The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned the Eurovision winner, drag queen Conchita Wurst. This led to Rustem Adagamov, a prominent Russian blogger, tweeting “The ROC categorically opposes bearded men in dresses!” along with a picture of their priests in full ceremonial robes. I just thought, I’d help it go viral. Thanks Bill.
Oh no! It’s a blood moon, the first of four in 18 months. We’re all gonna die. Yes, last night the moon slid into the shadow of the earth casting a reddish hue on the moon. Unusually, there will be four of these occurrences in the next 18 months. Astronomers call it a tetrad, doomsayers call it a sign signalling the imminent destruction of the earth. We haven’t had too many doomsday predictions lately. The ISON comet predicted by many to bring forth our destruction, spectacularly failed after its million year journey ended on Thanksgiving day last year, when it simply disintegrated after getting too close to the sun. The Viking prediction of Ragnarok (Armageddon) also failed to materialise on February 22nd. The new movie Thor 3: Ragnarok (End of Days) still hasn’t been released, so I guess the director was not too anxious about the date being accurate. Religious people, quick to capitalise on the series of Blood Moons, have released a number of books explaining the significance as they perceive it: “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs”, by mark Biltz; “Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons”, by pastor Mark Hitchcock; and “Four Blood Moons: Something is about to change” by pastor John Hagee. The last book is number 80 on USA Today’s best seller list! Good grief people, save yourself some time and money. Here is my prophecy for the Blood Moons and the next 18 months. Everything will be pretty normal. There will be no rapture, Armageddon or End of Days. The bible says “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”, Joel 2:31. In my opinion a more reliable and accurate predictor of future events, NASA, issued a statement saying there will be eight sets of tetrads before the year 2100. Expect a lot more doomsday predictions over the next hundred years. Unless they are right of course.
A statue of Jesus the Homeless was installed recently at Saint Albion’s Episcopal Church in North Carolina, depicting Jesus as a homeless vagrant sleeping on a park bench. One of the first people to see it as she drove past called the police, thinking it was a real person. The features of the statue are shrouded, expect for the feet which show the marks made by the crucifixion. The creator of the piece, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, offered first casts to cathedrals in Toronto (St. Michael’s) and New York (St. Patrick’s), but both declined. The University of Toronto has one installed outside the Jesuit School of Theology. Last November Schmalz presented a miniature version to Pope Francis in Rome, who touched the knee of the sculpture, closed his eyes and prayed. If the City of Rome approve the installation, one will be placed on the Via della Conziliazione, leading to St. Peter’s Basilica. If you suddenly find someone sleeping on a bench outside your church, for the love of Jesus, don’t go calling the cops.
In response to people having problems with the rising cost of gas (petrol to you Europeans), the Journey Church is sponsoring a 50c per gallon reduction for 2 hours this Saturday, April 12th. So if you are in the neighbourhood of Boca Raton, Florida, this weekend, drive on over and get some cheap gas with their blessing. They ran a similar “Gas Buy Down” last year and had a very good response. The Lead Pastor, Nelson Searcy, says it is a practical way to share God’s love and is a great way to be a blessing to the people of his community. The church has also partnered on outreach projects and seeks creative ways to make a difference in people’s lives. Very refreshing. So get yourself over to the Miracle Mart at 1380 North Federal Highway, Boca Racon, FL this Saturday between 11am and 1pm to fill your tank
Can you believe that the film Noah has drawn sharp criticism because of inaccuracies? Not inaccuracies in what really happened obviously, but in how it differs from the short account in Genesis. Most criticism has come from people who have not seen the movie and are refusing to do so. Russell Crowe, who stars in the movie, has said he finds this stance “bordering on absolute stupidity”. I’m with you Russell. It seems there is a section of the movie showing how Darwinian evolution has transformed amoebas into apes. Yes, I can see where the creationists might have a problem with that. Anyhow, Ricky Gervais gives a much better treatment of Noah’s Ark. If you haven’t seen it, look it up on YouTube.
To ban or not to ban? That is the question. You would think that the artistic board of Newtownabbey council would have learnt from the ridiculous banning of The Life of Brian back in 1980, but no. Last week they banned a play of the Reduced Shakespeare Company entitled “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)” on grounds of blasphemy. Some council members claimed it mocked Christianity. However they later came to their senses with other members claiming the decision made them look like a laughing stock and they reversed the decision. So if you can’t be bothered to read the Bible (and let’s face it not many can), why not catch their show tomorrow night or the night after in Newtownabbey. The show promises to address great theological questions including whether Adam and Eve had navels. Check out their website for more information.
Following an embarrassing interview on Fox News with Reza Aslan, author of “Zealot: The Life and Time of Jesus of Nazareth”, his book has shot to number one in the Amazon Book charts. The book describes Jesus as a zealot Jewish preacher who started a revolutionary movement that was so threatening that he was captured, tortured and executed as a state criminal. Looking beyond the myths and examining historical documents he describes Jesus as a man of conviction rife with contradiction. He preaches peace, but tells his followers to carry swords. He urges his disciples to keep his identity secret and promises to liberate them from Roman rule. The book also examines why the early Christian church portrayed Jesus as a peaceful teacher rather than a revolutionary.
In the interview, Ms Green asks “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”
Surprised Mr Aslan answers “I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. It’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.”
Buzzfeed posted the interview under the title “Is this the most embarrassing interview for Fox News ever?” and it went viral with about 4.5 million views.
Later a delighted Mr Aslan told the New York Times, “I’ll be perfectly honest — I’m thrilled at the response that people have had to the interview, you can’t buy this kind of publicity.”
At the end of the World Youth Day week of celebration, the Pope’s Mass had to be moved to the beach of Copacabana due to weather changing the original location into a mud field. The shoreline most famous for night clubs and partying was swamped by over 3 million people enthusiastically greeting the pope and offering up babies to be kissed.
In his sermon Pope Francis encouraged young people who have protested against corruption to continue their efforts, fight apathy and offer a christian response. Many young people in Brazil have taken this as support for peaceful change, not a crusade. I agree that there cannot be apathy to corruption, but as for religion, that is a different matter.
Meanwhile, back in Rome, the media are being anything but apathetic towards Pope Francis and have been busy digging up dirt. The Italian clergyman hand-picked by Pope Francis to be papal delegate for the Vatican Bank, Battista Ricca, had a damning story published in the Italian press just days before the pope left for Brazil. The article charged that while Battista served in Uruguay from 1999 to 2001, he had a live-in male lover, cruised gay bars and brought a young man back to the Vatican embassy and ended up trapped in an elevator with him overnight. So far, Battista has retained his position. Additionally journalists have discovered that a woman Pope Francis appointed to a commission to study reform in the Vatican, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, while having excellent credentials, has issued some Tweets critical of the church. And just to round it off, the media published a letter allegedly written by Nunzio Scarano, the former Vatican accountant, arrested for his part in a plot to smuggle $26 million in cash, to Pope Francis protesting his innocence. He claims to have documents to show Pope Francis secretly, which will prove that he only acted under the direction of his superiors.
So I guess Pope Francis will not be going home for a rest. There’s a lot going on.
Personally, I blame Homer Simpson. In one episode he prayed “I know I’m not normally a praying man, but if you’re up there, please, save me, Superman!” So that got people thinking about the similarities between them. That in turn has led to Warner Bros targeting their Man of Steel movie at US Christian audiences by explicitly comparing Superman to Jesus. Together with a marketing firm, they have set up the Man of Steel – Ministry Resource web site, to encourage Ministers to use Superman in their sermons. They thoughtfully provide Sermon Outlines such as “Jesus – The Original Superhero” and “Jesus – More than our Super Man”. Unfortunately, I’ve missed all the advance screenings of Man of Steel for pastors, but I don’t think they were in my town anyway. How in God’s name are we going to nail the man of steel to a crucifix?
Yesterday the pope released a dove as a sign of peace following the angelus on holocaust day. A watching seagull, perhaps a nazi sympathiser intending to protest, attacked the dove and tried to kill it. Thousands of onlookers in St. Peter’s square looked on, as the dove flew for its life, trying to escape the gull. After a short while their prayers were answered as the dove flew free. Last year when the pope released two doves from the same window, they flew back in through the open window. Perhaps they had been given a tip off about another planned gull attack.