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Blog Archive/September 2006

September 29, 2006

And Speaking of Saints…

In today’s New York Times, A.O. Scott reviews Dito Montiel’s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” starring Robert Downey Jr. as a successful writer living in Los Angeles who returns to Queens, where he grew up in the mid-80s, after his father (Chazz Palminteri) becomes seriously ill. Back in the old neighborhood, Dito wrestles with his irascible pop and memories of the “saints”—friends and foes, most of whom are now either dead or in prison, who shaped him.

“Though autobiographical,” Scott writes, “‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints’ is also a coming-of-age story set against a tough urban background, in which the protagonist’s emerging sense of his own individuality cuts against his loyalty to friends and kin.” Scott calls the film “one of the more remarkable American directing debuts in recent years”—“a picture so full of life and feeling that the screen can hardly contain it.”

In other saints news… Josh Gosfield has just posted his latest installment at The Saint of the Month Club, a greatest hits “special edition” called “Saint Morph”—“the Saints of yesteryear (2001, 2002 and 2003) madly morphing into each other.” SoMA gives it two thumbs way up. Click here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 29, 2006

Joke of the Week

This one actually makes sense! (Thanks to all the sharp readers who pointed out that we didn't get the Unitarian joke quite right, back on Sept. 11. I posted an addendum.) OK, here goes:

Why don’t Baptists make love standing up?

Because people might think they were dancing.

—Submitted by Chuck Wyatt

Heard a joke you’d like to share? Does it have to do with religion? Send it to editor(at)somareview.com

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 27, 2006

Bad, Baaad Saints

Many Christians are familiar with the virtues of St. Mary of Egypt, who lived in the desert as a hermit for 47 years, devoting herself to God in prayer and meditation. But even the most devout Catholic might be forgiven for not knowing that, before her conversion, Mary had a wild hare that would make even Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan blush.

Mary was a seductress extraordinaire, who spent 17 years insatiably prowling the streets for sexual conquests. One day, she spotted a crowd of men—pilgrims, it turned out—waiting to board a ship bound for the Holy Land, where they planned to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Mary knew a party when she saw one, so she joined the voyage, and by the time the ship crossed the Mediterranean, she’d slept with the entire passenger list. She particularly enjoyed instructing young men on how to please a woman. As she later confessed: “There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher.”

And as Thomas J. Craughwell’s new book, Saints Behaving Badly, shows, St. Mary of Egypt was not the only saint whose early life was less than saintly...

Continue reading "Saints Gone Wild," my interview with Tom Craughwell, here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 24, 2006

The Body—Temple of the Holy Spirit, or Fetish of the Holy Spirit?

A few days ago, I posted a blog describing journalist turned author Jennifer Skiff’s request for “God Stories” for a book she’s working on. And it struck me that just as there must be millions of people who’ve had experiences that convinced them of the existence of God—that’s the subject of Skiff’s book—there must be just as many who’ve faced trials or witnessed events in life that led them to seriously doubt, even reject, God. And so I put out a call for “Godless Stories.”

Although no one responded to my request in the comments section, I did receive several direct email replies—personal anecdotes and observations that readers said persuaded them that God is merely a human concept.

Yet another kind of reply came from Kentucky author John Sparks. He told the tale of an old Appalachian lady who, clinging to her brand of fundamentalist beliefs about salvation, chose to die a terrible, painful death rather lose a gangrenous limb and thus her place in heaven. It’s a tragic story, though not necessarily a “Godless” one; it doesn’t lead one to question the existence of God so much as the existence of certain people’s god.

Anyway, Sparks email generated a lively discussion here at the SoMA offices, and senior editor Mary Beth Crain was inspired to tuck into her computer and bang out her views on the subject.

I’ve combined Sparks' and Crain's pieces in “No Prosthesis for Jesus,” which you can read here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 19, 2006

Wanted: God Stories

Got a God story—a religious experience that shook your foundations and forever shaped your belief system? If so, journalist turned author Jennifer Skiff would like to hear about it for her upcoming book, “God Stories: Modern Day Encounters with the Divine,” a multi-faith, multi-cultural compilation of short stories in which the infinite breaks into the finite.

“A God Story is something that happens to you that is so profound it confirms your belief in the existence of a Divine Power. It is when you receive personal proof that God exists,” says Skiff, a former investigative correspondent for CNN and CNN International News.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, you can submit it at Skiff’s website, www.Godstories.com. The criteria for submission: “The story you submit must be something that happened to you
(not a friend or family member) and it must be true.”

* * *

Hey, I’ve got an idea for an interesting companion volume: “Godless Stories”—personal experiences that were so profound they moved those who had them to conclude that God doesn’t exist.

As far as I know, there’s no such book in the works at this time. But if you’d like to share a “Godless Story,” feel free to post it in the comments section below.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 19, 2006

Religion Joke of the Week

Did you hear about the cannibal who ate a Jesuit for breakfast, a Baptist for lunch, and a Mormon missionary for dinner?

The next morning he had an ecumenical movement.

--Submitted by John Sparks

Heard a joke you'd like to share? Does it have to do with religion? Send it to editor(at)somareview.com

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 18, 2006

Pope Benedict Under Fire

Poor Pope Benny. The little old ex-professor of theology and Vatican dogma expert has spent his life buried in books and encased in an academic environment firmly founded on the precepts of reason and empirical defense of one's intellectual position. So, when he gave his now notorious lecture, "Faith, Reason, and the University: Memories and Reflections," at his old stomping ground, the University of Regensburg, last Tuesday, he had no idea that he was stepping right smack into a minefield.

Continue reading Mary Beth Crain's In the Soup: Pope Benedict Gets a Lesson in Irrationality.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 14, 2006

Reading Mark’s Gospel Again for the First Time

If you’re interested in discovering the historical Jesus—the man behind the myth—then Mark is the Gospel for you. Mark is the oldest of the canonical and non-canonical Gospels and, except for the writings of Paul, it provides the first-known narrative of Jesus’ life.

Mark has also been the subject of some of the most interesting, and imaginative, books about Jesus in recent times. Earlier this year, for example, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan published The Last Week, a gripping day-by-day depiction of Jesus’ final week on Earth, guided by the scholars’ reading of Mark. (Check out my review here.) And last year, New York artist and Episcopalian Steve Ross gave us Marked, a groundbreaking graphic novel set in an Orwellian future that bears a striking resemblance both to Jesus’ day and our own. In Ross’ comic book version of Mark, John the Baptist is a homeless man who eats out of garbage cans, and Jesus, the book’s doomed liberator, is a bald, clean-shaven carpenter who looks more like a Buddhist monk (or, say, David Carradine’s Grasshopper in “Kung Fu”) than the bearded, blue-eyed Norwegian Jesus of traditional Christianity.    

This month, Abingdon Press releases a new re-telling of the earliest Gospel account—Episcopal priest (and occasional SoMA contributor) Puck Purnell’s “Through Mark’s Eyes.”

Our reviewer Astrid Storm calls “Through Mark’s Eyes” a “beautiful book, and well-worth the read,” noting that, “It’s no easy task Purnell set out for himself, augmenting a Gospel that is celebrated for its austerity. But he manages to make it work by sticking close the story, and by practicing enough restraint with his observations that it seems as though they aren’t anything Mark wouldn’t have added himself.”

Read Storm’s review, "Resurrecting Jesus," here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 11, 2006

Religion Joke of the Week

How do you drive a Unitarian family out of town?

Burn a question mark on their lawn.

--Submitted by Chuck Wyatt





Addendum: as several readers have noted, this joke doesn't quite work. It makes more sense worded this way: How do Unitarians drive a family out of town? Burn a question mark on their lawn. (You know, on the family's lawn, not their own lawn.) Thanks to all who straightened us out!

Heard a joke you'd like to share? Does it have to do with religion? Send it to editor(at)somareview.com.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 9, 2006

Want to See the Lord?

If you’re like most people, you’ve never been fortunate enough to have had a holy vision—seen, say, Jesus smiling on a slice of toast, the Virgin Mary weeping on a tree trunk, or St. Paul, pre-conversion, flogging Early Christians in a dental X-ray.

Well, I am proud to report that I recently had my first holy sighting, and I’d love to share this wonderful, moving experience. If you’d like to join the special club for those who’ve seeeeen, then read the following instructions and gaze at the image below.

  1. Relax and concentrate on the four small dots in the middle of the image for roughly 30 or 40 seconds.
  2. Then, stare at a blank wall near you (any smooth, single-colored surface will do).
  3. You will see a circle of light developing—the onset of a holy vision.
  4. Blink your eyes a few times as the figure begins to emerge.
  5. What do you see? Or rather, who do you see?... Congratulations. You just had a religious sighting!

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 7, 2006

Priests for Hire

Say you’re a lapsed Catholic and you suddenly find yourself on your deathbed in need of last rites. Ringing up the local parish priest is not an option. Who you gonna call?

Well, never fear, because Rent-a-Priest is here!

An online resource offering “God’s Yellow Pages,” Rentapriest.com lists 2,500 Catholic priests nationwide who can be hired to perform the sacraments in good times and bad. And you needn’t worry if you’re not on the best of terms with the official church. Neither are the priests! They are Roman Catholics who responded to the call and then either got married or accepted that they were gay. Because, in the church's view, they violated their vows, Rome doesn’t recognize them.

But they still wear the collar. “According to church law (canon law), 'Once a priest, always a priest,'” the site says. “Therefore, married priests are not ‘ex’ or ‘former’ priests, they are still priests. In fact, Canon Law says they cannot refuse to ministry to someone who asks.”

Rent-a-Priests provide spiritual guidance and counseling and perform Masses, first or second marriages, funerals, and confession. And they make house calls. “Jesus always acted quickly to help people,” the site says. “Jesus never turned anyone away, and neither will married priests. Our ministry is ecumenical and open to Christians of all traditions.”

Their work is certainly needed. More than 70 percent of Catholics no longer attend church, according to the site, and there’s a growing shortage of unmarried parish priests.

To rent a priest, call 1-800-PRIEST-9, or visit their website here.

For even more info, check out this recent Reuters piece.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 6, 2006

A “South Park” Tribute to Steve Irwin

“I was shocked when I heard the news that the Crocodile Hunter died in a ‘freak stingray accident,’” wrote “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, at his blog. “I had ten dollars bet on ‘misjudged the speed of a crocodile.’”

A bit risky, perhaps, making such a joke so soon after Irwin’s tragic death. But as Adams reasoned, “I believe death is not a laughing matter, unless the guy who gets killed is in the process of bothering dangerous animals.” (Adams has now removed the post, which you can still view in this cache.)

The folks at Bestweekever certainly believe humor is a fitting way to pay tribute to the man who, as they say, “brightened up our days and brought excitement into our lives.” They’ve assembled a video montage of the episodes in which the Crocodile Hunter was spoofed on “South Park.” You’ll just have to watch the clip to understand why they call it a “touching” tribute.

View the “South Park” clip here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 5, 2006

Steve Irwin's Final Lesson

Steve Irwin, the guy who did all those wild and crazy things with crocodiles and lived to tell about it, met an unexpected end yesterday when he was killed by, of all things, a stingray.

Irwin was known for getting up close and personal with all sorts of deadly creatures. His forte, of course, was the croc, but “I’ve worked with more dangerous snakes than anyone in the world, and I’ve never been bitten,” he often boasted. And then, more humbly, “It’s a gift.”

And yet, his gift didn’t work on the stingray that punctured his heart.

Irwin’s death is a lesson in irony. Irony No. 1: He was filming a documentary entitled “The Ocean’s Deadliest,” when the ray got him during an off-camera swim. Irony No. 2: The stingray is usually non-aggressive. Irony No. 3: While it’s a deadly fish, very few people actually die from its bites. In fact, Irwin was one of only three people in Australia ever to die from a stingray attack.

Was it God’s joke on Steve? Just desserts, for a daredevil life? The stingray’s revenge, for annoying the creatures of the sea and poking his nose and camera where they didn’t belong? Or was it a fitting end, a mercifully quick conclusion to an exuberant if incautious life, staged and executed by nature?

Continue reading Mary Beth Crain's Death, Where Is Thy Stingray?

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 3, 2006

Religion Joke of the Week

On Yom Kippur, the rabbi stops in the middle of the service, prostrates himself beside the bema, and cries out, "Oh, God. Before You, I am nothing!"

Saul Rosenberg, president of the temple, is so moved by this demonstration of piety that he immediately throws himself to the floor beside the rabbi and cries, "Oh, God! Before you, I am nothing!"

Then Chaim Pitkin, a tailor, jumps from his seat, prostrates himself in the aisle and cries, "Oh God! Before You, I am nothing!"

Rosenberg nudges the rabbi and whispers, "So look who thinks he's nothing." ýSubmitted by Billy Frolick



Heard a joke youýd like to share? Does it have to do with religion? Send it to editor(at)somareview.com. 


Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

September 1, 2006

SoMA Exclusive: John Mark Karr's Open Letter to Nancy Grace!

I received today the following unexpected email from none other than John Mark Karr.

Apparently Karr had been surfing the Web in search of autopsy sites when he happened upon SoMA. He was quite disappointed at first to find out that our publication has nothing to do with autopsies per se, but then he saw my recent piece, “A Fine Mess,” and, deciding that that’s exactly what he’s in, he sent me the following and begged me to run it in SoMA, along with a photo of him getting off the plane in L.A., which he feels shows his hair at its best...

Continue reading John Mark Karr’s open letter to Nancy Grace.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

 
 
             
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