Was Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Israel Worth It

Check out my latest article in the Nashville Free Press: The Pope’s Visit to Israel – Was It Worth It?

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The Art of Taking Ourselves Less Seriously For the Public Good

Read my latest Nashville Free Press article.

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Enjoy some Fun with the Bible posts.

The Catholic Bishop Holocaust Denier Is Making the News and, ba-da-da-da-da, I’m Lovin’ It

Find out why in my latest column in the Nashville Free Press! Click HERE.

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In “Red Hot Catholic Love,” Father Maxi Saves the Vatican and Catholicism

This is absolutely one of my favorite episodes.

The parents are afraid that the priest is molesting their children and so they became atheists, abandoning God, the Bible and religion. Meanwhile, the boys learned that shoving food up your butt makes you crap out of your mouth. Thus, everyone starts crapping out of their mouths and being atheist. Father Maxi goes to the Vatican to put a stop to the molestation that has been allowed to run wild and in doing so actually destroys the Vatican entirely.

At the end of the episode, standing amidst the Vatican’s rubble, Father Maxi declares:

“You’ve forgotten what being a Catholic is all about: this book. You see, these are just stories – stories that are meant to help people in the right direction. Love your neighbor. Be a good person. That’s it! And when you start turning the stories into literal translations of hierarchies and power, well, you end up with this. People are losing faith because they don’t see how what you’ve turned the religion into applies to them! They’ve lost touch with any idea of any kind of religion, and when they have no mythology to try and live their lives by, well, they just start spewing a bunch of crap out of their mouths!”

A fantastic episode – do not miss it!

What did you think? What was your favorite part? Want more South Park quotes about the Bible? Click HERE.

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The Vatican’s Newspaper Forgives John Lennon for Thinking the Beatles are Bigger Than Jesus

The paper was the semi-official L’Osservatore Romano, which recognized that Lennon’s remark was just the youthful ebullience of a young working class man who was shocked at his own unexpected success. Who will die out first, Christianity or Rock and Roll?

The article came along with the 40th anniversary of the critically acclaimed White Album.

Well, I must say, who the hell cares if the Vatican, or some subsidiary paper, forgives you. What does that mean anyway? Does it mean Lennon isn’t burning in Hell anymore? Does it mean that we can all rest easy that Catholicism isn’t holding a grudge?

I don’t think the paper was trying to do anything official or spark any controversy but I think it’s pretty presumptuous to think that your forgiveness matters to anyone – but I guess we are talking about the Vatican here, which is the institution par excellence for forgiveness and thinking itself extremely important in that department.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for forgiveness, but John Lennon wasn’t a Catholic and I’m fairly sure that he doesn’t give a shit what the Vatican thinks about him wherever he is. It’s a bit presumptuous is all.

What do you think about this?

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Stained Glass Church Window Inadvertantly Suggestive…of Child Molestation!

Maybe it's time to get a new design?

Maybe it's time to get a new design?

It is my firm belief that this design is not recent. Either that or it was commissioned by a huge idiot and done by someone with a wonderful sense of humor.

In any case, considering the nature of this blog and the numerous times we’ve discussed the issue of Catholic clergy molesting boys, I figured that I would go ahead and share this image with you.

If you’d like to read about the Pope’s Mixed Signal speech in Australia, click HERE, and if you’d like to read about episode 608, “Red Hot Catholic Love,” click HERE (this one includes a picture of me at the Vatican…with my pants on).

To show how these things can sometimes be funny accidents I’ve included this very real sign that a business probably didn’t get until the sign was printed and hung:

Whoops!

Whoops!

Do you have anything funny like this to share?

“Bloody Mary,” episode 914, Demonstrates South Park’s Tasteful Humor

This is not one of my favorite religious episodes, and it could offend for more than the usual reasons (like, by taking up a stick to AA), but it should be watched because its points are well-delivered.

The episode discusses the nature and existence of miracles. A fascinating topic. Do miracles happen? Have you ever witnessed a miracle? What constitutes a miracle?

Additionally, the Pope has a really excellent line after a statue of the Virgin Mary squirts blood into his face from a special orifice. Another great conversation takes place between Stan when he confronts AA about what they told his father.

A controversial episode no doubt. What did you think?

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Around the World: Jesus’ Crucifixion, Dressing and Burial at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

You best believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is absolutely one of the coolest and craziest places on the planet. When I lived in Jerusalem I used to go there all the time, and it was one of my favorite place to take people when they visited me.

The Building

This building, constructed in multiple stages (Byzantine period, Crusader period and repairs until the 1800s – but not since due to a treaty that forbids modifications not agreed upon by all six Christian denominations there) is a series of twists and turns with bizarre, dark outlets, rooms and altars, and the neatest parts of the church can only be discovered if you know what you’re doing in there.

Another time I will include pictures of old tombs in the back, rock quarries in the bottom and all sorts of weird other places, and for now I’ll settle for telling you about the three pictures I’ve attached above.

The Three Stages

The three pictures represent the final three stages in the Stations of the Cross, Jesus’ bearing of his cross from his condemnation to his burial. The first site is on a small mountain, known as Golgotha (and bear in mind that this would have all been outside the first century walls of the city though it is now right inside the Arab quarter). Allegedly, this is where Jesus’ cross was erected (and I’ll tell you why this is exceedingly unlikely below). There is a tasteful statue of Jesus on a cross there now just so you can really get the full idea.

The second picture is where his body was laid when it was taken down from the cross – on that slab with the lamp-like incense-holder looking things above it. Though people come and kiss this slab and rub things on it for good luck, they fail to realize that due to damages and wear, the previous slab was replaced in the 19th century – and it’s unclear how long that one had been there anyway.

The final picture is the structure that houses the tomb (carved out of what was once a rock face) where Jesus’ body was supposedly laid for the three days before his resurrection. The line to go inside is often pretty long but once you get in and look up through the ante-chamber, you see right up to the top of the dome beneath you. The silver picture of the Virgin Mary inside actually looks just like T-1000 from Terminator 2.

The History

In fact, it is exceedingly unlikely – nay, near impossible – that Jesus had anything to do with this spot. That’s not to say that he wasn’t crucified and buried – I’m not here to speak about that at all – but only that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not where any of these things would have happened.

To keep a few points brief, the Church wasn’t constructed until the reign of Constantine in the fourth century, three hundred years after Jesus’ death and long after anyone had seen anything; what’s more, Jerusalem had changed from a Jewish to a pagan-Roman city (and it’s name to Aelia Capitalina) with literally no Jews left inside who would have known the locations of key things.

Additionally, the actual site of the Church was erected on a pagan temple by Constantine in order to show the pagan inhabitants of Jerusalem that their time in the city was up and because people have a habit of building their holy sites on ground already considered holy (place has validity spiritually – just think the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount which was at our period a Temple of Jupiter which before was the Jewish Temple and way before that a Jebusite altar). So the place had spiritual validity but not connected to Jesus.

Finally (though this isn’t final but I thought I should toss out a few reasons), all stories about how the Church’s spot were discovered date only from the fifth century and can be seen to have been invented based on stories of Constantine’s mother coming to the Holy Land, walking around and literally saying – by the power of God, mind you – that this place is where such and such happened “so erect a church here.” And those stories materialized long after her death!

Oh yeah, and because Protestants don’t buy this as the place, they’ve picked a totally different spot in Jerusalem and say the whole thing happened there. Only Coptics, Armenians, Catholics and a few others believe this was the right place.

Why I Love This Place

Well for one thing, it’s frickin’ cool: weird, dungeony, filled with bizarre characters in crazy outfits believing all sorts of wild stuff – and most of whom hate each other and compete with each other by trying to ring their bells louder than their rivals can ring their own bells. It’s also in the heart of the Arab quarter, has tourists from all over the world in it, Jews walking around outside, Christians inside – you can hear the muezzin call, the Church bells ring and the Jews pray from elsewhere. It’s so vibrant. And historically speaking, I don’t need Jesus to have died there for it to be a fascinating place.

The spot’s history is fascinating anyway considering what it actually was before a Christian Church, the way it was conceived of as a Christian holy place, the development of its history and mythologizing and what has happened to it ever since. Crusaders sometimes didn’t call their quest a crusade but rather, The War to Free the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the Muslims. And when they arrived they’d carve crosses in the church’s walls so some places are covered in thousand year old cross carvings – one for every crusader that reached the spot and fought for it.

If you ever go to Jerusalem I highly recommend that you make it a priority and if I’m ever there at the same time, I’d be happy to show you around.

Have you ever visited? What did you think? Would you like to visit? For religious purposes or worldly curiousity? What does your religion tell you the importance of this site is?

Want to see more pictures about holy places in Jerusalem? For the Around the World Pic of the Day on the Dome of the Rock, click HERE.

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Jesus Returns in “Fantastic Easter Special” and the True Secrets Behind the Papacy and Vatican are Revealed

Guess who frickin’ loves this episode? When I first watched this episode, my jaw hung open the entire time.

Talk about bringing theological concepts full circle. That’s one of the things I love most about South Park and religion: the show’s ability to employ the theological concepts that we take for granted and craft them in such a way as to make us think about why we call them what we do and think about them as we do.

In this episode, Jesus’ resurrection, the relationship between Jews and Jesus, the meaning of Easter and so much more are explored in a fascinating way. Plus, the juxtaposition of the religio-historical Jesus’ life and that of the South Park Jesus’ life is hilarious.

The eleventh season hardly ever missed a beat, and episode 1105, “Fantastic Easter Special,” not only lives up to its name but bulldozes right on through the season. Oddly enough, I had just been sorting out my Christianity material around the time this episode was aired and couldn’t help but think to myself why there had not been anything ever done on Easter aside from an off-handed joke. And then here came this episode – an awesome response to my mental query.

Have you seen it? What did you think? Favorite line?

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Pope Mixes Signals, Apologizing for Priestly Molestations While Focusing on World Youth Day

For South Park, a show that comments on and mocks so many facets of American society but also manages to focus on religion quite frequently, the fact that Catholic priests are repeatedly accused and often found guilty of child molestation seems nothing less than a really, really, really easy shot. Interestingly enough, molestation arises in a variety of episodes without the mention of Catholicism, including 406, “Cartman Joins NAMBLA” and 416, “The Wacky Molestation Adventure.” But episode 608, “Red Hot Catholic Love,” is definitely the big Catholicism and child molestation episode and has already been discussed at length in the post, Around the World Pic of the Day: The Vatican & Red Hot Catholic Love.

Apparently, like the United States earlier in the century, Australia has been hit by a host of scandals related to Catholic priests molesting young boys. Thus, Pope Benedict XVI, who I must say, I’ve been totally impressed with thus far as a world diplomat, is going to apologize. But why am I impressed? Well, this pope, like his predecessor, has not shied away from the public light. Maybe he’s a media whore, though I doubt it, or perhaps he just wants to use his influence as pope to send some positive messages and broker some deals. Fortunately for the world, most of those deals have emphasized peace and positive change.

Unfortunately, none of that change has related to the strictures of the Catholic church that would probably help curb child molestation, like say, allowing priests to marry women and live ‘normal lives’ (though I think they should be allowed to be gay too and marry men – full grown men – if that’s their preference, I don’t want to push it…one step at a time). But hey – change is still good if it’s in the right direction (unlike the change that pre-Vatican II Catholics like Mel Gibson want which is a reversion to the way things were before the Church said things like, sorry Jews for all the persecution since you didn’t f-up our savior).

However, the pope has met with Turks and Muslims (mostly due to a verbal faux pas) in an attempt to broker more peaceful relations and diffuse some tense situations. He has met with numerous world leaders about far more than the Catholics in their countries but also about maintaining peace and general human progress. It may sound like fluff and nonsense but when you’re the ruler of the tiniest country around but with the largest ex-pat community, so to speak (and a faith based community at that), you better believe that there’s not so much else you have to talk about. Except when it comes to apologizing for child molestation. Well, that and a climate change festival titled World Youth Day.

The mixing of these messages is not one that I see as tactically wise, though I understand where the sentiment comes from. It’s like when Charlie Sheen, the notorious sex addict, was involved with rumors about seeking girls that were a little too underage (yes, there’s underage and a little too underage) and then released a line of clothing for pre-school aged girls. Harmless? Probably. Well-intentioned? No doubt. Good timing? Oooo – not so much. And that’s how I feel about talking about World Youth Day while apologizing for Catholic sexual abuse scandals.

However, World Youth Day is about positive change in our daily lives in order to affect the environment for sustainable future development. Though I’m not big on the global warming rhetoric, as you may know, I do appreciate positive social and personal change for the sake of improving the environment and seeking more sustainable resources. So, large goofy hats off to you Pope Benedict XVI, and keep up the good work.