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?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Religion in the News posts.

The Art of Taking Ourselves Less Seriously For the Public Good

Read my latest Nashville Free Press article.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Enjoy some Fun with the Bible posts.

Italian Author, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose Is One of the Most Compelling Books I’ve Ever Read

This book was spectacular, as my post title indicates. I read it a month ago (maybe longer now) and have been wanting to write this review for a while. Of course, the distance between me and the book grossly jeopardizes the thoroughness, accuracy and quality of my assessment but I suppose that’s a risk you just have to take

….and if you’re still reading have decided to take.

The brilliance with which this book reflected its time period (the first half of the 14th century) is simply marvelous, but I suppose that Umberto Eco is a scholar of the Middle Ages. I once wrote a post about my love of historical fiction and how important I find the accuracy of historical fiction to be, and I think that this book just takes the cake in the quality with which the period was understood and researched. In fact, though the story itself revolves around a series of disturbing deaths in a monastery in Italy, it also focuses heavily on a few key religious issues that were important at the time. Had the characters themselves not been distracted by these issues and literally had their own fascinating story thrust into the middle of them, then the book would never have been as accurate as it was.

One of these issues was the papal seat being moved to Avignon and the decadent lifestyle being lived there. This, of course, contrasts with the centrally important theological issue of Jesus’ poverty (or not) and whether that meant that all devout men (i.e. monks or those associated with the church) should be poor. Obviously the Pope and the wealthy bishops and cardinals insisted that Jesus was not destitute and to whatever degree he lacked property didn’t think that others should, and many different sects of monks insisted the opposite. Some monks took to condemning the pope as an impostor and the anti-Christ and were branded as heretical and persecuted by the Inquisition which had just started to get warmed up at the time. These central issues (pope at Avignon, Jesus’ poverty, heresy of disagreeing monks) were crucial to the time period.

Outside of these fascinating topics were intense and highly relevant philosophical conversations about the value of reason and revelation, learning and knowledge, life and death, the place of religion and so much more. But none was mentioned in some high-minded independent fashion. Rather, it was imbedded in the fascinating story that revolved around these murder mysteries.

Truly, The Name of the Rose is a work of genius. A wonderful book. Get your copy of The Name of the Rose today.

Enjoy more book and movie reviews.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

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.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

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?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Religion in the News posts.

South Park’s “Follow That Egg” Legalizes Gay Marriage

When Mrs. Garrison decides that she is ready to forgive Mr. Slave and take him back only to discover that he plans to marry Big Gay Al, she vows to prevent the legalization of gay marriage in Colorado and keep them separated forever.

To do this, she creates an experiment whereby the children in her class have to take care of an egg, and by pairing up two boys, she plans to prove that men are incapable of caring for a child. Then she’ll show the results of her “scientific” study to the governor who will have a reason to prevent the passage of the gay marriage bill without being directly responsible. Brilliant….really brilliant.

At the end of the episode, when Big Gay Al and Mr. Slave are getting married, funny enough, it is Father Maxi – a Catholic priest! – who presides over their marriage. Curious, considering that Catholicism doesn’t tolerate homosexuality, much less its sanctioning by the bonds of holy matrimony.

Personally, I think gay people should be allowed to marry, if not in church, at least legally. In fact, I don’t think that the government should have anything to do with the term marriage. I think that only religious or other institutions should concern themselves with that term. My issue is what the government does because only the government affects all people in the U.S. and has the obligation to treat us all equally.

That said, the government should ONLY have the right to grant people the status of “civil union.” Any two consenting adults should be able to join in such a union and then reap the benefits, tax or otherwise, of this union. In this way, marriage and the government have nothing to do with one another and no one has to worry or be treated unequally. You want to be married? Let your priest do it and call it whatever you want.

Do you like this episode? What’d you think? What are your thoughts on gay marriage?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

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?

Cartman Takes to the Pulpit in “Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?”

I’m not sure if Comedy Central is just trying to delight me and my senses these days or if it’s just a coincidence that great religious episode after great religious episode seems to be on. Actually, it reminds me of how many episodes in which South Park focuses on religion. And tonight’s episode is 410, “Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?”

The show begins with Father Maxi preaching fiery brimstone and damnation to his congregation after catching the boys behaving poorly in church. By scaring them into going to Sunday School where they can prepare for their first communion by taking their first confession, Father Maxi ends up filling the boys with all sorts of theological diatribe that they can’t seem to shake.

Concerned by what they’ve heard, Cartman, Stan, Kenny and the other boys try to save their friends who might otherwise be destined for Hell – Timmy, for instance, who can’t say more than his own name, much less confess. Oh, and obviously Kyle. Father Maxi’s ill intentions are best demonstrated when he quotes the Bible to tell Kyle he’s going to Hell but actually quotes from a passage that doesn’t mention anything about the Jews. It is also clear that all he cares about is greater church attendance.

Realizing that it is the Bible from which both the priest and the church’s sister, Sister Anne, draw their authority when making their bold assertions about going to Hell, the boys begin to fear the power of this book. That is, until Father Maxi is caught having sex in the confessional booths and ousted by the children, only to have Cartman take up the pulpit in his place, determined to save the souls of all of South Park’s children. You can’t miss the conclusion of this two-part episode, “Probably,” tomorrow night.

The reason I love this episode is multi-fold, but two issues in particular are its treatment of theology and the Bible. The Bible is used as a source of authority – almost the source of authority – and it’s only by getting a hold of it that Cartman’s power can actually take shape. We see him mimic the terrible lessons he’s learned from his Church: how to wield undeserved and unjust authority through threats and coercion.

Second is the use of theology. When the boys are taught theology as children, they are simply confused. Communion is illogical to them because the notion that crackers and wine really become Jesus’ body suggests that Jesus was made of crackers and wine. They approach these issues like children: skeptical and curious. Why? Why? Why? they ask. In typical dogmatic fashion, they are told, because the Bible says so, because that’s the way it is, and stop bothering me or you’re going to Hell.

And then there’s so much more.

To read up on tonight’s other episode, “Fantastic Easter Special,”  click HERE. Click HERE to read about other South Park episodes.

Need professional editing services at great prices for papers, essays and more? Click HERE for killer deals and Fall Semester Savings!

“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?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

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.