I enjoyed Chuck Norris's action movies when I was growing up in the 80s. They were a pretty good diversion for a teenager intrigued by the martial arts and longing for adventure. But eventually my interests turned elsewhere. Twenty years later, I've been reading books by and about various martial artists. So when I saw "Against All Odds" at a Christian bookstore, I was intrigued. I had no idea that Chuck Norris was a God-fearing kind of guy, so I had to find out more about him. "Against All Odds" is a Christian-themed autobiography (written with Ken Abraham) that covers Mr. Norris's life from a difficult childhood to his present day success as a martial artist, actor, and businessman. It's an easy and interesting read (although there are way too many exclamation points).
However, I ended up reading his other two books first. They augmented this book and gave me a more comprehensive perspective on Mr. Norris's life journey. "The Secret Power Within" is a 1996 self-help book advocating a Zen-based approach to living. It contains several anecdotes from Mr. Norris's life illustrating the benefits of the Zen philosophy. It's somewhat similar to Joe Hyams's classic book "Zen and the Martial Arts." The second book is Mr. Norris's prior autobiography "The Secret of Inner Strength," written in 1988 with Joe Hyams. The philosophical focus of "The Secret of Inner Strength" is more cognitive, based on achieving goals using positive thinking and visualization. Each chapter ends with a couple of bullet-point principles for the reader's personal application. In light of this newest book, I found it intriguing that a relationship with God was not a major theme in either of Mr. Norris's previous works.
My curiosity stoked, I dove into "Against All Odds" to see how Mr. Norris got to Christ via martial arts, Zen, and positive thinking. It's mostly a retelling of "The Secret of Inner Strength," with some reworking and 16 years worth of additional information. I found it interesting to compare and contrast the two autobiographical books. He has recast some events from the first book with a Christian perspective, and also expands on other parts in light of the passage of time. For example, Mr. Norris reveals that his first marriage was more problematic than portrayed in "The Secret of Inner Strength." He admits to having an affair that produced a daughter, and eventually he and Dianne divorced. Subsequently, Mr. Norris remarried and started another family, got involved in politics, and embarked on a successful business venture with the Total Gym home workout machine. But most importantly to him, Mr. Norris reaffirmed his relationship with Jesus Christ and became a committed Christian. In contrast to his earlier books, he now credits God for his achievements.
Other reviewers have given Mr. Norris a bad time about his moral failures, especially with his profession of Christianity. He's also an unabashedly conservative Bush supporter, so Democrats might find this book tough to swallow. But he's refreshingly honest about his shortcomings. Mr. Norris owes up to his failures with Dianne, and seems to have made peace with his loved ones. He has some commendable actions to his credit, such as involvement with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and his own KICKSTART program to build character in kids using the martial arts. Perhaps there's more "dirt" waiting to be uncovered. But I'm not willing to cast the first stone, and overall his story is an inspiring one. Mr. Norris discovered Christ at the end of a long and winding road, and I found that to be encouraging.
If you buy "Against All Odds," I recommend checking out the other books mentioned above to get the "big picture" of Mr. Norris's life. Some Christians may struggle with the Zen and visualization stuff, but there are applicable insights that can deepen our walk with Christ.