Sunday, October 1, 2017

Book Review: 'What If I were .....? Part Two' by Edward Shafik

Maryland author Edward Shafik received his education at the Fairleigh Dickinson University with a Masters in Chemistry and has worked as an Environmental Chemist with US Army Corps of Engineers as a Project manager with Apro Environmental. He now lives in Nottingham, Maryland. His back-story is of note: Edward was born in Egypt. ``With the persecution of Christians in Egypt and the scarcity of prospects for young graduates, our family made immigration to America an objective, no matter the cost. Like Christopher Columbus, I was the first to arrive in the New World (New York, actually). I then prepared a place for my family to live upon their arrival few months later. I earned a master's degree in chemistry, and my career as environmental chemist soared as I became a supervisory chemist and a division chief in the U.S. Army. I traveled back to Egypt to marry my sweetheart. My career took us on a great tour through New Mexico, Kentucky, and Maryland. During the first five years of our marriage, the Lord blessed us with an adorable daughter and a handsome son. I wrote two speculative novels during those years, but my priorities were God, family, and job.'

As is so typical of Edward’s writing he has a keen sense of injecting humor in topics that are sadly lacking in perspective. This Book 2 of his ‘What if I were’ sets a fine style that we doubtless will see in his other releases. In his Preface he states his mission – first about Queen Elizabeth II: ‘“I’m asking a big question that requires soul-searching answers. This book is not a biography; it is satire narrative addressing the entire history of the British Empire, which once dominated one-quarter of our globe. What is the White Man’s Burden? Is it to occupy every continent to civilize and clothe the naked natives? Is it to exploit their natural resources by force and enslave them to the empire? Prince Philip of Greece had no fortune, castle, or kingdom—not an ideal groom for Elizabeth, a future queen destined to ride in a four-ton golden coach. She deserved to marry a king, emperor, or tsar—but none were available. Princess Elizabeth disobeyed her parents and married the man she loved. During the 64 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, thirteen prime ministers have served her, from Winston Churchill to Theresa May. Meanwhile, Britain lost her empire, joined the European Union, and started plans to withdraw from it. Elizabeth is the only icon of stability, continuity, and security where all other societal pillars are collapsing. The queen has helped the nation keep its head in times of crisis, particularly the year 1992. After two royal divorces, a fire devastated a big section of Windsor Castle, as if to signify the precarious state of the monarchy itself. Despite country’s disappointment in the royal family’s dysfunction, HRH braved the storms and gained back her popularity. Her commitment to country and duty compensated for the royal faults.
One thing is for sure: her legacy has exceeded that of both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. Our modern history might not witness the rise of another queen to shine so bright in a dark sky full of such small stars. Long live the queen!‘

“What If I were Pope Benedict XVI” is the second half of the book. ‘In the spring of 2005, white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel, and the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang to the cheers of the thousands gathered at the square and millions of others following by radio or television. We had a new pope, but who was he? As the faithful erupted into a frenzy of cheering, Pope Benedict appeared for the first time, raised both hands, and blessed the masses. Then he gave a small speech in Italian before retiring. In his first encyclical, Deus caritas EST, Benedict wrote, “If friendship with God becomes more important and decisive, then we will begin to love those whom God loves and who need us. Prayer is urgently needed, and we must reaffirm its importance in the face of the activism and growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.” At heart, Benedict was a serious and absorbed theologian and not the Vatican’s business manager. More than any other pontiff before him, he understood the ministry of service and teaching. Unlike the subject of the first half of our book, the pope ought not to be a God-appointed king who rules for life. His resignation has fittingly weakened the blasphemous idea of the pope’s infallibility. Elected on the conclave’s second ballot, Ratzinger said that he felt a guillotine descending on his head. He was, after all, succeeding John Paul II, who had reigned for nearly a quartercentury as one of history’s most beloved popes. He believed he must accept it as the will of God. Luther said the Catholic Church understands of the Eucharist as a “good work and sacrifice is the wicked abuse of all.” To believe that the priest could sacrifice the body and blood of the Lord “is the most abominable of Roman errors.” In 1620, Luther criticized transubstantiation as needless speculation based on Aristotelian thought. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper does not confer sanctifying grace. How can three thousand child molesting priests forgive others’ sins or administer the seven sacraments? Will God or ignore their transgressions? I doubt it very much. The Bible says we will hear hidden sins shouted from the rooftops.’

At once provocative and hilarious, Edward invites us to view the Queen and Pope Benedict in a refreshing new light. It is a very fine accounting of the history of the British Empire and of the Papacy – obviously well researched and extremely informative. It is a healthy way to re-think our perceptions and join in the skills of dissection of platitudes Edward offers. Timely and worth! Grady Harp, September 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.