I have been reading Marva Dawn’s Is It A Lost Cause. There are some things in the book that I like but the further I get into it the more things that annoyed me slightly at the start are getting to me. First of all, there is something about the tone of the book that sets my teeth on edge. We want authors to be authoritative. After all, no one wants to read a book that is so namby-pamby that it never really says anything. However, Dawn’s tone is both authoritative and bossy. She references her own books often – books that cover a wide range of faith related topics. I remember reading Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down and feeling that she had an attitude in the way that she wrote. It was almost as if all of her chapters should start with “OK, listen up. Here’s another thing that I suppose I have to teach you people about.” (It reminds me a bit of the lead actor on CSI Miami – the one who plays Horatio. He seems like every one of his sentences should end with “you stupid twit!”)
This particular book is about raising children. It is clear to me, someone who is raising or has raised four kids that Ms. Dawn has not. Many of the things she writes about I agree with – kids do need boundaries, for example. But I know that some things are easier to say than they are to do. It’s that hedging, that acknowledgement that this is hard, that I don’t hear in Dawns’ tone. She also tends to paraphrase research that she doesn’t actually cite giving the illusion of scientific backing where there is none.
My favorite gripe, though, is where she readily says she has seen no research but is sure that faith-based programs would be more successful in promoting abstinence and drug and alcohol than non faith-based programs. After all, she says, they can get at the spiritual root of the temptation (p 135). Apparently Ms. Dawn has not read that there is just as high a rate of alcoholism in the church as in the mainstream population or that Christian kids get pregnant too.
There are many good things in this book, just as there were in her books on worship. I just having a hard time listening when her tone speaks just as loudly as her words.