Published by Thomas Nelson on June 2, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
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If we ask just one question, does everything fall apart?
In All Things Reconsidered, popular podcaster Knox McCoy uses a unique blend of humor, pop culture references, and personal stories to show how a willingness to reconsider ideas can actually help us grow ourselves, our lives, and our beliefs.
In this laugh-out-loud defense of reconsideration, Knox dives into topics like:
Are participation trophies truly the worst? Is it really worth it to be a ride-or-die sports fan? Do we believe in God because of the promise of heaven—or the threat of hell? Does prayer work? Is anyone even there? This book is the catalyst we need to courageously ask the questions that will lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves—and God. It’s time to start reconsidering.
This book is a collection of comic anecdotes from Knox McCoy, a popular podcast speaker. Many of the chapters involve beliefs or assumptions that he has reconsidered, but this is a collection of funny stories and life reflections, not a study on how to form beliefs or on the state of reconsideration in today’s society. This is very lighthearted and simple book, and it encourages people to rethink participation awards, birthdays, and conventions for naming children, in addition to challenging aspects of Christian culture and belief. McCoy organized this book into three parts, and only the third focuses on serious topics, while the others are related to pop culture and daily life.
Humor and Hamilton References
It is hard to review humor books, since people have different tastes. Overall, I found this book funny, and I laughed out loud many times, but some of the chapters didn’t amuse me at all, or seemed unnecessary and unkind to the people he was throwing under the bus for his punchline. Maybe McCoy’s old college roommate agreed that he could tell the story about the time that McCoy and others talked him into walking through the Taco Bell drive thru naked, but that’s a lot to share about someone just to conclude with the message that you should be careful how you use your influence. The takeaway message was not unique enough to justify telling a story like this, and even though other people may find it absolutely hilarious, it just seemed rude and unnecessary to me.
In addition to this, some elements of this book seem self-indulgent. I couldn’t even get through the entirety of McCoy’s diatribe about why Lebron James is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan, and chapters like this often struck me as the author’s opportunities to soapbox, not attempts to connect with an audience. Also, he footnoted every single one of his references to Hamilton lyrics, and I’m not sure who he thought he was doing this for. It was funny for the first few chapters, but the footnotes disrupted my reading experience, especially when he was pointing out references that were really just regular phrases that happened to appear in his favorite musical. This joke got very, very old over the course of an entire book, and I say this as someone who absolutely loves Hamilton.
Failures of Reconsideration
Also, since this book is entitled All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us Know What We Believe, I expected much stronger persuasive claims. In one chapter, McCoy criticizes the ubiquity of sex scenes, since they so rarely support a story in a meaningful way, but aside from a Harvey Weinstein joke at the beginning of the chapter, he doesn’t engage with the destructive aspects of Hollywood’s emphasis on sex. He’s faster to say “I’m not a prude!” than to engage with how profoundly damaging sexual objectification is, and he does not share a strong, conclusive message. If this were simply a book of random thoughts about pop culture, I might not have noticed this so much, but since his premise is about rethinking old beliefs to come to new conclusions, it bothered me that he would write about this and other topics in a lukewarm, inconclusive way.
In the last third of the book, he addresses other serious topics, but these chapters are also shallow and unconvincing. His goal is to encourage reconsideration, not to persuade everyone to his views, but he never engages with good arguments against his positions, and just shoots down the worst and weakest ones. Also, in a chapter about Christian doctrine, he questions whether or not “foreknew” is a word, and wonders if he has just invented it. Thus, he has clearly not done any deep theological reading about the topics that he is addressing. Not every Christian needs to be passionate about theology, but it doesn’t seem wise to take on profound, challenging, and mysterious aspects of the Christian faith in a humor book when you haven’t studied the issues in enough depth to even know that “foreknew” is a real word, and is a word that is in the Bible.
He also fails to engage with the philosophical underpinnings of his own arguments. For example, in the chapter about his affirmation of LGBT relationships, he bases his position on the fact that someone’s sexual orientation isn’t just a behavior choice, but is the “essence” of who they are. Really? I wouldn’t expect him to claim that his fundamental identity as a person is based in his attraction to women. Also, his argument isn’t going to persuade social conservatives, and many progressives have also challenged this idea in recent years, insisting that someone is not totally defined by their sexuality. Our attractions are a significant part of who we are, but they do not define us as human beings, and McCoy’s claim shows a very reductive view of human nature.
I hope that this book will encourage people to reevaluate their beliefs, but it does not model how to do that well. Even though McCoy may persuade people to loosen their hold on tribal identities, reevaluate the world, and come to new conclusions, his method of switching out old beliefs for new ones involves shallow reasoning and personal feelings, rather than a deep, well-reasoned, persuasive dive into life’s biggest questions. Granted, I don’t know the full story of how he came to the conclusions that he shares here, since he is often describing the process very briefly after sharing a funny story, but the arguments that he presents to his readers are shallow and flawed.
Conclusion | All Things Reconsidered
I wanted to like this book. I feel strongly about the importance of reconsidering beliefs, and I thought that a humorous book with low-stakes examples and some serious reflections would be an enjoyable read and something good to recommend. Unfortunately, even though I found many of the lighthearted chapters entertaining and laughed out loud many times, aspects of this book seemed very self-indulgent and unnecessary, and the author failed to engage deeply with the big issues that he tried to tackle in the last third of the book. I found this book very frustrating, and even though I don’t enjoy writing negative professional reviews, I truly did not like this. Other people may feel differently, and they can enjoy laughing through this without such strong feelings about the argumentation methods, but this book is merely entertainment, and does not provide a solid road map for reevaluating important beliefs.
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