Archive for category Reviews

Love Wins?

Joshunda Sanders, blogging here in Austin for The Statesman, recently mentioned a man I think is worth paying attention to: Rob Bell.

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI, is stirring up a lot of controversy. Why? In his new book, Love Wins, he makes the case that certain ideas about heaven, hell, as traditionally taught to Christians, are wrong. And toxic. And I agree.

Here’s a trailer introducing the book:

I’ve only read excerpts so far, but I’m pretty impressed. There are some areas I might quibble with him on, but until I read the whole book, I’m going to hold off on getting into all that. For now, as pastor of New Way Church, I want to encourage you to consider giving Rob Bell a listen. And perhaps a prayer or two, too. Why? Because he seems to be drawing a lot of hate.

He is being accused by some Christian writers of being a heretic because he makes claims that threaten the standard exclusionary view of God and salvation. For instance, he says that you can be “saved” even if you don’t know Jesus by name. He also says that hell is not a punishment at the end of life, but a choice each one of us is making or not making right here, right now, as we live our daily lives.

And I agree.

In fact, in the New Church (the religious movement New Way Church is a part of), the ideas of salvation for those ignorant of Christ and of heaven and hell as choices, rather than arbitrary reward and punishment have been standard doctrine for over two hundred years. So far, though, the New Church has been such a quiet, behind-the-scenes movement that our ideas haven’t attracted a lot of public heat. But Rob Bell is a “megapastor”, so when he speaks, it draws fire–some of it pretty hateful. I admire his courage.

I admire Rob Bell’s courage, and I stand with him, and with other so-called “Emergent” thinkers–Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and others–who say traditional Christianity needs to examine itself and rethink some of its beliefs.

This is part of the meaning behind our church’s name. At New Way Church, we are dedicated to thinking about life, religion, Christianity and the Bible in a new way. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who said he himself is The Way, and who declared, “Behold, I make all things new!”

Mac Frazier, Pastor, New Way Church


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Why I Advocate Against Anyone Ever Doing Business with Verizon

December 17, 2010

PO Box 28000
Lehigh Valley, PA 18002-8000

Dear Verizon, et al.:

I am sorry to say that you have a problem. I and my wife have tried to resolve this matter numerous times via phone without success. We have spoken with numerous people at Verizon who have not been able to adequately resolve the issue. In the course of trying to resolve this issue on the phone we believe that your representatives have given us misleading and false information, either knowingly or due to incompetence.

In June of 2010, we cancelled our services with Verizon just prior to moving from Pennsylvania to Texas. We were sent packaging and labels to return equipment. We were initially confused by the size of the box: it appeared to be for a DVR-sized device, so we called you and let you know we were using cable cards installed in our own personally owned TiVo. We were assured that we could use the large box and the shipping label provided and everything would be fine. So we packed our equipment into the box, applied the label provided by you, and dropped the box off at the UPS store in Southampton, PA.

Then in July we received a bill showing that you had disconnected our cable service, but not our other services, and were still billing us. After discussing this on the phone, you corrected the mistake and altered our final bill to reflect that we were not meant to be charged for service after the originally specified cancellation date. We then paid the bill dated 7/22/2010 for the full, corrected amount of $43.08.

Another month later, we were surprised to receive yet another bill from you, dated 8/20/2010, with a “due date” of 8/16/2010. This new bill showed that we had paid the $43.08 but now owed an additional $223.16, for “Un-returned/Damaged Cable Card Aug 24 Qty: 2”. We called and explained that we had sent the cards in the box provided as instructed. Your representative claimed you had not received them. At the end of our conversation with your representative, we were told that a note would be made in our account that we were disputing your claim and that you would be investigating.

After some time went by without us hearing from you, we called again. The representative we spoke with said there was no record of a dispute in our account, but that they would make things right. They then gave us a ticket number (1935532) and said they would look into the dispute.

Our next communication from you or your representatives was a collections notice from the North Shore Agency in Phoenixville, PA.

We called you and spoke to your representative, and expressed our disappointment in your behavior and our belief that you were now making fraudulent claims. We asked if you had already made any claims to credit reporting agencies, and were told that yes, such a report had already been made. After explaining that we had repeatedly tried to dispute your claim without any useful or meaningful response from you or your representatives, and that this was our third attempt to inform you of what we believe to be an error on your part, your representative said that they would stop the collection order, and that they would report to the credit agency that their claim was under dispute. I asked if it would be removed from our credit record, and your representative said that it would, provided it turned out to be an erroneous report.

They then said that they would note the dispute in our account. We informed your representative that your company’s credibility had been damaged and that her verbal assurance that something was being done was no longer sufficient. We asked for a written confirmation that you had been notified of our disagreement and that you were investigating the dispute. Your representative said that she would send a letter stating they were aware of the dispute but that she could not send a letter saying you were actually doing anything about the dispute.

So we asked what the next step in resolving this is. Your representative gave us two telephone numbers, claiming that they were for the equipment return departments and that perhaps they would be able to help.

That was last night. This morning, we spent a long time on the phone with various representatives from your company. The numbers we were given were not useful. The other departments we were transferred to would ask the same basic questions and then transfer us to some other department. On one occasion we were given a number to call that turned out to be not in service. On another occasion we were given a wrong number that connected us to an unrelated company. It is very hard to not assume at this point that your representatives are more interested in getting rid of us than in resolving this dispute.

We have been patient. We have been polite. But now the stress of dealing with your company, half a year beyond when we thought we would be, is causing emotional distress, and is becoming a seemingly never-ending waste of our valuable time. Why are you doing this to us?

We would like to see these charges voided and all record of your false claims removed from our credit reports.

If this matter is not resolved promptly, we will alert the credit reporting agencies of our dispute as well as file official complaints with the FCC and PA Public Utility Commission. We will then contact our attorneys regarding the legality of your charges and your unethical billing practices.


Rev. Glenn M. Frazier
Verizon Account Number: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
5822 Trail ridge Dr
Austin, TX 78731

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Seacrest: the Fonze called, and He Wants His Shark Tank Back

So we watched the Idol finale last night. It was stunningly awful. This week’s theme? “Musicians You Thought Were Dead”.

After about ten minutes, I was actually rooting for it to stay consistently bad, just to see if they could keep the drek level going all the way. It was like a perpetual rickroll of itself: we tuned in to see who won, but instead were treated to a never-ending parade of washed-up eighties has-beens. When zombie Hall & Oates came on the stage, I actually cheered. Part of me kept hoping they’d bring the actual Rick Astly up, as a sort of “wink wink, we know how bad this is” self-referencing joke.

Here’s the list of the…ahem, older…”guest stars” for those who missed it: Alice Cooper (“School’s Out”), Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb (Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love”), Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers “Takin It to the Streets”), Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful”, “Fighter” and “You Lost Me”), Daryl Hall and John Oates (“I Can’t Go for That”, “Maneater”, and “You Make My Dreams”–yes, THREE Hall & Oates songs!!), Alanis Morissette (“Ironic” and “You Oughta Know”), Bret Michaels (Poison “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), Chicago (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”, “If You Leave Me Know” and “25 or 6 to 4”–again, THREE Chicago songs! Surely a sign of Armageddon), Janet Jackson (“Again”, “Nothing” and “Nasty Boys”), and a seemingly post-stroke Joe Cocker (mangling his own cover of the Beatles “With a Little Help from My Friends”)!

I think Simon has the right idea; this may be my last year of Idol, too. Unless I decide to tune in next year just to see how bad it can get–which is what got me watching in the beginning, really. My first attraction to the show was my fascination with the psychology involved in people who can’t sing at all getting through a gauntlet of dishonest yet supposedly supportive “friends”, only to be bashed in the face by British-accented reality. Only later on did I start watching it for the actual talent. But now this show has lapped itself, and I don’t know that I’m interested in gawking at the train wreck any more.

Oh, and what were they thinking when they decided to bring Paula back and give her an open mic and no script for two whole minutes? Talk about painful! But that pain was nothing compared with the sheer terror of being confronted by Janet Jackson in all her…um…glory.

My final complaint: they are now going to take U2’s “Beautiful Day”, an amazing, iconic song (that I have wanted to use as the finale for a New Church Day pageant for a couple of years, now) and dorkified it by turning it into an “Idol Hit” for their winner, Lee. (And I’m happy for Lee, by the way. Both he and Crystal should have amazing careers.) But now a new generation is going to grow up thinking that Lee’s version of “Beautiful Day” is the “real” version. This will hurt almost as much as knowing how many people are familiar with “Ice Ice Baby” but not the much better yet still pretty lame “Under Pressure”.

I did appreciate, by the way, the irony of Crystal Bowersox singing a cleaned up “You Oughta Know” duet with Alanis Morissette. The song is an angry comparison between an old girlfriend and a new one, and it was impossible (as is often the case in these Idol duettes) to not compare the two singers performances. Crystal out-sang Alanis.

Simon’s parting words and Lee’s emotional explosion were the two glimmers of reality in this amazingly unreal two hour Oldies Apocalypse concert. I enjoyed this season overall because there were three or four really talented musicians involved, but I’m guessing I won’t be tuning in again next year unless my entertainment schedule is otherwise very dry.

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