turn of phrase. This is the book Iíd hoped Lewis would have written long after his wife died, as a sequel to "A Grief Observed." It answers, in a humble way, the age-old question of why God allows his people to suffer, allowing many specific questions to go unanswered, but dealing with the experiential reality, and following the Biblical pattern found in the Book of Ruth.

De Becker, Gavin

The Gift of Fear : Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

Hardcover - 304 pages 1 Ed edition (June 1997) Little Brown & Company; ISBN: 0316235024 Paperback - 372 pages (May 11, 1999) Dell Pub Co; ISBN: 0440508835

This book seems like it would make you more afraid, but it made me much, much less afraid, and more confident. While Gavin de Becker, as a security consultant to stars, politicians, and others at high risk, has seen enough to make your hair stand on end, he confirms that each one of us has that precious gift he calls "fear," the real survival instinct, that can warn us early that trouble is brewing -- before it's too late to escape. He contrasts this with "anxiety," which is a constant background noise that can drown out the quiet, insistent voice of true fear. Learning to recognize, and trust this voice is, I think, the most valuable lesson in this book.

However, in the early part of the book, de Becker tells us how predators get our confidence, and pull us in to their web. He lists various "con man" tricks that very scary violent people use to victimize others (generally, scary men victimizing women). The interesting thing is, many of these tricks are those used by cults and cult leaders, as well. I found this truly fascinating.

Read this book twice: once, to learn how to trust your "inner voice" to protect your life. Then, after you've regained confidence in your instincts (something destroyed by cults), read it again, seeing the predator as the cult leader. Very, very illuminating.

Erwin, Gayle D.

The Jesus Style

PB, 1983, 1988, Palm Springs, California
R. N. Haynes Publishers, ISBN: 0-8499-2989-X

This book explores Jesus' exemplification of the "servant style" he wants his followers to adopt. The author examines Jesus' teachings and life, to show how He put this principle into practice. While Jesus willingly laid down his life, and lived it in service of others, he was not willing to be manipulated or abused. I found this clarification quite interesting and refreshing, and the author shows many examples clarifying that the servant style does not mean losing one's free choice; it simply means one mainly chooses to do what is best for others.

The author also dares to point out that all church organizations he has ever known have operated in direct opposition to the servant style of Jesus, so he questions whether it is even possible to do God's work through such institutions. He makes very clear and hard-hitting points, and as a former PR man for various religious organizations, he knows what he's talking about.

Knowles, Brian P.

Because There Was No Shepherd: Ministering to the Walking Wounded of Churches

PB, Monrovia, California, 2000.
Wild Olive Publications. ISBN 0-9703930-0-8

In this book, Brian Knowles deals with a topic seldom touched on in Christian writings: the damage churches inflict on churchgoers. As he says, in these days, the damage is increasing. Knowles fearlessly catalogues the kinds of things that drive people out, but basically, it comes down to pastors who are not "shepherds" caring for the sheep, but "hirelings" caring only for their paychecks, promotions, and church statistics. They approach their churches like businesses Ė and bad businesses, at that, since good businesses care about "good will," customer loyalty, and customer retention. But then, to the businessman, they are "his" customers: he feels they belong to him, and he wants to care for them, and keep them, so he doesnít lose them. These "hireling" pastors, on the other hand, care only about pleasing their bosses: the church members are not "their" people, so they donít care about losing them.

The rest of Knowlesí book, after describing how people get pushed out of churches and often turned off of God, deals with how, if you are one of these people, you can return to God, and deal with your traumas, and find a way to fellowship with other believers again, without expecting to find a perfect church or having to rely on anyone else for your own spiritual development. He also deals with the importance of forgiveness and letting go, since he knows by experience that it is impossible to move forward with such unfinished business in your heart.

Mosley, Steven

Burned Out on Being Good: what to do if your religion is wearing you out.

PB, 1998, Nampa, Idaho.
1998, Pacific Press Publishing Association, ISBN: 0-8163-1578-7 (alk. paper)

"...A religion of avoidance manages to be both intimidating and unchallenging at the same time. The thought of spending your life, always vigilant, guarding against those little sins, fills people with dismay. Itís just too hard not to fall. And yet, though terribly difficult, the prospect doesnít arise as a great challenge, either; it doesnít seem worthy of lifeís best energies."
from Chapter One: "Are You Worn Out by the Weeds?"

The cure for false religion is true religion. The author gives a very good grounding on how to start over, and build on what is real and true and eternal, and that starts with God. And love. And goes from there. Doing this will allow you to be happier, and feel a sense of purpose and challenge in your life. It will also make it easier for you to get along with other people. When you have to make a stand for your religion, it wonít already be old and tiresome, because you wonít have been spending all your days "crying wolf."

Schaeffer, Franky

Addicted to Mediocrity: 20th Century Christians and the Arts

Paperback 5th edition (February 1981) Good News Pub; ISBN: 0891073531
While I didn't use this book when writing this article, further reading found this wonderful book, discussing modern Christianityís suspicion of the arts, and the devastating effect on Christian artists. A very positive, upbeat book, illustrated with cartoons and approached with maturity and humour, full of very true barbs. Reading it, I found myself crying out "Yes!" many times. For those familiar with the work of Francis A. Schaeffer, the author is his son.

Yancey, Philip

Soul Survivor: How my faith survived the church

PB, New York, N.Y., 2001
Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., ISBN: 0-385-50422-X

Philip Yancey speaks frankly here about how he nearly left the faith over the many spiritual wounds he'd received from the church, but the inspiration of certain exemplary Christians was the thing that helped him preserve his faith. The light of these believers' lives showed him the face of Christ in a way that helped him regain his vision of what Christianity is all about. After the Introduction, this book consists of short spiritual biographies of "a baker's dozen" (13) people that he has been inspired by, including his friend, and co-author of several works, Dr. Paul Brand, the worker with sufferers of Hansen's disease (leprosy), as well as Martin Luther King, Jr., G. K. Chesterton, and others. I confess, I began reading this book on a retreat, and have not read all the biographies, but would recommend it even based on those I have been able to read so far.

Yancey, Philip

What's So Amazing About Grace?

PB, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 292, 1997.
Zondervan Publishing House, ISBN: 0-310-21862-4

The author looks at God's grace and forgiveness and lovingkindness, and challenges us to strive to show the same level of grace to others. He shines a light on the prevalence of "ungrace" in the church and among individual believers, and challenges us to move beyond this, to being people known for their unusual love. While this book is hard to read, because every one of us fall so short in this way, it is also helpful to know what we should be striving for, and how we are to be a light to the world.

Yancey, Philip

Where is God When it Hurts?

PB, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 187, 1977
Zondervan Publishing House, ISBN: 0-310-35411-0

This book takes a unique approach to the Question Immemorial, "Why is there Pain and Suffering in the World?" Instead of tackling the harder philosophical question first, Yancey first steps back, and spends time looking at Pain, as part of God's creation of our physical bodies. He does this by discussing his friend who works with victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy), and how difficult their lives are because they cannot feel pain.

Then, he moves on to the rest of us, who are blessed with the Gift of Pain, and discusses suffering as best as he can, struggling with the ideas, like we all do. He looks at the function of pain, what pain can tell us, and shows us how people respond to pain.

Selected & Reviewed by Jesse Ancona
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