Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: 40 Days for Life by David Bereit and Shawn Carney

40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What You Can Do (Capella Books 2013, 269 pages) is a book which chronicles the trials and tribulations for the 40 Days for Life  campaign as prayer vigil against abortion from its genesis around a wooden table in College Station Texas in 2004 to its spread world-wide.  The book is co-authored by David Bereit, a pharmaceutical rep who left comfortable career to follow the call of the Holy Spirit to do His will in uncertain circumstances.  The other narrative voice is Shawn Carney, a young Texan who inherits the College Station leadership after Bereit answered the call to work for other Pro-Life organizations in Washington, DC. Carney became the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, while  Bereit later returned  to lead the National 40 Days for Life campaign.

[L] David Bereit [R] Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life 

The 40 Days for Life idea was modeled after several key scriptural moments, like the flood which necessitated Noah's Ark and Jesus' Prayers in the Desert before beginning His Earthly public ministry.  Similarly, the book followed a structured course.  Each chapter is one of forty vignettes, followed by concurrent scriptural  passage concluded with a prayer.  Presumably, this book was intended to be read over forty days.   Perhaps it had a different impact in short, reflective increments rather than reading the contents in several sittings.

The power of the faith of Bereit, Carney and of many prayer warriors who participated in the 40 Days for Life is palpable. The book does not sugar coat the hardship and anxiety of starting up the campaign.  But their testimony shows how the Lord provides.  40 Days for Life also recounts some of the acerbic resistence which Pro-Lifer's were met with in witnessing the call of their conscience by publicly praying against abortion.

Several of the stories are quite striking and seemed pulled from current headlines.  The Grand Rapids Michigan story of 72 Ransom Street NE which building that had seen both heaven and hell.  The building started as a synogogue in the late 19th Century, only to become a Greek Orthodox Church in 1949 and in 1994 the vacated  building was turned into Western Michigan's largest abortion clinic.  However after many prayers and fundraising, LIFE International (an Evangelical Christian ministry) against abortion took over the building in 2004 and made it their headquarters. 

The details of the unhygenic conditions, the crusted blood on the linoleum floor and rusted abortion instruments at 72 Ransom Street called to mind the horrific details from the recent trial and conviction of late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. The appalling conditions are not isolated incidents in abortion mills, but pro abortion advocates get apoplectic if anything id deemed to impede the so called "right to choose" or more clinically "womens' reproductive health".

An interesting aspect of 40 Days for Life is showing how the impetus for 40 Days for Life has spread worldwide.  The book tells of campaigns in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the  Georgia Republic . Defending life and forming consciences is not easy, especially in countries like Tblisi, Georgia where the average woman has 3.1 abortions and most occur after marriage.

The years of globe-trotting by Bereit and Carney to prayerfully support unborn children allowed for some serendipitious experiences. Shawn seemed to have quite a knack for unexpectedly rubbing elbows with his opponents. 

 On the first day that Carney went to pray at an abortion clinic, he befriended new on her first day working for Planned Parenthood in Bryant, Texas.  Nearly a decade later, Abby Johnson had risen to be the Director of that Planned Parenthood facility, but Ms. Johnson sought out Carney after witnessing a 13 week fetus writhe in pain during an ultrasound guided abortion.  

[L] Abby Johnson [R] Shawn Carney

Dr. Leroy Cahart, MD
On a flight to Washington, DC, Carney found himself seated next to the notorious late termabortionist Dr. Leroy Cahart, MD. Carney had conducted a prayer vigil near Carhart's Nebraska facility the day before.  Rather than confront the abortionist, Carney charitably chose to pray for Carhart.  The Spirit left him with a sense of joy that he could return to his family whereas the abortionist was obliged to return to his abortion practice.

The book was mostly conversational in tone, reading almost like an oral history that was culled  by their collaborative writer Cindy Lambert.  However, a couple of entries  started with ambitious introductions but the transitions to their stories seemed forced and rough. For example, David citing the Martin Luther King assassination as an introduction to Devanie's story based in Memphis.  Or  Shawn's "Deep in the Heart of Texas" prelude which strained to link the case of Jane Roe (Norma Leah McCorvey) with  an unrelated contemporary abortion facility in Houston, Texas.

Two chapters of 40 Days for Life had narratives from other pro-life activitists.  The testimony which Milwaukee's Dan Miller was flowing, first hand and illustrative.  But including the entirety of a 2 1/2 page e-mail on "The Rest of the Story" which twice apologized for the length of the missive begged for consolidation.

While Shawn's role  as Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life certaily required his extensive travel to show support various far-flung campaigns, detailing those logistics was sometimes detrimental to the heart of the story.  It made sense to share such facts to augment the tales of hardship which tested him as the 40 Days for Life campaigns started off.  Of course, the Cahart story deserved some travelogue background.  But for me, it was off-putting and unnecessary to mention the hardship of flying two cross country red eye flights to be in Los Angeles to celebrate the closing of an abortion facility.

40 Days for Life would be a welcomed bedside daily devotional for prayer warriors committed to the Pro-Life cause.  It gives great examples of the power of prayer to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to defend life.  The book gives many perspectives on how abortion affects the unborn child, the often grieving abortive mother, the father, the extended family and the community.  If only people spouting pro-choice propaganda would choose to  the time to read 40 Days for Life, one wonders how many hearts of stone would turn to flesh.

When this review was composed, the Kindle price of 40 Days for Life was lowered to $2.99.  At that price, the book is well worth the read.

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