“Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love” is an absorbing introspective account of a controversial life

During a time when there has been unprecedented concern about the support of religious leaders for political figures, a timely new memoir appears from one of America’s most influential religious leaders and a spiritual counselor to some of the country’s high-profile policymakers. Rob Schenck has spent decades in the spotlight at the epicenter of faith and politics, but several years ago, he stepped back to assess the spiritual cost of his involvement in politics. Long a polarizing figure revered and reviled in equal measure, this man of God has an indisputably compelling story to tell with a special message for our troubled times.

In his timely new memoir, Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love (Harper, $26.99), Schenck recounts his three conversions, from nominal Judaism to right-wing Christianity to pro-gun control activism sparked by a return to the fundamental tenets of the gospel. This deeply introspective account offers a revealing glimpse of a remarkable life and a highly controversial career, while also providing an invaluable lens through which to view the phenomenon of evangelical support for Donald Trump and his presidency.

Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister's Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love

Along with his twin brother, Schenck converted from Judaism to Christianity as a teenager in the ’70s. Public ministry became his passion and his purpose. In the ’80s, he helped shape and lead the national anti-abortion movement Operation Rescue and emerged as an aggressive presence on the front lines of the anti-abortion crusade, resulting in numerous arrests and a stint in jail. Later he helped then Chief Justice of Alabama Roy Moore install a monument of the Ten Commandments in the state’s judicial building and did jail time defending it against a court-ordered removal. He enjoyed a swift rise to national political prominence. The ambitious outsider quickly became a powerful fixture embedded in the GOP establishment, serving as advisor and minister to the D.C. elite in what was a heady and personally gratifying trajectory.

Yet, despite fulfilling his dream of shaping the conservative agenda in significant ways, Schenck experienced a profound spiritual crisis several years ago. His participation in a documentary about evangelical attitudes towards guns and lethal self-defense—as well as his immersion in the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a World War II-era German pastor and Nazi resister—instigated a dramatic and often painful reckoning with his conscience, resulting in his most radical transformation of all. Taking responsibility for his part in allowing the sacred to be coopted by the secular and for veering from the humble and biblical path, he recommitted fully to Jesus’ teachings. His mission now, undertaken with an open heart and a contemplative mind: to liberate the evangelical community from the oppression of a politicized gospel, and to urge Washington conservatives to forsake the politics of hate, fear, and violence.

Image result for rob schenck

With candor and unflinching self-scrutiny, Schenck opens up about a range of incendiary topics including:

  • His perspective on the NRA, the Second Amendment, and the specific measures he advocates in his calls for stricter gun control;
  • Where he stands on the issue of abortion rights today;
  • Why he did not vote for Donald Trump and his take on the 45th president;
  • His current attitude about those he has condemned in the past, from women seeking abortions to Democrats to LGBTQ people;
  • How his beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have taken a uniquely principled perspective—in sur­prising ways.

As he reflects on his extraordinary journey—from his early commitment to God to his ego-driven deviation from his values to his redemptive reclamation of the gospel’s core principles—the Rob Schenck illuminated in these pages is very human, universally relatable, and altogether inspirational.

“Truth or Dare”: Tell the truth, would you dare to watch the flick?

Truth or dare: Would you do this . . .
Eight college friends head to a “Haunted Rental” in a remote town for Halloween weekend. There, they play the game rumored to have caused the deaths of seven teenagers decades earlier, Truth or Dare. And what starts out as vodka-induced fun, quickly turns serious when the dares become sickeningly dangerous and the truths threaten to tear the group apart. When players attempt to refuse the increasingly challenging tasks, they’re met with deadly consequences, quickly discovering: You must do the dare, or the dare does you.

From the producers of the 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave and the Relentless series comes this chilling thriller directed by Nick Simon, which originally aired on Syfy. With an ensemble cast featuring Cassie Scerbo, Luke Baines and Mason Dye, along with a cameo from Nightmare on Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp, audiences may never play Truth or Dare again.

Save the date of September 4 for the DVD release from Cinedigm.

Get ready for school . . . and a new class of horror film

School starts.
And horror comes to campus in The Row, a modern take on the classic slasher film. The anxiety of rush week turns into sheer terror when sisters of a sorority are slain—and turned into dolls—by a serial killer.

New pledge Riley (played by Lala Kent) and her best friend, Becks (Mia Frampton), must endure late-night hazing rituals as the murderer watches and waits. Can Riley uncover the terrible secret shared by her cop father (Randy Couture) and deceased mother, a former Phi Lambda sister, before becoming a victim herself?
The Row will be available from Lionsgate on Blu-ray and DVD on September 25.

“Frontline: UN Sex Abuse Scandal” shocks as it tells troubling truth

Over the past 15 years, the United Nations has recorded more than 1,700 allegations of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers in conflict zones around the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kosovo, and from East Timor to Haiti.
Frontline: UN Sex Abuse Scandal investigates how and why the problem of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers has persisted despite the UN’s efforts to stamp it out . . . and why the UN has a record of only 53 uniformed peacekeepers and one international civilian peacekeeper being sent to prison for sexual offenses.

Correspondent Ramita Navai and the film team track down survivors across the globe who were as young as 10 years old when they say they were raped or exploited by UN peacekeepers who were supposed to protect them. The team also finds and interviews Didier Bourguet, the only civilian peacekeeper to have been jailed for sexual abuse while working abroad for the UN. He was imprisoned for two rapes,  but tells Frontline on-camera that he had sex with 20 or 25 children while in the Congo.
Gripping and eye-opening, the program explores the failures and constraints of the UN, which has the authority to fire people, but not prosecute them, and the role of member states in dealing with the problem.

“How Fear Works” argues that one of the main drivers is unraveling of moral authority

Ever have that feeling of being “scared shitless”?
We have.
In How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century (Bloomsbury Continuum, $28), Frank Furedi argues that one of the main drivers of the culture of fear is unraveling of moral authority. Fear appears to provide a provisional solution to moral uncertainty and is for that reason embraced by a variety of interests, parties, and individuals. Furedi predicts that until society finds a more positive orientation towards uncertainty the politicization of fear will flourish.
This is a really good read.

Fear has become a problem in its own right to the extent that people now use the term “culture of fear” as an everyday idiom. It has become detached from its material and physical source and experienced as a secular version of a transcendental force. It has become a “Perspective” accepted throughout society. Furedi claims that this perspective has acquired a dominant status because in contrast to other options it appears to be singularly effective in influencing people’s behavior.
Society is trained to believe that the threats it faces are incalculable and cannot be controlled or regulated. The acceptance of this outlook has been paralleled by the cultivation of helplessness and passivity—all this has resulted in a redefinition of personhood. As a consequence, we are constantly searching for new forms of security, both physical and ontological. What is the role of the media in promoting fear and who benefits from this culture of fear? These are some of the issues Furedi tackles and much more.

“American Masters: Basquiat: Rage to Riches” details the life ans creativity of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Another artistic adventure from PBS: American Masters: Basquiat: Rage to Riches.
Directed and produced by David Shulman, this program tells the story of Jean-Michel Basquiat like never before. One of the most influential American artists of the 20th century, Basquiat was a rock star of the early ’80s New York art scene. He lived fast, died young and created thousands of drawings and paintings. It took less than a decade for Basquiat, an accountant’s son from Brooklyn, to go from anonymous graffiti writer known as SAMO to an epoch-defining art star.

American Masters: Basquiat - Rage To RichesToday, Basquiat is in the top tier of the international art market along with Picasso, de Kooning, and Francis Bacon. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Basquiat’s untimely death from a heroin overdose. In death, he has emerged as one of the most important artists of his generation and now exhibits in museums all over the world.

The program features exclusive interviews with Basquiat’s two sisters, Lisane and Jeanine, who have never before spoken about their brother and his art for a television documentary. With striking candor, art world colleagues, including dealers Bruno Bischofberger, Larry Gagosian and Mary Boone, and Basquiat’s most intimate friends, lovers and fellow artists draw a portrait of a handsome, charismatic and fragile personality – one enmeshed in a world of cash, drugs and the pernicious racism that he encountered. The main weapon Basquiat used to fight prejudice was his art. A game changer, his painting embodied and reflected breakthroughs in music, poetry and a new type of expressionism in modern art.

“American Masters: Wyeth” chronicles the soul and talent of Andrew Wyeth

September is a few weeks ago, so what way to “fall” back than with a hot new PBS DVD?
Directed by Glenn Holsten, American Masters: Wyeth tells the story of one of America’s most popular, but least understood, artists–Andrew Wyeth. Son of the famous illustrator N.C. Wyeth, Andrew had his first exhibition at age 20, and his painting Christina’s World was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. While Wyeth’s exhibitions routinely broke attendance records, art world critics continually assaulted his work.
Detailing the stunning drawings and powerful portraits he created in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and on the coast of Cushing, Maine, Wyeth explores his inspirations, including neighbor Christina Olsen and his hidden muse, the German model Helga Testorf, who he painted secretly for 15 years.

Through unprecedented access to Wyeth’s family members, including sons Jamie and Nicholas Wyeth, and never-before-seen archival materials from the family’s personal collection and hundreds of Wyeth’s studies, drawings and paintings, this documentary presents the most complete portrait of the artist yet bearing witness to a legacy just at the moment it is evolving.
The documentary will be released on Digital HD on September 8 and on DVD on September 11, 2018.
n modern art.

Any Major Dude Will Tell You Not to Miss Barney Hoskyns’ anthology of all things Steely Dan

Hear that? Those are the notes that music journalist Barney Hoskyns is hitting in his unprecedented new anthology of all things Steely Dan:  Major Dudes: A Steely Dan Companion (The Overlook Press, $27.95).

Published within a year of founding member Walter Becker’s passing, this is a first of its kind book about Steely Dan—an anthology of the most essential critical dispatches about the band—rants and raves alike, alongside a selection of highly informative profiles and interviews from the ’70s through the ’00s.

In the vein of Hoskyns’s previous book JoniI: The AnthologyMajor Dudes serves simultaneously as an accessible critical introduction to the group, a treasure trove of little-known facts (did you know that a pre-fame Becker and Fagen once recorded a B-movie soundtrack, or ghostwrote for Barbra Streisand?), and an invaluable collection of primary source documents, many of which Hoskyns has rescued from the archives of now-defunct magazines and newspapers.

Any major dude will tell you not to miss it.

“The Con Artist ” proves (again) why Fred Van Lente is funny and scary

There’s no surprise why Fred Van Lente has been called “a popular culture maven”.  He’s the No. 1 New York Times best-selling writer of comics like The Amazing Spider-ManDeadpool vs. the Punisher and Archer & Armstrong. His work has been praised as “some of the funniest material you’ll read in any format” (The Hollywood Reporter) and his debut novel, Ten Dead Comedians (Quirk, 2017), was an Amazon Best of the Month in Mystery, Thriller and Suspense.

He’s now moved on. In The Con Artist (Quirk Books, $14.99), Lente, who has worked in the comic book industry for nearly 20 years, returns with his second novel, a murder mystery set at a comic convention. Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives in San Diego expecting just another comic con, but when his romantic rival turns up dead, Mike becomes the prime suspect.

The Con Artist: A Novel

To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corner of the con, from zombie obstacle courses and cosplay flash mobs to intrusive fans and obsessive collectors, in the process unraveling a dark secret behind one of the industry’s most legendary creators.

Featuring illustrations by comics veteran Tom Fowler, and recently described as a “a fun love letter to comic book fans”, The Con Artist perfectly captures the chaotic energy of comic cons and reveals that heroes and villains aren’t just reserved for the pages and panels of our favorite graphic novel.

Kari Byron on how ‘Mythbusters’ made her a better person, a better woman

Kari Byron takes the stereotypes and stigma around being a woman on television and in science and—quite literally—blows them up. She is proof that you don’t need to wear a lab coat—or, be a guy—to geek out on science. In turning her love of art, sculpture, and special effects into a career involving explosives and hard hats, she has catapulted herself into an unexpected role as the queen of scientific stunts.

On  MythBusters, Kari and her cohorts filmed over 7,200 hours, tested over 900 myths, set off 850 explosions and used 43,500 yards of duct tape. To examine each urban legend, they applied the scientific method: question, hypothesize, experiment, analyze, and ultimately, come to conclusions. Along the way, Kari discovered that this logical process is also the perfect tool for solving everyday problems, from unsatisfying relationships to depression and debt.  In Crash Test Girl: An Unlikely Experiment in Using the Scientific Method to Answer Life’s Toughest Questions (HarperOne, $25.99), Kari reveals to readers her scientific method for investigating, growing, and making discoveries that can lead to greater wisdom, happiness and success (while having a lot of fun in the process).

Crash Test Girl: An Unlikely Experiment in Using the Scientific Method to Answer Life's Toughest QuestionsShe shares the insights and knowledge she’s gained, as well as:

  • How salary inequality at Mythbusters turned her into an advocate for equal pay
  • Why having no scientists on Mythbusters made the show better
  • How Mythbusters was a vehicle for critical thinking and how Kari uses the scientific method in her real life
  • How an inherently shy person forced herself to become a performer
  • Why to be successful, you don’t have to be right, but you do have to understand, with a scientist’s emotional detachment, why you were wrong
  • How Kari handled getting fired and what steps she took to get back on track

Crash Test Girl reminds us that science is for everyone, as long as you’re willing to strap in, put on your safety goggles, hit a few walls, and learn from the results. Using a combination of methodical experimentation and unconventional creativity, you’ll come to the most important conclusion of all: In life, sometimes you crash and burn, but you can always crash and learn.

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