hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for November, 2015

A Review of A World Called Solitude

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 30, 2015

A World Called SolitudeA World Called Solitude by Stephen Goldin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book sounded pretty good at first and read pretty well at first, but then it simply just degenerated into smut, so I gave up in disgust midway through and didn’t finish it.

Birk Aaland is a world class scientist who invents an awesome new space ship engine that revolutionizes space travel and he becomes wealthy and famous. Then, a military dictator takes over and starts purging Earth of undesirables. He imprisons, tortures, and murders millions. Birk is stupid enough to speak out, thinking that his fame will protect him, and he soon joins the other political prisoners. His beautiful wife divorces him, his colleagues lie about him, he is sentenced and tortured and doesn’t know when he’s going to be executed. However, this dictator has filled up so many Earth prisons, that he has to start shipping prisoners off planet to colony worlds, so Birk is loaded on a ship with other prisoners and they take off. And they mutiny and take over the ship, but take some damage. Birk is the only one who knows how to fly, so they fly seeking a suitable planet to land on and finally he flies into a huge gas cloud in desperation and spots an unmapped, perfect planet. However, he doesn’t know how to land and crashes the ship. He’s the only survivor. He wakes to find he was saved by robots and the world is fully developed and full of functioning robots, but empty of its previous civilization, whom he begins to refer to as the Makers, a warlike alien race, long gone. And so he spends 11 years there, exploring and basically enjoying his solitude.

However, we learn early on he’s horny as hell and masturbates frequently. Even the robots joke with him about it. He wants a woman, preferably one who looks like and reminds him of his ex-wife. So, his life is uprooted one day when a new space ship crash lands on the planet. The robots rush to the crash site, while he has ambivalent feelings. What if they’re looking for him? What if they’re after him? He goes to the site and discovers that, sure enough, it’s a military ship. There are six critically wounded survivors, two of whom are women. And so it begins.

One, a tall blonde, reminds him of his ex in his fantasies, so he begins masturbating while fantasizing about her. Three of the men die and then this woman dies. He’s distraught because the remaining woman is Japanese and apparently Asians aren’t nearly as attractive in his book. The robots come to him with a dilemma. Both of the remaining survivors are doing badly, but it’s possible one could survive — with organ transplants from the other. So he has to play God and decide who lives and who dies. And while he makes a big show about trying hard to decide, naturally he chooses the woman, because above all else, he wants to get laid and he’s already begun fantasizing about having her as his sex slave, er mate, and is masturbating frantically to the fantasy.

Michi Nakamura survives. She awakes in a hospital surrounded by robots, confused, and wondering where the people are. Arthur, the robot boss, comes to talk to her and tells her there are people in charge and she’ll see someone soon. But that’s not good enough for her, so she escapes from her room and flees through the building, eventually locating Birk, where she tells him her colony world was invaded and it’s imperative she reach Earth to warn them. He tells her she can’t, she’s stuck there and she pretty much loses it. And he loses it back. And then the book is full of them fighting and his continued stupid fantasies about her. When he sees her or even thinks about her, no matter how much he despises her, he gets an erection and wants to bone her. Honestly, I know many sci fi writers are perverts, but the only writer I’ve seen that’s more sex obsessed than this one is Heinlein and he’s a pervert of the first degree, beaten only by de Sade. I don’t know whether Goldin himself is a sex starved maniac or just likes to create characters who are and I can buy someone who hasn’t had sex with a woman in over a decade being horny, but every single thought and action surrounding this single woman has to involve sex? It’s ridiculous! And Birk also acts like a spoiled brat, like a small child. He’s got the emotional breakdown of a four year old. At first I kind of liked him and his explorations and interactions with the robots, but when he went to a dark city to have sex with a robot who, through somehow magically reading his thoughts and memories, could look and act like his ex-wife, I was just kind of repelled. And it just got worse. I don’t know how this book ends. I suspect that they wind up fucking each other’s brains out and loving it and they both escape this planet and make it back to Earth where she warns the government and he is granted a reprieve. But who knows? I do know that I don’t want to continue reading this one track smut to find out. I’m no prude — I’ve read de Sade — but I don’t like gratuitous sex just for the sake of turning horny teenage readers on. It’s really quite stupid. This could have been a good book. Instead, I can’t recommend it at all.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories Volume 1

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2015

The Complete Stories, Vol 1The Complete Stories, Vol 1 by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 600+ page book of short stories is a pretty good collection of Asimov’s early 1950s work. Some of the stories are very, very good, such as “Nightfall,” which I was delighted to find had been turned into a full novel later, which I recently bought and intend to read. Others are not quite as good. One that irritated me was “I’m in Marsport Without Hilda,” where a man comes “home” to a space station after being out in space for a long time and as he’ll be heading for the planet and his wife in another day, he contacts a local woman for a one nighter — even though he’s married. Events occur that delay their tryst and she gets impatient with him and I guess the humor lies in his attempts to solve everything so they can get together and hit the sack. Finally, everything has been taken care of and he’s ready to go meet the whore, when he hears a woman call his name and turns around to find his wife unexpectedly greeting him — and he’s ticked. To me, this was a very offensive and sexist story. I didn’t think it merited inclusion in an anthology of collected works since it was in such poor taste. But then, as I’ve discovered, Asimov — if you go by his early work — was a bit of a sexist himself, as he rarely used female characters and with one exception I can think of, when he did, they were typically window dressing — poor, helpless, empty headed dullards completely dependent on men to save them from whatever was happening to them. Oh, and as we learn in one story here, woman like to talk. A lot. I guess that’s all they do. Pig. I try to give him the benefit of the doubt by saying maybe he was a product of his times. It was the 1950s after all and women’s lib hadn’t occurred and a woman’s place was in the home, so maybe…. And I haven’t read enough of his later work to know differently, although I just finished Foundation’s Edge today and it had strong female characters, although one was evil. It was written in the 1980s. Maybe he adjusted with the times.

In any event, the stories in the book are largely pretty good, until you get to about the last 100 pages or so and then the quality of the work drops off immensely. I’m not sure why that is, but the last several stories are quite bad. There’s a marked difference between them and the earlier pieces. Again, I don’t know why the editors decided to do it that way, but that’s just the way it happened, so I guess you have to live with it. One thing that was interesting is Asimov’s obsession with computers, using one giant computer he calls “Multivac” repeatedly in his stories. Multivac is a computer that pretty much runs the world and everything in it. It is hundreds of miles big and spits out data punch cards, much like the giant 1950s-era computers did, requiring specially trained computer programmers and operators to interpret its results and instructions. He also worries about man versus machine and sides with man virtually every time, which is interesting as he is constantly writing about machines such as robots. I find Multivac interesting because it’s proof that Asimov had absolutely no sci fi foresight like other sci fi writers, such as Philip K. Dick, did. He never was really able to guess at desktops, laptops, smart phones, or anything like that. Meanwhile, so many other early sci fi writers were able to envision things such as these that I am continually amazed that Asimov maintains the massive sci fi reputation he enjoys. Personally, I think he was stuck in a 1950s nuclear-era technology rut with absolutely little ability to think ahead creatively like so many of his peers and while the stories in this book are generally pleasantly well written, except for much dialogue, which Asimov always seems to have problems writing, his writing skills don’t even begin to measure up to so many other sci fi writers, it’s not even funny. Personally, I think he had several decent ideas and could tell a decent story, but then so could hundreds of other writers, so in my opinion, he was just a hack. I can easily name numerous other sci fi writers who are infinitely better than he ever was.

Whatever the case, and no matter how poorly Asimov wrote most of his novels, most of these short stories are quite good and are pretty well written. I assume he must have had a good editor. This book is the highest rated book I have ever seen on Goodreads, with a 4.36 out of 5 score. I certainly don’t think it deserves a 5 at all and I’m not even sure it deserves a 4, but I’m going ahead and giving it one just because so much of it was entertaining and after all, isn’t that what you want out of a good short story? I’m curious, now, to see how his writing matured in the ’60s, so if I see Volume 2 of this series, I’ll probably get it. As for this book? Recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Review of Foundation’s Edge

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2015

Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spectacular! Finally, a Foundation book worthy of its reputation and legacy. I found the Foundation Trilogy to be quite mediocre, at best, and even gave the second one just one star and couldn’t even finish it, it was so bad. The writing was horrible in the first three books, the characters undeveloped, the plotlines flat, the technology rather pathetic with far too much reliance on nuclear energy 20,000 years in the future. The books sucked. But this one, written 30 years later, shows a maturity in the writing style, a certain growth, and while no one can ever confuse Asimov’s ability to create character development with “real” writers, he certainly improves it in this book. So, too, the plot is decidedly better, more intricate, more intriguing, the book may even be viewed as a page turner! What a pleasant surprise.

Foundation’s Edge focuses on Foundation Councilman Golan Trevize, whose ideas about the existence of the Second Foundation get him in a great deal of trouble. Likewise, a young Speaker of the Second Foundation, also aware that something is completely wrong with the Seldon Plan, is viewed as a troublemaker. Trevize is arrested and exiled for his challenge to the Mayor of the Foundation. He is given a secret mission – to find the Second Foundation and determine what it is up to and then to report back. The Second Foundation’s Speaker’s goal is to find who is manipulating the Seldon Plan outside the Second Foundation, as he is now convinced is happening. These two mysteries and men are destined to find one another and then, what happens, happens.

Trevize takes historian Jan Pelorat, an unknown academic who believes, bizarrely, that humans, now spread over a zillion planets, actually originated on a single planet: Earth. Pelorat unwittingly joins Trevize as a cover for his search for the Second Foundation. Pelorat is obsessed with Earth. Why did people leave Earth 20,000 years ago? For instance, why are there no records of its history or location anywhere, just rumors? Was Earth destroyed by radioactivity? Did a war between robots and humanity force humans to flee the planet to establish new worlds?

Speaker Gendibal takes as his companion a Hamish woman named Novi, whom he will use as a mental alarm in the event anyone or anything attempts to take his mind over. Novi ends up playing a significant role in this book.

Foundation Mayor Branno leads a fleet of five warships to the mysterious planet Trevize and Pelorat locate, Gaia, a planet found on no maps or in no databases anywhere. Trevize, Gendibal, and Branno all appear at Gaia simultaneously and discover something unbelievable. And something unbelievable happens to end the novel.

There is another book Asimov apparently wrote after this book and this one was so good that I’ll probably buy that one and read it too. I hope it’ll be nearly as decent as this was. I also know there are now preludes to the original trilogy, but as I hated the trilogy so much, I doubt I’m interested in reading any preludes. This book is superior, a most excellent book, and while it helps to have read the trilogy, I’m not certain it’s necessary – it can probably be read as a stand alone book. Even though it’s over 425 pages, it doesn’t feel long and is a quick read. Definitely worth the investment. Strongly recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Hell Hath No Fury

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 19, 2015

Hell Hath No Fury (Multiverse, #2)Hell Hath No Fury by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second in the Multiverse series created by David Weber and Linda Evans, Hell Hath No Fury is quite excellent. If one can stomach quite a bit of violence. For violent it is. Two separate worlds in two separate universes, each exploring new alternate universes through portals they’ve discovered, encounter each other in the first book. And Arcana, the magical, militaristic culture run entirely by spells attacks a civilian survey crew from Sharona, which is a technology-based world, of a WW I era of technology, including rifles, revolvers, artillery, etc. Both sides suffer casualties, but while Arcana takes two prisoners, both of whom are presumed dead by Sharona, and one of them is the most popular woman in their universe, Sharona exacts their revenge on Arcana. So Arcana sends out some “diplomats,” asking to negotiate, not shoot. Things seem odd, but the Sharonans decide to negotiate in good faith, as they don’t want an interstellar war. Meanwhile, the devious Arcanans are moving up thousands of troops and dozens of battle and transport dragons to attack the Sharonans and invade their portals and take as many as possible into Sharonan territory. In doing so, they’ve lied to their troops, telling them their most popular citizen was killed by Sharanon troops when in fact it was an Arcanan who killed him. And they know that. They’re itching to start an interstellar war, but they have no orders to do so. One rogue mid-level officer has ordered this and now tens of thousands of lives are at stake.

Meanwhile, we meet Crown Prince Janaki, heir to the Sharonan throne, detailed to take some prisoners home and accompany Voice Darcel Kinlafia, the man who “saw” the original slaughter and alerted all of Sharona to what had happened. Janaki is a good man and talks Kinlafia into going ahead of him to run for Parliament, where he might be able to do some good. He, like his whole royal family, has Glimpses and knows his destiny lies in dying in defense of a major portal fort several universes away. His father, Zindel, and his sister, Andrin, not yet 18, both have strong Glimpses and are deeply worried. A Conclave is called and a world government is called for to unify the world’s countries and their armies into one, all presumably to be led by Zindel. Unfortunately, one Chava Busar, Emperor of Uromathia, is holding everything up, refusing to give his approval to this arrangement unless Zindel’s son marries one of his daughters, thus putting his grandchild on the empire’s throne at some point in the future. Many people are ticked, but Zindel agrees and the time is set for putting this all together.

So, the time has come for the Arcanans to attack. And they do, with 14,000 men against 800 Sharonans. And they lose a battle dragon or two, which shocks them, even though they annihilate all Sharonans. There are three types of battle dragons. One breathes fire, one throws lightning bolts, the third breathes poison gas, killing the most people. They are their secret weapon, since the uncivilized, barbaric Sharonans don’t have and have never seen magic.

And they attack a fort. And decimate it. And take prisoners. And torture and slaughter the prisoners. And this becomes a pattern. When Weber, for this is undoubtedly his work, writes bad guys, they are REALLY bad! The Arcanans are evil bastards. They kill all the Voices, since the have learned about the Sharonan VoiceNet and how they use it, and they destroy fort after fort, taking prisoners and torturing and slaughtering them as they go. It seems the only honorable Arcanans are the long distant Jasak Olderhan and Gadrial Kelbryan.

Finally, they reach the big fort, the major fort where Janaki is. Through his Glimpses, he has been able to warn the commander of the impending attack, how it will happen, where it will come from, how to defend, etc. And they’re ready. The battle scene is a typical David Weber battle scene: most excellent. And of course, Janaki dies. The serious problem with that is it leaves Andrin heir to the throne and now Busar is insisting she immediately marry one of his sons and he is gloating his way to the throne. However, as we will hopefully find out in the next book, Kinlafi will have something to say about that and will play a major role in the survival of Sharona. The book ends in a typical Weber cliffhanger stalemate and I’m damned eager to see some Sharonan revenge. The problem for many people is that this book was published in 2007 and there’s been no Book Three. People have been left hanging and they’re not happy about it. Apparently, Linda Evans became quite ill, so the series was discontinued. People ask why Weber didn’t just continue it himself, since it was so quite obviously HIS book. But he didn’t. The good news is, I just learned that Book Three is scheduled for publication in March 2016! With a different co-author. Don’t know what happened to Evans, but I’m damned glad Weber got together with someone to continue an excellent series. The first book was quite good, but this one was better. Lots of action, lots of intrigue. Definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Hyper-Chondriac

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 19, 2015

Hyper-chondriac: One Man's Quest to Hurry Up and Calm DownHyper-chondriac: One Man’s Quest to Hurry Up and Calm Down by Brian Frazer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting memoir. At times, it’s often quite funny. At times, it’s often quite sad. It’s about one man’s experience with coming to terms with and trying to overcome his rage, anxiety, tension, and violent outbursts. At least he recognized his problems and tried, right?

Brian grew up in a Long Island Jewish family where his mother had MS and was one angry, pissed off, horrible bitch of a human being who practically tortured his father for life and made life miserable for him and his siblings. They never ate dinner together, except for once a year. They only ate fast food. When Brian went to college, he didn’t know how to use utensils and ate, quite quickly, with his fingers and hands and thought all the stares were admiring stares of appreciation for his appetite. He literally ate everything as quickly as possible and with his hands. In fact, he was always in a hurry, always impatient, and blew up at anyone who got in his way or who let him down, especially as he was excessively punctual. He took up body building — he was rather OCD — and built his body so greatly that he won competitions. Then he took to eating ice cream competitions. And so it continued.

One thing I didn’t like about the book is that somewhere there’s a break in the book — and his life — where he apparently graduates from college, moves to Los Angeles, marries a girl named Nancy, and becomes a writer — and he doesn’t mention any of this in his own memoir. Um, okay. Yeah. Rather stupid, if you ask me.

The remaining chapters are about Brian’s attempts to get his life under control. He finally finds out he’s “abnormal” when he goes to a dermatologist who tells him he’s the most tense human he’s ever seen and proscribes Zoloft for him. He’s stunned. Of course, he knew he was guilty of tremendous road rage, but then, wasn’t everyone? So, he turns to other areas that might help him — yoga, tai chi, Ayurveda, cranial-sacral therapy, etc. Each chapter is on one of these and more. He learns something about himself and of value for his search for betterment in each chapter, no matter how ridiculous the scene or how badly he’s getting ripped off. Finally, he and Nancy get a dog near the end of the book and it’s a very calm dog. And it helps calm him, along with his stringent diet, yoga (which initially almost destroyed his hip), etc. Towards the end of the book, a sister calls him to let him know his mother is having serious medical problems and his father has thrown his back out and needs help caring for her, so Brian and Nancy take off for the East coast to help out, where he is immediately taken back to the anger and hatred of his youth. But he survives and moves on, wishing his mother could too. He leaves the reader with his status as a work in progress. It’s really an unfinished book. I wondered why he chose to write this particular book at this particular time in his life. I don’t know the reason and will probably never find out. Whatever the case, it’s a good read, if for no other reason then it’s very, very funny. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 18, 2015

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary FaithMeeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

For a long time now, I’ve heard that Marcus Borg is THE intellectual theologian of liberal Christians and as a result, I’ve been wanting to read some of his work. See, I was born into a strict evangelical, near fundie, home and grew up indoctrinated in evangelical tenants, taught to fear and hate “liberal” Christians, who weren’t actual Christians at all and who were going to hell. By the time I reached college, I was so disgusted with my religion, I left the church – went as far away as I could – and stayed away for two decades. Sometime in my mid to late 30s, for some unknown reason, I felt drawn back to God and the church and explored my old church and others like it because I knew no better. And I was overwhelmed by the judgmentalness, intolerance, dogma, right wing politics, hatred of the poor, and obsession with wealth. Literally, in my old church, the richest man in town went to “our church,” the mayor went to “our church,” a state senator went to “our church,” the governor was an elder at “our church,” a congressman went to “our church,” 5,000 people went to “our church” which had a huge campus you needed a map for and a budget in the tens of millions. It was truly disgusting. I’ve read what Jesus taught and did while he lived and these people certainly didn’t reflect that, in my opinion. So, it took a long time, I guess because I’m stupid, but I finally figured out I’m not an evangelical in my 40s and went looking for a new church. And found a home in a mainline church. Which seems to teach what Jesus taught, unlike the evangelicals and fundies. Now, in all honesty, even though I know Jesus wouldn’t approve, evangelicals repulse and disgust me and I can’t stand them and can’t stand to be around their arrogant, I’m-better-than-you, I’m-the-only-person-saved, yuppie asses. If there is a hell, I personally think most of them will wind up there. But then I sound too much like them, so maybe I better retract that statement.

Anyway, Borg. I got this book and started reading eagerly. And to my astonishment, I was beyond disappointed. I was appalled. Borg is literally bone headed stupid. He’s a dumbass of the first degree. He’s not a “real” Christian, in my opinion, probably doesn’t even know what one is, and this book is a sham. Even though I view myself as a fairly liberal Christian, I’m afraid I’m going to probably come across sounding like my old evangelical self in this review. And that disturbs me.

First of all, Borg grew up Lutheran. And didn’t really know too much about Christianity, even by his own admission. He began having doubts at a young age, like many people. However, unlike many people who wonder why God allows horrors to happen to “innocent” people, he wondered how God could be everywhere when he was clearly up in Heaven. Which strikes me as odd. Just odd.

He went to college, I believe at a Lutheran school. And experienced enough doubts to become a closet agnostic. And then a closet atheist. And so, logically (sarcasm intended), he went to seminary. Where he had four life changing experiences that changed his mind forever and brought him back to Christianity. As he wrote this, I eagerly waited to read about them. Imagine my shock and disappointment when he NEVER even wrote what they were, not one of them. What the hell? What is that about? Bizarre!

So Borg went on to become a religious studies professor at Oregon State University where he did “research” on historic Christianity and Jesus and came up with some “startling” conclusions. Bear in mind, it took him some 40 years or so to realize this and he’s announcing this publicly in this book – he’s come to the realization that Christianity is not about works or deeds or following commandments or belief or sacraments. Instead it’s simply about having a personal relationship with God! With God! Unreal!!! Can you believe that? I knew that at age four. Ask ANY evangelical child of five years or so and they’ll be able to tell you that. And yet Borg had to study and research and dedicate years to come up with this mind blowing conclusion that he is illuminating the world with, one which most of the world already knows. His stupidity is unsurpassed.

This book then goes on to talk about Jesus. Sort of. It talks about “pre-Easter” and “post-Easter” Jesus. See, pre-Easter Jesus is historical. Post-Easter Jesus probably didn’t exist and is metaphorical. Not possible. Jesus was a “spirit person.” A holy man, but you can’t say that, because holy means spiritual and that’s not cool and of course it’s not PC to say “man,” so spirit person it is. And here’s another startling revelation Borg comes to. Jesus was compassionate! Wow! Borg, you sure are brilliant. However, that’s not all. Oh no. See, Borg talks about wisdom, how important it is in the Bible, how it was present at the beginning of creation, how it connotes with Jesus himself. He then goes on to say that the Greek word for wisdom is the feminine noun, “Sophia.” So he does this neat little trick of quoting several Bible verses, substituting “Sophia” for “wisdom” wherever he finds it, thus making it feminine, yet proving nothing. Except in his own mind. See, he equates wisdom with God. And since wisdom is equated with God and since wisdom is female, therefore God is a woman. Yep. And Jesus was therefore not the Son of God the Father, but the Mother. Not that Jesus was the Son of anyone, nor was he God, nor was he part of the Trinity, cause all of that’s bullshit for Borg. Not possible. Pure metaphor, if not outright lie. I honestly don’t have a problem with a genderless god. In fact, that’s how I view God. But probably due to my ingrained evangelical upbringing, I have a major problem with God as woman. Unless I’m mistaken, God is a patriarchal god throughout the Bible, worshiped as such by his people, a patriarchal people, and worshiped as a male god by Christians throughout the centuries. Now I admit, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, but I’m unwilling to simply throw that out and change God to a woman just to be PC. I have a woman pastor at my church, so I obviously don’t have a problem with female religious leadership, but in my opinion, both the Old and New Testaments clearly define the female role in society and it’s certainly not to be a matriarchal culture, like it or not, fair or not. Sorry, but true.

Even though I was near the end of the book, after this chapter and after the preceding showcases of utter ignorance and stupidity, I decided not to finish the last few pages of the book. And I’m deleting all of the other Borg books I have on my Amazon wish list. To me, he’s a pathetic fraud and no intellectual. To me, he wouldn’t know Christianity if it bit him on the butt. I’ll be content to read liberal Christian authors like Rob Bell and Brian McClaren. While reading reviews of this highly rated book, I came across a highly placed one star review that sums up a lot of what I think about this book and I’m going to quote it in its entirety, giving credit to the author, but doing so without his permission. I hope he won’t mind.

Oct 04, 2012 Webster Bull rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: faith
Two Episcopalians whom I respect told me I should read this book. Both said that it frames Jesus in a way that makes sense to them. It does not make sense to me.

The non-sense begins with the whole notion of needing to frame Jesus to make him palatable for our liberal, postmodern, science-driven culture. Which is what Lutheran theologian Marcus Borg does in this popular book whose cover claims “Over 250,000 Sold!”

Borg says that we need to look at our images of Jesus, and if we don’t like them, come up with our own. Better yet, adopt Borg’s images, for which he provides up-to-the-minute scholarly reasons. He is the Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion at Oregon State University.

Borg doesn’t buy the image of Jesus as divine savior. So out it goes. He doesn’t particularly like the image of Jesus as a teacher either, because it leads, he claims, to a moralistic image of the Christian life.

Instead, he asks us to “image” Jesus as a spirit person. (Why does “image” have to be a verb? For that matter, who made “narratival” an adjective?)

What, you ask, is a “spirit person”? It is Borg’s gender-inclusive term for what used to be known, in the dark ages, as a holy man. Spirit, of course, is that shapeless something so many of us take for granted, the noun form of the comfy, empty, all-embracing adjective “spiritual.” Heaven forbid that anyone should be “religious”! But at least we’ve learned something earthshaking: Jesus was a holy man! Except that we shouldn’t refer to him as a man.

Next, Borg asks us to “image” Jesus as compassionate. What a breakthrough idea! This leads to a discussion of the Jewish “purity system” and how Jesus broke down this system, which of course suggests that we, in our compassion, should break down any and all cultural norms.

Yet the idea of “compassion” overturning cultural norms involves Borg in a circular logic he doesn’t admit. If you overturn the old norms for new ones, shouldn’t the new ones become new targets of our “compassion”? But he is so determined to make Jesus politically correct that logic goes out the window.

Here’s another revolutionary image of Jesus we are asked to embrace: He was a sage! He was a “teacher of wisdom”! This leads to a long disquisition on the Greek word for wisdom, Sophia, and the fact that it is a feminine noun. Soon enough we are asked to envision God as feminine and “womb-like.” Borg retranslates passages from the Book of Wisdom, substituting Sophia. The amusing results speak for themselves:

“Sophia cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance tot he city gates she speaks . . . ” And so on. Pretty soon, we are asked to consider Jesus Christ’s feminine qualities:

“In what sense is Christ the wisdom of (and from) God? In particular, are we to understand ‘wisdom of God’ in these verses [from St. Paul] as resonating with the nuances of divine Sophia? It is possible, and if so, it means that Paul spoke of Jesus as the Sophia of and from God.”

Later: “For Paul, Jesus is the embodiment of Sophia.” So the Lord is actually a woman in a man’s body? Isn’t that what’s meant by transgendered? Wow, I never thought of Jesus that way!

Borg ends this flight of theological fancy by analyzing the three “Macro-Stories of Scripture.” (For Borg, everything is narratival!) Two macro-stories are acceptable to him: the Exodus narrative and the story of exile and return surrounding the Babylonian captivity. The third is not so acceptable, however: the “priestly story,” the whole idea that “the priest is the one who makes us right with God by offering sacrifice on our behalf.” To take this story seriously means taking sin seriously, and guilt, and forgiveness. Let Borg speak for himself:

“This story is very hard to believe. The notion that God’s only son came to this planet to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that God could not forgive us without that having happened, and that we are saved by believing this story, is simply incredible. Taken metaphorically, this story can be very powerful. But taken literally, it is a profound obstacle to accepting the Christian message. To many people, it simply makes no sense, and I think we need to be straightforward about that.”

The author throws out so much of the baby Jesus with the bathwater that there’s very little left of Him. Arguing against the “purity system,” Borg ends with a Jesus who has been air-brushed clean of any possibly offensive qualities, like his manhood, for example. Though Borg says he is searching for the historical Jesus, he ends with nothing but images, thinking apparently that only a politically correct, sanitized, insubstantial Jesus can bring skeptics back to church.

Which of course is why the mainline Protestant denominations are shrinking every week. There’s no there there, and nothing left of Jesus, man or God.



Needless to say, this book is most certainly NOT recommended under any circumstance. Unless you’re a transgender, feminist liberal Christian, at which point you’ll probably like it….

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: