One of the themes of Spokesmen’s club today, at least for the outgoing president, was the outworking of Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law, of course, states that “The worst thing that can possibly happen will happen.” Then, there is Cohen’s Corollary, which states that Murphy was an optimist, which signifies that things that could not possibly go wrong will go wrong. The quote itself drew some laughs, as I suppose I am a fairly easily amused sort of person when it comes to wit and irony. Of course, today was not a particularly enjoyable day, even aside from the excruciating pain in my right big toe last night and today . Yet it was not necessarily a bad day, even if it was not particularly pleasurable.
I first figured today was going to be a bit rough when my foot started feeling on fire about 4AM this morning or so, which led me to do a bit of reading and drinking some water until the pain had died down enough to get back to rest. On the plus side, this allowed me to finish an excellent book  early this afternoon. Reading enjoyable books definitely improves a day dramatically, and I even found out from an e-mail that I had a book waiting at the library, so I dropped off the two library books I had already finished and picked up the book for tomorrow’s reading, to help finish off the Vorkosigan saga. I also, when I got home from Spokesmen’s club, found a letter  from an unhappy author who had written a particularly unappealing book  and threatened legal action and sought for the review to be removed from Amazon.com. If you can’t pay the bills, don’t solicit reviews.
Other than that, much of the afternoon and evening were a bit hectic, which is not what you want to be dealing with when your foot feels like it’s on fire. Going to the library and then having a late lunch and then doing grocery shopping and getting ready for Spokesmen’s club did not leave enough time to deal with the traffic on the way to the meeting, which was far heavier than expected. The meeting itself went well, even if I wasn’t feeling particularly good, and now I have to calculate how much money to return to each person in proportion to what they paid. I suppose today, in a way, was a day of reckoning. Somehow those sorts of days never seem very much fun, however much they ultimately serve to the good.
 Here is the text of the letter. Apparently some people don’t realize that I take my responsibility to give an honest review more seriously than I take idle threats of legal action:
Dear Nathan Albright:
My co-author Jeffery Glatus sent me a copy of your blog review of our book, HEAVENLY BILLS. Neither Jeff nor I were that interested in responding, as it is your right to opine, review and express however you see fit. However, you’ve not posted the review on amazon.com, as because your review is inherently flawed in such a way as to severely misrepresent the book, I think it’s time to bring some of this to your attention.
Included below is your review, with my thoughts, IN CAPS for readability only:
One of the best aspects of this book is that it is small (running at only slightly over 130 pages). Given that this book is basically an attempt to critique consumer-driven churches as being ungodly in the hope that people will be attracted to more progressive and emergent “small” churches that do not have the same sort of social conservatism that is present in many mainline churches, it is fortunate that this book is fairly transparent. That does not mean that the book is transparently right, only that it is transparently clear about its purpose. A COMPLIMENT
The title of this song BOOK is one of the many ironic (and a less kind reader would think hypocritical) aspects of this book. Coming from The Eagles’ hit song, “Life In The Fast Lane,” NO CAP ON THE the authors seek to pin consumer Christianity (which they see as being driven by the combination of doctrinal compromise, replacing God with man as the center of worship, and using contemporary business marketing aspects to promote their works). INCOMPLETE SENTENCE (PREV) This condemnation, to some extent, is just. There are many who seek to appeal to the unchurched by downplaying the name or commandments of God, to ethical and moral requirements that God calls upon believers. The authors are right, if a bit heavy-handed and harsh, in critiquing the contemporary American church for this failing. (They are certainly not unprejudiced in considering among either the isolationist Amish THERE IS NO PREJUDICE AGAINST THE AMISH or themselves as so-called progressive Christians PROGRESSIVE DOESN’T CARRY A CAPITAL, AND THIS IS NOT A GROUP SO THERE CAN BE NO PREJUDICE FOR OR AGAINST, IT IS A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT AND NOT ONE TO WHICH BOTH AUTHORS SUBSCRIBE an antidote to the supposedly hate-filled nature of American Evangelical Christianity, as this book is full of prejudice against conservative Christians THE BOOK CONSTANTLY REPRESENTS BOTH CHRISTIAN POINTS OF VIEW, AS WELL AS ANY OPPOSING VIEWPOINT TO ANY SIGNIFICANT CLAIM).
Where this book fails primarily is in failing to note that the authors themselves, and their proposed solution to consumer Christianity, is itself an aspect of the same consumer Christianity that they seek to condemn. NEGATIVE — WE ARE CAREFUL TO POINT OUT THAT OUR BOOK IS FOR SALE, BUT MAKES THE DIFFERENTIATION THAT OUR BOOK IS NOT CONNECTED TO ANY PARTICULAR MINISTRY AND THEREFORE IS NOT CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY, IT IS A BOOK ABOUT MODERN THEOLOGY. A LOT OF WHAT FOLLOWS HITS ON THIS POINT, BUT IN FACT THIS IS A NON-ISSUE. WE’RE NOT PASTORS, WE’RE NOT IN A CHURCH, OUR BOOK RAISES NO MONEY FOR ANY CHURCH AND DOES NOT ESPOUSE THE IDEOLOGY OF ANY PARTICULAR CHURCH. IT IS NOT CONCERNED WITH INCREASING THE MEMBERSHIP OF ANY CHURCH, WHICH IS A SIGNIFICANT PART OF WHAT MAKES CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY WHAT IT IS. OUR BOOK IS NOT THEREFORE AN INSTRUMENT OF CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY AND WE MAKE THIS POINT CLEARLY AS EXCERPTED BELOW. In condemning the shallow megachurch mentality for its attempts to pander to crowds seeking entertainment, or in the shallow and tepid sort of entertainment that passes for secular attempts to appeal to Christians (movies and television shows and theme parks and the like), the authors do not realize that they too are a part of this same phenomenon. Notably, this book uses contemporary marketing techniques in an attempt to sell the book (giving it a clever title from a secular rock & roll song from the Eagles, and taking advantage of the distribution networks available to non-traditional authors through online publishing), represents doctrinal compromise (through its refusal to stand up for biblical standards of morality, labeling them instead as hateful behavior NEGATIVE — BIBLICAL REFERENCE IS PLENTIFUL AND ACCURATE), and places man instead of God at the center of worship (through its adoption of politically correct left-wing mindsets, taking the name of God in vain by masking them as if they were godly perspectives, and in its failure to correctly defend the historical validity of the Bible, NEGATIVE — THE HISTORICAL VALIDITY OF THE BIBLE, AND ITS OTHER POWERFUL BENEFITS, ARE OFT-NOTED IN THE BOOK instead choosing to promote bogus and unhistorical views of the canonization of the Bible that fall below the Kitchen line DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS and that do not recognize the authoritative nature of the example of apostolic Christianity THIS CLAIM IS UNSUBSTANTIATED ). PREVIOUS SENTENCE IS UNREADABLE, WAY TOO LONG. In short, the authors themselves represent merely a different type of consumer Christian than the right-wing ones that they seek to condemn so harshly, in that their shallow biblical understanding comes with a left-wing political agenda instead of a right-wing one, which is hardly anything in its favor ACTUALLY, WITHOUT MAKING ANY ADMISSION, A LOOK AT CHRISTIANITY WITH A LEFT-WING POLITICAL AGENDA AT LEAST OFFERS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE THAN THE MORE COMMON RIGHT-WING AGENDA, AND THUS IS IN THE FAVOR OF ANY PERSON INTERESTED IN MORE THAN ONE POINT OF VIEW ON THIS OR ANY SUBJECT. IN POINT OF FACT, WE ARE ENTITLED TO OUR OPINIONS AND TO EXPRESS THEM. THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT FOR NEUTRALITY IN NONFICTION AS THEIR SHOULD BE IN JOURNALISM. WE HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY TO OFFER EQUAL TIME EVEN THOUGH WE DO SO OF OUR OWN VOLITION BY PRESENTING OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS CONSISTENTLY THROUGHOUT THE BOOK.
This is especially lamentable because if this book was WERE not such a transparently politically biased book, IT REALLY ISN’T POLITICAL AT ALL, RATHER IT FOCUSES ON THE PRACTICES OF CHURCH ORGANIZATIONS THROUGHOUT HISTORY, AND ANY HISTORICAL ANALYSES REQUIRE SOME POLITICAL UNDERSTANDING. THIS IS TRUE FOR AN UNDERSTANDING OF CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND THEOLOGY AS WELL AS ANCIENT HISTORY AND THEOLOGY. IN THE MODERN ERA, CHRISTIANITY HAS BECOME POLITICALLY ENTANGLED, BUT THIS ISN’T THE SUBJECT OF THE BOOK NOR IS THAT POLITICAL ENTANGLEMENT THE FAULT OF THE AUTHORS. NO STUDY OF CHRISTIANITY CAN BE UNDERTAKEN WITHOUT OBSERVING THIS POLITICAL ENTANGLEMENT. THIS RANT/REVIEW REFLECTS MORE POLITICAL BIAS PER-WORD THAN THE BOOK DOES it would be far easier for a fair-minded reader I CANNOT IMAGINE YOU COUNT YOURSELF IN THIS NUMBER to draw some very valid points that could be made. For example, there are very troubling elements in contemporary Christianity in the linking of political power and religion that focuses on personal morality to the exclusion of social justice THAT IS THE POINT. . Furthermore, there are serious and deep connections between the Sabbath (that is, the seventh-day Sabbath and holy days and the Sabbath and Jubilee years) with aspects of freedom and social justice that are vitally important for Christians who wish to follow a godly example of modeling God’s just and righteous ways in our wicked world . One does not need to participate in a false dialectic between social justice and personal morality SUCH A DIALECTIC NOT ONLY IS NOT FALSE, BUT IS NECESSARY FOR A HEALTHY CHURCH AND A THRIVING SOCIETY, as God’s ways require both YET SO MUCH CONSERVATIVE RIGHT-WING CHRISTIANS OBSERVE SO LITTLE SOCIAL JUSTICE OR PERSONAL MORALITY. Given the remarkably easy target of false prosperity gospels and shallow entertainment and a lack of biblical literacy, THESE ARE NOT EASY TARGETS, THEY ARE WORTHWHILE SUBJECTS OF CONTEMPORARY STUDY, PITFALLS OF MODERN CHRISTIANITY AND SHOULD BE POINTED OUT SO THEY CAN BE CORRECTED, THE BETTER TO STRENGTHEN THE RELIGION OVERALL this book manages to miss its target by practicing what it claims to condemn AGAIN, THIS IS INCORRECT — SO MUCH OF THIS REVIEW TURNS ON THE IDEA OF THIS HYPOCRISY, WHICH SIMPLY IS NOT THERE AND WE CAREFULLY POINT THIS OUT AND I AM INCLUDING THESE BELOW merely from the opposite partisan perspective. Truthfully, the Gospel of Christ does not need such false friends as these authors TO MAKE THIS CLAIM IS PATENTLY OFFENSIVE. MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHRIST, AND I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR MYSELF, IS DEEP AND PROFOUND AND HAS INSPIRED COUNTLESS HOURS OF STUDY, REFLECTION, DISCUSSION AND RESEARCH, A LIFE-ALTERING RELATIONSHIP. MY DEDICATION IS BEYOND THE MEASURE OF THIS CLEARLY EMOTIONAL RANT OR THE PRESUMPTIONS OF ITS AUTHOR and others of their ilk. Thus, this book stands as a mercifully short THIS POINT IS, LIKE OTHERS, MADE SEVERAL TIMES, AND DOESN’T GET ANY MORE EFFECTIVE WITH THE REPETITION but representative example of a book whose criticisms are just, but also point squarely at the authors as well, and negate the value of their putative and self-serving conclusions. ANOTHER RAMBLING AND INCOMPLETE SENTENCE In the end, this book gets it half right, making valid criticisms against a false form of Christianity but failing to present a genuine apostolic Christianity THAT IS NOT THE FUNCTION OR THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BOOK that combines love and concern for others WHERE ON EARTH DOES THIS PART OF THE ASSERTION COME FROM? with the ethical demands of biblical righteous conduct ONCE AGAIN, THE BIBLICAL REFERENCES ARE NUMEROUS AND ACCURATE.
NO REASON TO CAP WHAT FOLLOWS, AS IT IS SEPARATE FROM YOUR ORIGINAL TEXT
From our book, page 10: I’m no megachurch celebrity pastor (or a pastor of any sort) … I don’t have any superstructure organization to promote … I’m a Christian. I’m a thinking Christian and I’m a concerned Christian, with a lifetime of church experience and particular insight into the megachurch experience which reveals its weaknesses even as it allows the megachurch’s strengths; in fact, they are one and the same (as we shall
From our book, pages 18/19:
Christianity has three main qualifiers:
• Spiritual / scriptural compromise
• Use of consumerist principles / techniques with the goal of increasing membership
Replacing God with man as the point of focus
From our book, page 94: And things get even more complicated when you’re not buying merely some romance book, but what is meant to be a serious theological discussion by one of the popular megachurch author / pastors: You’re being sold a book which has associations with an organization (unlike this book, which is unaffiliated with any particular church or organization). That organization is selling you its message, and that’s not what a church is meant to do. A church gives its messages away for free.
While you may think our book represents a spiritual compromise, you cannot ignore the fact that we have no goal of increasing membership to any church, which is the second qualifier for consumer Christianity. Also, because we are writing a book about the practices of man, it is perfectly right to put man centrally as the focus of attention in this book. Our book does not pretend to be a religion, but a study of modern religious practice and ethics, along with a historical and theological background.
From our book, page 174:
Throughout this book, it has been our practice to show both sides of a given argument. So what do opponents of progressive Christianity have to say? According to Got Questions Ministries CEO S. Michael Houdmann and published on that organization’s website, gotquestions.org:
These are three separate mentions of the fact that our book is independent of any church or sect, and since it is not intended to increase the size of any particular congregation or sell any particular church creed, IT IS NOT CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY. And, as the excerpt from page 174 demonstrates, great care went in to representing dissenting points of view, as any good scholarly study should do. To claim that our book has an agenda is to deny the extensive page time we’ve given to opposing points of view, just as to claim that we have committed consumer Christianity when we plainly have not renders your review impotent. It also reflects in your read either a deliberate selectivity of retention or a general willingness to ignore the facts as they are so clearly stated in favor of supporting your pre-existing bias. If you want to post that on your blog, it is your right. However, posting the review on Amazon when it so sharply contrasts with the actual nature of the book, is an abuse of your right to review the book and post that review. I think now that you’ve seen the error of your ways that you will pull the review from amazon, or at least amend it to reflect a newer, wider understanding of what we have actually done, as opposed to what you’d like to present us as having done. In point of fact, you have intimated that we reveal some kind of prejudice against the Amish. Not only is this not supported by the text, it may damage our professional credibility. Since it does that wrongfully, and you have knowingly misrepresented us, and that may result in our inability to generate income, we may have to consider legal action if we are not appeased. We’re sending a copy of this letter to amazon in regards to the veracity of your review.
Yours in Christ,
[Note: The ending is pure charity.]