Humor

A License to Pray

Illustration by Ken Davis

THE RECENT Supreme Court ruling permitting prayer at government functions holds many ramifications for our day-to-day life, such as getting a comfortable seat at the city council meeting before the clerk starts reading the entire book of Revelation.

In writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy held that public prayer is “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country” and should be permitted as a ceremonial practice. Like, maybe at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles:

Driver: I’m here to renew my driver’s license.

DMV clerk: Let us pray.

Driver: Excuse me?

DMV clerk: With every head bowed, and every eye closed, we pray to the Lord Jesus Christ that his love will pour out on this driver, and by the grace of the Living God, he will always come to a complete stop, when appropriate.

Driver: Amen, I guess. Now, will I need to take a new photo?

DMV clerk: God knows who you are and what you look like. Because, his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches you.

Driver: You’re going to sing, aren’t you?

DMV clerk: I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, for his eye is ...

Driver: Got it. God is always watching me.

DMV clerk: And we have several traffic cameras throughout the city to help God in that regard.

Driver: Be that as it may, do I have to do anything else to renew my license?

DMV clerk: Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?

Driver: Um, I’m not sure. I showered this morning, but ...

DMV clerk: We’ll let it go this time. Okay, that’ll be $47.

Driver: That’s a lot higher than last year.

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They've Got Your Number...

Illustration by Ken Davis

I’VE BEEN SPENDING a lot of time with my credit card company lately. Nice people work there, of course, and I try to make every phone call a time of conviviality and respect. It’s what good people do.

Credit card guy: Sir, my name is Brian, and ...

Me: No, it’s not.

“Brian”: I beg your pardon?

Me:  Be honest. They give you anglicized names to sound more American, right? So when did you get that name?

“Brian”: When I was born.  It’s also my father’s name.

Me: And, you’re calling from, like, Mumbai or ...

Brian: Texas.

Me: [awkward moment of silent self-loathing, mercifully cut short by seeing a butterfly. Pretty.]

But you readers understand my point. American jobs should be for Americans. Honest, God-fearing Americans who embody the spirit of freedom and entrepreneurship. Like the guy in Kansas who, according to Brian, had just purchased an iPad with my credit card number. Brian was calling from Texas to make sure this was okay with me, which it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for buying an iPad or any of the high-tech gadgets that I’ve had my eye on. And I totally get that the guy in Kansas feels the same way. In fact, I was cool with him right up to the point where he decided to keep it for himself.

Fortunately, I wasn’t charged. (Note to guy in Kansas: Next time buy two, and call me.) As a result, Brian sent me a Visa card with a different number.

It felt like a new beginning for me, a fresh start in a life that has few do-overs. It was a moment for celebration so, giddy with excitement, I took my new card and bought something from Target.

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6 Times Pastors Went On Late-Night TV

Jim Wallis on The Daily Show Sojourners founder, author and theologian Jim Wallis has been a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart multiple times since 2005 to discuss the intersections of politics, religion and activism. In this throwback clip from Jon Stewart’s early days on the Comedy Central staple (starting at 12:52 in the video below), the two discuss Wallis’ popular book God’s Politics. The discussion primarily involves the religious implications of the then current political issues, morality and activism. But in a more personal moment, Wallis tells Stewart (who is Jewish), “The Hebrew prophets used humor and truth-telling to make their point. Which I think you do very well. So maybe you’re one of the prophets.”

Exporting Democracy...

Illustration by Ken Davis

FOR MORE THAN two centuries, the United States has been the proudest example of democracy in the world. Maybe not the best, but definitely the proudest. Oh sure, we’ve hit some rough patches over the decades, mainly in dealing with our native peoples and other ethnic minorities. Also with women, the poor, the falsely accused, the unemployed, and people who aren’t bankers. But let’s just call those growing pains.

For the most part, America has been that shining city on a hill, and by America, of course, I don’t mean Canada or Mexico, or the other countries whose names I forget, most of which don’t have many good hills to shine from anyway.

But I’m not talking about geography, I’m talking about pride. The pride that comes from being number one in democracy, despite being number 55th in infant mortality and 35th in math. Okay, so we don’t test well. But we’re proud anyway. And we’re still number one in Bible science! [High five!]

But lately, because of continued dysfunction on Capitol Hill, people are starting to whisper that democracy in the United States may have lost some of its shine, like we’re “hiding it under a bushel,” as it says in the old Christian campfire song of my youth. (We also sang “With Jesus in My Boat I Can Ride Out the Current Economic Downturn,” and “Children, Go Where I Text Thee.”)

But if America’s “little light” is no longer shining, at least a few other nations are providing good examples of self-government.

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One Hump or Two?

Illustration by Ken Davis

RESEARCHERS from Tel Aviv University recently announced a discovery that could shake the foundations of biblically based history currently taught in most states below the Mason-Dixon line (otherwise known as “Jesus Country,” unless Jesus comes back without a photo ID).

Granted, biblical controversies may not be the most important thing to you right now, when you’re coming up with this year’s excuse why your new beach body won’t be ready by Memorial Day. But we should never shirk from scholarship that could deepen our faith or, short of that, allow us to use the phrase “camel bones” for the first time in our lives.

To wit: Using carbon-dating techniques to determine the age of the world’s oldest-known camel bones, researchers have determined that camels could not have been the pack animals referred to in much of the Old Testament. At that time, camels had not yet been introduced to the region. It’s not clear if camel introductions were something that just wasn’t done in polite company or if the dearth of camels was only alleviated by Egyptian merchants establishing Mediterranean trade routes. But the latter would be my guess and is, in fact, the conclusion of the Tel Aviv researchers.

And it’s good we see eye-to-eye with the scientists on this particular issue, since their method is one I hold in contempt. I took it personally when carbon dating was used to disprove that the Shroud of Turin displayed the real image of Jesus Christ. I believed in the Shroud. When preachers would sermonize on faith the size of a mustard seed, I would smile condescendingly, because my faith was bolstered by something big enough to cover a good-sized twin bed! And with a picture of Jesus on it! (Much cooler than Justin Bieber or a Disney princess.)

I’ve never believed much in carbon dating since then. Speed dating, maybe. But not the other thing.

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A Bridge Too Far? Not Likely.

Illustration by Ken Davis

SINCE THE 2014 election could be the most decisive political moment in a generation, the most important question is: Who will be Hillary's running mate in 2016?

The second big question is: What else does Chris Christie have to do to make other Republican presidential hopefuls slip back into the woodwork? What part of “you want a piece of me?” don’t they understand? Have they no fear of—just to choose something at random—major traffic delays in their districts? Are they currently enjoying their drinking water or other public utilities? Do they like their kneecaps?

A bit harsh, perhaps, especially regarding a man whose political obituary is already being written, and whose Wikipedia entry may one day not start with “45th president of the United States,” but with the phrase “Angry Birds spokesperson.”

But Chris Christie is a survivor. He may be only six Twinkies away from not being governor of New Jersey (assuming that he eats them all in one sitting), but he enjoys a strong approval rating and, at this writing, is still innocent of all accusations against him, including humility. His only real threats for the nomination are Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush, who is currently trying to be adopted by a family with a different last name.

The influence scandal that has roiled Christie’s staff and highlighted his strong negatives happened, after all, in New Jersey. And what happens in New Jersey stays in New Jersey because, for their own protection, witnesses tend to fugetaboutit.

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Adapt or Die

Illustration by Ken Davis

THIS YEAR IS shaping up to be one of enormous transition, although nothing specific comes to mind right now. I’ve just got this gut feeling. But the word that will best guide us through the coming changes may be “adaptation,” which my copy of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation.” My copy of the dictionary also wants me to know how grateful it is to be picked up from behind the bookshelf where it had fallen years ago. It wedged against a hot-water pipe and got kind of u-shaped.

It actually felt good to look up something in hard copy, even if the pages were warm and wrinkled. But using Google is much faster, even subtracting the time it takes to first sing the alphabet song to remind me what order the letters are in. The point is, dramatic changes will be happening to our world, and we either adapt to them or die.

Okay, maybe not die. But when Brand New becomes No Turning Back, there’s no point in resisting. This year, for better or worse, “I don’t wanna” will become “but I hadda.”

My family has already started making the necessary changes. We have no fireplace in our home, since our house was built before the discovery of fire, and thus we have no chimney for Santa to come down. But last Christmas we adapted. We hung the stockings from the microwave, then left the door open and hoped for the best.

That was last year. Sometime this year a pizza will be delivered by pilotless drone. It will be a technological breakthrough, a revolution in the future of commerce. And it will be cold. Get used to it. (And when you pass a Domino’s, duck.)

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Donating My Body to Science

Illustration by Ken Davis

AS A TEST subject in an ongoing medical study, I can report with confidence that, so far, I’m still alive—an important variable in research that measures the effect of Vitamin D and fish oil on heart health. At least, that’s the stated purpose. But, after taking the pills every day for two years of the five-year study, I’m thinking there may be something else going on.

It’s called a “vital study,” and it’s being run by the Harvard Medical School, a prestigious institution that typically leaves your average research projects to lesser entities, such as the federal government. But this is a “vital study,” and if Harvard is involved it must be big, probably top secret. And it chose me for a reason (other than my awesome averageness, of course).

But why? I admit I’m an older white male, the main population for the study, but since our contact has been exclusively by email, how did Harvard know? Were they tipped off by my habit of Googling subjects like calcium retention, wrinkle removal, and the name of the woman on Gilligan’s Island who wasn’t the movie star. (Editor’s Note: Mary Ann.) Doh!

Perhaps Harvard used email as a clever ploy to mask the fact that they’ve been closely monitoring me for years, observing my selfless nature and noble commitment to the greater good, except when I’m driving. To Harvard, I must have seemed the ideal subject for a secret project to build a lean, mean, elderly fighting machine!

BEFORE YOU think I’m making too much of an unsolicited email (like the time I sent $25 to the Obama campaign and assumed the reply was from Barack Obama himself—he called me by my first name!), I’m sure this Harvard thing must be real, on account of it’s “vital.” It clearly states that on the packages of capsules that I take every day.

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Getting Real for the New Year

Ilustration by Ken Davis

THIS IS OUR first issue of the new year, and with the new year comes new challenges, new hopes, and new promises which, in order of appearance, you may not live up to, will probably fail to realize, and may never keep. Fortunately, this January issue comes out in early December, several weeks before most self-delusions begin to surface, so there’s still time to change them all, thus saving face. And here in Washington, D.C., saving face is very important. Living up to challenges, not so much. But saving face? We understand.

So let’s get started with turning your future failures into successes and your future frowns into smiles, which are just frowns turned upside down, depending on whether you’re standing on your head at the time.

The point is, you don’t have to make the same mistakes again this year, because we can stop your resolutions before you make them. We can nip failure in the bud, because failure is just eruliaf turned upside down. Or possibly backward. Regardless, following is a short list of things you may have pledged to do this year. Think again.

Lose weight. Right. Sure. Whatever. Not going to happen. So stand up straight and hold your stomach in until your friends walk by. Then breathe. And remember: You’re not too fat. You’re just too short.

Stop reading tabloids at the checkout counter. Maybe this is the year you finally pick up Prevention magazine instead, even though the people in the pictures look physically, mentally, and spiritually better than you. But don’t do it. Put it back on the rack, next to the gum named after nuclear submarines and galactic anomalies. Because Prevention just doesn’t offer the important news you need: namely, that celebrities are worse off than you. So open up the Enquirer and see how aging film stars look on the beach. There. Don’t you feel better now?

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Not So Merry Christmas

Illustration by Ken Davis

DESPITE THE heart-felt and hand-written requests from thousands of American children in their Christmas letters, Santa has just announced he cannot bring them a new Congress this year. He tried, Santa wants us all to know; he tried hard. But he and his elves finally gave up when even the parts imported from China couldn’t make the thing work.

They first attempted to construct something with U.S.-made components, but it was almost as if the parts didn’t want to work together, like they had minds of their own. This surprised the elves since Congress—which has no apparent moving parts—hasn’t had a sentient thought in years.

However, as a small concession to all those disappointed little children, Santa this year will be honoring Christmas wishes that have traditionally been difficult to fulfill.

If Sally from Shreveport can’t get a workable electoral body in the nation’s capital, then she gets a pony. Simple as that. She asked for it last year—in fact she’s been asking for a long time—but this year she’ll get it. If her parents are not sure what to do with a 600-pound animal that requires constant attention and care, then maybe next time they’ll think twice before voting for a member of Congress who wears a three-cornered hat and proudly refuses to be treaded on, even though nobody’s trying.

And Jimmy in Toledo, if you still want that race car, that real race car, it’s no problem this year. His parents might not think it’s safe for a 6-year-old to have a vehicle that can reach 200 mph before flipping over in the cul de sac, but that’s what happens when mommy and daddy send crazy people to Washington, D.C. (Not to mention the problem of squeezing another car into their garage, which already has two SUVs with bumper stickers that say “Repeal Obamacare! I’m Not Sick!”)

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