In May, I wrapped up a couple long books left over from April and "read" my first whole book from a Puritan author (besides John Bunyan). I am still working on figuring out a research topic in Thai church history in order to apply for Ph.D studies, which is reflected in this month's titles.
How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity
This was a fascinating read from sociologist of religion Rodney Stark. In short, he advances the thesis that there were distinctive factors that have contributed to the development and prosperity of Western nations that were not present in other cultures around the world. The West, for example, developed democracy and modern science because of beliefs in progress and the value of innovation. As in many of his other books, Stark seeks to overturn popular misconceptions and self-loathing critiques about Western civilization, namely that European nations gained ascendancy by merely being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of other cultures for their own advancement. He does not try to hide the flaws and evils of the West, but does want to bring balance to the overstated critiques of recent years. The longer I live in Asia, and the longer I study history, the more I see that although there are many beautiful and worthy aspect of non-Western cultures, there are many aspects of Western culture that are better than other places in the world (commitments to democracy, equality, progress, and innovation). That may sound like any old colonial attitude but I’d rather think of this position as a realistic view which finds a middle ground between white guilt and white man’s burden. From this short description of the book, you may not be convinced of Stark’s thesis so I would encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is well written and worth your time.