hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for May, 2012

A Review of Why the Christian Right is Wrong

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 27, 2012

Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your FutureWhy the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future by Robin R. Meyers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, Robin Meyers is one seriously pissed off individual! I mean, blow your top pissed off. I can dig it, to a degree, because the same things tick me off, but I think he let his passions get the best of him in this literary effort. I think he spends too much time ranting, and not enough time providing plausible alternatives, nor linking the political with the religious. I think he could have done more with that, and should have. I think he owed it to the reader. Indeed, the first third of the book or so is spent Bush bashing. While I hate Bush and while I know this book was written while Bush was still in office, I just had a feeling of been there, done that. I didn’t really learn anything new, and Meyers was just ranting to the choir, in my opinion. I doubt anyone who actually needed to benefit from a topic the title of the book suggests would in fact benefit. They’d just stop reading after 10 pages and say, typical liberal anti-Bush bias — and it is. I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be overly impressed with it. Perhaps another writer could have done a better job of it, I don’t know. Meyers’ polemics just kind of turned me off — even though I feel strongly about many of the same things myself. Frankly, I didn’t feel like this was that much of a “manifesto.” Pity….

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A Review of A New Kind of Christianity

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 25, 2012

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the FaithA New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith by Brian D. McLaren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished reading Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, all I could say was “Wow!” It blew my mind, mostly in a good way. And it left me with an awful lot to think about.

Countless people have reviewed this book (some rather viciously), so I’m not going to win any awards with some in-depth discussion of the book, but I do want to write about a few things that stood out for me. First of all, the book is based on 10 important questions to be asking these days. The first five are largely theological, and the remaining five are more practical. The 10 questions are:

1. The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
2. The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
3. The God Question: Is God Violent?
4. The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
5. The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
6. The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
7. The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
8. The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of Viewing the Future?
9. The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
10. The What-Do-We-Do-Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

The cool thing about this book is that while the author raises – and addresses – these questions, he admits to not having the definitive answers and invites us all to participate in the “conversation.”

The first question is pretty important – what is the overarching storyline of the Bible? Well, he argues that the basic story – as believed and adhered to by most of Western civilization – is mistaken in its belief systems. He asserts the beliefs don’t come from the Bible, but are instead taken from (at the time current) Greco-Roman narratives. I can almost buy that, but it didn’t appear to me that he made a strong case for how this exactly transpired. He just gives us Plato and Aristotle and declares that this is how we have based everything for centuries. Odd. I would like a greater understanding of this theory.

As a result of this theory, there are a number of Christian misconceptions floating around, such as the world was created in a “perfect” state, when in fact, it was “good” – which doesn’t equal perfect. Another component of this reading is a rejection of the “Fall” of mankind. This got a bit confusing for me at times, but if you buy into his theory, it makes sense. He relates it as a “six-line narrative,” comprised of Eden, Fall, Condemnation, Salvation, Heaven, Damnation. This is what we learn in Sunday school and church our entire lives. This is the basis for believing what we believe. And he asserts it’s wrong. McLaren feels that the Bible is really telling us numerous stories of God’s never-ending compassion and forgiveness, seen over and over again throughout the text.

In another chapter, McLaren asserts that Christianity has had a “constitutional” view of the Bible and this should be replaced with viewing the texts in the Bible as a type of “community library.” As I dislike the constitutional view of Christians I know and know of, this appeals to me. Enough with evangelical fundamentalism, say I! Part of this constitutional view of the Bible is its static state of being, as in everything is settled, so do as I say. McLaren instead thinks the Scripture is inviting us to be a part of an ongoing conversation. This is a refreshing outlook to me.

Still later in the book, he deals with the nature of God, and this reminds me of Rob Bell’s Love Wins in a way (a book I like very much). Basically, if you go by the six-line constitutional way of viewing the world, one could see God as a mean spirited, punishing god, one not worthy of belief or worship. With a new kind of Christianity, in this case with a redemptive community library narrative to go on, it’s foolish to view God as a god who tortures most of humanity forever in “infinite eternal conscious torment” (ECT). Now that makes a lot of sense to me. Why would God create a world with many billions of people and send the vast majority of them to an eternal conscious torment for the few varied sins they commit during their brief and finite period of existence on Earth? It literally makes no sense to me.

McLaren goes on to discuss many other important issues, all in a radical way of viewing things (to me) that I found appealing. He argues that contemporary Christians are “fundasexualists” in their overt hatred of homosexuals, among others, and reminds us that Jesus forgave the adulteress, sought out and mingled with the outcasts of society, and based his world vision on loving inclusiveness. A refreshing look at things from my perspective.

I enjoyed all of the chapters with the possible exception of the last one – on translating our quest into action – where I think he falters a little bit and makes some assumptions that don’t necessarily need to be conveyed as they are. Still, as he starts and ends the book by writing, he’s not producing definitive answers to these questions. He’s merely starting conversations in calling for a radical rethinking of Christianity, Jesus, God, and the Bible.

In reading through reviews on Goodreads and ones found Googling the author, it’s amazing to me how many people hate McLaren. The vitriol is something else. And it’s all coming from “loving” evangelical/fundamentalist Christians – some of the very people he describes in this book, and some of the very people we need to move away from. Some of the best things he’s called are a false prophet and a heretic. Nice to be able to sit in judgment there, isn’t it? It’s amazing to me how contemporary conservative Christianity is filled with hate – hatred of others who do not espouse the same beliefs that they do, who don’t vote the same way, who – quite frankly – may be trying to lead a life set by Jesus’ example of loving others. These Christians just don’t get it and they probably never will. They have too much invested in the Greco-Roman worldview of life to consider alternatives or change. It’s truly sad. I’m giving this book five out of five stars. I think it’s an amazing book that can be life altering, and it’s made me re-think a lot of things that I wish I had re-thought many years ago. Nice job Mr. McLaren.

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A Review of Love Jesus, Hate Church

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 25, 2012

Love Jesus, Hate Church: How to Survive in Church - Or Die Trying!Love Jesus, Hate Church: How to Survive in Church – Or Die Trying! by Steve McCranie

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Can’t finish it. Wanted to, but can’t. Thought the book had a great premise, and I was very eager to read it. It’s even possible the author made some good points. However, these were really overshadowed for me by his writing style. He is so flippant! He’s smug, he’s smarmy — he’s kind of an asshole. I was really disappointed. Moreover, perhaps because he has a lot of baggage, he rants — with some authenticity — but doesn’t provide much in the way of solutions. I frankly thought this was a book that needed to be written — but by someone else, a better writer perhaps. This author needed to go back to college and take a couple of writing classes, as well as a rhetoric class. Oh, one other thing that irritated me was the fact that at every possible opportunity, he injected the title of his book into the text — and bolded it. Man, that was annoying! Page after page of bolded book title interspersed with the text. Wow. The publisher should have exercised better editorial control. Largely a disappointment.

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Van Halen Cancelled!

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 22, 2012

I’ve been a fan of Van Halen — the original Van Halen with David Lee Roth — since the late ’70s. Likewise for my girlfriend. We’ve both wanted to see them in concert for a very long time, but for some years now have assumed it to be a lost cause due to their breakup back in the mid-’80s. So imagine our delight when Van Halen reunited recently (with David Lee Roth), produced a new studio album, and announced a huge tour in support of the album. (Let me just say, the new album rocks. Eddie just SHREDS the guitar!) When I learned the group was going to be performing in Knoxville, my former hometown that’s two hours up the road from us this coming August, I immediately decided to get us a pair of tickets. You only live once, right, and this would be a dream come true. When the tickets went on pre-sale, I logged on and got two of the remaining best ones available — which truthfully weren’t in an ideal section, but oh well — for a pretty steep price, IMO. But that didn’t matter. We had tickets and we were finally going to see Van Halen in concert this coming August!

Well, they’re currently on tour, and I’ve seen a set list of their stuff, and it looks pretty good. It should be a good concert. Or more accurately, would have been! See, I got an email recently telling me Van Halen had “postponed” their Knoxville concert, but that the tickets would be honored at a later show. I was horrified. This show was going to be on a Saturday night, which meant we didn’t have to take any vacation time. We could go up to Knoxville, hang out with some friends, see the show, and get back in time to start the new week. So I did a little digging. Turns out the band cancelled 31 shows, all after June 26th, I believe. And Rolling Stone reported it was cause they hate each other and are fighting bitterly. About what, who knows? And that just pisses me off! They had bad blood — well, David and the rest of the group — for all of these years, and then they reunite and everything sounds fine and dandy and they release this great album and start touring and reviews are good, and then this…? WTF??? Surely they’ve had plenty of time to work out their differences. Otherwise why would they have gotten back together? And if they’re so pissed at each other, why aren’t they cancelling ALL of their shows, effective immediately??? Why are they playing til June 26th and THEN cancelling everything after that? It makes no sense. And my girlfriend and I are especially ticked that as longtime fans, we’ve waited decades — literally — to see this show, paid out $200 for tickets (which is a lot, in my opinion), and this is what we get? Crapped on? Seriously? How about a little respect for the long suffering fans? How about honoring your commitments? How about getting past your differences and pulling off a great return? So, I’m not asking for a refund — for now — but I don’t have high hopes that this actually has been postponed. I fear it more likely has been cancelled and that’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

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A Review of I’m Fine With God — It’s Christians I Can’t Stand

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 21, 2012

I'm Fine with God... It's Christians I Can't Stand: Getting Past the Religious Garbage in the Search for Spiritual TruthI’m Fine with God… It’s Christians I Can’t Stand: Getting Past the Religious Garbage in the Search for Spiritual Truth by Bruce Bickel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished this fine book and must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. First of all though, the authors identify themselves as Christians, so don’t get too worked up before you know this fact. A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book state they don’t know who the intended audience is. Man, that blows my mind! I am most certainly of the intended audience. For years — for decades — I have been saying the title to this book literally over and over again to whoever will listen. It’s not about God — it’s about his idiot representatives, or at least the majority of them! Talk about driving people away from God….

The authors of this book cover Christians who
* impose their morality on others
* are paranoid
* think they are correctly right and everyone else is wrongly left
* think science is the enemy
* are convinced God wants them to be rich
* fixate on the end of the world
* make lousy movies
* don’t know what they believe
* think they have a monopoly on truth
* give Christ a bad name.

Wow, that covers a whole lot of people, doesn’t it? The chapters that especially spoke to me were on the getting rich quick Christians (prosperity Christians) and the anti-science Christians, because these two drive me nuts more than most of the others. I guess I could lump in the ones that believe they have a monopoly on truth too. I wish some Christians could lighten up, not be such assholes, get a clue, etc., et al. This book really spoke to me, and it spoke some real truths to me as well. (It didn’t hurt to see Pat Robertson get taken down a notch. LOL!) There are so many people out there — avowed Christians — who I would love to give this book to, but I know deep down that if I did, I would be met with Christian hostility, and that saddens me. Cause sometimes you have to look in the mirror and even though it hurts, it’s often best to do.

One passage toward the end of the book stuck out for me. It said, “If Christians are going to restore the perception of Christ as he is portrayed in the New Testament, we need to be more thoughtful about our faith. Instead if spending our time lashing out at the culture …, we should put our time to better use by trying to conform ourselves to God.” That’s a powerful statement, and I think it’s right on. Frankly, society as a whole could benefit from America’s Christians reading this book all together, and ultimately acting on what they read. Finally, the only reason I’m giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is that I think each chapter could have been more in depth than they were. This book was clearly intended for the TV generation of those with short attention spans. Other than that, I was happy I read it.

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A Review of The Crack in Space

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 20, 2012

The Crack in SpaceThe Crack in Space by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not one of Dick’s better books, but still an interesting read and, occasionally, a fun one at that. I found it a bit shocking that in the 1960s, Dick was writing about issues that are very relevant today, such as abortion, a black president, etc. Before either was possible, in other words. The book is about a parallel earth, and our attempts to populate it with 70 million bibs, or people who had been frozen due to overpopulation. Most of them are black. As far as a standard Dick novel, I thought it moved a little slowly, and there were some things I wasn’t happy with. For instance, there were far too many characters to keep track of — it seemed like dozens! I kept getting them all mixed up. Then some would just disappear from the text, never to be heard from again (Myra Sands). It can be a bit confusing. Additionally, Dick usually throws a few more wrenches into his works than he did in this one, leaving us with the alternate earth and not much more. I kept waiting for standard PKD surprises to knock me over, but that rarely happened. Still, even though this isn’t one of his stronger works, I’m giving it a solid 4 out of 5 stars, as I think most anything Dick writes is better than the best that most other authors publish….

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