Talk to God via the interweb!

DearGod.net is a site that purports to let you publicly post your prayers to “Jesus, Allah, Buddha or simply a spiritual universal energy.” Or, in the site’s words: “Dear God is a global project for people around the world to share their innermost hopes – and fears – through prayer.”

So apparently people are posting their prayers here and other people post responses. (I say “apparently” and “purports” not because I have any reason to doubt the site’s veracity but because I am one cynical MoFo.)

Today’s prayers include:

  • Protect Them From Those Who Would Tell Them That They Can’t Make It.
  • My Girlfriend Had An Abortion Last Month.
  • I’m A Christian And My Sex Life Sucks (complete with NSFW picture)
  • So What’s The Deal God? Are You Angry? Is It Something We Did Or Didn’t Do?
  • Can A Political Action Be The Same As A Moral One?
  • Please Just Help Me To Become The Person I Used To Be.

As someone who is a daily practitioner of prayer and very devout in my own peculiar faith, it would be hypocritical of me to mock this site. Who am I to say that posting here is any more or less effective than any other mode of prayer? I suspect even if you do not believe in He/She/They/It you would be hard pressed not to be at least interested in the compassion and questions of the site’s users.

That said, the site is not without its amusing touches. Some are intentional and some are not. Among the intentional funny things are offers to let you “Get on God’s Mailing List,” “Email In/Send It To The Big Guy” and you can subscribe to the feed via a link that reads: “RSS – Fed From Above.”

Among the unintentional amusements are:

“Share your prayers here and help us create hope one prayer at a time. Simply send us your personal letter to your God and/or a picture that sums up your message visually. (Dear God will source a picture if you don’t have one).” emphasis mine

Dear God, please source me a picture. I am imageless and alone….

And, because no good deed should be offered without a chance at renumeration, there is a form to fill out if you are interested in advertising opportunities at DearGod.net.

P&G? Exxon? The Onion? UNICEF? Who exactly would put this in their media buying plan?

Image courtesy GodMadeMeFunky.com

Why are Easter chocolates Kosher?

Annette asks this key question in response to my post People for the Ethical Treatment of Candy Animals.

I noticed many of the easter chocolate (crosses! In chocolate!!!) have a kosher seal on them. Why?????????

Judging from her entertaining blog Fun With Play Dough, Ms. van de Kamp-Wright is Jewish and totally perplexed by this and other issues around Easter.

But Easter? How do Christians explain to their children about somebody who was murdered by being nailed to a cross, was buried in a cave, and came back as if he was the villain in a horror movie who just won’t die?

While I do not disagree with Ms. van de Kamp-Wright’s characterization of the holiday (indeed I thought the line about the horror movie villain was both insulting to Christians and hysterically funny), I do not agree with it either. I must say that I have yet to encounter any religion whose ideas and holidays are in any way, shape or form rational. Mormons? Christian Scientists? Zoroastrians? They worship a bowl of fire instead of somebody who was murdered by being nailed to a cross, was buried in a cave, and came back as if he was the villain in a horror movie who just won’t die? How odd.

Is this story really any more or less difficult to explain then God sending an angel to kill all the first born of Egypt? “Oh honey, G-d who has promised to send a messiah, decided to execute thousands of children just to give Moses a chance to get lost in the desert for four decades.”

Turning water into wine is neither more or less absurd than the Almighty communicating via a shrubbery that is set on fire. My own faith is neither Christian nor Jewish but essentially Deist. Although I am a sect of one, my beliefs are deeply heart-felt and I practice them (pardoned the phrase) religiously. Undoubtedly I have practices and tenets that others would think certifiably loony. That is, after all, the nature of faith. If it were based on reason, we wouldn’t be called believers. People who worship in glass churches/temples/groves, etc. should not throw stones.

None of which answers Annette’s wonderful question.

Stores nailed for selling Jesus-branded cosmetics

JC bath soapComplaints from irate Catholics (is that a new denomination?) have forced a chain of stores in Singapore to pull all of the “Lookin’ Good For Jesus” line of cosmetics.

Nick Chui, 27, a Catholic, spotted the items in a Topshop outlet and then wrote a letter to [its owners] saying that the products trivialised Jesus Christ and Christianity. “There are also sexual innuendoes in the messages and the way Jesus is portrayed in these products,” the Singapore Straits Times quoted Chui as saying.

The cosmetics and toiletries are made by the Massachusetts company Blue Q. The company is actually pretty catholic in its brands, which include “Wash Away Your Sins,” and “Cute as Hell.” They also make “Believe In God” & “Convert to Judaism” breath sprays and “Jesus Saves” & “Jesus Rocks” car air fresheners.

We know He can turn water into wine, but can He turn controversy into sales.

I’m always conflicted when it comes to the topic of religious humor. I know a bunch of Jesus jokes (that’s bad, right?) and I learned most of them from a priest (which makes them good, right?). For reasons I am still unclear on, a lot of them involve JC playing golf.

Not all, however.

Jesus walks into a hotel, places three nails on the counter and says, “Can you put me up for the night?”

That’s bad.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Jesus is still hot … in chocolate, plastic, CDs and Elvis

In case you had any doubts JC the First is still a bankable concept for moving product.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

The one true Jesus MP3 player has been revealed

Cross MP3 playerYou can have your Jesus Phone, from now on I will be listening to all my stolen gospel music on this. HA HA. Special props to OhGizmo for dubbing it the iJesus. BTW, the iJesus is very affordable: 4GB for only $48. Discounts if you buy enough for the whole flock.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Sex, violence and religion: Churches use Halo 3 and porn to attract customers

Everyone else is doing it, so why not them?

The computer game Halo is hot so:

Acts of GodAcross the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.

Pornography, of course, is always popular so:

The Crux, a Fishers church, joined a nationwide movement Sunday to address the issue, a day they called “Porn Sunday,” WRTV-TV in Indianapolis reported. Across the country, hundreds of churches talked about what some call America’s dirty little secret. An estimated 40 million people visit porn sites daily, generating an estimated $6.2 billion for porn purveyors in the United States alone, according to Porn Sunday’s organizers. Porn Sunday is a movement started by two pastors from California who formed a church called xxxchurch.com, dubbed a Christian porn site.

And to think people once got upset because Vatican II switched the Catholic Church from Latin to the vernacular. (Cue Tom Lehrer.) All of this goes a long way to explain why the Night of Joy Christian music event at Walt Disney World is considered the rowdiest, most debauched event in the Happiest Place on Earth:

. . . some who have attended previous NOJ festivals, as well as Cast Members who’ve worked it, claim that of all the separate-ticket events held at the Magic Kingdom, it’s the most unruly. Tales abound of the Magic Kingdom overrun by mobs of drunken teens, petty thievery in the shops, as well as an overworked security dealing with fights among the crowds of young concert attendees.

(Maybe it’s just the context but doesn’t Night of Joy sound a little dirty?)

It’s actually disingenuous of me to criticize this behavior. I mean if you read the source material … aka The BIBLE … it’s just filled with this stuff.

But that’s all in the Old (fun) Testament, the New Testament’s stories offer far less in the way of how people do act and more in the way of how it is hoped they will act. Because of this I think it’s OK for Catholic Bishops in Belgium to complain about a TV ad depicting a pot-bellied, hippy Jesus performing miracles and picking up scantily-clad girls up in a nightclub.

God Ad

According to the texts I’ve read (and I haven’t finished The Gnostic Gospels yet) while Jesus did meet “fallen women” he put a premium on helping them back up. It’s important to show the full story.

(Acts of God image courtesy of GreatCosmicHappyAss.com which has a bunch of other funny God cards.)

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Who would Jesus sue? Maker of religion-themed computer-game threatens critics

Quoth TechDirt:

Left Behind Games, makers of (somewhat controversial) religiously themed real-time strategy games … apparently isn’t happy that its video games were reviewed negatively across the blogworld. So, they did what any video game company would do: they improved their game. Oh… no, they didn’t. … They simply pulled out the lawyers and threatened to sue a bunch of bloggers for posting “false and misleading” content about the games. Of course, opinions can’t be either false or misleading, so they’ll have quite a case on their hands.

So guess what story/opinions are now being spread far and wide across the interweb? A text book case in how not to do this.

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the legal system for protecting providers of false and/or misleading opinions … a/k/a me.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

First God gets an airline, now He/She/They/It get a social networking site

Social networking seems to have found religion or visa versa.

A site called CircleBuilder.com wants to be a MySpace and FaceBook “where people of all faiths can come together to nurture their personal relationships and put their faith into practice.”

The idea of an on-line social networking service for religion seems odd to me. Churches, mosques, synagogues are one of, if not THE orginal social network. That person-to-person community and connection is such an essential part of what these places are that having an on-line simulacrum seems … I don’t know exactly … but at least jarring.

It is a deeply non-denominational site – which in a way I also find jarring.

CircleBuilder is an online networking and management platform enabling faith-based organizations to increase their membership, improve fundraising, organize events and more efficiently serve their community. Through our simple to use web-based interface we create numerous “touch points”—personalized emails, shared calendars, blogs, text messages, online donations and storefronts, streaming media and newsletters—by which members can communicate with their organizations and with each other.

CBlogoNothing wrong with any of this, it’s just that I’m a uncomfortable with the euphemisms they use: people of faith & faith-based organization. While it is inclusive it is also so inclusive as to be meaningless: Cubs fans are a people of faith and support a faith-based organization, after all. Isn’t our current administration’s foreign policy faith-based, in the worst possible meaning of the phrase. (And isn’t the CircleBuilder logo just a wee bit Christian looking? Maybe what makes me uncomfortable about these euphemisms is that so far I have only heard them from Christians so they’re like code words to use in situations where that pesky separation of church-and-state issue might come up.)

I come from Rhode Island, a state founded by Roger Williams because he thought people should have the freedom to worship or not worship in whatever way they please without government interference. I have always been very proud of the fact that my little home state was started for this reason. (And it doesn’t hurt that Williams actually purchased the land for his first settlement from the Native Americans who were living in the area!) So I am a big believer in the ecumenical.

That said, I think a person belongs to a church or a synagogue or a mosque or wood grove or temple to Apollo or whatever and not to just some generic “faith.” Heck, my religious beliefs are so idiosyncratic that once you get past prayer and the belief in a deity I’m generally at variance with some tenet or another of pretty much every organized system of worship. But just the same, I’d rather be called someone who believes in God than a “person of faith.”

Wonder what the folks over at my favorite church marketing blog think about all this?

UPDATE: Just found a VentureBeat article from earlier this week on the general theme of churches and social networking … click here … the author doesn’t mention CircleBuilder, but I don’t have a lot of those things he has … what are they called? … oh yeah, facts.

General takes sucking up to the boss to a whole new level

“He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country.” — Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld.

Does beg the question which good Lord is talking to Rummy. I mean the G-d of the Old Testament had the whole Job thing and generally was never to nice to H-s followers. If it’s a New Testament good Lord, then are we talking Catholic, Protestant, Coptic, Russian Orthodox or what?

Or maybe it’s not even a Christian good Lord. Maybe he’s listening to Ganesh (an elephant-headed deity is a natural fit), or Loki or Anansi. Or maybe the general is just setting up the ultimate pass the buck scenario: Rummy was just following orders.

While I personally find the GL a great source of comfort, I am not certain I would rely on Him/Her/It/Them for direction on how to defend a nation. I mean is giving a slingshot to a kid really going to deter terrorists?

The Da Vinci news

To pretty much no one’s surprise, reviews for the “Code” are in and are tepid at best (OK, so this one is from the “Catholic News Service,” you don’t think they’d hold a grudge do you?). Imagine my surprise. That said there is some actual news relating to the book that makes Tom Clancy look like a good writer:

  1. “Da Vinci” unites Indian Muslims and Christians In India, “Islamic clerics promised to help Christian groups launch protests if the authorities did not ban the screening of the controversial film.” Let’s try to show it in Iraq and see if that does any good. Can’t really make things worse. I for one am willing to join any protest over the quality of the writing in the book. And Tom Hank’s hair.
  2. Reading “Da Vinci Code” does alter beliefs: surveyThe Da Vinci Code has undermined faith in the Roman Catholic Church and badly damaged its credibility, a survey of British readers of Dan Brown’s bestseller showed on Tuesday.” Reading a book will change your beliefs? Somewhere Martin Luther is laughing his anti-Semitic butt off.

People are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.

Well, it has certainly altered my faith. My faith in the fact that I had a rough idea of how credulous people are.

“Don’t you think that I know that walking on water won’t make me a miracle man” — Elvis Costello

More on the religion front … scientists have come up with an "explanation" for JC tiptoeing on the tides: "Rare conditions could have conspired to create hard-to-see ice on the Sea of Galilee that a person could have walked on back when Jesus is said to have walked on water, a scientist said." OK, but being able to walk on water-covered ice without slipping seems pretty miraculous to me.

Tax collectors & fallen women yes, porn stars no.

jC starsThe American Bible Society has refused to publish 10,000 bibles emblazoned with the words "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" on them. The order was placed by two California pastors who run an anti-porn internet site called XXXchurch.com. They also distribute bibles at "adult entertainment" industry conventions and "thought putting an edgy cover on the bibles could get them attention and increase their distribution." Quoth the AP: The ABS says while it appreciates the pastors' mission, the words "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" are “misleading and inappropriate for a New Testament." No word yet on whether the ABS will OK bible to be used for outreach to the slasher industry entitled "Jesus Loves Zombies." The ministers involved in that project think Lazarus' role in the New Testament gives them a leg (or 2 or 3) to stand on. 

Huzzah, BTW, for xxxchurch.com which brings a truly funny vibe to their ministry.  Either that or this is one of the greatest put ons ever.