Book Review:

7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind, Anthony Selvaggio (P & R, 2011) Have you seen the foot-pads people are buying these days to detox their bodies? Maybe you have some of that special tea that is supposed to help you along in some good pollutant release. Or perhaps you’ve noticed all the pills and diet plans that are specialized to rid us of the new evil that supposedly wreaks havoc on our health: toxins. While the market is cashing in on all our fears of having a few extra wrinkles or an unsatisfying bowel movement, we are unknowingly distracted from the real toxins—and they don’t congregate in our skin or our small intestines. They infest our mind. I’m talking about the consequences of ideas. Our minds are exposed to toxic ideologies that wreak havoc on our biblical worldview. Selvaggio unpacks seven prominent toxins that may have made their way into our post-modern thinking. The book is well organized, and an easy informative read for someone who wants to begin the work of mind-detox. There are several aspects that make this book profitable. First off, Selvaggio is biblically grounded. While introducing each “toxin,” he first recognizes that they are not evil in themselves. Take the first poison, technopoly, for example. He borrows from Neil Postman’s definition of “a ‘state of culture’ and a ‘state of mind’ that ‘consists in the deification of technology, finds its satisfaction in technology, and takes its orders from technology’” (20). Selvaggio is quick to point out the good, in fact the biblical mandate for technology. The problem with all of these ideas is turning the good into the ultimate. So, as with the other toxins, neophilia, egalitarianism, individualism, materialism, consumerism, and relativism, there is much good to be noted. That’s why we are so easily duped into turning something as positive and necessary as technological advances into something to be worshipped at all costs. That brings me to another strength of the book. Selvaggio aptly depicts the spiritual warfare involved in dangerous idolatries by which we can so easily be ensnared. Each chapter first brings discernment to an ideology, and then points out how Satan cunningly makes his move on our already deceitful hearts. Next, Selvaggio moves on to how this corrupt thinking infiltrates the church. But he doesn’t leave us in despair. As we are persuaded of the pernicious effects of each toxic ideology, Selvaggio points us back to the Bible, and our true fulfillment in Christ. He is then able to give practical help for detox. And here’s an Aimee bonus that I don’t see so often in a book anymore: the footnotes are at the bottom of each page! I personally prefer this because who wants to hold your place while you flip all the way to the back and look up a footnote? Not this girl. It’s an especially useful guide for those who may want to dig a little deeper into one of the ideologies introduced by turning to one of the cited books that the author used for research. My only qualm? I would have liked to read some kind of closing paragraph wrapping up the whole book in the direction of exhortation. Instead, the last chapter closed like all the others. Once he was done talking about relativism, he was done. On the one hand, I think many concluding sentiments at the end of a book are completely unhelpful. They merely repeat the main points in a quick summation, offering nothing but a packaging slip to what’s already in there. I like a bow—something that personally encourages me to further work out the material presented in the book. On that note, I encourage you not to be distracted by foot-pads and special tea. How much effort are you putting into the toxic effects of the ideas you are immersed in? Are you even aware of the presuppositions you carry around your mind? They are invisible. They can be poisonous. This book is a good start to help you identify some areas in your own life that you may be wrongly looking to fulfill your deepest needs. They can only be met in the loving Savior, Jesus Christ. Let Anthony Selvaggio be your first round of detox.