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Archive for January, 2013

A Review of Speaking My Mind

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 15, 2013

Speaking My Mind: The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid to FaceSpeaking My Mind: The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid to Face by Tony Campolo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was pretty disappointed with this book and that’s a pity. I’ve seen Campolo’s name bandied about in liberal Christian books and by liberal Christian authors for some time now, but this is his first book I’ve read. I felt really lucky when I stumbled across it in a used bookstore this week. And the table of contents seemed very promising: “Do Evangelicals Have an Image Problem? Is Evangelicalism Sexist? Are Evangelicals Handling the Gay Issue All Wrong?” and so on. Very promising. So I bought the book and sat down to read. And was thoroughly disappointed. I don’t know who labeled Tony Campolo a liberal Christian, but he’s most definitely a conservative evangelical who happens to be somewhat liberal politically and socially. But he’s a conservative Christian. And since that’s what I’ve just escaped after being trapped as a lifelong dissatisfied evangelical for the past 45 years, that’s the last thing I wanted to read.

For instance, in tackling the gay issue, Campolo acknowledges that Christians need to reach out to gays in the church and the community — provided they live completely celibate lives!!! He’s not sure if gays are born that way or become that way (they’re born that way, dingbat!), but we need to love them — provided they don’t act out on their preferences and keep their behavior pure. WTF? That’s not realistic! He even notes that “although Jesus was silent about homosexuality, He did specifically condemn the remarriage of divorced people unless adultery was the cause of the divorce.” He starts out by appearing to be open, by talking about the “dilemma,” and then holds up his shining example of a man who died apparently a homosexual virgin, because he thought it was such an abominable sin, so he never gave in. Huh. Homosexuality is mentioned less than 10 times in the Bible, yet being kind to the poor is mentioned hundreds of times and adultery is mentioned numerous times again. So again I say to you, WTF?

Tony starts out with sexism and never really clearly answers that little question, conveniently enough. He admits that there’s a yin yang type of thing going on with the sexes and that’s about it. Nice. He can write a few decent things at times though. In his later chapter on whether there’s a second chance for people who die without Christ, he discusses universalist theology briefly. He ends that section by writing

“One universalist theologian carried me through his progression of thought with the following argument: ‘If there is a God, then there is a God, whether people believe it or not. If God is their Creator, that also is true, whether they believe it or not. If the Bible is an infallible message from God, that fact, too, is not dependent on their believing it. So, if Jesus died for their sins and is their Savior, isn’t that fact also true, whether they believe it or not?'”

An interesting thought. Campolo does an interesting job on the science chapter, with some good ideas about God/Jesus being in the HERE at all times. He made it seem real. He also introduced me to a new concept that Seventh-Day Adventists, apparently, believe — “soul sleep.” When we die, we lie in the ground until the Second Coming, basically asleep until God raises everyone from the dead at the same time. I’ve never quite gotten a handle on what happens to a person’s soul upon death in the Christian tradition. This was an interesting explanation.

Campolo delves into my old Calvinist roots in his discussion on predestination, a topic I truly hate. Here he gets a little iffy though. On page 121, he writes

“I do not understand how reasonable people can believe that God is in total control of everything right now when there is so much evil and injustice in the world. I grant that this may be a failure on my part, but if I believed that God controlled everything that goes on in the universe these days, I would not know how to explain why innocent children in Africa get AIDS, or why godly people die of cancer, or why there was ever an Auschwitz or a Hiroshima….”

His answer leaves one wondering, though:

“To those who ask, ‘How could a loving God allow horrendous diseases to afflict good people, permit insane wars to kill the innocent, and let a man like Hitler create such widespread suffering?’ I answer, “God is doing the best He can….'”

Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got, you “liberal” Christian??? What a wussy way out of things.

Campolo also contradicts himself in this book. He goes on in the chapter about the poor about how Jesus spoke about the poor and how important it is to help them. Then he has a section called, “The Disastrous Welfare System,” where he sounds like a bitter right wing Republican in writing that the system “generated cheating and deceptions so that eventually hundreds of thousands of people were on the welfare rolls, collecting unjustified handouts, even though they were quite capable of getting jobs and properly supporting themselves and their families.” Excuse me? Did I just hear that out of a so-called “liberal” Christian??? The welfare system has been abused by some, yes, but it’s the only safety net millions of people have, and don’t you think, while we’re talking about it, that lots of “good” things like sub-prime mortgages and hedge funds have been abused too??? Hypocrite!

While I’m at it, even though this book was published in 2004, it seems woefully dated. For example, in talking about whether America is in moral decline, he writes “all kinds of wonderful things are happening in our world, in spite of all that is evil and demonic. Across America, churches are being born and reaching out to huge numbers of previously unchurched people. A revitalized commitment to the poor and the oppressed is emerging among American Christians.” Really? Tell that to the Republican Party, aka, the Religious Right, aka the Christians, all doing their best to eliminate every possible safety net poor people in this country have, all the while working to make their rich masters richer. What did Jesus say about the rich entering Heaven like a camel through the eye of a needle? Seems most Republicans/Christians haven’t read their Bibles lately. Hypocrites! Also, stats show that church membership is declining, most especially within the 18 – 29 year old set. Evangelicals are turning people off to God, Tony. Time to face up.

Campolo does show he’s not 100% conservative in his discussion on dispensationalism. He states his opposition of it and nearly goes so far as to label it a danger to this country and the world. That’s bold. He does a good job with this section. Oddly, however, he says that the charismatic movement is the greatest opposition to dispensationalism and is Christianity’s best chance in the twenty first century. Huh? Speaking in tongues? Really? He ends his book by writing, “As progressive evangelicalism increasingly emerges out of fundamentalism over the next fifty years, the rest of the world will encounter Christians who are more than ready to struggle with the tough issues that await us, and to do so with open minds and open hearts.” Really Tony? Telling your gay friends to be celibate if they want to go to Heaven? That kind of open heart? Sorry, I’m not buying it. He tries to come across as open minded, but when the chips are down, it seems to me that Campolo goes crawling down the nearest conservative evangelical fox hole and hides out — and it sickens me.

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A Review of Scar Tissue

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 13, 2013

Scar TissueScar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Boy. After reading Scar Tissue, I think Anthony Kiedis is a royal scumbag. And that’s disappointing. I wanted to like him. I’ve loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers since the mid-80s and have seen them in concert, but nothing prepared me for this drugged out orgy of sickness. Kiedis is shallow, vain, selfish, a royal asshole, a liar, a junkie and an all around scum bucket. This book really made me sick. And the thing that gets me is Kiedis doesn’t hold his beloved father accountable for the sickness that would become his son. His dad was a drug dealing wannabe actor he blew pot in his son’s face to get him high at age four and gave him his first joint at age 11. There are pictures in the book of Kiedis smoking this joint as a pre-adolescent. In fact, with his parents divorced and his mom living in Michigan and his father in West Hollywood, Kiedis had no short supply of parties, girls, drugs, etc. He even lost his virginity around the same age to one of his father’s teenaged girlfriends. It’s truly sick.

Now, it was interesting to read about how Anthony met Flea and Hillel in high school and how they started the band. It was fun to read about their antics, such as performing wearing only socks over their privates. But as Kiedis sinks into significant coke and heroin use, and as Hillel starts doing the same, it’s truly tragic to note that Anthony’s best friend died of a heroin overdose and it barely merits mention in the book, and if memory serves me, Anthony didn’t even go to Hillel’s funeral. And this book is all about buddies and relationships! So, a giant WTF is up with that one. When John came along to replace Hillel, there was some more interesting tales, but the book just starts to get redundant with Kiedis writing some songs, recording some with the band, then going on weeks-long drug binges while having meaningless sexual escapades with various models. Some became his girlfriends, but while stating how much he loved them, he clearly didn’t in his treatment of them. Just giving a girl a car isn’t proof of love, idiot!

After the first couple of rehabs, I hoped that Anthony would come back strong, but he kept relapsing and it got to be so ridiculously predictable that I literally lost count of how many times Kiedis relapsed and went on coke and heroin binges and how many rehabs he ended up at. It got old. The book wore on me after awhile. The girlfriends were all interchangeable. He never learned from his relationship mistakes. It’s funny, actually. He tries to be introspective at times, I think, but he’s not capable of true introspection. It’s like he’s emotionally and mentally stunted. I used to look up to him, but he was a jackass!

After John left the band and Dave Navarro came over from Jane’s Addiction to play guitar, things just kept piling up. Anthony was a mess, but he always went to rehab and recovered for … a few weeks, months, days. It’s pathetic. Dave lasts one album and John returns and the Chili Peppers are riding high again, and kudos to them for putting out good music through such a fucked up, dysfunctional era, but man, Kiedis is just lucky to be alive.

There were two things that were kind of telling for me. One, on page 461, he writes, “I don’t believe that drug addiction is inherently bad.” This, after hundreds of pages of him detailing how he messed up his life and the lives of others with his drug use. Second, this book was written a relatively short time after he finally got clean “for good.” Yeah, right. This book was published in 2004. I’m a gambling man, so I’m willing to bet that he’s relapsed four dozen times since he wrote this book and is still a junkie. It was always about getting high. He never learned. I can’t believe the publisher published the book from such a sicko. Scar Tissue might be a fitting name for the book because that’s what he left everyone he came into contact with. I’m giving this book three stars instead of two because I enjoyed reading about the music and the band. Otherwise, I’m sorry I wasted time on such a useless human being.

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Wedding Announcement Etiquette

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 13, 2013

My fiance and I are getting married in April. Since it’s not our first marriage for either of us, we’re going to have a simple ceremony with just a few family members and friends in attendance. The bride is not wearing a white wedding gown; I’m not wearing a tux. We just sent our few invitations out this weekend. I have a question though, and it’s about wedding announcements. Since we’re inviting literally about 20 people and since we have many friends and family members we’re not inviting for various reasons (distance being one of them), how should we handle sending out wedding announcements? I’ve done some research and it seems most people send them out after the wedding. However, I want to send them out before the wedding! I want family and friends spread around the country who may not know of the impending wedding to find out in advance, not weeks or months later. I kind of think that’s rude. Sending it before would indicate that while we can’t invite too many people, these other people are in our thoughts. Isn’t that a good thing? Wouldn’t people want to know? Maybe they could send us a card to congratulate us. And how much information should one put on an announcement? Just the fact that we’re getting married on this date or more, and if more, what? I’ve seen several examples and have been dissatisfied with most.

I’ve also had fun setting up our wedding registry on Amazon. You can find it here. It’s been a bit of a challenge, because we already have stuff that most couples would register for when getting married for the first time. I mean, we have two sets of dishes, we have tons of coffee mugs, plenty of glasses, a few towels, etc. etc. However, with Gretchen’s help, I’ve been able to get 24 items on the list so far. And considering that we’re inviting about 20 people, that should be more than enough. I do want to get a few more cheaper items on the list though. About half of the items are pretty cheap, one fourth medium priced, and one fourth somewhat expensive. A few more cheap things would be good. Shoot, I wonder if we’ll even get anything? Maybe people don’t give gifts for second weddings?

We’re really looking forward to the honeymoon too. We almost never take vacations, so this will be special. We’re going to go to Gulf Shores, AL. It’s a nice beach in the Gulf of Mexico just down the road from Florida. Very pretty beach. Gretchen loves beaches, so hopefully the weather will cooperate. Since it’ll be April, the weather should be good. We’re going to be staying in a friend’s condo, so that’s very helpful for the wallet.

Well, I guess I’ve written more than just about wedding announcements. Still, if anyone has advice, I’m open to hearing it. I’d like to get announcements out sometime in the next two weeks. I just need to know what to say on them…. Cheers!

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A Review of The Presidents Club

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 11, 2013

The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive FraternityThe President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wasn’t a page turner, but it did prove to be an interesting read. It’s about the relationships, bonds, and occasional bouts of bitterness between former presidents, current presidents, and future presidents, dating from Truman and Hoover up through Obama. I learned a lot of details about daily goings on and difficult decisions that have to be made, and it was interesting to read about the interrelationships between, say, Kennedy and Ike. I already knew quite a bit about Johnson and Nixon, so there wasn’t much new there for me, but it did reinforce some opinions I already held about these two men. It was interesting to read about how many of these men were reluctant to give up power and wanted to continue to “serve” long after their retirement. Even though the book is largely even handed, it does treat Jimmy Carter pretty harshly, making him out to be a near-traitor with his North Korea intervention and negotiations. At best, he was a loose cannon. I was also surprised to see what a great relationship Bush 1 had with Clinton, a man who kicked his ass in the election and whom Bush 2 never forgave for it. Additionally, it proved interesting to see what went on behind the scenes for so many of these presidents and the “club” of ex-presidents and how they called on each other for aid during tough times. The rationale for this was nobody but another president could know how difficult it is to be one, so you throw party affiliation aside as an ex and stand firm for your country behind the current president. Going back to what I wrote earlier about Nixon, I guess I did learn a lot about his early career that I hadn’t known. Oh, I also learned how much Nixon, Ford, and Carter hated Reagan. Hah! The political maneuverings are priceless and well worth the read. Like I said, you probably won’t stay up all night reading this book, but it’s a good book and I’m glad I read it.

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Household Funk

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 10, 2013

There’s a funk in my household and it’s not from George Clinton. It doesn’t help that it’s dark, bleary, and rainy out either. For me, it started this past weekend when I got a $1,500 bill from my physical therapy place. I was stunned. I shouldn’t be paying a dime; my insurance should. But since it was the weekend, I was left to stew about it until Monday. It really ruined my Sunday and my enjoyment of the NFL playoffs.

When Monday morning came, I called and was told that my insurance company had denied my claims. That made no sense, so I called my insurance company. They looked back in the records three months and told me they hadn’t received one claim from this place for me. So I called the physical therapy place back and, sure enough, they had submitted the wrong subscriber ID. It was an old one from two years ago! I was pissed. I told them that they had a photocopy of my current insurance card, why couldn’t they get it right, and they had no answer. They said they would resubmit the claims. I then drove down to my local physical therapy office and had it out with the receptionist, who I’m sure mis-keyed my ID in the computer. She apologized, but I cancelled the rest of my appointments. I also didn’t like it that I was having to pay a co-pay three times a week, when no other office in town charges me a co-pay and my insurance doesn’t require it. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to them, even if they are supposed to be the best.

Monday night was the NCAA national championship between Alabama and Notre Dame, which Bama, of course, won by killing Notre Dame 42-14. As I’m a Tennessee fan, I’m also an SEC fan, so it was good to see an SEC team win the national championship for the seventh straight year. Talk about domination! But I was still stewing over this bill, and other unpaid bills. I’m unemployed right now, and have lots of bills — and lots of medical bills — piled up waiting to be paid. It’s been pretty rough. And I can’t get that out of my mind. It’s weighing heavily on me.

I’m trying to get my mind off of things by reading. I’m reading one book called The President’s Club, which isn’t a page turner, but is interesting. It’s about the relationships presidents have with former presidents. The other book I’m reading is Scar Tissue, by Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’ve loved the band since the mid-80s, but the book is kind of  depressing because so much of Anthony’s life was caught up in coke and heroin, along with other things. It’s a crazy book, but one I should probably be reading on sunny days.

Of course I’m paying attention to politics. I’m very interested to see what will happen with gun control. I know I’ll probably upset some readers, but I’m in favor of it, and I’m a proud gun lover. I don’t see why we need assault weapons for sale to the general public! Their only use is for killing people! You don’t hunt deer with an AR 15. I also don’t think we need high capacity magazines. Who needs 30 rounds for self protection? Again, those are made for murdering people. I also think there should be background checks for every gun sale, and mental health should be made a greater priority. And I sure as hell DON’T think arming our teachers is the answer! So I’m worried Biden will come back with some of these recommendations, and just when the public is behind the administration, the NRA will swoop in and get its paid off Congressmen to defeat new legislation. I don’t understand how the NRA, with only 4 million members, can hold so much sway over the country. I’ve had arguments with friends and non-friends about this situation, and of course I’ve heard the tired refrain that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Well, people use guns to kill people. Look, the other civilized nations have gun control laws and they have something like 20 or 40 gun murders a year. We have over 10,000!!! It’s not a coincidence. Fewer guns means fewer deaths. It’s that simple. Of course, it won’t mean an immediate stop to crime, and yes, criminals will still find ways to get guns, but these people committing mass murders weren’t criminals. They were nuts. If there had been a decent database to track these types of people, perhaps they never could have bought their guns. It’s a thought, anyway.

Today I have to go to the vet to get some flea medication for the cats. I have to go get a damn flu shot. I promised my fiance I finally would. Didn’t realize it would be killing people. See, the last two times I got flu shots — years ago — I got the flu, so I never get them. I guess I will today though. I have to go to Staple to buy labels. We’re doing our own wedding invitations and they look pretty good. That’s the one bright spot for the week. I’ve really enjoyed working on them, and working on our wedding registry too. These labels are the last thing we need, and then we can mail them out! Exciting.

Since my last surgery last October, I haven’t had TN-type head and facial pain, but I’ve been having a lot of standard headaches. Yesterday I had an all day headache, and it just wouldn’t respond to any type of medication. I’ve also been very tired, and have been having trouble sleeping. I’ve been up since 3:30 AM today. I’m tired and grumpy. I do hope to finish these two books reasonably soon so I can write new book reviews. I have four others that I’m in the middle of, but they’re definitely not page turners, so it’s slow going. I’m really disappointed with the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I’m about a third of the way through it and hoping it improves. So far, he was just a punk.

I’ve also been reading poetry submissions for the magazine I serve as poetry editor for — Ray’s Road Review. I accepted poems from two writers yesterday. One was quite good. I rejected poems from two others. I have about seven more to work through today. They don’t appear to be very promising. I’m trying to finalize the Spring 2013 issue while beginning work on the Summer issue.

My fiance has been down too. She misses her family back North, and is having work issues. She’s frustrated, and it’s frustrating that I can’t help her more.

I guess that’s the end of my diatribe for the day. Sorry if I brought you down. Sorry if I upset too many NRA members. The weather is supposed to be bad through the weekend, but hopefully I’ll be able to recover my good mood somehow. Hopefully my fiance and I will have a good weekend. Until the next time — cheers!

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Virginia KKK Uses Obama’s Presidency As A Recruiting Tool | ThinkProgress

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 9, 2013

Virginia KKK Uses Obama’s Presidency As A Recruiting Tool | ThinkProgress.

More right wing craziness!

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