From the outset, SHEEP TO SHEPHERD has a lofty mission: to serve as a resource for anyone who “wants to become a Man of Integrity and Godly Character.” The guidebook is divided into easily digestible chapters on topics like forgiveness, honesty, knowledge, mercy, and respect—qualities that must be nurtured in today’s youth in order to build a community where people build each other up by acting with integrity, rather than working against each other or isolating themselves.
Author Tom McDonald is successful in his methodical approach to the thirteen core character traits that he hopes to encourage. He first defines the trait, then explains why it’s important in the context of both one’s own life and in society as a whole. He drives home his points with teachable moments from his life, especially his time in the military, and quotations from the Bible. At the back of the book, McDonald even includes a study guide with thoughtful questions to help readers apply the instructions he’s imparted—and then, when they have a family of their own, pass those lessons down to their sons, and so on down the generational line.
Yet that male-centric focus is the first of several problems present in SHEEP TO SHEPHERD. McDonald, it seems, is concerned solely with young men—their education, their role as head of the family. This feels out of touch with the increasingly feminist world. So, too, does the author’s belief that only Christians can achieve “Godly Character.” Everyone else, he says, might manage to be “goodly” but can never be “godly.” In a nation as diverse as the United States, such an outlook feels (even to this Catholic reader) outdated and exclusionary. Worse still, McDonald is sometimes unduly judgmental, like when he encourages readers to “not date a woman who is not also a Christian” or notes that “calling an antelope an antelope does not make it a kangaroo, just as calling a homosexual union a marriage does not make it so—it is still a lie straight from the pit of Hell!” The author’s harsh tone ultimately serves to undercut the book’s message of understanding and love, which is unfortunate, because it will surely drive away many of the very readers who could benefit from it.
In SHEEP TO SHEPHERD, Tom McDonald methodically and effectively teaches important lessons like morality and responsibility, but his exclusionary outlook detracts from its usefulness.
~Christina Doka for IndieReader