Nonfiction Review: Love Wins

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever LivedLove Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this at a time when I was having a struggle with organized religion. My faith and the so-called “Christian values” did not seem to align. I was increasingly troubled by the incongruent philosophies espoused by the religious right (e.g. pro-war, anti-climate change, ultra-capitalistic rhetoric). Love Wins is an eye-opening, if not downright shocking, reframing of what heaven and hell might be.

Best take away for me is that God is a constant redeemer, making it possible for you to be forgiven and forgiven without end. We sometimes choose to live in a hell of our own making because we run from the grace He extends. Another takeaway: If we are too focused on the the after-life, we may actually miss out on one of God’s best gifts.

“Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the god they don’t believe in, we quickly discover that I don’t believe in that god either.”

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teaching my kids not to be thankful for jesus’ death

the gruesome and brutal death of an innocent man is something we’d never dream to talk about with or show our children beyond the context of religion. it’s unthinkable that we’d wear an electric chair around our neck or use that as an emblem of our faith, but that’s exactly what we’ve reduced the cross to. we’ve made it not only palatable, but of no visceral consequence. those gruesome realities have been neutered in our christian culture and reduced to clichés that we teach children who have no capacity to understand those things.

teaching my kids not to be thankful for jesus’ death

The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails

As a subscriber to the Obama campaign emails and a rhetorician, I find this immensely fascinating.

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.

The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails

Joplin

Over the weekend, I drove up to Joplin to see my parents. I chose a different exit this time, deliberately choosing the path through where the tornado had made its mark this time last year. The hospital still looks like something out of 1980s Beirut.

My family was very lucky last year, their homes untouched. Still, they can tell some horrible stories. Driving through it again this weekend and seeing signs of new life, new development was encouraging and still heartbreaking.

It’s hard to believe how different the landscape is now. My dad said that for days it was nearly impossible to get your bearings. There was a scramble to somehow label streets because it all seemed indistinguishable… same devastation, block after block. It’s still like that. I get to a certain point, and without a street sign, it’s very easy to get turned around.

You know I used to tell people that I was from Joplin, and nobody knew where that was. Now, when I say I’m from Joplin, I get the same question every time. “Family affected?” Thank God the answer is no. Ironic that a tornado figuratively put Joplin on the map while literally wiping whole sections from it.

I know, I know. It’s like tumbleweeds around here. But I’ve experienced A LOT of changes over the last few months, and it’s time I addressed them here. File this under “things I would not have predicted six months ago.”

For context, changes in relationship status are difficult to address. Especially when a 10-year-old partnership comes to a bitter end. Looking at this particular digital record of greatest hits was painful, and it was easier just to ignore it.

When things changed for the better (like they always do), and suddenly I found myself on a brand new course, I was gladly caught up in that ensuing whirlwind. Documenting it became secondary to actually living it.

See, freedom to love again is a powerful thing. It will change every little thing you do, feel, see, and believe — for the better. If it’s done right, it’s also challenging. Scary. Some have even said crazy.

At this stage in my life, I’d like to think I still have more years ahead of me than are behind me. I’m still young enough, arguably naive enough, to make bold choices some would call risks. As one of my favorite songs says, “Love’s for fools wise enough to take a chance.”

This move is not without precedent. In 1994, I moved to the Little Rock area not knowing a soul. I was 22, and I was free. Talk about best of times, worst of times. I learned something worth passing on: do things in life that scare the hell out of you. It’s character-building, and you’ll find your soul exactly when you need to.

And I decided back then that if I ever became so firmly planted in one place that I am no longer a flight risk, you might as well just bury me. I don’t want to be complacent. I don’t want to be tied down.

It’s time for me to literally and figuratively move on. So I’m selling my things, packing what’s left, and moving to Tulsa. I’m sad to leave one of the best jobs I’ve ever had with colleagues who’ve been my surrogate family. (If you’re looking for a web content job, you should explore this.) However, I deliberately chose a public relations gig at a Tulsa university because of this great network of high ed web professionals I also call friends.

Yeah, so I’m moving for love. Some have scoffed at that. To them I say this, if you’re not willing to move for love, can you be moved?

I don’t know a single reason that’s better than this one.

I started this blog for many reasons. The main one was to document important events in my life as something of an online journal. But I also wanted a forum to highlight things that are important to me as a professional: rhetoric and technology (especially as the two intersect in terms of tech-mediated communication).

Today is one of those days when I think it’s important to document an event that’s happening that may (read should) have long-term ramifications.

Gabrielle Gifford, a U.S. Representative from Arizona, was shot at a political meet & greet along with 6 others. First reports said she had died, but she did, in fact, survive.

We don’t know why she was shot, but already there is discussion about the heated political rhetoric of late that uses gun imagery and language, such as Sarah Palin’s common refrain, “Don’t retreat, reload.”

In fact, Palin’s own PAC had this image up on their website today, but was soon removed.

Here’s the thing: it may not be fair to blame Palin and other Tea Party / right-wing extremists for this shooting. But words do matter. Rhetoric does have far-reaching implications. There is a responsibility for inciting violence in this way, and we need to consider how all of us should be accountable. I don’t think you can judge an action independently of the words behind it.

I’m a tennis junkie. While the U.S. Open is my favorite, I enjoy watching all of the slams, and today was the men’s final at the French Open. I was not surprised to see Nadal win; after all, it’s his best surface.

For the women, it was a different story: Sam Stosur vs Francesca Schiavone. Stosur had done all of the heavy lifting getting to the final, beating out the likes of Jankovic and Henin. She was favored to win it all. But what she didn’t count on was Schiavone’s distinct belief in herself. The odds were in Stosur’s favor, yet Schiavone believed.

Earlier in the tournament, I was watching some commentary by Mary Carillo on what’s wrong with the women’s game these days: It’s all about the serve, and if you ain’t got it, you can’t win it. There’s no strategy or technique, the fundamentals are scarce.

Then you have someone like Serena Williams, who undoubtedly has one of the biggest service games on the tour. But she doesn’t rely on it as the only weapon in her arsenal. By far, her greatest strength (and physical strength is a given) is her constant belief in her own abilities. Yes, sometimes she aggravates the hell out of me with what could be interpreted as arrogance. I don’t even like her sportsmanship, especially when she has verbally obliterated linespeople. She’s insisted that she’s the true number one on the tour when the ranking has been earned by someone else. Her character is indeed flawed.

And yet, she has this unwavering belief in her abilities that is intimidating and awe-inspiring at the same time. She can psych the opponent out by one sideways glance. She exudes confidence, and you just don’t question it. Even when she’s losing at match point, in her eyes, it is evident. She still believes.

What can we take from this? People talk in terms of “confidence.” Confidence, to me, is the external projection of what I truly believe on the inside. Sometimes what I believe to be true is accurate, and sometimes my own disbelief has cost me. What you believe about yourself has a direct correlation to what others believe about you. People can believe in you even when you don’t, and that’s great, but it’s short-lived. When you possess the kind of belief that cannot be shaken or moved, it promotes a kind of trajectory, an internal movement. It’s palpable and inspirational and creates enthusiasm in others.

I’m in a search for this kind of belief in myself. It’s not just a confidence thing, it’s what feeds it. I think it’s common for women to question themselves and seek validation– people-pleasing behavior. So, I’m going to actively shut that off and focus on what I know from my own legitimate experiences, education, and training. Not arrogance, not even confidence, I’m just going to believe. And soon you’ll believe me too.

There’s really nothing to say at this point about what’s happening in the Gulf Coast. The images capture it all.

I’m always interested in how companies communicate in a crisis. While initially BP seemed to take ownership of the spill and the continued leakage and used words like “transparent” and “responsible,” they also shifted blame to the oil rig operators themselves, some of whom died. Not the best tactic and probably a fundamental reason that the CEO didn’t do many interviews after this one on May 3.

British Tony was a flop, and it appears that he was soon replaced by a new spokesperson, an American, COO Doug Suttles. In fact, on the Today Show just yesterday, Matt Lauer brought up a quote by Hayward in which he describes the environmental impact to be “very, very modest” and asks Suttles if he stands by Hayward’s depiction. Suttles, while clearly wanting to defend Hayward, is forced to admit that the damage is, and will be, significant.

The problem really comes down to what agencies call “acceptable risks.” At some point, it was decided that an explosion and spill such as this could very well happen but that there was either a low probability for occurrence or that the costs would be relatively insignificant (compared to the benefit of such operation) . Whatever calculations were made for this scenario, there was a breakdown in the communication or simply a blatant disregard to living things. Choose one or both, and it’s still a failure.

Let’s face it, no matter what the investigation finds, the recovery to an already devastated community still reeling from Hurricane Katrina will take decades. Good PR and rhetoric cannot overcome that.