Saturday, June 22, 2013

Relating to sinners

I've been wondering how to tell people this gently or my normal way and it's not going to be easy, so I'll just come out and say it: I'm a sinner by nature, American by birth, Christian by choice, Jewish by spirit, and completely eccentric all on my own. Now that I (may) have your attention, there is something I want to mention. In regards to the way I was raised, I see that it would be unfair if I called myself a "Christian" and remained a stubborn, legalistic, holier-than-thou jackass (see what I did there? It's in the KJV!). With that said, I've come to notice a couple things in the last couple of years that's made me sick to my stomach on how some people call their selves Christian and are blatantly not and how others are Christian, prove it, and get backlash from the religious community.
One example is this: there is a metalcore band called Sleeping Giant. I discovered them back maybe 3 years ago while in Oklahoma City. Or 4 years ago in Huntington, WV. Somewhere around that time. They are heavy metal, yet their lyrics are seriously nothing but praises to God. One video of theirs, "Tithemi", is a concert compilation with the singer singing lyrics that are, in not a single way to doubt, pro-God, anti-religion praises. And, until the very last verse, he actually sings it. Like I'm-in-a-church-not-a-mosh-pit singing. The last verse, he growls, but he's still praising, regardless.
In another video, "Eyes Wide Open," that song has a surprise guest singer in it. Frankie Palmeri of Emmure. Anyone that knows that band knows they have frequent, EXTREMELY STRONG swearing, and they show they don't care if they offend people and who they offend. Yet, in that video, not only does Frankie not swear (and not just because he's a guest with a Christian band), he actually does some cooperating lyrics (the song's about the religious elite who look down upon frenetic fanatics of Jesus who are not afraid to praise God and JESUS publicly). People on both sides of the faith fence have sneered Sleeping Giant for having Frankie be a guest singer and Emmure for their singer being with a Christian singer. Only a few recognized what it really meant- that the members of Sleeping Giant were witnessing to nonChristians not by being "Bible Thumpers" or "Holy Rollers," but by actually letting them try out their angle of something they have common ground with. In their case, making heavy music and hanging out with fans. RAWK ON!
The other scenario deals with an obnoxiously rigid legalistic, ultra-religious, holier-than-thou, extremist Christian website, simply known as Beyond the URL's name, there's nothing I can get myself to agree with on the site. Why? Well, for starters, unless you're in a southern Gospel choir group singing nothing but safe-for-church-ONLY hymnals, your music group would be condemned by the moderator of the site, unashamedly, and without remorse.
Not only that, but he publicly condemns every factor of American society and wrongfully uses the Bible to do it (wait, don't cults do the same thing?). Today, I was looking into the site's articles on "Hellivision and the Movies" and one article definitely caught my skeptical eye (don't tell the moderator I'm also a skeptic by nature, he'd likely judgmentally condemn me as a "heretic" ;), about Mel Gibson's "Porn Hall of Fame," why call it that? Because his notoriously controversial film, Passion of the Christ, features 5 porn stars. At least, according to his website. Has an asterisk by their names and mentions their specific roles in PotC. Oh, it gets better (no pun  intended, of course). He publicly hates on and condemns Mel for being Catholic (I'm not a supporter of the Catholic religion nor the Catholic church, mind you, but I do have close friends that know where I stand and they're okay with me, I'm a borderline anarchist, got it?), and for having a sordid history of Hollywood movies. And, by "sordid", I mean films that do not go up to the moderator's own personal standard for what a Christian should star in. I wonder if he's read the Bible and noticed all the gory, explicitly violent content, numerous sensually steamy sex scenes, sensual word imagery in some of the poetry (ahem, "Songs of Solomon", anyone?), and, the one version of the Bible he demands all churches use, the KJV, all the swearing in it? (yeah, I still remembering seeing "ass", "whore", and "bastard" in it, yet the church rarely ever mentions that, and I don't know why)
Well, the way I see it, if you're gonna relate to sinners who really hate traditionalistic religion, you won't have them coming in rows to the congregation with a movie that doesn't fit their interests (like if PotC were just PG or just G-rated), so you have to do what Paul in the Bible suggested, find a way to find common ground with a nonbeliever and have a cool, civilized talk without compromising Scripture, and let it sink in, not trying to coerce/force/manipulate them to be a Christian. If God would have said that in the Bible, I would've walked out of it and wait for death to see where it took me, regardless of the consequences. Let's face it, the Church has been having less and less members in the pews or whatnot and it's not entirely the world's fault. Sometimes, it's actually the Church's fault, and not because they try to be hipster or whatever, but because of their attitude and either subtle or outright hypocrisy and it does become an annoyance for someone earnestly wanting answers and all they get is "Have faith." Yeah, we got the faith angle, but it kind of feels like they're also saying "God may not have the answer." The reality is they don't have the answer and God, who's omniscient, does have answers, but doesn't always give them the way people expect. We've become a generation of expecters. Something else that Yeshua had touched upon about HIS own people, how much they expected this or that, or this and that, and did not have much care if they didn't get what they expected. Hey, I tend to be impatient, okay? I think I get it from both parents (I think Mom's by far more impatient). So I can relate to not wanting to wait for God's answers to a prayer or to a question, but when He does answer it, in His own way, it's always worth the wait.
So, you have read why I'm not a traditionalist anymore, why I don't go for religion, and why I find the moderator of to be such a condemning religious nutcase that I could easily wonder if he's not really a member of WBC moonshining as someone else.
Also, he shows a lot of ignorance in a lot of integral factors. And so does another website that hasn't had any updates since September 2010 (that's a good sign in this case, less un-Biblical poison to spread around), Just like j-I-s, om constantly puts down and condemns ANYTHING that doesn't present the Gospel their way, and sometimes rather scathingly. Like video games. They've posted "reviews" of video games and have disclaimers (in this age of censorship, I really, really hate disclaimers, we may as well have one for the Bible if we're all for family entertainment!) about how the M-rated games are not allowed to be played where they live (is that in Alva, OK? I sometimes feel like it), so they had to go by media outlets to find out information about those games. And their own extreme religious filters. Therefore, a good number of actually well-done games get "No Crosses" (I thought it was only 3rd-rate Christian indie flicks that got lame), with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty getting "1 Cross" for their own reason. And a whole lot of substandard games (wait, why is Minecraft on that list?) getting "5 Crosses" for presenting the Gospel "accurately". As if that's not ignorant enough, they also have a section for what's "evil" in malls. And some of the stores they list as "Satanic", they list simply for phoenetic reasons (who knew "Cinnabon" sounded like "Sin upon"?) or for historical ignorance (condemning JC Penney's [I'm sorry, "JC Penny's"] because, to them, they're "devaluing" Jesus down to one penny and make it sound like Judas Iscariot saw 30 pieces of silver's worth of value in him... only, in that culture, that was literally a Jew's day's wage of work, selected by the Pharisees as an agreed-upon price to betray Yeshua into their hands).
There are few things that seriously irritate the Sheol out of me, and showing cultural and historical ignorance for something one should know about if they call theirselves "followers" is one of my top peeves. So much for proving that Christians aren't as ignorant as skeptics claim, huh?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Prophetess: book review

In case you are not familiar with this title, series, or author, here's the quick scoop on the series:
Winter Maessen is a Gothic Christian, she's different, anyone can tell from her dark style of wardrobe, her heavy sarcasm, etc. What no one, least of all her, expects is she would be chosen by God to be a prophetess. In the first book, Winter, she finds out her calling and eventually has a confrontation with a self-proclaimed Satanic terrorist.
Now, things get heavier.
Story: it's the new year at fictional Tishbe University and Winter is excited to see her old friends from the previous year and make new friends. Though, after the events of Winter, nothing- at all- will be the same. And yet, there's barely any time to breath when Winter gets a whole new kind of vision, a total whiplash compared to the kinds she got last time. And that's not all, the terrorist she dealt with, Xaphan (according to the book trailer on youtube, it's  "Zah-fon"), has a new plan to seriously weaken the Christian stronghold and spiritual strength at the university. And these new visions Winter's getting are newly problematic, highly enigmatic, and flat-out disturbing for the most part. And none of them are predictable (no pun intended) on their meaning, except for one, and even then, it's a total blow-out on how it comes to be. Plenty of misdirection, red herrings, heavy twists, turns, and shocking revelations on people you thought you knew from the first book.
On the enemy: Instead of being a traditional one-dimensional enemy like normally presented in standard Christian fiction, Xaphan proves himself formidable, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous and creepy. Even though he has less page time this time around, he's still creepy, chilling, especially in his roles in Winter's visions. And, this time, Xaphan's not easily satisfied, you wouldn't believe the measures he uses to make sure he gets what he wants. But he's no longer the only terrorist around- there's a new Satanist with a mysterious role, Skotos. Though Xaphan revealed the fallen angelic origin of his nickname, the fact there's no revelation on the origin of Skotos' nickname makes him even more intriguing, twisted, and disturbing. Especially the person that helps him (possibly IS him?). And the one extreme act of violence they do? It would seriously offend many people today considering how random it is, but I'm glad there are authors who will include it at the risk of getting backlash from people who have suffered from this type of violence. Did you actually think I would reveal what it is? Go read it!
Atmosphere: Since Winter was set in Winter's Freshman year at Tishbe, it had an occasionally warm, funny spot to relieve the creepy tension. This time, less humor, a bit more mature (to accommodate the terrifying visions), and more. Not only that, but the atmosphere's quite twisty when it comes to Winter's flashback chapters, further revealing dark secrets of her past and shocking secrets about her own family. Things that actually dropped my jaw!
Overall: Winter was an incredibly well-done, well-crafted, even well-prosed book, showing that Keven could write as good as the likes of Stephen King, Frank Peretti, and even Ted Dekker. This time, for Prophetess, he shows he won't let the "sequel bog" happen, and does it quite well. Providing new mysteries, more light shown, and stunning information on past foreshadowing that isn't your normal, standard fare, he proves he's worth the merit, regardless of if you're a Christian or not (one minor character, annoyed at how people were treating her, said that she was agnostic and Winter said something profound about that view that I had never considered, a whole new angle of seeing that borderline belief).
Ultimately recommended!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A preview of a classic

I went with my family to a job site (deconstructing a torn barn) when we came to an estate sale. Of course, the one thing that got my attention were the books. I wasn't sure there would be anything getting my attention (the person that passed away was an elderly woman), surprisingly, there were 3 books (all classics). I'd like to talk about one in particular.
I once heard that this is the original Christian horror story (it first came out even before Stephen King's debut novel Carrie). In today's standards (which are faulty and subjective at best), this would NOT be Christian in any regards.
You seen the movie? Besides the notoriously frightening head-twisting scene and the girl's transformation, there was a whole lot of graphic language, disturbing violent content, and even graphic sexual material (such as the possessed girl actually slamming a crucifix into her vagina and screaming out "F*** ME! F*** ME! F***ME!" and letting the blood fly).
I decided to skim parts of it and, it turns out, it's far more deprived, and, honestly, I found myself actually wanting to really get into the story.
One particular part that really sent chills down my spine (or close to it) was the girl looking at her mom and, by the control of the demon, told her religious mom that she "should let Jesus f*** you."
No, the book doesn't censor it, but it got me thinking two things:
1. The movie must have had to take some seriously heavy liberties to not seriously upset the religious community, lest the Catholic Church grade the movie "C" for condemned (like they did with the book-based movie "A Clockwork Orange").
2. The author did not let any barriers get in the way of portraying a demon realistically, graphically, and seriously.
When I read Ted Dekker's demon-possession-based horror story Adam (the first horror story to really give me the chills, ever), the demon in the story, because of the CBA (those that deem a Christian book to really be "Christian"), had to refrain from swearing at all and spoke euphemisms. The demon in The Exorcist took no such softening- it cussed, profaned, blasphemed, and even spoke sexual sacrileges. With the realism put into how the demon spoke (and yes, in the book, the demon did force the girl to masturbate with a crucifix, and the detail was quite vivid), it really impressed me.
Today, if Christian wrote something like this, they'd have to use a pseudonym and publish either through a secular channel or independently because of all the all-too-easily offended nature of today's church ("You can not believe in demons today!"), yet this reminds me of the offensive nature of the Bible- revealing the ways of the natural and spiritual worlds without barriers, without a care about how the populace would react, its purpose is to reveal the truth, not appeal to people's wishes about who they are (or it'd be far thinner). It also made me wish the CBA wouldn't exist so Christian authors could write the way they feel they could (like Dracula, which has no swearing, but is considered too "horrific" by the church to be "Christian", ridiculously enough).
If anyone should feel the entitlement to be offended at all, it should be God, not us humans who are filled with offensive sins anyway. So, I don't care about the language usage or the bizarre sexual/violent content, I can see this being the original CHRISTIAN horror story since it deals with the graphic, grotesque, disgusting, aberrant, dark, and ultimately twisted nature of pure evil... and how God Himself is the only to deal with evil itself, it doesn't provide alternative "humanist" methods, it presents a HARDCORE battle between pure good and pure evil and that relentless battle for each soul, no matter what it takes.
The next blog I write about this book will be a full review. Yes, I'm excitedly looking forward to it in the near future.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Farewell May

This has certainly been quite a month for me. As I'm sure this coming month will be as well.
Many projects I'd wanted to work on I had not much time to do so, maybe I will this month.
Here's what I'll be working on (hopefully) book-wise:
The Forbidden Invasion (dubbing it a "post-apocalyptic horror/thriller", and apparently people are willing to be offended to read it as some have acknowledged when I asked on facebook)
Plain Jane (a short story)
DeadHunt (Part 1 of the Jeffrey Krowe Chronicles, this book is the one I've written the most in at this point)
The Pariah (a short story)
Love, In The Flesh (a historical fiction [NOT ROMANCE!] set during Jesus' life, will be more accurate in the timeline and the linguistics/culture than most books about Jesus' life that I've read. Yep, I'm doing it in a way I'm familiar with)

Some works I'll be working on details before I actually get to work on them:
Darkest Reign (Part 1 of The Abnormal Traveler Saga, a sci-fi series that traverses basically every known subgenre of sci-fi)
Incongruity (Part 1 of an as-yet titled sci-fi series)
Bloody Rebel (hold on to your hats- it's vampiric fiction [no, I'm not trying to sell out] set in London in a future where it's controlled by total anarchy and the demons of the 7 Deadly Sins)
We No Longer Believe in Heroes (contemporary suspense)
Grips (straight-up psychological horror set within a haunted hotel)
Searflash (techno-thriller set within a horror story about a prophet and a terrorist set on vengeance)
Tragic Beauty (part 1 of a series about one of the things today's church is so afraid to talk about lest they offend people or get laughed at- pornography and how it could become interactive in our world)
The Street's Fighter (cyberpunk mystery)
Dystropolis (cyberpunk techno-thriller in a metropolis that is, in every way, one step away from falling total anarchy and disarray)
Perceptuality (sci-fi murder/mystery dealing with time jumps and reality shifts)
Contract City (a bizarre genre-bending action-mystery dealing with hitmen and complex political machinations, or something like that :)
The Originalist (dark fiction dealing with an amnesiac trying to figure out who really is and why he's so good at torture and interrogations, and why there are people after him like they're trying to kill him). Speaking of torture...
An Extreme Trial (grueling, graphic dark mystery dealing with domestic torture and how people react today when it comes to finding out the darkest secrets we have, even though we claim that, as Christians, we're supposed to overlook our dark pasts to see the new creations in God. This, second to The Forbidden Invasion, is my darkest story idea, dark enough that I actually flinch at the thought of a couple scenes).

Oh, last thing: it's not only books that I'll be trying to work on. Depending on how this summer goes on, I'll let you know how things go. Maybe next month I'll post a couple reviews of books that I really need to let you know about. (Prophetess by Keven Newsome, for one)