News item: Astronomers have discovered a solar system 40 light-years away with seven Earth-size planets revolving around a small star. At least three of these planets have ecosystems conducive to life.
God: Did you hear about those planets just discovered, my son?
Jesus: Yeah, I saw it on The Huffington Post. By the way, it’s gotten so stridently partisan that I call it The Huff-and-Puffington Post. Hah hah. Get it?
God: Very clever, my son, in whom I am well pleased.
I'M STARTING TO think I’m never going to see that money. For years I have demonstrated for peace and justice, sometimes playing my guitar, sometimes not (by request), and I’ve yet to get paid for it.
I never thought I would, of course, having decided long ago that a strong public witness was an end unto itself: expressing solidarity for the oppressed, calling for political change, seeing myself on TV.
But lately right-wing media have claimed that millions of people marching for justice are doing it for the money, a possibility that, frankly, has a certain appeal.
The latest such accusation was in response to the outpouring of support for unjustly detained immigrants. Fox News’ Sean Hannity tweeted, “Who is bankrolling the protests taking place at airports across the country?” A serious question, but not from somebody who looks exactly like Lou Costello.
(Editor’s Note: No one knows who that is. We’re trying to reach millennial readers here, and young people have never heard of a comedian from the 1940s. Please try to be more current with your cultural references.)
Point taken. On second thought, Sean Hannity looks more like Moe from The Three Stooges, you know, the angry one who was always poking ...
(No one gets that, either.)
OKAY. SORRY. It only feels like it’s been a year, an exhausting 12 months of angry tweets, corrosive diplomacy, and cowering federal workers. And that was just in December! You remember, don’t you? That time before the inauguration when we were supposed to have only one president at a time, and it wasn’t Obama?
That was when Donald Trump announced his cabinet nominees, mostly billionaire business people suspected of being woefully unqualified for government service. Then they spoke at their congressional hearings and removed all doubt.
Sadly, we still have nine months to go before we can steel ourselves for Donald Trump’s second and final year as president, when many political experts predict that financial entanglements will make his impeachment inevitable. It will be an ugly televised spectacle, probably dragging on into sweeps week, but let’s be honest: Trump would want it that way. And he’ll take pride that his impeachment hearings will get bigger audiences than even his inauguration, where millions of his imaginary friends showed up, although they were too shy to be photographed.
And then he’ll be fired. A welcome possibility until you remember who’s next in line, an Old Testament Christian whose perfect hair and smooth monotone evoke a preening televangelist right before his inevitable downfall. And if he falls, we get Paul Ryan, a man who would privatize his own mother. (Okay, that doesn’t make sense. Sorry. Sometimes the writing gets away from me.)
WHAT A MESS. What is it about you modern burglars that insists on such lack of tidiness, such disrespect for the common courtesy of wiping one’s feet? Not to mention a callous disregard for a law of physics, the one that states that every action has a reaction. Drawers, to name one example, close as well as open. No need to drag them out onto the floor, scattering the contents under foot, when you simply could have pulled them out part way—reviewed the contents, made your selections—and then closed. I understand the need for haste. Burglars, as a rule, are on a tight schedule. But the window of opportunity was, in our case, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., give or take.
As you probably know, the iconic symbol of your occupation is an unshaven man with a sock cap and a crowbar, a jittery skulker no mother would be proud of. He enters a home in the dead of night while the residents sleep, their faces relaxed and undisturbed by the beam of a flashlight briefly flickering over them, then illuminating the dresser where most people keep their valuables. In our case, as you discovered, there were none, only old Trader Joe’s receipts and a couple tear-stained movie ticket stubs that I can’t yet toss. (Note to Disney: You can stop now. You’ll never make anything as good as Moana and ... darn it ... I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry again!)
GIVEN YOUR occupation’s nocturnal custom, we were surprised to return home and discover you had robbed us in broad daylight. Apparently, your new business model is to wait until your victims leave for work and then, at a convenient time, start your own work day. One envies this, of course, since you can sleep in most mornings, setting the alarm for 9-ish, and listen to NPR as you linger over a second cup of coffee. Then you can take some “me time” before heading off to work.
WELL, WE'RE glad that Thanksgiving is over. So much tension, just under the surface, which occasionally roared above the special lace tablecloth. “You’re carving a beautiful turkey, Aunt Edna. It’s too bad you cut the heart out of democracy when you voted for that buffoon. Could I have some more sweet potatoes, please?”
Or: “That’s the best pecan pie I’ve ever eaten, Sis. It helps take out the bitter taste of your voting to plunge this nation into a dark abyss of fear. Ooh, is that whipped cream!?”
It was probably okay in some households. Muslim Americans had no problems passing the green beans without mumbled criticisms of a relative’s recent vote. Jewish families, confident in their relative political unanimity, doubtless had a tension-free celebration. And most families of color could enjoy each other with minimal strain. (“Cousin Bob, bringing something from Chipotle is not appropriate for the Thanksgiving potluck. But you’re family, so it’s okay. Now let’s give thanks to God, who was totally not paying attention on Nov. 8.”)
WHITE EVANGELICALS had the toughest time, especially in families with mixed marriages (“You married a Catholic, but I still love you, and maybe even her, at some point in the future.”), and the inevitable presence of relatives with divergent political views
Saying grace was the hardest part of the meal, when liberal family members peeked accusingly at their cousins, whose eyes were closed in pious gratitude that their guns were safe and that energy companies can finally mine the coal under our national parks. They were also giving thanks for more excessive military spending, cutting taxes for the rich, and turning over women’s reproductive rights to the authority of aged white men on Capitol Hill, as is their constitutional right. At least, this is what the progressives assumed their kinfolk were praying for. You can’t really tell, of course, because most people’s eyes were closed, a classic mistake at family gatherings when you’ve got to mentally calculate if there’ll be enough white meat for seconds. Or if you should save room for dessert. (Kidding. This is America. We’ll have it all.)
THE BRILLIANT white lights could mean only one thing. Okay, two things. Either I was in heaven, in the place where people wait nervously for their performance review with God, or I was in the recovery room after one of those Elderly Man Procedures and the nurses were keeping their humorous thoughts to themselves, something that would have been impossible for me had our positions been reversed. (“Hang on, I’ve got another one. What’s the difference between a colonoscopy and a ... shh ... he’s waking up! Darn it!”)
The tanks of oxygen around the room were another indication that this wasn’t heaven, although at that altitude they might come in handy. (Do you breathe when you get to heaven? I know you have to stop breathing to even be considered.)
I hesitate to recount another medical procedure to readers who have grown weary of the chronicles of my continuing decay. But I bring this up mainly for eschatological reasons. (Coincidentally, one gets a colonoscopy for scatological reasons. But I digress.)
At my age, if you’re undergoing any procedure that involves general anesthesia, you must be prepared for the possibility of not waking up. You need to have your affairs in order—such as writing down your passwords for surviving loved ones, skipping ahead to the last episode of the TV show you’ve been streaming at the office, and gassing up the car one last time (surviving loved ones should really learn to do that for themselves)—and make your peace with God.
And what better time to meet the Lord than when both society and technology are telling me I should step aside. This year’s election left me emotionally exhausted, I failed again to receive the MacArthur genius grant (how many more letters does my mom have to write?!), and I’m aging out of some features on my cellphone. I only use Facetime by mistake, inadvertently triggering the hideous apparition of some sickly relative of advanced years. And I’m afraid to open Yelp! because it sounds like it could hurt me.
The nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization has been earnestly educating Americans for years about Islam while denouncing the growing tide of anti-Muslim bigotry.
But it’s always an uphill battle, so this week the Council on American-Islamic Relations decided to try a little humor instead. The result is the introduction of a spoof medication called “Islamophobin” that seems sure to get more notice than CAIR’s usual campaigns.
"I love the desert fathers. They are so neat. Especially because my life is all about maximizing comfort — like, my house is cozy, my dog and I have little spots on the couch that’s just shaped like our butts cause we just love being on the couch. And these guys are like, 'Well, I spend a lot of time not eating, and weaving baskets until my fingers bleed, but could I spend more time not weaving baskets until my fingers bleed?'"
"Look, say what you will about Christianity, but the Bible teaches little girls that they can grow up to drive spikes into the heads of Canaanite generals, and there’s huge value in that. Cause there’s sometimes that really goofy straightforward talk about what you can do, or not, “because the Bible and women.” And I really like kind of playing with that and going “Fine, then the lesson I got from this is that you can drive spikes in people’s heads.”
I don’t remember who it was now who wrote this, but I loved how someone talked about how, for an hour and a half, the entire church was Mary Magdalene. In between when she goes to the tomb and has to go find the disciples, she is the entire church. And I love that. I love that for an hour and a half, a woman was the church."
If Dana Carvey’s Church Lady wrote a craft book, it would look a lot like What Would Jesus Craft?: 30 Simple Projects for Making a Blessed Home. Born out of a lifelong collection of just plain wacky stuff gathered by author Ross MacDonald, the book blends tongue-in-cheek satire with tender regard for a 1950s Christian sensibility to serve up do-it-yourself craft projects that would make Jesus weep.
AS A FORMER Baptist child who often mocked Catholic school children for their outfits—which paled against my own fashionable ensemble of striped pants, checked shirt, and flannel hat (with flaps!)—I admit that as an adult I have warmed to the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” (Did I get that right?) Catholics have better steeples, usually with bells, and cool smoke during worship, and interesting stained glass windows to look at if the homilist lacks conviction, which he often does, compared to the preachers of my youth. They would sweat right through their white suits as they paced back and forth describing the Coming Judgment which—and they were very clear on this point—will not be pretty.
We didn’t have much to do with the Catholics in our small Indiana town, except to occasionally remark on their odd rituals, their odd prayers (sometimes to a woman!), and their great fish fries, which Baptists could attend, under cover. We also noticed the lack of American flags on their altars. How was that Christian?
But as I grew older and experimented with different church traditions, I became more open to Catholicism and frequently visited on Sundays, under cover.
When we saw these Bad Lip Readings of the first presidential debates, we couldn’t suppress our laughter from our supervisors. So we decided to share the goodness with you, our Sojourners-reading, social justice-loving audience. What does this have to do with putting our faith in action for social justice? Well, as Aslan tells the creatures of Narnia, “For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”
AS THE STIFLING heat of summer recedes and the winter months approach, I look forward to the promise of snowy walks, steaming hot cocoa, and the sounds of sleigh bells jingling down our street. (Actually, it’s probably a garbage truck spilling bottles out the back, so never mind.) I love winter, because only in winter can I do my favorite thing: not go camping.
Yes, I know, lots of people camp in the winter. Some of my office colleagues are never happier than when their breath crystallizes in front of them as they hike through a wilderness in February, the frozen ground crunching beneath their feet. Me, I prefer the Great Indoors, thick terry-cloth robes, and the crunching of small Lego pieces beneath my slippers, a reminder that little girls should pick up their toys when they’re done. Winter hiking is what I do between the kitchen and the living room, and then back again because I forgot something.
To me, winter is nature’s way of telling us “mmphremshth,” which I can’t hear clearly, because I’m indoors and the windows are closed. But I think it’s telling us to stay inside.
I’m not opposed to camping—I camped twice last summer—but I also don’t hesitate to call it what it is: an exhausting exercise in 18th-century drudgery, but without the helpful oxen. Camping in a tent, with a family, is an unending process of menial labor that begins with deciding what to pack for the trip: everything except the couch. And then consists of an unalterable pattern which, in its entirety, is as follows:
• Pack the car completely full, blocking most windows and floor space. Put bikes on back of car.
• Remove bikes to get something inside back of car. Put bikes on back of car again.
“I’m no particular exemplar of my faith,” says Stephen Colbert.
“I just happen to have affection for my church.”
Colbert’s latest interview with Toronto-based Catholic outlet Salt and Light is bursting at the seams with wisdom — and, of course, more than a few good laughs.
The new host of the Late Show sat down with Father Thomas Corsica for a 45-minute conversation, one which centered on the Catholic comedian’s reflections on faith and theology.
This simultaneously funny and touching interaction opened a space for Colbert to ask Jeb Bush, somewhat abruptly, “In what ways do you politically differ from your brother George?”
Bush tried to joke, but this time, Colbert was serious. He insisted on a real response.
And because he was not asking Jeb to criticize his brother, only to point out a political difference, the governor must have felt obliged.
“He didn’t veto things,” Bush said.
“He didn’t bring order, fiscal restraint.”
With a combination of satire and earnestness, Colbert finagled an honest, illuminating answer from Jeb Bush about George’s legacy, something most media figures would have had a much harder time doing.
AS ONE OF the few white males who has not declared his candidacy for president, I’m actually enjoying the relative calm before the upcoming election season. Our television shows are still punctuated by soothingly predictable commercials about luxury cars and erectile dysfunction. In a few months they’ll be railing against job-killing gay marriage and the evils of climate science, also job-killing, followed by the reassuring voice of a man who says “I apologize for this message.” (Kidding. But wouldn’t that be great?!)
At this point, with little at stake, the legions of Republican candidates are of interest only for their entertainment value, their speeches lacking in substance but their repetitive talking points ripe with possibility for drinking games. (Caution: When listening to Ted Cruz, don’t choose the words “constitution” or “unadulterated judicial activism” if you’re the designated driver.)
We’re at that sweet spot in time when Iowa is just a state known for its agricultural products (corn, I think), and when Hillary Clinton has not yet been compared to Hitler. If we think about politics at all, it’s to come up with reasons not to support Bernie Sanders. Because, if you set aside the oddity of a Vermont senator who still sounds like the Flatbush of his youth, there’s only one reason: his age. He’s 73, six years older than Hillary Clinton and decades older than Donald Trump, who is, like, 12, right?
Jokes about somebody’s religious beliefs are often duds.
But jokes about your own religious beliefs somehow push the line between funny and offensive, making room for laughter and, occasionally, sharp commentary.
That’s the philosophy behind The Jim Gaffigan Show, a new series premiering on TVLand on July 15 featuring Jim Gaffigan — the popular stand-up comedian known for his Comedy Central special and the books Dad Is Fat and Food: A Love Story — and his wife, Jeannie.
The husband-and-wife team say their Catholicism — with its daily prayer, weekly Mass, and rosary recitation with their five kids — is such a part of their own lives that not including it in their work would be dishonest.
“It’s part of the story,” said Jeannie Gaffigan, an executive producer of the new show and Jim’s frequent collaborator.
IN THE FEW months remaining before our lives are completely taken over by computers, there’s still time to join the Resistance. Or start one, since most of us are unaware of the need to do so. I personally haven’t noticed because I’m waiting for my first heart attack to teach me how precious life is.
You’ve probably missed the warning signs because you’ve been too busy tweeting or friending people on Facebook. These seemingly innocent acts—designed mainly to reduce productivity at the office—are helpfully consolidating personal data for the ever-watchful mainframes to harvest later. And when the computers finally reduce us to a subservient species, unfriending them won’t save you.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the federal government’s massive monitoring of our phone calls, an effort that revealed most human conversation is not worthy of the monthly fees charged by Verizon, AT&T, or that new prepaid service called Boost, which I first thought was a nutritional supplement for old people. (The guy behind the counter looked at me funny when I asked what flavors it comes in. And when he tried to explain “pay as you go,” I was confused. With nutritional supplements, you pay, then you go, a little later.)
BUT THE GREATER threat is the increasing pervasiveness of artificial intelligence, probably the worst artificial substance ever created, if you rule out Cool Whip.