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Blog Archive/January 2006

January 31, 2006

Street Preachers to Protest Super Bowl as “Heathen Anathema”

Calling themselves “Citizens Against Super Bowl Idolatry,” a group of street preachers will gather this coming Sunday outside Ford Field, home of Super Bowl XL, to remind attendees that, on this great day of celebration and excess, Detroiters, like many Americans, don’t really have a hell of a lot in their lives to celebrate.

But if you're tempted to think of their mission as a kind of "anti-Super Bowl tailgate party," they'd disagree.

"Hey, we are not party-poopers, but [the Super Bowl] has become nonsensical in view of realities,” says James Leonard Elsman, a Michigan activist Christian attorney and spokesperson for the protest, in a press release. The "realities" Elsman refers to include increases in poverty, crime, and spiritual decay in Detroit and across America.

Elsman (whose law office’s website is at says that more than 35 street preachers are expected in Detroit to warn the public about the “deeper implications of Super Bowl idolatry in American life… [and] to protest this unbalanced idolatry, with banners all around Ford Field.”

Elsman offers an 8-point objection to the world’s biggest single-day sporting event, particularly to its being held in Detroit. He writes:

1) Few Detroiters, or even Michigan citizens, will attend. This is not an ostentatious wine-and-caviar town.

2) Detroit is a failed city, with a “Bling-Bling” immature and corrupt Mayor for a poor role model, as it nears bankruptcy. Even Seattle and Pittsburgh have their own unemployment and social problems.

3) Detroit does not have a team worthy of the name–but a long record of failure under current ownership and management. What is there to celebrate?

4) The Michigan economy is at its lowest ebb in years, with the recent GM $9 Billion 2005 loss, Ford downsizing, and several companies in bankruptcy, e.g. NW Airlines, Delphi, and Kmart.

5) Everyone knows that the homeless have been hidden away in Detroit shelters for the weekend, and that false-fronts have been put on many buildings, like a "Potemkin Village" in Czarist Russia. Real phony! Over $1,000,000,000 has been spent to earn $300,000,000 for private business and not one person has been helped. You just watch the local businesses complain about their losses after Sunday. False-fronts are not Detroit!

6) Detroit is plagued with AIDS, crime, drugs, and a high school educational system that will not be world-competitive for many years, because of generational problems. The city is full of Aid-to-Dependent-Children women and abortion-on-demand –plus the suburbs as well.

7) Sunday is the Sabbath for Christian Churches, yet many have had to close or shorten their programs–for this heathen event. Super Bowl weekend
will also affect Muslim and Jewish services.

8) Porn stars like Jenna Jameson and Playboy Magazine will be hosting large parties. Prostitutes from the USA and Canada are flocking here. It is
one big bacchanal–a Roman feast to the heathen god of football, an excuse to get drunk and carouse and gamble.

In his release, Elsman continues: "Look, America is at war, and we have many social problems and an unstable economy. One thing we have always had to rescue us in tough times is the Judeo-Christian faith. Super Bowl is heathen anathema!”

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 30, 2006

Kansas’ Christian Crusader

Republican presidential candidates may not find it as easy to win the evangelical vote in 2008 as George Bush did in 2000, describing himself as born again and proclaiming Jesus to be his favorite philosopher.

Leading evangelicals, from Pat Robertson and David Barton to James Dobson, are lining up behind Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback, who, writes Jeff Sharlet, is pursuing a more radical Christian vision: “not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years—schools, Social Security, welfare—will be privatized or simply done away with. There will be no abortions: sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, women will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all.”

Check out “God’s Senator,” Jeff Sharlet’s Rolling Stone profile of Sam Brownback, here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 20, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Spammed

SoMA’s Mary Beth Crain is always cursing and throwing things over the junk email that fills her inbox, but this week she decided to channel her negative energy in a more constructive way: to vent about it in print. What bothers Mary Beth most about spam, aside from the illiteracy of so much of it, is its “blatant underlying, or overlying, message: Live your life getting something for nothing." She writes:

How many of you have received this offer? It comes from countless Dyslexian sources; I received two yesterday from “contestant anthabascan swept” and “glorious bahgdad”:

“Get credit for your work—UNIVERSITY DIPLOMAS! Obtain a prosperous future, money-earning power, and the prestige that comes with having the career position you’ve always dreamed of. Diplomas from prestigious, non-accredited universities based on your present knowledge and life experience. If you qualify, no required tests, classes, books or examinations. Bachelors, Masters, MBA’s, Doctore Ph.D. Degrees available in your field. CALL NOW TO RECIEVE (sic) YOUR DIPLOMA WITHEN (sic) TWO WEEKS!”

Let’s take this one apart. Get credit for your work by buying a diploma? Huh? Oh, I see—you don’t get credit for the work you’ve done. You buy credits for the work you haven’t done.

“Prestigious, non-accredited universities?” That’s a little like ethical corrupt politicians, or celibate pedophile priests, or selfless oil companies. Go ahead, brag that you got your degree at University of the Moving Sands, or Dickhead College, or Fooled U.

“Based on your present knowledge and life experience?” How about “Masters in Advanced Stupidity?” Or “Ph.D in Getting High?”

“If you qualify.” Now there’s a great one. What would you have to do in order not to qualify for purchasing a diploma from a prestigious non-accredited university? I can’t think of a thing, except die of an overdose.... [Read Mary Beth’s essay, “Nothing for Something,” here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 20, 2006

Jim Wallis’ “Call to Conversion”

One of the perks of becoming a national bestselling author is that publishers are suddenly interested in your previous work—the manuscript that was rejected, the book that never found the audience it deserved. So after Jim Wallis’ “God’s Politics” sat on the New York Times bestseller for months early last year, it’s no surprise his publisher has reprinted “The Call to Conversion: Why Faith Is Always Personal But Never Private,” which was originally published 25 years ago.

But this book is far more than an attempt by Harper San Francisco to cash in on Wallis’ newfound success. Revised and updated, “Call to Conversion” offers an unflinching critique of the church, across denominational lines, that’s just as relevant today as it was in 1981, if not more so. Though Christianity has strayed as far from Jesus’ basic message today as it had two decades ago, the difference is that Christians now play a far greater role in political discourse…. [Read more of “Back to the Basics,” a review of “Call to Conversion,” here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 18, 2006

Clarification (and More Questions) About Ministering to the BTK Killer

The BTK killer’s pastor did not, as yesterday’s blog reported, request permission to perform a jailhouse exorcism on Dennis Rader. Rather, Wichita pastor Michael Clark asked if he could give the serial killer communion.

If you missed the blog, the story was that Clark told a church gathering that a sheriff had denied his request to perform an exorcism on Rader, who is serving 10 life sentences for murders committed over a 13-year period. The Kansas City Star reported the exorcism story Monday, and UPI picked it up. Then the Star printed a correction yesterday. “The confusion arose during a question-and-answer period of the two-hour program at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. While an audience member’s question pertained to exorcism, Clark’s answer was more narrowly focused on his inability to bring Rader communion.”

Clark told the paper “that because he did not have the necessary training or background, he was not qualified to perform exorcisms.” But giving communion to a serial killer the pastor believes is demon-possessed, well, apparently that’s a different matter.

I do not pretend to be an expert on exorcism or communion. But in my opinion, if you believe that a serial killer is possessed by the Prince of Darkness, whom you’d rather not try to cast out, then is it really wise to attempt to give him communion? Not to be too big a wiseass, but didn’t Rader’s pastor see The Exorcist? When Fathers Merrin and Karras break out the Holy Water, the little girl goes nuts, screaming and writhing. When they pray over her, she projectile vomits and informs Karras that his mother is in hell, uhm, performing sexual favors. Soon, the girl is levitating off the bead, spinning her head in a 360-degree circle, and causing earthquakes that knock both priests to the ground. I won’t even mention what she does when she gets her hands on a crucifix.

Now, can you imagine if they’d tried to give her communion—the body and blood of Jesus? Think about it, Pastor Clark. What Dennis Rader did to all those people he killed makes the wicked deeds of the little girl in "The Exorcist" look like child's play.

Then again, maybe Dennis Rader isn’t really possessed by the devil. Maybe he’s just an evil seed that fooled his church and community for decades, and that the only heads spinning in Wichita belong to those who thought they knew Rader and could trust him.

Her Shit Don't Stink

On a related note: Did you know that people who are holy smell heavenly, and that people who are possessed by the devil stink like hell, so to speak? Or so says televangelist Joyce Meyer. “When we are praising and worshipping God there's actually an odor that comes off of us that is offensive to the enemy,” Meyer said in a January 2003 broadcast. “And I don’t know if you ever had the opportunity to smell a demon-possessed person, but I have, and I tell you, it is a stench… People that are demon possessed have an offensive odor to me, and I’m glad because I am holy-ghost possessed [and have] an offensive odor to the devil.”

So there you have it. All those people who hold their noses when Joyce Meyer walks by are, in fact, satanic.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 17, 2006

The Devil Made Him Do It

BTK killer Dennis Rader apparently didn’t act alone when he murdered 10 people over a 13-year-period. It seems he had a little help from none other than, yup, Satan. Or so says his pastor (Rader’s pastor, that is. Not Satan’s). The Rev. Michael Clark believes Rader is possessed by the devil, and that the Evil One coaxed him into committing the murders for which he is serving 10 consecutive life sentences. According to a UPI wire story, Clark said a Kansas sheriff refused to let him perform a jailhouse exorcism on Rader.

"Dennis was influenced, I believe, by some kind of demonic force and that played a role in the choices and decisions he made," said Clark, who is the pastor of Wichita’s Christ Lutheran Church, which Rader attended for more than 30 years, once serving as its president.

The article notes that Clark, who spoke at an Overland Park church about his belief that Rader is possessed, didn’t completely absolve Rader from responsibility for the killings, saying he chose to heed the devil. The article said that after the talk Clark “refused to answer a question about whether Rader had shown remorse.”

Which is a good question. If the devil talked Rader into all that binding, torturing, and killing, wouldn’t Rader at least feel a little bad?

Last summer, Clark said in a Christian News Today article that he believed Rader is still a Christian, though Rader’s wicked deeds forced him to rethink the nature of evil. “First Clark read C.S. Lewis’ classic ‘Screwtape Letters’ as well as Scott Peck’s ‘A Glimpse of the Devil,’” the article said. “Then he consulted with a retired Lutheran pastor who experienced demonic encounters in the mission field.”

The books and conversations changed Clark’s views on Satan. “I’ve got a completely different perspective on evil than I had six months ago,” he said. “I’ve learned more about the value and purpose of exorcism. I’m not sure I would get involved with that because it takes specialized training and skills.”

“It’s not something you play around with—it’s very dangerous,” he added.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 12, 2006

The Book of Daniel

At first, I loved the idea for this show: A pill-popping Episcopal priest gets regular visits from Jesus, who’s got nothing better to do than hang out in a salacious, upscale suburban parish and fire off one-liners like, “Boy, you never know, do you,” as when the priest’s sister-in-law admits to a lesbian affair with the sexpot secretary of her dead husband, the same guy who stole $3 million from the church. But the best part: Only the foggy-headed priest can see and hear Jesus who, with his white robe, long hair, and a beard, looks like he floated out of a tacky devotional painting. Talk about a potential “10” on the satire scale.

But, no! Apparently, “The Book of Daniel,” which premiered on NBC last Friday, is serious. According to the New York Times, this show is a “spectacle of broken Commandments, but not a satire.” Too bad, but hardly surprising. After all, NBC is the same network that last year committed the unpardonable sin of airing that abomination of a series, Revelations.

Unfortunately, I was not able to watch “The Book of Daniel,” due to a conflict in my schedule involving a taped episode of “Criminal Intent.” But I have friends who did see the two-hour pilot. Episcopal priest Astrid Storm reviewed the show for Nerve, and Teresa Blythe has sent SoMA this report.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 9, 2006

What’s in a Name, Indeed?

To disarm bigotry in the past, Jews customarily changed their names to sound more Gentile, perhaps most famously in the entertainment industry. Thus, Emmanuel Goldberg became Edward G. Robinson, Issur Danilovich Demsky became Kirk Douglas, and Leonard Schneider became Lenny Bruce. Even a performer like Woody Allen, who has played on his Jewishness throughout his career, Anglicized his name to get ahead (to learn his birth name, go straight to this article).

So understandably, writer Mary Beth Crain finds it frustrating and odd that she, as a Jew, keeps encountering obstacles in her work because her name doesn’t sound Jewish enough. To read her new essay, “That's Funny, You Don’t Sound Jewish,” click here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 2, 2006

Sex and the Church

As a leader, Jesus gave lots of instructions. Pay your taxes. Turn the other cheek. Don't judge others, lest ye be judged. Go out and teach all nations, but take nothing more with you than a staff, sandals and one tunic.

Yet for all his concern about how his followers comported themselves, Jesus said little about how they should behave sexually. Which may be one reason why Christians are so divided on, and often confused about, issues ranging from homosexuality and abortion to sex education, in vitro fertilization, masturbation, divorce, sex outside marriage and virginity.

As these subjects continue to roil Christians, two books shed some much-needed light on sex and spirituality....  [Read "Christian Sex," my latest book review, here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

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