Atheist Teaches Bible Stories With R-Rated Legos!

This is a story that’s just hard to believe: T

hat an atheist would create obscene pictographs of Lego people in sexual situations, publish them as “Bible stories,” and expect us to like it.

Brendan Powell Smith, the artist/author

in question, did just that. I wrote about some of the scintillating pictures today over at Patheos.

Under “The Law” for example, there are sections on:

Sexual discharges

  1. Leviticus 15:16 “When a man ejaculates semen . . .” (the scene is of a Lego man masturbating in front of a television set)
  2. Leviticus 15:18 “Whenever a woman has intercourse with a man . . .” (two Lego action figures engaged in sexual relations)
  3. Leviticus 15:19 “Whenever a woman has her menstrual period . . .” (lonely woman sitting in a chair, gazing out the window)
  4. Leviticus 15:24 “If a man goes so far as to have intercourse with her . . .” (Lego couple atop a Lego bed, as fully engaged as a Lego couple can be)

Male genital injury

  1. Deuteronomy 23:1 “A man whose testicles have been crushed . . .” (Poor Lego guy finds himself under the front hoof of a horse)
  2. “. . . or whose penis has been cut off” (A Lego woman leaving the scene with a knife)

Children with a love of potty humor will enjoy the section on Camp Defecation (drawn from Deuteronomy 23:9-14). And I could go on: Transvestism (Dt. 22:5), Proof of Virginity (Dt. 22:13-20), Rape, Female Infidelity, and more.

The section on the Book of Revelation begins with John’s vision on the Island of Patmos—nine illustrations under the disrespectful heading “Future Revealed to Guy on Tiny Mediterranean Island.”

Revelation holds some terrors for children, as well, under titles like:

  1. “Children to Be Killed as Warning”
  2. “God Tortures, Kills Billions”
  3. “God Tortures a Whore”
  4. “Remaining Humans Doomed to Torture”
  5. “Son of Man’s Bloody Gorefest”

And there are sections that would seem to be especially reflective of Smith’s atheist perspective:

  1. “Alternative to God Proves Very Popular” (Rev. 12:17-13:8)
  2. “God’s Garish Eternal Tribute to Himself” (Rev. 21:1-22)

In all, the book—with its skewed perspective on matters of faith and its wry commentary on Old Testament stories—makes a pretty good case against faith. Since that’s not the objective of most parents, I’d suggest looking elsewhere for a good Bible storybook for your children.

For the full story, go check out my column over at Patheos today.

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Welcome, 2012! But Those Pesky New Year’s Resolutions…

‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions! Christmas gifts ha

ve been unwrapped; meals have been cooked and savored; you’ve cleaned the house and watched football and played with the grandkids. And now, we look to the future!

Oh, how things will change in 2012! We—collective Americans—will be more organized, will get to work on time, pray more, drink less, stop smoking, get out of debt.

News media and self-help gurus are stepping up to remind you that it’s time to turn over a new leaf, to make some New Year’s resolutions. Even the federal government has gotten into the act, establishing a webpage with concrete advice for resolution-makers.

The custom of starting the New Year with the hope of being somehow better than we were dates back to the Middle Ages. In 1740 John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, originated the “Watchnight service”—providing Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to drunken parties on New Year’s Eve. Even today, the United Methodist Book of Worship includes songs, prayers and scripture readings for this popular service.

Among African-Americans, the Watchnight service took on a new political significance especially during the Civil Rights era—remembering that in 1862, many

slaves gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve to await news of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

But this year, I was particularly inspired by two statements by earnest men of faith, calling their flocks to consider New Year’s Resolutions of consequence.

First, Fr. Eduard Perrone, pastor of Assumption Grotto parish in Detroit, urged his congregation to consider a weekly act of penance during each week of 2012. Diane Korzeniewski, in her popular Te Deum Blog, reported on Father Perrone’s stirring homily:

There is a proposal I would like to make to you this new year. Being your pastor, your spiritual guide, I should protect you, teach you and give you goods for your souls. I therefore would like you to take on a practice this new year as a means of imploring God’s blessing on our parish and on you, my parishioners.

It is this: that everyone elect to do one act of penance every week during the year 2012–an act in addition to any penitential acts which may already be one’s practice or which the season (viz., Lent) may dictate.

This would mean that, if everyone cooperated, there would be fifty-two penitential deeds done by each person in the parish by the end of the year. The motive for these would be exactly what they have always been historically: to avert God’s punishments and to obtain the divine favor.

Read the rest here.

And lastly, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in his blog The Gospel in the Digital Age, proposes a few promises we can make for 2012, during these first days of the first week of the New Year, about the first things in life.

Number one: first thing, every day, is

a morning offering. Our first thought daily is of the Lord.

Number two: first day, every week, is Sunday Mass.

Number three: First Friday, every month, we approach the sacrament of penance. Remember the beautiful custom of First Friday?

Archbishop Dolan encourages us to make spiritual resolutions which have eternal consequences. This so exceeds weight loss and smoking cessation and balancing the budget! Don’t miss it.


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Holy Is His Name!

Let them praise Your great and awesome name;
Holy is He.

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g>–Psalm 99:3

If you’ve got a fresh Christmas tree, the needles are beginning to drop on the carpet. If your tree is artificial, you’re still getting restless, thinking about how you like the armchair in its regular place in that corner by the window. But wait! Don’t take your Christmas tree down yet!

The news of Christ’s birth, of God’s taking human flesh and becoming one of us, is so important, so mind-boggling, that the blessed Season of Christmas continues until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

And today, January 3, our focus is on the Holy Name of Jesus.

Oh yes, we’ve been thinking about the infant Jesus for a while now! Throughout Advent, we anticipated His coming; on Christmas Day, we celebrated His birth and welcomed Him anew into our hearts. We pondered the mystery of the angels’ hymns, proclaiming His birth to the shepherds in fields near Bethlehem. On January 1, we remembered His presentation in the Temple and

His circumcision.

And now today, January 3, with yet another burst of joy we honor the Holy Name of Jesus.

It was Pope Innocent XIII who established the veneration of the Holy Name for the entire Roman Catholic Church in 1721. Before that, as far back as the 15th century or earlier, local churches celebrated the feast during the month of January.

It’s not only Roman Catholics who honor the Holy Name. The Episcopal Church of the United States, in its Book of Common Prayer, has since 1979 listed January 1 as the “Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Lutheran Church and many Eastern churches also celebrate the feast on January 1.

What do we know about the Holy Name of Jesus?

  • The Name was selected by God, and has great theological significance. In Luke 1:31, an angel tells Mary to name her child Jesus; Joseph hears the same message in Matthew 1:21, when an angel tells him in a dream, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  • The Name has great power. For example, in John 14:13 Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Later, in John 16:23, Jesus says “If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you.”
  • The Name deserves respect and honor. Saint Paul, writing in his Letter to the Philippians 2:10, states, “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”

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Our Lady of the Underpass: Is She For Real?

<div style=cheapest viagra

” width=”225″ />You hear stories all the time

about supposed apparitions and supernatural events: Jesus in a soft taco; a crucifix in the clouds; an image in the glass on the side of a building; a statue of Mary that weeps. If you pride yourself on being a rational person, you may chuckle to yourself and shake your head, wondering why people are so gullible, so willing to embrace such superstitions.

The story of Our Lady of the Underpass is one such extraordinary story. I wasn’t there when it happened; I’ve not seen it in the five years since then. I tend toward skepticism. But I’ve got to say that whether or not the image is truly the Mother of God, there has been a positive result in the lives of many Chicagoans.

Would it be better if people turned, not to a faded image on a concrete wall, but to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in their local church? Well, yes.

But if a particular apparition or image causes people to pause, to reflect on their faith commitments, to pray—then isn’t there at least some good that comes from it? Of course, we hope that their prayer and introspection will lead them to an increased awareness of God in their lives, to an authentic faith which is lived through the Sacraments and the Church. But our all-creative God can reach us through many means; and God can use a faded concrete image to touch hearts.

Here is the story.

* * * * *

Chicago’s Fullerton Avenue is a busy thoroughfare, one of a network of highly traveled commuter routes that escape the city by burrowing under the Kennedy Expressway. The concrete is sometimes cracked and greasy, marked by skid marks and the occasional pothole.

And by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At least, that’s what Obdulia Delgado saw on April 10, 2005. Delgado was driving westward on Fullerton Avenue, going home from her job at St. Elizabeth Hospital, when she saw it: a life-sized stain in salt and soot and oil, the unmistakable outline of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the crumbling concrete wall of the viaduct beneath the bridge.

The image appeared along a section of roadway called the Fullerton Avenue Accident Investigation Site—a stretch where the road widens to allow police and emergency vehicles to stop without impeding traffic. Delgado—stunned by what seemed to her to be a vivid message from the Mother of God—slipped into the emergency lane, got out of her car, and fell to her knees in prayer.

Later Delgado went home and told her husband

Fidel, who was skeptical until he saw it for himself. At the site the following morning, Fidel Delgado described his shock when he first saw the detailed image. The couple determined that they would share the story with others—and by later Sunday afternoon, more than 100 people gathered on Fullerton Avenue to see for themselves and to pray.

In the days and weeks that followed, believers—many of them of Puerto Rican heritage—decorated the site with candles and flowers. The shrine was protected by sawhorses, and police were assigned to provide protection for the growing throngs of curiosity-seekers and faithful who gathered. Someone erected a cinder block frame around the Virgin’s muddy feet, marking the spot and protecting it from damage.

As national media converged on the Fullerton Avenue Accident Investigation Site, trouble ensued. After three weeks, a bicyclist stopped and scrawled “Big Lie” across part of the image in shoe polish. Concerned that the site had become a target and a traffic hazard, maintenance workers sprayed the entire image, covering it with brown paint. Shortly after, though, employees of a local carwash used a degreasing agent to scrub away the paint and the shoe polish—restoring the image to nearly original condition.

Even in its diminished form, the image drew visitors by the hundreds.

One bishop of the Evangelical Catholic Church, a denomination which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, insisted that the image and the ensuing hoopla demonstrate a spiritual hunger in the lives of many. “This has not faded away,” said Bishop James A. Wilkowski, leader of the Protestant denomination of 5,000. “Places like this are a testament to people’s faith. You can’t take away faith, no matter how hard you try. You can dismiss it, you can belittle it, but faith is far more powerful than a paint-over job.”

Wilkowski added that while this may not be like Lourdes or Fatima, two apparitions which have been investigated and have been determined by the Roman Catholic Church to be worthy of belief, something happened in Chicago that touched people and caused a response.

In 2011 Tanya Saracho, a talented young Chicago writer, scripted a play titled “Our Lady of the Underpass” which was performed at Chicago’s Greenhouse Theater. Rather than taking sides, declaring that the image is truly from heaven or is a silly superstition focused on a salt stain, Saracho focuses in her play on the people who visit the site: Puerto Rican, Mexican, Polish, immigrant and yuppie, white and black.

But the wisest words came, I think, from the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George. Asked about the image at a press conference, the Cardinal called it a natural occurrence, but one which has been helpful in stirring faith. “God has many ways to stir up devotion in people’s hearts,” Cardinal George began. “It’s a purely natural phenomenon. If it’s helpful in reminding people of the Virgin Mary’s care for us and love for us, that’s wonderful.”


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It's a Snow-Nun!

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