Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 - A Summer of Books and Arrowheads

Well, my second novel, THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE,  has been released, and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to get out this summer and meet people to sell books!  Now that school is done, I have a schedule for the summer lined out.  I'll be speaking to civic groups, attending artifact shows across Texas, and doing book signings at various stores.  Here is my upcoming schedule:

SLIGHT ADJUSTMENT: My speaking date for the Greenville Daybreak Rotary Club has been moved to July 2, 2015, at 7:30 AM.

June 6, 2015 - World Premiere Book Signing at the Greenville Hastings Book and Movie store, from 1 to 5 PM..
June 11, 2015 - I'll be speaking the Christian Businessman's Fellowship at the Buffet Palace Restaurant in Greenville, TX around 6:30.
June 13, 2015 - I'll be exhibiting artifacts and selling books at the Genuine Indian Relic Society artifact show in Temple, TX all day long!
June 20, 2015 - I'll be signing books at the Hastings Store in Waco, TX from 1 to 5.
July 11, 2015 - Book Signing Event at Half Price Books, Rockwall, TX from 1 to 5.
July 25, 2015 - I will be exhibiting artifacts and selling books at the Surface Hunters of Texas Indian Artifact Show in Lone Oak, TX from 9 to 3.

  Special note to all my friends at Greenville Christian School - as soon as I get my 100 pre-ordered copies in, I will send out an Email blast and do a preview signing in my classroom at GCS one afternoon, probably later this week.  I will also make sure to have copies of my first book, THE TESTIMONIUM, on hand for all those who haven't read it yet.

I'll post other dates as I schedule them, but right now it's looking like a crazy busy summer!  I'll see you out and about!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I Get This Question A LOT . . . so here's the answer!

Q:  Wait a minute!  Your new book is called "The Redemption of Pontius Pilate." Does that mean that Pilate was actually saved?

A:  First of all, I would like to point out that this book is a novel - a work of fiction.  The fact is, no one knows exactly what happened to Pontius Pilate.  There are three traditions that are preserved about his fate - one says that Pilate slowly went mad after the trial of Jesus; washing his hands over and over again and mumbling "The blood . . . the blood."  Another says that Pilate committed suicide because he had been recalled to Rome for incompetence and did not want to face the wrath of Tiberius Caesar.  The last tradition, preserved in the Eastern Orthodox Church, says that Pilate became a believer and was martyred for his faith.  All three of these traditions originated about 200 years after the New Testament era, so there is no way of knowing how accurate they might be. 
    Pontius Pilate is an enigmatic character.  There are only a few contemporary sources of historical information about him: the four New Testament Gospels, and the works of two Jewish historians: Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria.  All those accounts focus strictly on his ten year stint as Prefect (Governor) of Judea.  There is no reliable information about what he did before his posting to Judea or what happened to him afterward, and the sources are wildly split on what kind of man he was: the Gospels present him as a relatively decent, if harsh, man who tried to render a just verdict but was frustrated by local resistance; while the two Jewish sources portray him as a cruel, corrupt, and incompetent governor who was vicious and oppressive in his treatment of the Jews.
   For the sake of my story, I assumed that all the sources were basically correct in their records of Pilate's actions.  It was in deciding on his motivation for those actions, as well as furnishing a backstory of his early life, and describing his final fate, that I used some artistic license - although I wove his life in very closely with that of the Emperors of Rome he served under, especially the reclusive and bitter Tiberius Caesar. Most of the events I describe in Rome and Germania, before Pilate was sent to Judea, really happened. I could not help but think that presiding over the trial of Jesus was a life-changing event for Pilate, and tried to imagine how that might have played out in his last years. In the process, I hope I wrote a good story, and one that answers the question that I posed on the book's back cover: "Is any man too lost to be saved?"

   THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE will be released on Tuesday, May 19 and will be available from my publisher,, as well as on and  I have my first official signing scheduled at Hastings bookstore in Greenville on June 6, 2015.

PS If you buy directly from my publisher I get more money! (just sayin')

Monday, May 11, 2015

Terrorism Comes to Texas . . . But Was It Provoked?

    As most of you know, last week in Garland, TX, a self-proclaimed "Free Speech Event" was interrupted by gunfire.  Two jihadists from Arizona, Eldon Simpson and Nadir Soofi, drove all the way across New Mexico and Texas to this quiet suburb of Dallas about an hour from my home. Once they arrived, they got out of their car shooting, trying to get to the event that had drawn their ire and kill as many participants as possible.  But, this is Texas, and the event had heavy security in place.  Despite their body armor and assault rifles, the would-be terrorists were shot dead almost instantly, after injuring only one security guard.  The attendees at the event were oblivious to the attack until after both terrorists lay dead.
   So what was this event that was so inflammatory that these two men drove hundreds of miles determined to kill those who were attending it?  It was an art contest,  sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which challenged participants to draw the best possible cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.  Depicting Muhammad is a blatant sacrilege to all Muslims, one of the most offensive things imaginable.  In Europe, cartoonists have been killed for such depictions, most recently in Paris at the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo."  This raises an interesting question: Was this event an example of "hate speech"?  And if so, should such exhibitions, clearly designed to offend, be illegal?
   One of my friends thinks they should.  Or, as he put it, the event's organizer should "bear some legal responsibility." The logic is simple: This event was clearly designed to offend Muslims, and two Muslims were offended enough that they were ready to kill everyone there. Now they are dead, and the event organizer should be held to blame, at least to some extent.
   Here is the paradox:  I agree that the event was designed to offend.  But, at the same time, I am against ANY restriction on free speech.  To make it illegal for anyone to defame the Muslim's Prophet is to basically proclaim that Muslims cannot be expected to endure offensive speech without acting out violently.  In short, it would label every Muslim a potential terrorist.
   There are tens of thousands of Muslims, many of them very devout, who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  Not one of them tried to shoot up this meeting.
  My friend, a former Christian, tried to put it this way:  "Say someone put up a billboard of Jesus [I won't repeat his description of the offensive depiction save to say it involved a sex act during the crucifixion] outside a church here in the South.  You and I both know someone would probably get a gun and go after the artist!"
   Really?  In the 1990's the National Endowment for the Arts repeatedly funded "artworks" that were clearly designed to offend Christians.  One featured a crucifix submerged in a jar of human urine.  The play "Corpus Christi" depicts Jesus and his disciples as promiscuous homosexuals.  The artist and the playwright in question are both still alive and kicking, probably still receiving government grants.  The musical "the Book of Mormon" has won multiple awards and drawn huge crowds by bashing Mormonism for two hours straight.  How did the LDS church respond? By taking out an ad in the program that says: "You've seen the play, now READ THE BOOK!"  They haven't shot up a single theater.   Also, this event wasn't held at or near a mosque, so the comparison is not exactly apples to apples to begin with.
  But even if it was, the fact is that, free speech is and SHOULD BE just that.  Free.  Freedom of expression means some people will do things you do not like - things that are grossly offensive to you.  Labeling things as "hate speech" and then trying to criminalize them jeopardizes the liberty of EVERY American citizen.  As the Supreme Court has pointed out in multiple rulings, popular speech doesn't NEED constitutional protection, because it's, well, popular.  Unless the most vile and hateful forms of expression can be freely uttered, then we no longer have free speech in this country.
  I wouldn't go to this kind of event, nor would I support it.  I have no desire to deliberately offend another person's faith, any more than I wish to see mine offended.  But I support the freedom of offensive people to be offensive, because that is the very nature of freedom of expression.  Most American Muslims understand that, and simply ignore things like the Muhammad Cartoon Contest. Those who can't should, perhaps, emigrate to the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia.  Or perhaps to the latest stronghold of Islamist paranoia, ISIS.  There is no freedom of speech in those places.

Or freedom of religion.  Or the press. Or women's rights.  Or gay rights.  Or rights for anyone who does not ascribe to their fundamentalist view of the Quran.

Do we really want American to move in that direction?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

On Race, Baltimore, and Riots in General . . . .

  Like many Americans, I was shocked and horrified by the images coming out of Baltimore this past week.  Unfortunately, such sights are much more commonplace than they were even a decade ago.  Instead of helping to heal America's deep racial divide, the election of our first African-American President has made that divide worse than ever.  This is neither the time nor the place for me to go into my own vast political differences with our President, but suffice it to say that, in my opinion at least, when he should be pouring water on the fire, he always manages to mix a cup or two of gasoline in with it.

    I'm a middle aged white guy.  I am a sixth generation Texan and a tenth generation Southerner, and yes, I am a descendant of slaveowners.  My grandfather was born far enough back he could actually remember the family's former slaves coming by to visit on occasion.  All that being said, I despise racism.  While all my ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy, I do not share the fondness that many in conservative circles have developed in recent years for the Confederate flag.  It horrifies me that so many in the South proudly proclaim their membership in the Party of Lincoln while wearing the flag of the rebellion on their ballcaps.  The Civil War was first and foremost a war over slavery - Southern states were determined to spread it everywhere, the North was equally determined to quarantine it in the South where "the public mind could rest in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction," as Lincoln so eloquently put it. 

    What's my point in sharing that?  I want it to be perfectly clear that "I get it"!  African Americans have a legitimate historical grievance with white society.  If racism and discrimination had ended with slavery, it might be a different story. But everyone who has studied history to any degree realizes that, after two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil were ended by the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, and citizenship and equal rights were guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified in 1868, in case you didn't know that!), Southern states simply waited until the boys in the blue coats went home and established a system of legalized discrimination that was, in some ways, even worse than slavery.  The "color line" in the South was deeply cut between black and white, and any black man who stepped across it did so at the risk of his life.  So acceptable was racism that it spread through many of the Northern states as well, although legally enforced segregation was largely a Southern tradition.

   But 70 years ago, after the end of World War II, things began to change.  Court cases and constitutional amendments swept aside all legal forms of racial discrimination, and blacks and whites began attending the same schools in the same classrooms.  By the 1980's overt, spoken racism was becoming rare, today it is almost never encountered and universally scorned when it is brought to light.  Today's black youths will never encounter a sign hanging over a movie theater or a restroom that says "Whites Only."  They have more scholarship opportunities and government assistance than their grandfathers ever dreamed of.

   So what has happened?  Why is there burning and looting in black neighborhoods across America? First of all, police shootings happen.  Sometimes a cop, making a split second decision about his own safety, will kill an unarmed person.  If that person is white, it never becomes more than a local news story.  But if that person is black, all hell breaks loose.  Is police brutality a problem in America?  In some communities, it certainly is.  Baltimore may well be such a community, if some of the stories I am seeing in the media are accurate.  If the policemen who have been charged in the Freddie Ray case are guilty, I hope they all go to jail.

   But police brutality is only one side of the coin.  The sad fact of the matter is that, in many urban black communities, there is a seething rage at all forms of authority.  It takes many forms - from music and entertainment that celebrate crime and violence and the degradation of women, to the culture of gang activity, drug dealing, and wholesale theft.  Pundits can attribute it to many causes, and they do - the breakdown of the African-American family (80% of urban black youth are born out of wedlock), anger at the lack of opportunities in their lives, resentment of white supremacy, anger at supposedly racist police, lack of positive male role models, rap music, the list goes on and on and on.
   It doesn't matter what the cause is.  When any ethnic group - white, black, Latino, or Asian - resorts to wholesale vandalism, looting, violence, and mayhem, they rob their cause of its credibility.  I heard a local politician from Baltimore - a charming African American lady - say that "lack of investment" in the black community there is the root cause of the explosion of violence.  Really?  What businessman in his right mind would build a drugstore in a neighborhood that just looted and burned the previous one?  The sad thing is, the rioters in Baltimore were destroying their own neighborhoods, their own businesses, their own homes, and blaming the cops for all their problems the whole time.

   The racial divide in America has been here my whole life and is not going away anytime soon.  Much of it may be the fault of white oppression, but as long as people of color continue to use the culture of victimhood to justify hooliganism, nothing is going to change. Every cop in America could be armed with a water pistol, and black youths would still be shooting each other.  It is time for both sides on the racial divide to step up, acknowledge their faults, and do better by one another - but most of all, they need to do better by their own children.

   And that's all I've got to say about that.