It’s time for our monthly, LSH frivolity break, so let’s climb aboard our time cube once again and travel to the 31st Century for another LSH adventure in…
Legion of Super-Heroes #10: First Kiss Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire DC Comics, October 27, 2020
Via vignettes on various planets, we see the Legion pick up the pieces after its long “Aquaman Trident” saga and the subsequent trial before the United Planets Council:
On Gotham Planet, Superboy and Saturn Girl become better acquainted while on a date and discuss the escape of Mordru with GP Police Commissioner, Sevenbergen. Dr. Fate is summoned and he determines Mordru is on the planet, Xanthu.
Gold Lantern, Brainiac 5, and Blok deliver prisoner, Crav the General Nah, to the Elders of Oa and we hear discussion once again of a looming Great Darkness.
The Legion contingent of Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, and Wildfire arrive on New Krypton in search of Mon-El and are greeted by Zod who takes them to their teammate. After the contingent learns from Mon-El that he has three daughters, he beats an angry retreat when he finds out his rival, Superboy, is still a member of the Legion.
Ultra Boy leads a team of Legionnaires (Bouncing Boy, Dawnstar, Lightning Lad, Monster Boy, and Timber Wolf) to Rimbor in an attempt to return his home world back to normalcy, only to be chosen as leader of the planet.
Back in Metropolis on Earth, Brainiac 5 attempts to encourage reluctant Legionnaire, Lightning Lass, to remain on the team.
On Xanthu, Mordru the fugitive meets up with…uh-oh…(gulp)…planet destroyer, Rogal Zaar!
Writer Bendis does a nice job of intermixing the various sub-plots in the march towards the ominous Great Darkness. Knowledgeable DC fans will appreciate all the ramifications and tie-ins involved with a 31st-Century New Krypton much more than I can. It’s a bit disconcerting to learn teenager Mon-El already has three children! Say what?!?!?! While it’s entertaining to see Bendis introduce new twists to the Legion’s lore, that’s definitely an over-step. I’m already looking forward to issue #11. The deadly tag-team of Mordru and Rogal Zaar will present a serious challenge for the Legion in the immediate future.
I enjoyed Bendis’ usual snappy dialogue and after the revolving-door, guest artistry of issues #s 8 & 9, it’s great to once again settle back and savor the masterful pencils and pens of the Legion’s regular artists, Sook and Von Grawbadger.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America By Beth Macy Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 376 pp.
addiction: a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects.
dopesick: slang for opiate withdrawal symptoms.
There’s all kinds of addictions out there, including gambling, shopping, eating, exercise, pornography, hoarding/collecting, video gaming, and, yes, even blogging. But some addictions are downright deadly.
We’ve all heard about the dramatic rise of heroin addiction in the U.S. In this book, investigative journalist, Beth Macy, takes a look at heroin abuse from the perspective of a few small towns in the Appalachia region of Virginia and West Virginia.
As the coal mines shut down and the manufacturing jobs in the region were shipped overseas, the unemployed workers of Appalachia increasingly drowned their miseries in opioids, both street heroin and doctor-prescribed Oxycodone.
Macy gives a short history of the medical use of opioids as a painkiller and focuses on pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma’s development of OxyContin in 1995 into a goldmine as well as a nationwide abuse problem. Many people who were prescribed OxyContin for pain became addicted and subsequently “graduated” to street heroin.
Macy follows several heroin addicts from “fix” to criminal activity in order to sustain the habit, to court, to jail/rehab (repeat cycle). Several of the individuals either died from the heroin or were victims of violence experienced while living homeless on the streets. The author crusades throughout the book for MAT (medication-assisted treatment), the use of alternative drugs to help addicts break their addiction cycle, but the use of MAT is controversial.
This was a sad and depressing book to read. Substance abuse and addiction is a dastardly business. I’ve had some experience with friends and family members who were addicted to alcohol. I also had a niece who died eight years ago from a drug overdose at the age of thirty-three.
People need salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s power to overcome all kinds of addictions in this world. However, sometimes even Christians can fall back into addiction. We must walk according to the Spirit and circumspectly lest we become entangled by the snares of this world.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
By John Carreyrou
Random House, 2018, 541 pp.
Elizabeth Holmes was a very bright, chemical engineering major at Stanford University. She dropped out of college in March, 2004 at the age of 20 because she had an amazing idea: to develop a compact blood analysis machine that could run hundreds of tests with only a few drops of blood drawn from a single finger prick.
Holmes founded the Theranos corporation in Silicon Valley to turn her dream into reality. She leveraged her youthful good looks and confident demeanor (which included a feigned deep, authoritative voice) to attract a bevy of big-name investors eager to get in on the ground floor of another high-tech start-up success. Holmes accomplished her dual dreams of becoming famous and a billionaire (on paper). There was just one small problem. Her idea wasn’t viable. Try as they might, Holmes’ team of scientists could not get reliable test results from a few drops of blood. Behind closed doors, Theranos actually used large blood analyzers built by competitors to test the blood samples that were sent to them. Holmes kept the truth from investors and regulatory agencies as long as possible, but whistle blowers confided in John Carreyrou, a suspicious investigative reporter working for the Wall Street Journal, who broke the story in 2015. Holmes denied the allegations, but mounting scrutiny eventually forced the shutdown of Theranos in 2018. Holmes was indicted on charges of fraud and awaits trial in March 2021 (the trial date has been rescheduled several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Recent filings indicate her lawyers may attempt a “mental illness” defense.
Holmes was quite a character; absolutely driven to be the “next Steve Jobs” and impressing potential investors with her trademark ninja black turtleneck shirts and her affected masculine voice, but with zero credibility. It was all “smoke and mirrors.” As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think about how society worships at the altar of fame, wealth, and attractiveness.
Today, we’re going to play hooky from house painting and head over to the shores of Lake Ontario, settle into our beach chair in the sand, and enjoy some breezy summer fiction. Okay, “breezy” isn’t the most appropriate adjective for…
The Plot Against America By Philip Roth Houghton Mifflin, 2004, 400 pp.
It’s 1940 and Nazi Germany is overrunning Europe and implementing its anti-Semitic policies throughout the continent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt desires to enter the United States into the war in support of the frazzled Brits, but there’s a growing isolationist movement led by aviation hero, Charles A. Lindbergh. In his speeches around the nation, Lindbergh is guardedly circumspect, but in private it’s clear he has pro-German and anti-Jewish sympathies. Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 election and begins to implement anti-Semitic reeducation and resettlement programs, which are defended by a few high-profile, opportunistic, quisling, pro-Lindbergh Jews as being ultimately beneficial.
The tire meets the road in Newark, New Jersey with the Jewish Roth family who watch in horror as the nation turns increasingly fascist and anti-Semitic. The parents are mortified when their teenage son is duped into voluntarily participating in a Jewish youth reeducation program. When the father’s employer selects him and his family for resettlement as part of a government initiative, he quits his job and contemplates moving his family to Canada, as several Jewish families in their neighborhood have already done. Pogroms ensue and Jews must increasingly take up arms to defend themselves. Just as circumstances reach critical mass, Lindbergh disappears while piloting an airplane. Conspiracy theories abound and the fascist administration uses the opportunity to further crack down on Jews and arrest dissenters. Lindbergh’s sensible wife makes a radio appeal to the nation and the fascist elements are successfully checked. Emergency elections are held in 1942 and Roosevelt is reelected to a third term. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor the following month and the United States declares war against the Axis alliance.
I enjoyed this alternative history. Few people today are aware of the extent of the popularity of the pro-German, isolationist, and anti-Semitic network in America prior to WWII (see Lindbergh, Henry Ford, radio-priest Charles Coughlin, Senator Burton Wheeler, German-American Bund, etc.). The pace at the conclusion of the novel, after Lindbergh’s disappearance, is a jarringly frantic roller coaster ride, as if Roth suddenly tired of the project and just wanted to get it over with.
Postscript: President Franklin Roosevelt is portrayed as the hero of this novel as the defender of the American Jews. An ironic historical twist is that FDR directed that between 110,000 to 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity living mainly in the Western States be forcibly consigned to internment camps during most of WWII.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 10, 2016 and has been substantially revised.
Have you ever been involved in a debate/argument where you presented what you thought was an irrefutable point, only to have your opponent turn the tables and cleverly use that point against you? That happened to R.C. Sproul in…
Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
By R.C. Sproul
Baker Books, 1999, 208 pp.
for the contents of this book
for R.C. Sproul’s naive attempt to hold his compromising, ecumenist friends’ feet to the fire.
Theology? Most people don’t want to discuss theology, right? But it’s extremely important to know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ IS and what it ISN’T.
As the Word of God says…
We are all sinners.
The wages of sin is death and eternal separation from God.
But God the Father so loved us He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to live a sinless life and pay for our sins by dying on the cross.
Jesus defeated sin and death by rising from the grave.
Jesus offers the free gift of salvation and eternal life.
But HOW exactly does one appropriate the free gift of salvation? Some claim by baptism. Others say that Jesus only opened the doors of Heaven and that people must do their part by obeying the Ten Commandments and being “good” in order to merit salvation. But what does the Bible, God’s Word, say?
Back in 1994, Chuck Colson and his ecumenical Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) initiative boldly declared that both evangelicals and Catholics believed in the same Gospel. Many evangelicals were rightly shocked by ECT’s claim. Evangelicals believe, as the Bible teaches, in salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, while Catholics unabashedly believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two views are diametrically opposed and are absolutely irreconcilable.
In 1995, evangelical theologian, R.C. Sproul, responded to ECT with the book, “Faith Alone,” which accurately contrasted the opposing salvation theologies of evangelicalism and Rome. See my review of that book here.
Colson and ECT’s next chess move was to publish their “The Gift of Salvation” declaration in 1998, which reiterated that both evangelicals and Catholics believe in salvation “by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Sproul then countered by writing this book, “Getting the Gospel Right,” in 1999, which critiqued the studied ambiguity of “The Gift of Salvation” and clarified even further evangelicalism’s view on justification and salvation in comparison to Rome’s false view.
“Getting the Gospel Right” was published in conjunction with the release of “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration,” a declaration from Sproul and other evangelical Protestant leaders that defined the Gospel from an evangelical perspective. The STRANGE thing is that Sproul enlisted a couple of the most prominent ECT ecumenists, Timothy George and J.I. Packer, to help draft the declaration (!!!!) and more than a few ECTers subsequently signed it (i.e., Gerald Bray, Bill Bright, Harold Brown, Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Max Lucado, Richard Mouw, and Pat Robertson). Sproul had unwittingly allowed the ECT ecumenists to trump his efforts at delineating the genuine Gospel. Their rebuttal/counter-move could be described as, “Oh yeah, R.C., we believe all that, and WE STILL embrace Roman Catholicism as Christian.”
Sproul obviously had good intentions, but he didn’t think it through. He allowed himself to be “outmaneuvered” by the ecumenical Gospel-compromisers.
This theological “chess match” might seem like a lot of gobbledygook to some Christians, so let’s break it all down to its bare essentials:
Evangelicals believe justification and salvation come before sanctification (being more obedient, more Christ-like). You can’t know God or please Him until you acknowledge and repent of your sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Once you accept Christ and are born-again as God’s child, then you can grow in obedience to the Lord. But “good” works won’t save you.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12
Catholics believe the opposite. They believe sanctification comes before justification and salvation. By receiving the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules, Catholics believe they can become intrinsically righteous and justified and can hopefully merit salvation.
Below: A simple summary of the difference between Gospel Christianity and Catholicism:
A. The evangelical position: Justification and salvation in Christ by faith alone, then sanctification.
B. The Catholic position: Sanctification via sacraments and meritorious good works, hopefully leading to justification and salvation.
The two theologies are opposed. They cannot both be right.
The Catholic position is basically the same philosophy shared by natural man and all of the world’s religions, which teach that people must become increasingly “good” in order to possibly merit Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise, etc. R.C. Sproul understood the clear difference between the genuine Gospel and Rome’s false gospel, but he took the wrong tack, an accommodating one, in dealing with the ecumenical, Judas compromisers.
Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Religion won’t save you. Trying to be “good” won’t save you.
“I have not come to call the (self) righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32
God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies
By Costi Hinn
Zondervan, 2019, 224 pp.
Prior to accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and being born again, I had a semi-awareness of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement via flamboyant televangelists such as Oral Roberts, Ernest Angley, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart. After my wife and I were saved, we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church, which taught that the apostolic gifts of the spirit had ceased after the apostolic age, which made sense to me. From my perspective as an ex-Catholic, the fact that members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, including tens of thousands of priests, could manifest the requisite charismatic gifts of the spirit (glossolalia, prophecy, healing) while still adhering to Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit was an irreconcilable red flag.
After I returned to the Lord following my long prodigal season, I was amazed to see how the charismatic movement had proliferated. Most of the new non-denominational churches that had popped up around our town were charismatic. While the new generation of televangelists were still pushing the apostolic gifts of the spirit, there was also a great emphasis on health and wealth. The loud and constant drumbeat was, send in your “seed faith” money (credit cards accepted), and ask God in faith, and you too can have wonderful health and financial prosperity. I had no direct knowledge of the prosperity gospel movement, but I knew it was making tremendous inroads into evangelicalism worldwide.
Costi Hinn grew up as an insider in the prosperity gospel “empire.” His uncle, Benny Hinn, had been the #1 “faith healer” in the country for several decades and his father, Henry Hinn, was also a faith healer with his base in Vancouver, British Columbia. Costi enjoyed the Hinn family’s lavish lifestyle sitting atop the pinnacle of the health and wealth pyramid scheme and was being groomed to carry on the the family enterprise. But Costi providentially attended a Christian college where the genuine Gospel was taught and began to have increasing doubts about his family’s prosperity gospel. After MUCH familial sturm und drang, Costi attended a Biblically-solid seminary and is currently on staff at a Biblically-solid church in Arizona.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit with its insider details of the shenanigans of Benny Hinn and the other prosperity gospel shysters. It was difficult for Costi to turn his back on his family and walk away from all of the financial perks, but he could not reconcile God’s Word and the genuine Gospel with his family’s false prosperity gospel. What’s missing in this book is a description of Costi’s conversion moment, when he actually accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone.
Postscript: I wish Zondervan was as agreeable to publishing books about the errors of Roman Catholicism as they were in publishing this good book about the errors of the prosperity gospel.
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
By Liza Mundy
Hachette Books, 2017, 416 pp.
As the United States’ entry into World War II appeared increasingly inevitable, the Army and Navy began recruiting at select women’s colleges to beef up their cryptology (code breaking) departments. The thinking was that women were better suited than men for this painstakingly detailed work. After war was declared, recruitment intensified and women joined the cryptology departments as WACs (Women’s Army Corps) or WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Over 11,000 women comprised more than 70% of all domestic code breakers during WWII.
These women made incredible contributions to the war effort by cracking the coded messages of the German and Japanese forces. Much of the initial work was manual, but electro-mechanical machines, called bombes (precursors to computers), were eventually created that helped sort through massive amounts of data in search of code-breaking patterns. The Axis forces regularly changed and complicated their codes, so the cryptographers’ work continued until the end of the war (and afterwards with the immediate onset of the Cold War with the Soviet Union).
This was an enjoyable book that adroitly intermixed history with the personal stories of individual WACs and WAVES. Because of the absolute secrecy of their work, both during and after the war, the women never received the recognition they deserved. I tip my hat to the author for helping the reader wade through the technical jargon and making cryptology halfway understandable.
By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 2019, 139 pp.
I saw this short book advertised in “The Sword of the Lord” recently and thought it might be interesting to read independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastor, Dr.* Jeff Farnham’s (formerly of LaGrange Baptist Church, LaGrange, Indiana) views on IFB churches that he contends have compromised their status from being fundamentalist to “fundamental-ish,” i.e., still teaching the fundamentals of the faith, but compromising on important secondaries.
In his opening section, Farnham rebuts the appeal to “Christian liberty” as an excuse to compromise fundamentalist principles. He argues that wise and mature fundamentalists must continue to uphold their convictions even more strongly so as not to be stumbling blocks to the weaker, less mature brethren.
Farnham then gets into the meat of the book; the specific areas where he believes compromising fundamentalists have become fundamental-ish:
Worship Music – Farnham is distressed that some compromising IFB pastors are incorporating Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and drums into their worship music. Farnham notes that CCM music employs “a syncopated thumping that accents the off-beat and diminishes the downbeat and creates agitation.” He judges all such music to be “spiritually oppressing and sensually provocative” (p.61). Farnham notes that IFB pastors in the past commonly referred to such music as “jungle music,” and while he acknowledges that many would find that term to be “racially insensitive,” he believes it is accurate.
Attire – Farnham judges that compromising IFB churches are allowing and encouraging people to wear inappropriate clothing. Amidst some other, superfluous examples, the PRIMARY issue for Farnham boils down to whether women should be able to wear pants. Farnham doesn’t believe so, citing Deuteronomy 22:5. He attempts to rebut all opposing rationale.
Education, Entertainment, Employment – Farnham contends that fundamental-ish compromisers allow their children to be educated at godless public schools and that they prioritize worldly entertainment and employment (working on Sundays) over God, church, and an obedient Christian lifestyle.
Church Names – Farnham bemoans the fact that some IFB churches have removed “Baptist” and/or “Church” from their names, opting instead for such compromised, culture-pleasing titles as “The Potter’s House” or “Messiah Fellowship.”
As Christians, we all have beliefs and opinions regarding these secondary issues. The IFB movement no doubt represents the most conservative of viewpoints. I attended an IFB church from 1983 to 1991 and the focus and constant brow-beating over the “dos and don’ts” is a bitter memory. The IFB is no doubt in steep decline compared to those days and this book testifies to the increasing squabbling and infighting as the movement struggles to survive and an ever-growing number of IFB pastors fail to “hold the line.” Some readers of this review may be surprised that pants and short hair on women are still issues. Yup, they are in the IFB. Farnham doesn’t mention it in this book, but another disturbing characteristic of IFB churches is their idolatrous propagation of American Christian nationalism. Whether IFB pastors like it or not, the term, “fundamentalist,” is resoundingly understood as a pejorative by the general public these days. The movement’s prideful loyalty to that other-era term is a stumbling block to the Gospel it professes to desire to sow.
Farnham has a few good points. As Christians we can rationalize and become too chummy with the world. But the IFB’s extremism and “majoring on the minors” breeds a “bunker mentality” that pits the Christian against the world rather than fostering an emissarial approach to the world.
Recommended only for those curious about the current state of the IFB movement.
*IFB pastors stereotypically love to append their honorary doctorate titles to their names.
Legion of Super-Heroes #7
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook and Stephen Byrne, Inks: Wade von Grawbadger and Stephen Byrne, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, July 28, 2020
The Legion arrives en masse at the Great Hall of the United Planets and the Legion’s leader, Cosmic Boy, begins to express his regrets on behalf of the heroes for the incarceration of General Nah, but is interrupted by Madam President Brande, who informs him that the U.P. has just declared Nah a criminal for breaking intergalactic law. Brande then castigates the Legion for interrupting the proceedings and for defying U.P. time travel restrictions and bringing Superboy to the 31st Century. The Boy of Steel interjects and is able to placate Brande.
The incident at the Great Hall further exposes a critical problem; Cosmic Boy’s lack of leadership abilities. Back at Legion headquarters in New Metropolis, Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 confront Cosmic Boy, which leads to an impromptu team meeting in the Legion’s mess hall. Brainiac 5 proposes a proper election of the Legion’s leader (Cosmic Boy had been appointed by Brande). Ultra Boy presents himself as an opposing candidate and the membership subsequently elects him over a dejected Cosmic Boy. As the Legionnaires celebrate their new leadership, General Nah and his powerful forces unexpectedly arrive at Legion headquarters, demanding the heroes surrender to him.
It was clear in issues 1-6 that irresolute Cosmic Boy wasn’t cutting it as the Legion’s leader, culminating in the near-crisis at U.P. headquarters and the subsequent call for an election. Legion #7 serves as a transition from the opening epic involving the struggle for Aquaman’s trident to the upcoming showdown with General Nah. Bendis does a nice job with this bit of “Legion business” downtime, including some additional interlude segments featuring Triplicate Girl, Monster Boy, and Lightning Lad. Guest artist, Stephen Byrne, ably spells the Legion’s regular penciller, Ryan Sook, throughout most of this issue. Speaking of guest artists, in the interview below, Bendis hints at some big things in store for issues #8 and #9 with 44 artists contributing, including a long-overdue, one-page introduction of each Legionnaire! Hey, we’ll finally find out who the skeleton is in the containment suit!
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
By Rick Atkinson
Henry Holt and Co., 2019, 800 pp.
My interest in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) was kindled by my parents. Our family excursions to Fort Niagara (Niagara Falls), Fort Ticonderoga (near Lake Placid), and the Freedom Trail in Boston sparked my curiosity and I read all of the books about the ARW I could get my hands on at our local library branch while in junior high and high school.
I’ve continued my interest in the ARW over the years with a book here and there and recently came upon Rick Atkinson’s “The British Are Coming.” It’s unique among the many books I’ve read in a couple of ways: 1) it tells the story from the British perspective as well as the American, and 2) the details are copious. All of the other books I’ve read about the ARW provided a history almost strictly from an American perspective so it was refreshing and informative to get the British view. As for the details, military and personal, they were both helpful and a distraction. In some cases, Atkinson’s persnickety slavishness to detail seems to detract from the overall sweep of a battle or campaign, while in other cases it seems to enhance it.
In this volume, Atkinson follows the ARW from its beginning on the roads to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, to the New Jersey campaign (late-1776-early-1777) and Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. Two more volumes are planned for the final six years of the war (the conflict was over for all intents and purposes following the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, excepting some minor and inconsequential skirmishes).
As I read this book on my Kindle, I also used the Google Earth app on my iPhone to get an eagle-eye view of the various locales and even some of the surviving structures that were mentioned. Using Google Earth greatly enhances reading a history book such as this one.
Postscript: I would like to research further how believers living in Colonial America (especially pastors), were able to justify their rebellion against the God-ordained British monarch, George III.