Showing posts with label Christian Churches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Churches. Show all posts

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kurt Warner's Third Grade Theology

     NFL & Superbowl MVP, current quarterback for the Phoenix Cardinals, and my fellow University of Northern Iowa alumnus: Kurt Warner draws his football loving god.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

BBC, Hillary, and Uganda on Gay Death Penalty


     Here are a few quick updates on the continuing saga of Uganda's Bill No. 18, which if passes will sentence homosexuals to life in prison or death.



     Boos to even more U.S. pastors and Christian churches, including the ELCA, that have been tied to the origin of the Ugandan bill.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rick Warren's Still in the Spotlight (surprise.)

      Over on Shakesville, there's a great discussion going on about Rick Warren's following internet post:


     This comes statement after Warren's involvement in the human rights disaster taking place in Uganda.  Warren's good Christian values are not only theologically violent, but are now in part responsible for encouraging the Ugandan government to pass Bill Number 18 and put gays to death.

     On Shakesville, Seraph4377 commented:
You know, he's [Warren] right about one thing. The Christ of the Gospels really did refuse to hurt back (whether you think he had any deific powers to use when the Romans came for him or not, he definitely told his armed followers to stand down) and told his followers to do likewise.
Thing is, Jesus didn't always live up to his pacifist principles. Even if you leave aside that little temper tantrum with the fig tree (a hungry man is an angry man, after all) and the nasty side effects that exorcism had on the Gadarene Swine (that wasn't done out of malice), you're still left with one occasion where He got genuinely violent - I mean, table-dumping, whip-swinging berserk.
And what was it that set Him off? Did He come upon a homosexual couple? A midwife who performed abortions? Nope. Turns out He really, really didn't like people using their religious authority to take advantage of the rubes.
Which reminds me of another story. Jesus is confronted by an angry mob who have caught a sexual sinner in the act. They demand that He pass judgment (aka legitimize the lynching they are about to perform), but instead of doing so - or "not taking sides" - He quietly shames them all into leaving said sexual sinner alone.
Is it possible, just maybe, that Jesus might want his followers to do the same?
Maybe Warren should worry about whether Jesus really meant that "whatever you have done to the least of these" thing.
     My response:
Seraph4377, you hit it on the nose: the Jesus of scripture would just walk away.
Christianity is a mess, full of cultish adherents to different personalities, one of which is Rick Warren, but you could just as easily substitute Pope Benedict, Pat Robertson, Gene Robinson, Pope John XXIII, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Luther, Calvin, Francis of Assisi, Arius, Nestorius, etc. (right or left, throughout history). Why not substitute Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, as the Corinthians did (1 Cor 1:12)?  Most churches exists to perpetuate themselves and their preachers' lifestyles, not the word of some god.
I left behind the Catholic priesthood, the Catholic church, and ultimately faith in any sort of god because of the hypocrisy and theological violence that people do in the name of their gods, of which ignorance is usually the most powerful god. Rick Warren is not about Jesus, god, or doing good, he's about fattening his own image and pocketbook.

Friday, December 4, 2009

N.O.M. Claims a God-Given Right to Vote Away Marriage Equality

     According to Towleroad, Executive Director of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) Brian Brown, who brought you CA Proposition 8 and Maine Question 1 and the "Gathering Storm," stated the following in response to the Washington D.C. Council's 11-2 preliminary vote to approve equality for gays and lesbians:
      NOM will be proud to fight alongside Bishop Harry Jackson to make sure politicians hear the people's voice loud and clear: don't mess with marriage. We will fight in Congress. We will fight through the courts to get this to the people of D.C. who have a God-given right to vote for marriage.
     "God-given right"?  Isn't that what slave owners argued from as well?  And terrorists?  And crusaders? etc.

More on the Gay Death Penalty In Uganda


     The human rights disaster in Uganda known as Bill Number 18 and U.S. involvement in the creation of the bill continues to get messier

     It is now known that Bill Number 18 calls for life imprisonment for people who commit acts of homosexuality, the death penalty for acts of "aggrivated" homosexuality, prison sentences for attempts to commit acts of homosexuality, prison sentences for people who know that someone is gay but don't report it to the government, and the extradition of Ugandan citizens from around the world who commit homosexual acts in other nations back to Uganda where they would be killed or put in prison for life.

     Rachel Maddow is doing a multi-segment report on the bill and its connections to U.S. pray-away-the-gay Christian religious leaders: Rick Warren of Saddle(broke)back Church; Don Schmierer of Exodus International (which preaches "the message of Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ"); Caleb Lee Brundidge of the International Healing Foundation; and Scott Lively of Defend the Family.  Also mixed deep into the origin of the Ugandan bill are members of "The Family."  Maddow is challenging these folks to condemn Bill Number 18 and to challenge the Ugandan government not to pass it.  For more information, Queerty has done a great job looking into the different U.S. political and religious players involved in Uganda.

    As far as I can find in my research, the U.S. government and President Obama have yet to make a statement against the Ugandan bill; however, other nations are making a standThe Daily Monitor reports:
In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government called the proposed law “vile and hateful”, while Britain’s Gordon Brown raised the issue with President Museveni during the recent Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago. 
According to comments attributed to Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden’s development assistance minister, the Swedish government says it would cut aid [$50 million annually] to Uganda over an anti-gay law they find “appalling”.  Ms. Carlsson said the law would make it “much more difficult” for Sweden to continue helping Uganda.
     Click here for a petition asking President Obama to join other world leaders in speaking out against the bill.

     For the perspective of a gay Ugandan, here's a link to the blog: Gay Ugandan.

     There are a number of religious leaders taking a stance against this bill.  Kudos to them.

     Here are Rachel Maddow's telling reports:

"Uganda Be Kidding Me"



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Family, Rick Warren, & Killing Gays in Uganda


     Here's an update on my previous posting concerning Rick Warren's involvement in the pending Ugandan bill that, if passed, will put certain homosexuals to death.  Kudos to the European Union for speaking out against this bill, yesterday.  Where does the US government stand?  The answer is behind Oz's curtain, manipulating in the shadows.

     News agencies are reporting that the conservative and secret-society funded Christian group of politicians known as "The Family" is involved in the promotion of Uganda's gay death penalty bill.  If you don't know who they are, the Family includes a group of conservative Christian politicians of both parties that dorm together in Washington, D.C. at the C Street House.  They are behind the National Prayer Breakfast, and they also vow secrecy to one another concerning the details of their sordid lives.

     The holy group is best known for their members, hypcrites Sen. John Ensign and Gov. Mark Sanford.  They of the words of condemnation and demands for the resignation of President Clinton during the fallout of his affair, but who remain in office months after their own sordid affairs were exposed in the press.  Ensign's affair involved illegal hiring practices, sexual harassment of an employee, and a $100,000 payoff from mommy and daddy to hush his oral mistress.  Sanford's affair involved going AWOL, abandoning his family and the state of South Carolina for days without contact in order to travel on state money to Argentina, where his mistress of many years lives (oh, and he had other affairs, too).

      The following news report from Rachel Maddow discusses the links between the Family and Uganda's gay death penalty bill with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.  The bill will make it a crime in Uganda to not report a homosexual within twenty-four hours of discovering his sexuality and will require the death penalty for HIV positive men who have sex.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Monday, November 30, 2009

Saddle(broke)back Church & Homo "Lover" Rick Warren


     Pastor Rick Warren is at it again, that is talking out both sides of his scraggly (and oh-so-closeted-gay) goatee. Yesterday on Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Warren if he would work to fight the legalization of marriage for same sex couples were it to come up on the California ballot again.  Warren responded:
     Well, again, I'm not a politician. I didn't fight it in the last issue. What was misunderstood is people, people on both sides tried to make me the campaign leader. I only mentioned it one time, and I mentioned it to my own congregation when I was asked, "What is our position on this?" and I made a video for our congregation. Well, that was dumb, because it immediately went everywhere and then all the sudden it looked like I was the big campaigner.
     The video was dumb indeed, and Warren is a liar.  No one with Warren's level of media savy can honestly claim that they believe making a video and publishing it on a publicly accessible website during the internet/media age and during a campaign is an in-house, non-political event.  He knew exactly what he was doing when he released this video:



     Furthermore, Pastor Warren is a liar because he spoke out more than once.  Has he forgotten that he also told the press in an interview that he was against marriage rights for same sex couples, while comparing homosexuality to incest, pedophilia, and bestiality.  So, much for coming out against marriage equality as being a one time thing.  So yesterday on Meet the Press, Warren AGAIN lied to everyone.  Interesting that in his fondness for quoting scripture, he conveniently forgets to quote Exodus 20:16, "Thou shalt not bear false witness."  How easy it is for beloved holy men and women to overlook that one.  Didn't he memorize those Ten Commandments in kindergarten?  Here's a video that shows Warren's infamous statement that homosexuality is the same thing as incest, pedophilia, and bestiality:
 


      After claiming not to be a politician and that his job is "to love everybody"and not to be involved with political legislation, Warren went on to compare abortion to the holocaust.  That sounds like being quite involved in political legislation to me.

     But Warren's hypocrisy goes even further.  Like the Catholic church, the loving Rick Warren supports programs in Africa that are leading to the deaths of many people. Warren has strong ties to Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa, who is backing a legislative bill in Uganda that will make the death penalty the legal punishment for certain homosexual actions.  Ssempa has appeared at Warren's Saddleback Church and been embraced by Warren and his wife.

     The history of Warren and Ssempa is even more incidious (the following paragraph is paraphrased from The Daily Beast).   In the late 90s, Ugandan President Museveni had a successful HIV-prevention program called ABC, which emphasized abstinence, monogamous relationships, and  using condoms as the best ways to prevent the spread of HIV.  This resulted in a 10% drop in Uganda's HIV/AIDS rate.  After Museveni's wife Janet became a born-again Christian in 1999 and dedicated her life to the "lordship" of Jesus Christ, she went to Washington, D.C. and promised Republicans that abstinence was the reason that ABC was working so well.  Our Congress gave Uganda $200 million for AIDS-prevention for the "exclusive promotion of abstinence education."  Pastor Ssempa was given $40,000 of that money to be on the new task force, and he set to the streets and college campuses burning condoms "in the name of Jesus!"   By 2006, HIV-infection in Uganda had spiked, in thanks to the the "decreased credibility" of condoms by fundamentalist groups.

     But the crusade didn't stop there.  As reported by The Daily Beast:
     In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses. “Homosexual promoters,” he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterwards, two of President Yoweri Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gay activists named by Ssempa. Terrified, the activists immediately [went] into hiding...when Uganda’s Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest. “The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott,” Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, “We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all.” 
     After taking sides in that political argument, Warren now claims that he "never takes sides" and that it is "not his calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations."  So, when the issue at hand is Uganda's proposed law legalizing the death penalty for certain homosexual acts (like having sex when HIV positive), Warren claims the pastoral fifth.

     Hypocrite!



Sunday, November 29, 2009

A View from the Pew

     I've still received no word on Fr. Hate. It's as if he's been abducted by aliens. He's just gone. I'm very worried and doing all I can to find out what's happened.  The church his hiding something.  I hope he's okay.

     In lieu of my usual Sunday postings of my meetings with Fr. Hate, here's a reflection upon the funeral of the mother of my Super Husband Extraordinaire (SHE). 

            A View from the Pew


There is no god in the Huntsville Boulevard Church of Christ.  There are people.  There are pews.  There are bibles.  But there is no god.  Not for me.

Camouflaged by the tiny choir, I sit in the back corner of the naked church.  I wait to give voice to symmetrical hymns and latex lyrics.  A glimmer of grief grazes my consciousness, grief for the harmonies of my youth, my former life as a Catholic priest, days when there was no way out but through, no option but to deny oneself—the truth—for the glory of the kingdom, a kingdom in which I am no longer welcome.

Far away on the center aisle in the fifth pew from the front, my fiancé SHE sits alone, exposed.   The beloved Ms. Saint sits in front of him.  SHE’s family adores her—the ex— the last vestige of SHE’s “normal” life.  They never accepted him—for being a musician, for being gay.  They know nothing about his life.  Decades of atherosclerotic denial have dammed any flow of fondness for him that they may harbor in the bowels of their fear.   Instead, they venerate Ms. Saint, whom SHE has forgiven, to whom SHE remained true all those years that he knew Ms. Saint was cheating, when he knew that he was gay but was struggling to be straight for Jesus.  Divorce wasn’t an option in the Church of Christ.  Being gay wasn’t even on the menu.  And now, at his mother’s funeral, beatific Ms. Saint sits in front of SHE.

The pillow-like man to my right fidgets.  His pant leg grazes mine.  His fingers fumble through a stale songbook, although they’ve already located the first hymn.  His wedding ring needs a good shining.  To my left another married man with a permanent lemon-licking pucker keeps a more respectable distance like the evenly distributed married couples filling the pews, four inches of carnal security buffering them from their magnetic instincts.   Again, pillow-man’s leg punctures the body-space barrier kissing my knee.  He knows.  The forbidden voice from within is calling his name.  He can’t resist.  Still, he doesn’t inquire.  If asked, I am “a friend” of SHE’s old choir friends, for he’s in too much pain to speak the unspoken-yet-known truth, too weak to fight off the righteous condemnations that would ensue, and too exhausted to resist his shame, his function in the family’s dark dance.


SHE sobs alone in his pew.  I hate Alabama.  Each tear drives a reed under my toenails, spikes through my wrists, and a spear into my side.  I’m bound to the unfeeling pew by invisible chains, ancient chains.  I pull at them, but do not break away.  I remain in the chains for them: SHE’s dad, his sister and brother, and their families, the five generations that sit in the pews in front of my SHE.   

I know their stories.  I know about the deceased’s great-great-grandchild in the second pew.  I know of the hardships of his great-great-great-great grandfather, stories of generations past, family schism courtesy of the Civil War, the unceasing, unrelenting war.  Family stories mined from SHE’s exhaustive ancestral research come alive as I see his family for the first time, in the flesh, looking upon their matriarch, Ruth, who deceives us from the coffin with a blissful glow.  I sit.  I observe as the unknown entity, a nameless stranger who knows the intimate secrets and sin of their lives.  I’m a non-being, trapped in some out-of-body nightmare in which events progress, emotions drain, and daggers dressed as pious platitudes dance in the plastic preacher’s every other sentiment.

My body recalls, embraces even, how it felt—the closet.  My shoulders round forward.  My chest chokes itself into a knot.  Endorphins assault my extremities, pushing through capillaries into follicles.  My forearm hair stands erect.  My eyes dart, searching for signs.  Does anyone know?  Does anyone suspect who I really am?  My hearing sharpens as my comprehension clouds.  I filter through pleasantries, descrambling cadences for any indication that someone knows that I am other, I am gay, I am the scapegoat.  I sit alone in a sea of believers, people who profess that the truth sets one free and believe that Christ gave them the privilege to hit anyone different with their god-stick.  Drowning on the other side of the nefarious nave is my spouse, my SHE, and I am as powerless to help him as the corpse of his mother who stares peacefully at the stark rafters above.

There is no god in the Huntsville Boulevard Church of Christ. 

There is a preacher, who admires the sound of his voice as much as the crisp part in his greased mane, a preacher who would have failed my homiletics classes in seminary for his abuse of pious platitudes and random scriptural proof-texting, a preacher who knows only of Paul and Ruth what he wants to know in order to justify the rectitude of the prescriptions he hurls at his liver-speckled, white-haired, and white-skinned flock, a preacher who walks with an air of overconfidence and gestures with histrionics that betray the true nature of his closets, a preacher whose “inspired” wisdom has provided him with a kindergarten acrostic of a sermon.  

Ruth:  R is for reverent (Wife reveres husband.), U is for unselfish (Wife defers to husband.), T is for thankful (Wife thanks god for husband.) and H is for hospitality (Wife keeps house for husband).   

This preacher trains his flock to fear and condemn anyone different.  He continues the holy line of succession, the succession of bipolar bigots who hate their very selves “to the shame” and project their toxic denials onto the “gays and strays” of society.   

The preacher praises Ruth and Paul for what he knows them to be: reliable, loving members of the Church of Christ.  He omits half of the truth: they were parents who denied their children love and acceptance, a father who abused his children and belittled them as adults, a mother who let it happen, grandparents who put pious point-winning missionary travels above time with discarded grandchildren.  They are not perfect saints, as the preacher professes them to be, and there, SHE sits, an eternal void of saved souls separating us, skewering us.  Not a savior in sight. 

SHE weeps and wipes his wrinkled cheeks with a handkerchief.  My liver boils.  My spontaneously overgrown fingernail digs into the songbook on my lap leaving a mark, a divot that will never be repaired, a sign that I was there at Ruth’s funeral at 1:23 pm on Saturday, March 7, 2009.  I was there!  I am here.  We are here.  We will not go away.  You will not cure, erase, or crush our love, my love for SHE, his love for me.  We love.  We live.  You evenly-spaced stoic sour-faces catatonically propagating the status quo—you are dead, as dead as my lover’s mama in the casket before us.  You live in your closets, your fantasies.   I, for one, am finished.

I stand up and run down the aisle to SHE.  I embrace him, cradling the boy who misses his mama.  I don’t care what these religious bastards think.  I shout to the heavens.  The woman in front of me is an adulterer.  She’s not the saint Ms. Saint you have canonized her to be.  Paul wasn’t a loving father.  SHE hid under the bed when he came home from work.  My SHE was six!  He still has PTSD from the random beatings.  And on and on I preach the truth and expose the lies.


But I’m still in my pew with the choir, sight-reading another vacuous verse set to a three-tone bass growl.  SHE stares at the backside of the family that’s rejected him since his fourth birthday when he asked for paper dolls.  Together, everyone sings of the peace that the Lord Jesus Christ brings to those who confess the truth, and I bow once more to the god I have forsaken, the god I have outgrown, the god who failed to evolve with the truth of my human experience and history, a god who now takes his rightful place in the weathered acropoli of conquered civilizations, a god who is nothing more than myth grasping at power with fingers of dread, damnation, dependence, disgrace, and duplicity.  For one more day, I offer sacrifice to that god.   I bow and light fire to my dignity, my authenticity, my truth, and my love for SHE who wails abandoned to that heartless pew.  I sing Amen—and so it is—in Alabama.

My eyelid twitches.  My heart tightens.  My lungs resist breath.  I am in the closet.  I remain there a few more hours to spare people who know me not.  I spare them and sacrifice my love.  I loathe them, their preacher, their imaginary Santa Christ.  Never again, I promise myself.  Never again will I abandon my love, my SHE, to the jaws of their denial.  Never again.  


Postscript: The names of persons and places have been changed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Manhattan Project's True Bomb


     There is brave editorial  in the Los Angeles Times today.  The editorial calls conservative Christian churches, including the Catholic church, to accountability for their recent actions to derail healthcare reform, civil marriage rights for same sex couples, and women's reproductive rights that culminated in the release of the Manhattan Declaration last week.

     Concerning the Declaration's call for civil disobedience in order to get the nation to adhere to Christian religious laws, the Times editorial concludes:
     This apocalyptic argument for lawbreaking is disingenuous, but it is also dangerous. Did the Roman Catholic bishops who signed the manifesto consider how their endorsement of lawbreaking in a higher cause might embolden the antiabortion terrorists they claim to condemn? Did they stop to think that, by reserving the right to resist laws they don't like, they forfeit the authority to intervene in the enactment of those laws, as they have done in the congressional debate over healthcare reform? They need to be reminded that this is a nation of laws, not of men -- even holy men.

Girl Lashed over Skirt

     Right wing Christians in our country just don't get it.  Separation of church and state is necessary to protect people of all religious beliefs, non-believers and believers alike.

     Reuters reports:
     A 16-year-old south Sudanese girl was lashed 50 times after a judge ruled her knee-length skirt was indecent, her lawyer and family said in the latest case to push Sudan's Islamic law into the spotlight.
     Life in a state ruled by religious law:
     Sudan is supposed to be working to soften the impact of Shariah for southerners living in Khartoum under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war. The deal lifted Shariah law in the south, where most follow Christianity and traditional beliefs.
     Women's groups argue the decency laws are too vague, giving the country's separate public order police too much freedom to decide what kind of dress is appropriate.
     Of course, back here in the USA, Conservative Christians are the one's trying to impose their religious views, which are disputed by people of all denominations, upon the general public.  Don't they realize that separation of church and state also protects them?  Apparently their historical memory has eroded under some sort of divine Alzheimer's.
 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Selling the Santa Christ

     The season of Advent doesn't officially start until Saturday at dusk, but that hasn't kept our Christian friends from joining in the credit-busting wealth-fest and excuse to stampede and kill your brothers and sisters that is Black Friday.  What peaceful season!

     As usual this holiday season, preachers will decry the erosion of the "reason for the season" and call upon good Christian men to rejoice and put the Christ back in X-mas (ignorant of the fact that the X comes from the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter in the word "christ" in Greek, the language in which most of the New Testament was written).

     But let them decry the heathens they claim have commercialized Christmas.  Let them point fingers.  For their own kind have also given themselves to the coming of the Santa Christ.  None is exempt, for the internet reveals all.

    Two days only at Lifeway Chritian Stores: Biblical Soulutions for Life: CDs, DVDs, bibles, kids' stuff, everything on sale!  Hurry before your time runs out.

     At Christianbook.com, move fast for this week's specials: the box office flop The Nativity Story for only $4.99 on DVD (sorry no Blue-Ray), the NIV Study Bible, 2002 Edition with black, bonded leather for a whopping 75% off, The Beginner's Bible: 50% off, and nothing speaks Christmas better than a new Veggie Tales Christmas DVD: Saint Nicholas: a Story of Joyful Giving.  Strange that Veggie Tales is only 33% off and the bibles are 75%  and 50% off.  I guess nothing sells the world of god better than a bunch of singing vegetables, which reminds me, you can also get the book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God for just $7.49.


     Rush over to Family Christian Stores for the after Thanksgiving 3 day sale event with $5 and 50% off "doorbusters."  Wallet busters is more like it, but don't fret, you're spending for Jesus.  Think of it as a holiday sacrifice, an indulgence in celebration of the incarnation. Spend a little on cutting-edge originally titled CDs like "In the Hands of God" by Newsboys or "Christ is Come" by Big Daddy Weave. Is it just me or are these boy bands kind of hot?

     What if we ... Brandon Heath?

     Welcome to the Masquerade indeed.


     Or click over to Catholic Supply of St. Louis, Inc. and visit their "Extensive Christmas Shoppe" where adding a "pe" to the end of "shop" makes it okay to exploit religion for financial gain.

     If someone you know is addicted to their yearly Precious Moments cute little crack fix, head over to the Religious Goods Center and slap down $35.00 for a one-of-a-kind mass produced and dated figurine.  The celebration of your savior's birth in a simple manger won't be complete without it.

     Or for more Catholic goods, head on over to Abbey Press, the self-proclaimed "web's top source for gifts of faith, family, and friendship!"  Or head to the Catholic Company and get your Christmas cards ordered during Advent, while shopping for Advent books, wreaths, and candleholders.  We don't want those Jews owning the candle market now, do we?  At Autom.com you can get Advent gifts and supplies for as low as 49 cents!  Try to beat that deal, you Protestants.

     But to get the ultimate Christmas gift for your Catholic friends, drop everything and click over to Vatican Gift, for here you can drop $220 on a rosary and $95 more on a rosary box.  Or go all out and spend $420 on the "The Medal-Cross fo [sic] Saint Benedict - 18 kt Gold and platinum." But don't worry, it's worth it, because Vatican Gift has a direct line to Pope Ben who will bless your purchases "absolutely for free" and they're also throwing in a free 2010 calendar of Pope Ben.  And at Vatican Gift, they go even further by sending "a relevant" contribution to "chidrens [sic] in Africa and in other parts of the world, for their health and instruction."  So, buy now, and you can contribute to children being told by the Catholic church that condoms don't prevent the spread of HIV.  So, give some HIV to an unnamed black kid in Africa!  What could be a better way to spread Christmas joy, hope and salvation?

     So, all ye preachers, decry the commercialization of the season, but don't come crying when your collections go up in the coming weeks and you silently take a little off the top for father's needs.

     After all, we live in Jesusland.