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November 9, 2005

Happy Birthday, SoMA!

November marks SoMA’s first birthday, and after 12 months of love and nurturing, we’re like most one-year-olds: We can walk holding on to furniture, indicate our wants in ways other than crying, and respond to simple commands without needing gestures. And, yes, we’re still breast-feeding.

But we’ve also achieved other milestones. And because birthday celebrations are all about self-indulgence, here are a few of them:

* Number of words “blogged”: 53,662 (In other words, SoMA is the book I didn’t write this year.)
* Number of articles published: 73
* Number of contributors: 40
* Total unique page views: 512,362

* The five most widely read articles:
1) The Most Famous Christian of the 20th Century? by Robert Flynn
2) Lauren Winner: Reformed Sinner or Canny Opportunist? by Astrid Storm
3) Beware the Scruples, by Mary Beth Crain
4) A Humble Intellect, by John D. Spalding
5) New Rules for Religion, by Bill Maher

* Our greatest groundbreaking journalistic achievement: Immediately after Pope John Paul II’s death in April, SoMA broke from the media pack and bravely declared itself “A Pope-Free Zone, All Week!”

The same month, SoMA was inducted into Beliefnet’s “Blog Heaven”—joining “the best blogs about religion and spirituality.”

Other additions and improvements included: an articles archive in January and an RSS feed in February. March saw the addition of a comments feature, allowing readers to sing our praises or rip us a new one. April showers and some fresh fertilizer brought May flowers: that month, my longtime friend and talented writer Mary Beth Crain joined SoMA as contributing editor. In June, we launched the “SoMA Poll.” In August, we stopped doing the SoMA Poll for some reason. (We should start that up again. It was a fun feature—though at times cruel. Last I checked, 80 or 90 percent of voters had determined writer Lauren Winner to be a “trend-sniffing opportunist.” You heartless bastards.)

SoMA has been featured, cited, or blogged at, among others:

* The Revealer (calling SoMA “one of our favorite religion magazines”)
* Killing the Buddha (praising us for publishing “one of the best pieces on the pontiff formerly known as Ratzinger that we've seen...”)
* The Salty Vicar (calling us “an erudite, entertaining webmagazine of remarkably high quality. This is one of the best, so I've put it in my regularly read column.”)

OK, I can tell all this praise is making you sick. I’ll spare you the kudos, and stick to a bare bones list of other places at which SoMA has been featured, blogged, mentioned, seen, or heard (if you find others, let me know):

Utne online
Real Live Preacher
The Wittenberg Door
Christian Century
Christianity Today
UU World
Science & Spirit
Los Angeles Times
Anglicans Online
The Week
Swami Uptown
Church Times
The Lesser of Two Weevils
“GodTalk,” CJOB 68 Radio, Winnipeg, Canada
Blue-State Resistance
Raving Atheist
No Beliefs
Holy Weblog
God & Consequences

Then there are our readers, whose sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes lambasting, and sometimes breathtakingly surreal observations continually remind us that there are no limits to the human intellect, or lack thereof. Some SoMA mailbag highlights:

Marsha, from Seattle, wrote:

“At a time when religion is constantly being twisted to manipulate and exploit, it’s so refreshing to finally come across SoMA—a magazine that fearlessly goes after our sacred cows, a magazine that’s not afraid to ask difficult questions and doesn’t settle for easy answers. Your publication is smart without being pretentious, critical without being cynical, hard-hitting yet self-deprecating. And it’s very, very funny (I especially love all the story photos and captions)…. Whatever your exact beliefs may be, you seem comfortable in your own skin, which can’t be said of all religious types… There’s no phoniness at SoMA, which may be because you seem beholden to no outside individuals or institutions. Stay that way!”

Mom, did you write this?... We’ll try to keep it real, Marsha. Until, that is, we get our own late show on NBC and an endorsement deal from McDonalds.

David C. Downing wrote:

"Someone sent me a link to SoMA, saying it was 'cutting edge analysis' on religion and culture. Well, I perused your pages, and I can certainly see the 'cutting' part...

“When I was a teenager, I was complaining to my dad about all the uptight, legalistic, hypocritical people in our utterly unhip EV Free Church. My dad replied, ‘Well, David, you've mastered the easy job—pointing out what disappointing ambassadors for the Kingdom so many other Christians are. Now I want you to start working on the difficult job—becoming yourself an effective ambassador for the Kingdom.’"
”That episode was several decades ago now, but I remember my dad's advice almost word for word. As to your SoMA crew, I would like to say, ‘Well, you've mastered the easy job . . .’"
Careful, Mr. Downing. You might fall off that high horse, and it’s a long, long drop before you hit the ground…. Nevertheless, we apologize. We didn’t realize we were ambassadors for you and your dad's Kingdom.

[The next email was addressed to no one and was written in response to Will Braun's article about the new “Christian Flag of the United States of America.” The flag’s creator, Marcia Thompson Eldreth, sent the email more than a month after the article appeared.]

Eldreth wrote:

“You still are not getting the intent of this flag. We are the army of God; the USA regiment. Canada has a regiment. Make a flag. While you are at it, try to keep men from marrying men there and teaching your little children it is OK. We have a fight on our hands to preserve the soul of our nation and improve upon the wrongs and rights. This is NOT A POLITICAL PARTY FLAG. You must have something better to do as a Christian than slam the brethren continuously...Satan is an accuser of the brethren. Slander seems to be your fun thing to do. Beware, lest you fall.
“If saying we are the army of God is offensive, then be offended at the Bible. By we, it is all Christians. Our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds. Emailing replies was not amongst the list of weapontry. I took the liberty.”

Lose your meds, dear?

Of the hundreds of comments posted at SoMA since March, here are two of our favorites:

[Poster “Ron Mexico” responded to “The Most Famous Christian of the 20th Century,” an article that compares the hypocritical Christian rhetoric of Hitler in the 1930s to the Christian posturing of conservative politicians today. For some strange reason, Mexico insisted that the comparison trivializes Hitler’s later atrocities.]

Mexico wrote:

“Whenever someone invokes a Hitler comparison in a political argument, it's a sign they have no ideas, no vision, no prospect of winning the argument. Hitler is sui generis, and to claim otherwise is to trivialize him, and to trivialize his victims…. Hitler and his Nazis should be forever banished from political discussion.”

But in a surprising (or not-so-surprising) twist, astute SoMA reader “Father Richard” did a Google search using the email address Mexico provided (gay_as_hell@hotmail.com) and found that Mexico himself had recently invoked Nazi Germany, at another website, in his criticism of the current White House, calling it the “warringest administration ever” and threatening to “become a citizen of another country—say Germany.”

Hmmm—“no ideas, no vision, no prospect of winning the argument.”

[The following comment was in response to Mary Beth Crain’s article about Yom Kippur]

Bradley writes:

“I liked the article. I would have preferred leaving the references to sex out so I could share the article with my young children. Thank you.”

Warning: Though just an infant itself, SoMA is not recommended for young children—or uptight adults. Beware especially Mary Beth’s forthcoming true account about her affair with a Catholic priest…

Indeed, what a year it’s been, and I’ve got so many people to thank. First, to Chuck Wyatt, our technical genius and all around web dude, and Michelle Lee, our peerless designer—SoMA wouldn’t exist without you guys (or, if it did exist, it would never work right and it would look like hell). To Mary Beth “Crank ‘Em Out” Crain—you took SoMA, a rough chunk of coal, and dragged it hundreds of miles below the earth’s surface, where you exposed it to extreme heat and pressure for millions of years, and then emerged with a dazzling, deep blue 112-carat gem that I like to think of as “the Hope diamond of religion magazines.” You know, minus the wretched 300-plus-year-old curse that presaged bad luck and death for all who touched it.

To our writers—you are the free-range meat and organic potatoes of this publication. I will forever be in your debt, literally. After all, SoMA’s policy is not to pay writers, because no one is paying me. (If there was ever any confusion about that, sorry. You should have read your contract.... Oh, that’s right. SoMA doesn’t issue contracts… Tell you what. If we ever create SoMA baseball caps or T-shirts, you’ll be the first to receive them. Promise.)

And finally, I’d like to thank you, our readers. I know we must give the impression that we’d do this even if you didn’t check in from time to time. And it’s true, we would. But just knowing that you do read us makes it all seem so less, well, pointless. We hope in the coming year that you’ll return over and over, again and again, 20 or 30 times a day, and that you’ll tell all your friends, family, co-workers, and former lovers about us.

And don’t forget, folks. Keep those cards and letters coming!

To comment on this blog—or to wish SoMA a happy birthday, or a slow, painful death—click here. Or click on the comments feature, below. Goes to the same page. 

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email


May 7, 2010

The Mother of Mother's Day
By Mary Beth Crain
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, hated flowers, candy, and greeting cards. Our kind of mom!

January 28, 2010

Securing Your Pet's Post-Rapture Future
By Mary Beth Crain
What will happen to Christians' pets after the Rapture? No worries. These animal-loving atheists will feed them.

January 13, 2010

Whither Wheaton?
By Andrew Chignell
The evangelical flagship college charts a new course.

December 21, 2009

Ho, Ho, Hollywood
By Mary Beth Crain
My four top Christmas Movies.

December 14, 2009

Bad Dream Girls
By Mary Beth Crain
Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean remind us that in America, dumb and dumber equals rich and richer.

July 16, 2009

The New, Updated Gospel of Mark
By Stephanie Hunt
In South Carolina, Vacation Bible School gets Sanforized.

July 16, 2009

Why Is a Spiritual Advisor Like a Lay's Potato Chip?
By Mary Beth Crain
Answer: Betcha Can't Have Just One!

December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Blues
By Ondine Galsworth
Your best friend is dead. Your mother is bi-polar. And you've lived your life as a fake Catholic. Where do you go from here?

December 23, 2008

Christmas Gifts of Long Ago
By Mary Beth Crain
What would it be like if today's techno-spoiled kids were forced to have a good old-fashioned Victorian Christmas?

November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks in Thankless Times
By Mary Beth Crain
In times of fear and despair, gratitude is sometimes all we've got left.

November 16, 2008

Seeing Red
By Stephanie Hunt
Obama's presidential victory is a huge step forward for our nation. But in the Carolinas, it's still North versus South.

October 29, 2008

Ghost Writer
By Mary Beth Crain
Our senior editor talks about her new book, "Haunted U.S. Battelfields," the perfect read for a creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky All Hallows Eve.

October 26, 2008

The Poison Seeds Spread by Dying Congregations
By Matthew Streib
Just as a certain presidential candidate has gone to the extremes of negativity in a desperate attempt to keep his campaign alive, so parallels can be seen on the religious front.

October 11, 2008

Palin Watch V: Troopergate, Poopergate!
By Mary Beth Crain
Confronted with a scathing indictment of abuse of power, Governor Palin thumbs her nose at the "Troopergate" report.

October 4, 2008

Palin Watch IV: Post-Debate Musings
By Mary Beth Crain
This hockey mom belongs in the penalty box.

To view more articles, visit
SoMA's archive

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