Tag Archives: Wisdom

John 3:16 Guy – Part 3

rainbowmanFrom http://www.straightdope.com

Recently on your America Online site you posted your old column about Rock’n Rollen Stewart, the guy who used to hold up those “John 3:16” signs at sports events. You may be interested to know that Stewart is now serving a life sentence in jail.

Name withheld, via AOL

 Cecil replies:

Yipes. I lost track of Rollen after talking to him in 1987. At the time he struck me, and I’d say most people, as a harmless if obsessed flake. Shows how wrong you can be. A few years later Stewart went completely off his nut, staged a series of bombings, and wound up in prison after a bizarre kidnapping stunt. The whole story is told in The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, a new documentary by San Francisco filmmaker Sam Green. If you doubt that too much TV is bad for you, you won’t after seeing this flick.

Stewart’s problems started during his childhood in Spokane, Washington. His parents were alcoholics. His father died when Rollen was seven. His mother was killed in a house fire when he was 15. That same year his sister was strangled by her boyfriend. A shy kid, Rollen got into drag racing in high school, married his first love, and opened a speed shop. But his wife soon left him. Crushed, he sold the shop and moved to a mountain ranch where he became a marijuana farmer, tried to grow the world’s longest mustache, and watched a lot of TV.

In 1976, looking for a way to make his mark, Rollen conceived the idea of becoming famous by constantly popping up in the background of televised sporting events. Wearing a multicolored Afro wig (hence the nickname “Rainbow Man”), he’d carry a battery-powered TV to keep track of the cameras, wait for his moment, then jump into the frame, grinning and giving the thumbs-up. Rollen figured he’d be able to parlay his underground (OK, background) celebrity into a few lucrative TV gigs and retire rich. But except for one Budweiser commercial, it didn’t happen.

Feeling depressed after the 1980 Super Bowl, he began watching a preacher on the TV in his hotel room and found Jesus. He began showing up at TV events wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Jesus Saves”-type slogans and various Bible citations, most frequently John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” etc.). Later accompanied by his wife, a fellow Christian he married in the mid-80s, he spent all his time traveling to sports events around the country, lived in his car, and subsisted on savings and donations. He guesses he was seen at more than a thousand events all told.

This brings us to the late 80s. By now Rollen had gotten his 15 minutes of fame and was the target of increasing harassment by TV and stadium officials. His wife left him, saying he had choked her because she held up a sign in the wrong location. His car was totaled by a drunk driver, his money ran out, and he wound up homeless in LA. Increasingly convinced that the end was near, Rollen decided to create a radically different media character. He set off a string of bombs in a church, a Christian bookstore, a newspaper office, and several other locations. Meanwhile he sent out apocalyptic letters that included a hit list of preachers, signing the letters “the Antichrist.” Rollen says he wanted to call attention to the Christian message, and while this may seem like a sick way to go about it, it wasn’t much weirder than waving signs in the end zone at football games. In any case, no one was hurt in the bombings, which mostly involved stink bombs.

On September 22, 1992, believing the Rapture was only six days away and having prepared himself by watching TV for 18 hours a day, Stewart began his last “presentation.” Posing as a contractor, he picked up two day laborers in downtown LA, then drove to an airport hotel. Taking the men up to a room, he unexpectedly walked in on a chambermaid. In the confusion that followed he drew a gun, the two men escaped, and the maid locked herself in the bathroom. The police surrounded the joint, and Rollen demanded a three-hour press conference, hoping to make his last national splash. He didn’t get it. After a nine-hour siege the cops threw in a concussion grenade, kicked down the door, and dragged him away.

About to be given three life sentences for kidnapping, Rollen threw a tantrum in the courtroom and now blames everything on a society that’s “bigoted toward Jesus Christ.” A cop who negotiated with him by phone during the hotel standoff had a better take on it: “With all due respect, maybe you look at a little bit too much TV.” For info on the Rainbow Man documentary, write Sam Green, 2437 Peralta St., suite C, Oakland, CA 94607.

Cecil Adams.

These words come straight from his website at http://www.straightdope.com










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1-2013 PlatoI love to argue.

There are different types and motivations involved in arguing. Giving attention to the latter is prone to be more effective at achieveing a healthy practice of it.

Here are several motivations:

You want to win.

You want to stand up your ground (usually these are counterpoints.)

You want to get to the truth.

The last one should always be the end goal. It may not always be achievable, but at least you have your best shot with desire for truth as a starting point.

We can argue about lots of things, objective and subjective:

Is there a God?

Is blue the best color to paint the house?

Do you love me?

Was Dick Butkus was a better linebacker than Lawrence Taylor?

Is less government better?

Does light travel in waves or particles?

Truth of course, as Pilate brought to our attention is often a dicey thing, but I am not talking here about any specific truths, or in fact how to define truth, but demanding that if we have any shot at getting there through argument, then getting there must be our motivation.

Let me use a legal trial as an example. Are the opposing lawyers trying to establish whether in fact the accused is guilty or innocent? Or are they trying to win? Most of us would say the latter. But is that the best way of getting to the truth? No.

Often because of our insecurities or stubbornness, we simply try to win our case. That will always stifle a dialogue which is a necessary tool for growth.

Listen to the other side with an open mind.

You’re An Ass If…

hA local radio station has a semi-comedic segment called “You’re An Ass If…” during which both the callers and hosts bring up observations or interactions with others that leave them with the above impression. Usually it’s a pretty clear infraction such as cutting in line, or parking in a handicap parking space in which the offender should clearly know better. Sometimes it’s gratifying to hear others confirm feelings I have while other times I get to see offenses in a context I am not normally exposed to, but can immediately understand. It’s fun to vent.

Some of the things that strike me are:

Hogging a station in the weight room.

Making a lot of noise outside an apartment window at a late hour.

Driving slowly in the fast lane.

We need to ask of ourselves if  “You’re An Ass If…” can be said of us, especially if the phrase can be expanded to “You’re A Christian Ass If…” meaning we are coming across as an ass while being immediately identified as a Christian. Because then the two unfortunately become joined.

A Lesson In Shrewdness

There is a walkway at the prison that most call the slab. It’s a quarter mile long, twenty-foot wide strip of concrete that runs down the center of the unit. All of the inmate movement happens there, whether going to chow, back to their blocks, or to the chapel.

My friends and I have to walk the length of the slab every visit to the prison, because the chapel is at the farthest end of the unit from the entrance gates. In the Texas summer, the slab gets so hot that many say you could fry an egg there, although I have tried to fry an egg on Texas concrete, and it didn’t work.

One of our first visits to the prison had us walking down the slab to the chapel. Along the way we walked past two inmates who were going the opposite direction (we always walk down the center of the slab, while the offenders have to walk within two narrow yellow lines on the edges.)

Halfway to the chapel, two inmates passed and one asked, “Where can I get a Bible? Can you get us a Bible?”

I was heartened—this was the whole point I was there, and I was getting requests for Bibles.

I went to the bookstore and bought two Bibles. The next week I took them into the prison, but couldn’t find the offenders, so they went undelivered.

Shortly afterwards, in a meeting with a new warden, we were instructed not to give anything to the inmates. I brought up to him the opportunity I had run into to get two inmates a Bible.

His response made an impression on me. “They don’t want a Bible,” he said. “They want to see what they can get out of you. One week it will be a Bible, the next week a pen, and so on. If they want a Bible, I can get them a Bible. I have a thousand Bibles in that closet over there.”

I learned that prisons are inundated with religious material, (which can actually cause a problem because it just piles up.)

I got the message that even as I was reaching out, I was being used. And perhaps the cause of Christ was being used.

I suppose we do have to be shrewd to make our ministry more effective


There have always been scriptures that have been curious to me. One occurs just before Jesus sends his disciples out into the world for the first time.

“Be as shrewd as serpents, and as innocent as doves,” he instructs.

Shrewd sticks out to me with a Jesus who was all about love and sacrifice.

Some suggest that the word can mean prudent or wise, and I suppose there is something to that. But most translations use the word shrewd.

Shrewd is a harsh word. It gives me a sense of mistrust and suspicion. Clever. Conniving.

I’m not sure if the word shrew comes from the same word; I am too lazy to look into it, but it seems to fit. Shakespeare’s Shrew was a woman who was a complaining, harassing nag, probably named after the small venomous rat-like animal.

So I suppose that like his disciples, I am supposed to be shrewd too. Don’t know that I want to be shrewd. I want to be caring and loving and sacrificing. That’s what they taught me in Sunday school.