Let’s (TED) talk about porn & Struthers’ “Wired For Intimacy” [REVIEW]


Earlier this year, I read William Struthers’ book Wired For Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. It was an amazing book and I learned much from it (and I encourage anyone to read it, male or female).

One justified criticism, however, that I have heard about this book is that it doesn’t quite speak to the questions that many would naturally bring to such a book. It’s separated into two parts: the first is theory, the second is application and implications.

This is all well and fine, except the first part is extremely clinical and tries really hard to be a casual observer to the effects of pornography. This results in a whole lot of the minutiae of various hormones and chemicals in the brain and what happens to them and why. But, there’s no context as to why (or whether) any of these effects are necessarily bad or harmful. It merely describes various chemicals and brain structures and how pornography is received and processed, but in his attempt at neutrality and avoiding value-judgments, he ends up creating at atmosphere in which the reader continually thinks “okay, so what?”.
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On History & Economics, a Book Review: “Popes & Bankers”by Jack Cashill


cashillI have a new article up on Patrol Magazine (yeah, I know; it’s the first in a long while).  Patrol recently changed up the philosophy and design of the site, making it much more of a blog-type format, as well as trying to focus more on consistently substantive and “Christianly” reflections on the world today.  In the spirit of that, today was posted I review I wrote for Thomas Nelson Publishers on Jack Cashill‘s newest book, Popes & Bankers.  Some of you may remember that while I was in the middle of reading the book, I wrote for Patrol about Cashill, and how I thought he was a propagandist, revisionist historian, and (frankly) crazy.  I also mused about how it was that Thomas Nelson Publishers, a Christian publishing house came to publish this particular book.  This caused a response from someone involved in the nonfiction acquisitions process at Thomas Nelson that was involved in getting Popes & Bankers published.  I get what he was saying at the time, but even now, after having finished the book, I stand by what I said.  You can read the exchange below after the link and the break.  Enjoy the review and leave your comments!

Review: “Popes & Bankers,” By Jack Cashill | Patrol Magazine

Here was the exchange:
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Mad Men: my new obsession…


More than any show in recent memory, Mad Men has captivated me in such a way that I cannot stop watching it.  I just started watching the show a couple of weeks ago and I’m on the last episode of Season 1.  Now, I’m usually wary of something that receives non-stop praise and adoration like Mad Men has.  I often wonder can a television show really be so good that it evokes responses like this? It’s hard for to imagine and hold in my mind the idea of something that can take hold of people so singularly and consistently that it leaves people in awe (I have a similar inability to imagine how a show like Dexter would fall in this category).

But I’m a believer now.
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“Inception and the Art of the Review”- PatrolMag


Hello, I have about 5 or 6 separate articles/reviews I’m working on at the moment, and not just for Patrol Magazine, but also this site!  We finally have internet at my place, so if I can only find some time (and a little inspiration).  But, until those articles get up here, I have more Patrol articles to send you all (you can read my past articles here).  This week, I have a sort of review of Christopher Nolan’s new masterpiece Inception.  I say “sort of” because it’s more of a reflection on how the movie’s impacted me than an actual typical review.  Anyway, read and enjoy.

And see Inception. [Photo credit]

“Inception and the Art of the Review”- PatrolMag

“Jack Cashill Writes a Good Book, But He’s Insane.” -Patrol Mag


I have an original blog post I’m working on for tomorrow, but for now, I’ll promote my most recent article on Patrol Magazine.  It’s about a book I’m currently reviewing for Thomas Nelson publishers (full disclosure: they sent me the book for free).  It’s about the struggle I’m having after finding out that this otherwise enjoyable book is written by an author who is pretty crazy.  How?  Well, just read on.  Patrol even made it a cover story today, so I’ve provided the cover story picture as your link to the article.  Enjoy.  And leave comments!

cashill
You can read all my articles for Patrol right here.

REVIEW: “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright


Simply Christian
Bishop N.T. Wright
Zondervan, 2006
Buy Now Here
Pre-Order New Ed. Here

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As I revealed in a recent tweet, I believe I’m walking into a new obsession with the author/scholar/pastor N.T. Wright. Surprising to many, I’m sure, with me being a seminarian and all, is the fact that I had never read any Wright before this book. Sure, I’ve known of his existence for years, had seen a few of his YouTube clips, and skimmed a few of his articles, but I had never read his books. My housemate during the two months or so before seminary began reading through Wright’s entire Christian Origins and the Question of God series (books 1, 2, 3) constituting over 2,100 pages of reading. He couldn’t stop reading, nor stop telling me about how amazing this man was. I nodded and agreed, sure that I would read something at some point. I had no idea what I was missing.

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My Favorite New Comedies This Season [VIDEOS]


As many of us twentysomethings have been bemoaning this entire Fall Season, our generation’s across-the-board favorite comedy, The Office, is declining rapidly.  Jim and Pam’s wedding episode was one of the funniest episodes the show has ever seen, but it’s perhaps the only episode all season that had me consistently laughing out loud.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not completely dead.  I still sit through (most, not all) episodes with a pleasant smile on my face, but few times will I actually laugh out loud.

It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud.  So when a show is able to make me do it consistently almost through an entire episode, I find myself shocked and awed.  Friends and (admittedly) Everybody Loves Raymond had been the closest I had experienced to this, until The Office came along and blew my every expectation possible for a comedy.  The first handful of seasons of that show are, I feel, among the funniest TV has ever seen.  But The Office of today is a mere shadow of The Office of yester-season.  But not one but two shows have more than made up for this lack of laugh-out-loud-ness this season.

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My Official Review of “Fearless” by Max Lucado at Reform & Revive


Look at that face.  That’s Max Lucado.  And I just reviewed his new book Fearless.  You can find the review here at Reform & Revive.  Some of you may have read my “Review Preview” and now are wondering why on earth I’m putting up this little post, just to send people somewhere else for the review.

Well, that “Review Preview” got a lot of hits due to search engine traffic.  That means that this site will appear sooner in a search for the book than will Reform & Revive.  But, seeing as reviews of this sort are much more in line with the mission and purpose of R&R, rather than that of this bog, I thought it was more appropriately posted there, and not on this blog.  So, I’m putting up this post on the off chance someone meanders here due to a search engine.  So, if you have fallen victim to such an off-chance, you can find the review at my webzine, Reform & Revive, found at the link below:

http://reformandrevive.com/2009/09/08/review-fearless-by-max-lucado/

By the way, for those that have stopped by for the next part of my Beauty series, you will find the next installment here tomorrow.  Probably.  Well, technically, my review of John Navone’s book Toward a Theology of Beauty counted as the “next installment”, but I’ll write another tomorrow.

Max Lucado’s “Fearless” and my heart (a review preview)


I’m a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson Publishers.  A few weeks ago I received a pre-publication copy of Max Lucado‘s upcoming book “Fearless“.  I hate so much about Christian “culture”, especially its commercialism, cheesy cliches, seemingly naive treatment of the fallenness of the world, and an inability to know and apply a deep understanding of the Gospel.  For years, admittedly, Lucado has stood in my mind as a representative of much of this.  I have, with little engagement with his material (other than his children’s books), tagged him as such a man; and in a certain way, he is the cheesy, cliche-ridden, mass appealing writer I have assumed (as is evidenced by this official site for the book), and the official trailer found below:

Let’s just say it’s been a big change going from Francis Turretin, John Calvin, and Herman Bavinck to Max Lucado in a matter of months.  Anyone that knows me knows that it has been a long journey through many frustrations with mainline evangelical culture to teach me how to love the Bride of Christ.  And I’m still learning.  I have belittled her, talked her down, mocked her, and ridiculed her in the most shameful of ways.

And this book has been a healing process for me.  Not giving away too much of my upcoming review when the book’s released, I just want to say that this book is amazing.  Save for the first few chapters, I have been shown that even amidst bad jokes, inadequate metaphors, “simple” writing, and an over-commercialized release (including shirts, calendars, mugs, study guides, DVDs, children’s books, teaching curricula), there can be poetry, depth, a real exploration of the human condition, and beautiful articulations and applications of the deepest, most precious truths of the Gospel.  Lucado has shocked me.  And taught me.  And helped me.  And stirred me for this God, His Gospel, and all that it supplies us.  Though I may be going against the fine print in my publisher’s agreement in doing so, I want to share with you all my favorite few paragraphs from the book so far:

A calmer death would have sufficed.  A single drop of blood could have redeemed humankind.  Shed his blood, silence his breath, still his pulse, but be quick about it.  Plunge a sword into his heart.  Take a dagger to his neck.  Did the atonement for sin demand six hours of violence?

No, but his triumph over sadism did.  Jesus once and for all displayed his authority over savagery.  Evil may have her moments, but they will be brief.  Satan unleashed his meanest demons on God’s Son.  He tortured every nerve ending and inflicted every misery.  Yet the master of death could not destroy the Lord of life.  Heaven’s best took hell’s worst and turned it into hope.

I pray God spares you such evil.  May he grant [you] long life and peaceful passage . . .. But if he doesn’t, if you “have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege if suffering for him” (Phil. 1:29 NLT), remember, God wastes no pain.

Amazing.  Look for my review September 8.  In the meantime, you can order the book here, and read some of the ebook here.

Derek Webb’s “Stockholm Syndrome”| a preliminary album review


[NOTE: this is not a review of the whole album, just an impression from the songs released so far]

He has said it is his most important album to date.  But no matter what, Derek Webb’s Stockholm Syndrome will not be just an album. Regardless of the music, production, or vocals, this album will first and foremost be a manifesto, an indictment, a message. The lyrics will define this album. This album – this artist, even – has become a voice for an entire group of disgruntled twenty-something Christians that have surveyed the rolling hills of American evangelicalism and have found it lacking. They have called out for a prophet to say the words and use the language that will draw the line in the sand and separate the “Biblical” sheep from the “fundamentalist” goats. A man to come out in sackcloth and ashes and save real grace-driven Christianity from the clutches of the legalistic drones that would rob us of our freedom in Christ.

So, the question I have struggled with ever since the first songs on this album came out is: is this the right message spoken in the right way to the right people at the right time?

I hate saying it, but (from what we’ve seen so far) I don’t think so. There is a time and a place for the message this album seems to carry, don’t get me wrong. I don’t write off a song done by a Christian just because it has a curse word or says things sharply. The Old Testament prophets spoke just as harshly (if not more so) to the “church” at that time. They would call women cows (Amos 4:1), say that the people “lusted” after other gods like some dream of fornicating with others with penises the size of donkeys and ejaculations like that of horses (Ezekiel 23:20), and declare that the best things we ever did were nothing more than rags dipped in a woman’s menstruation tossed before the face of God (Isaiah 64:6).

I fancy Derek Webb sees himself as such a prophet, just as I know many of his fans do. Now, I think this harsh tone is absolutely appropriate and the balance is struck with all of Webb’s previous albums. But the vehemence of the songs released so far from Stockholm is off-putting and seems a bit out of place. It’s not just a declaration that the church is off on a few points and how they’ve gone about some things – all the songs are a mockery and sarcastic rant against her. As a friend well put it: this album probably will not accomplish the goal for which Derek set off writing this record. Rather than shock the church into reform, this album is far more likely to galvanize the opposition force against the church and those that think the Church has become so out of touch and impotent it has become unimportant all together.

I know that’s not Webb’s heart. Anyone that’s heard the album 2003’s She Must and Shall Go Free knows this. The songs from Stockholm Syndrome seem to form an epistle from a wounded lover. A man who loves the Bride of Christ so much he hates how she has gone a stray and has been personally affected and hurt by it. But I wish he would take a page out of Hosea and try to play a part in wooing the church back rather than trying to beat her back.

I just want to say it again: this criticism is not about language or tone. I am really not bothered by the “bad words” used or the forceful tone. Perhaps my favorite song ever recorded by any artist, “Wedding Dress“, has both of these elements, and yet it is geared more towards Webb’s own depravity rather than the Church’s flaws. Look, I have the same criticisms as him. Raised as a Dallas, Texas Southern Baptist, my family has been destroyed by the effects of fundamentalism and “easy believism”. But Jesus said He is building His church, so we must try and find the balance between working with Christ in building it or mocking what He’s done so far, and thereby working against the work Christ would have us do. I fear this album is the latter.

Much has changed on the landscape of American Christianity since Webb’s 2007 album The Ringing Bell. The Church has effectively lost its grip on pop culture, politics, and the prevailing worldview of the nation. This being the case, these songs from Stockholm Syndrome come on the scene too late and kick the church while she’s down, as it were.

But, at some point today, Derek is supposed to begin pre-orders for the album accompanied by immediate digital downloads. So when that happens, I’ll be sure to put up a more comprehensive review as soon as possible.

I pray he surprises us.  Thoughts, anyone?