Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Minimalist Nativity

By artist Oliver Fabel. Very postmodern, very German, but still meets the major requirement of a nativity set: your kid can have fun playing with it. First Christmas Jenga, anyone?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Tree-son

Hey, you! Do you find "nature" problematically pagan? Do you doctor secular Christmas hymns to make them about religion? ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/Just like people do in Hell...") Is your living room lacking in crucifixion imagery?

Then have I found the tree for you.

The inventor calls it the CHRIST-mas tree. (Get it? Because the word "Christ" is in Christmas, but people say it like "Chris" because clearly they're on the wrong side of the war.) It can be yours for $400 -- pricey for a plastic tree, perhaps, but how else will you teach your kids about the first Christmas, when the disciples hung commemorative Ronald McDonald ornaments on the cross?

For the CHRIST-ian on a budget, they offer this reimagined holiday wreath for $60. Because circles? Also pagan.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gay Exorcisms? Really, Tyra?

According to this recap on Jezebel, today's Tyra Banks Show featured a sixteen-year-old boy who underwent an exorcism to have his gayness removed. She also gave significant air time to the (totally insane) priest who removed his "demon", and showed footage of the actual (terrifying) exorcism.

On the plus side: all the homophobic gay-demon-exorcising folks came off looking crazy. Tyra, clearly, thought they were crazy. The audience thought they were crazy. And maybe the point was to be all, hey, look at these crazy people.

But - BUT!- is it too much to ask for a pro-gay Christian to appear on a show like this? To present a worldview that moves beyond Gays Vs. Jesus? To show that poor, conflicted sixteen-year-old kid that he doesn't have to choose between love and faith?

Tyra also had a show in 2006 featuring the Phelps family - a.k.a. the Westboro Baptist church, a.k.a. the charming people who hold up "God hates fags" signs at the funerals of hate crime victims. And again, the crazy people came off looking crazy. But again - they were the show's only representation of what it means to be Christian. And if anyone has an unbelievably screwed-up idea of what it means to be Christian, it's the Phelps family.

People being loving and accepting don't get the big ratings. (Sweeps Week would be really boring if they did.) But here's the thing: Tyra herself is both clearly pro-gay and, by all evidence, a Christian. It's not a contradiction. Hopefully her viewers have caught on - but it would be great to see her drive that message home in lieu of another Jesus-fueled hatefest.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Which Sin Makes the Best Baby Name?

In their research of the all-time worst baby names, the folks at located babies named after every one of the seven deadly sins - except gluttony. The most popular sin-based baby moniker was Pride, followed distantly by Lust. A sampling of actual names they uncovered:

Lust Garten
Greed Sister Mancini
Avarice Sullivan
Sloth Washton
Wrath Gordon
Envy Burger (Shouldn't these folks have gone with Gluttony?)
Pride Saint
Greed McGrew
Pride Saint
Lust T. Castle

I can't wait until the Pope's seven new deadly sins start to appear in the baby-name rosters. Note to Angelina: Morally-Debatable-Experiments Pitt is pretty catchy.

Pictured: my own baby, who was named after a saint, but only because "Envy Burger" was taken.

Friday, July 10, 2009

You Know How I Know You're Gay?

"Masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he’s watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body." - From the tract
"Porn Again Christian" by Mars Hill Church pastor Marc Driscoll.

Better yet, here's the cover image, which leads one to the conclusion that masturbation is both gay AND suicidal:

Good times!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Buddha in the Supreme Court

The Sociological Images blog takes a critical look at racial stereotypes in political satire, including the baffling, maddening recent cover of the National Review depicting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as Buddha.

The comparison of the magazine cover to the original icon is particularly eye-opening...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stephen Baldwin the Baptist

What was it I was saying about reality TV and religion? Whatever it was, forget it: I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here has taken reality-TV religion to new extremes. Above, watch Evangelical spokescelebrity Stephen Baldwin preach the word to The Hills' Spencer Pratt, who knows that Jesus answers prayers because Jesus introduced him to Miley Cyrus. (Seriously.) Below, Stephen spontaneously baptises Spencer, who compares sin to eel sperm and his baptism to "a ten-year bath with lots of bubbles."

For more, check out Gabe's astute commentary on Religion Dispatches.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Doonesbury Does the Bible (But Not Very Well)

This past Sunday's Doonesbury strip comparing the Old and New Testaments has some Jewish leaders demanding an apology. Trudeau's take is oversimplified at best, offensive at worst, but to play devil's advocate: the 17-year-old in the comic strip isn't supposed to be a Biblical scholar. She certainly sounds like a real teenage kid, earnest and uninformed, talking about religion. The problem, as I see it, is that this is a Sunday strip, meaning that it's not in the context of story. There's no "before" and "after." Trudeau opens up a can of worms and tries to toss it off with a chuckle -- disappointing for a satirist with an admirable history of tackling cultural issues head-on.

Benjamin Weiner at Religion Dispatches suggests using this as a "teachable moment":

Christians, if you haven’t already, please take some time to recognize that the division of your scriptures into “old” and “new”, with a panting demiurge presiding over the first and a Guevarist lovegod community-organizing his way through the second is a false dichotomy, and a dangerous and frustrating one, at that, when it is used as a thumbnail sketch of Jewish-Christian difference. Your “old testament”, what we call the Tanakh, portrays a God of manifold characteristics—from the friend and confidant of Abraham and, yes, the ferocious goader of the wilderness, to the ironic moral conscience of Jonah and the mystical whirlwind of Job—that have served as the basis for kaleidoscopic articulations of Jewish theology.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why is TLC Afraid of Religion?

This Thursday, the new season of one of my guiltier pleasures, What Not To Wear, premieres on TLC. The gimmick of this particular episode is that they're doing a makeover on a former child star. And that child star is...

Mayim Bialik, a.k.a. lil' Bette Middler, a.k.a. Blossom! Now, having gotten a sneak preview of the episode, I can tell you that Mayim Bialik is the most likeable guest in the show's history. She's unabashedly brainy (she has a PHD in neuroscience!), down-to-earth (she won't buy tops she can't nurse her baby in), and sweet (she donates the standard new-wardrobe money to charity and foots the bill herself). Also, she doesn't own a single pair of pants.

That's right - no pants. Now, I've seen an embarrassing number of episodes of What Not to Wear, but I have never, ever seen someone on that show who doesn't own at least one pair of jeans. My first thought was that Mayim was just quirky, but out of curiosity, I did some research...

...and learned that, yes, Mayim Bialik is a Conservative Jew, bordering on Orthodox ("Conservadox," as she puts it). She keeps Shabbos, keeps kosher, and follows family purity laws. And presumably, her wardrobe of below-the-knee skirts and long sleeves conforms to Jewish laws of modesty.

So why doesn't the show bother to mention this? It's not like they're afraid to get personal: when discussing her wardrobe, Mayim talks candidly about nursing, weight loss, and body image issues. And it's not a tangent; her religious beliefs directly affect her choice of clothing, both the "old" wardrobe and the new one TLC helps her select. But never once do they mention religion at all: she's just a kooky girl who loves her skirts.

My guess is that the network was afraid of alienating viewers, particularly the Heartland mamas who live vicariously through "What Not To Wear"'s NYC shopping sprees. Maybe they thought that showing Mayim as a conservative Jew would make her too different, not enough girl-next-door.

This isn't the first time that TLC has side-stepped the central issue of religion. Jon and Kate (of "Plus Eight" fame) are active churchgoers, and their conservative Christianity is the reason that Kate didn't selectively reduce her mega-pregnancy in the first place. In their books and on their website, the Gosselins talk about Jesus obsessively. But we never see them doing it on the show.

A counter-example is 18 Kids and Counting, the TLC show about the Duggar family. With the Duggars, it's impossible not to talk about religion; as leading members of the uber-conservative "Quiverfull" movement, they believe in strict, non-maninstream gender roles and behavioral codes (not to mention having dozens of babies as a form of Evangelism). The Duggars chat with the cameras about God's role in their lives, explain why kissing before marriage is sinful, and visit the Creation Museum.

So, in this basic cable version of reality, there are two kinds of religion: extreme and nonexistent. Even though religion is a part of most Americans' lives, it's somehow taboo to show day-to-day religious practices -- or even mention them! -- when it comes to "normal" reality TV stars. Given the premium on shock value on reality TV these days, it's hard to believe that anything is off-limits -- but there you have it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Find the Religion! "Lost" Finale (Spoilers Abound)

So, first off, we meet these two guys we've never seen on the show before, hanging out on the island, weaving and fishing. This one, as it turns out, is heretofore-unseen-Island-leader Jacob:

And the other one is... well, we never find out. But he and Jacob are clearly well-acquainted (brothers, perhaps?), and one of the first things we hear out of his mouth is that he intends to kill Jacob. I'm betting good money that this guy's name is Esau.

Next, we finally (finally!) get a glimpse of the statue attached to the four-toed foot that I have, frankly, been a little obsessed with:

And the statue looks like...

The Egyptian god Anubis! More or less. We don't actually see it head-on, just a profile shot. So there's a possibility it could be, say, Sobek the crocodile god...

But thematically, Anubis -- the jackal-headed god who guards the Underworld, determining who may enter -- makes a whole lot more sense. Lost afficianado Sledgeweb (from whom I took the foot/statue screencap) even makes a convincing case that Anubis had four toes. Also, according to the unofficial wiki Lostpedia, we've actually seen Anubis on the island before...

... battling the Smoke Monster in Temple hieroglyphics. (Update: now that images have been posted, the statue's looking less like a jackal to me. There's a strong argument to be made, as Melinda does in the comments, that the statue is actually Taweret, the pregnant hippo god. And the blog Jezebel is now making a persuasive case for Sobek. See Lostpedia's giant round-up of who's-that-god theories here.)

Moving on. Flashbacks... bomb... flashbacks... In the flashback of Locke being pushed from a high-rise window (the event that paralyzes him), we see Jacob reading Flannery O'Connor's short story collection Everything that Rises Must Converge:

Flannery O'Connor was a Southern Catholic writer, known for grotesque, disturbing "morality tales" about the failure of ordinary, well-meaning people to do God's will. She was also a little obsessed with heaven, hell and the apocalypse, which may be why they selected this book for Jacob to read... or maybe it's just that the title ties in with the episode theme.

Later on, in Hurley's flashback, Jacob appears and tells Hurley that his ability to see dead people isn't a curse -- it's a blessing. So Hurley is blessed? By whom, I wonder?

Bomb... more fighting... more bomb...

Toward the end of the episode, Ilana asks Richard (whom she calls Ricardus), "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" He reponds in Latin. And thanks, again, to Sledgeweb, we know what he said: "He who will save us all."

That's awfully Messianic of you, Richard. So who's the savior? Locke? Ben? Nameless-probably-Esau-guy-in-Locke's body? I'm gonna go with Locke, who has already been resurrected at least once. Though how he will save them, or what he will save them from, or who "them" is? Couldn't tell you.

So, given the H-bomb, time travel, Egyptian and Biblical mythology, destiny and everything else, the big unanswered question on my mind going into next season seems almost petty: who are Adam and Eve?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Road to Hell is Paved with Gelato

The above advertisement (for Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano) is currently under investigation by the UK Advertising Standards Authority for blasphemy. As Ad Freak put it: "A good rule of thumb when you're trying to figure out if your ice-cream ad is blasphemous: If it could be mistaken for the cover of a fetishistic, nun-themed adult movie, you've crossed a line."

Personally, I find the ad more confusing than shocking; are they implying that eating gelato a "gateway sin," leading otherwise chaste religious authorities to start madly breaking their vows? Or that if you're going to sin anyway, you might as well pack a few extra calories in afterwards?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Adorable, Illegal, PlayMobil Bible

The first awesome thing about the German website that hosts photos of Playmobil figures acting out Biblical scenes -- okay, well, that's the first awesome thing.

The second awesome thing is that it's called the Klicky-Bibel. Can you think of a catchier Bible name than Klicky-Bibel? Don't you want to say it in a German accent with me right now? Der Klicky-Bibel! Das Klicky-Bibel! Die Klicky-Bibel!

The Klicky-Bibel is essentially the Playmobil knock-off of the Lego-based Brick Testament. But there are a couple of key differences. For one, the Playmobil site was created by an actual pastor as an evangelizing tool, whereas the creator of the Brick Testament is an atheist.

Perhaps this explains some of the artistic liberties in the Klicky-Bibel; like the presence of Satan at the crucifixion (above). Or the fact that Satan is an eyeliner-wearing albino snake-handler.

Overall, I'm partial to the Brick Testament, which is a more impressive technical achievement, wears its sense of humor on its sleeve and, perhaps surprisingly, is more Biblically accurate. But the Playmobil site is clearly a labor of love, so it's sad to see the Playmobil company laying the smack down on its use of their product. Come on, Playmobil execs -- what good are toys if you can't use them to act out the Temptation of Christ? Furthermore, I'm pretty sure you started this trend yourself. Or have you forgotten that Playmobile Nativity Set?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Have You Hugged An Atheist Today?

Joe Bob Briggs, who you may remember as the host of the Daily Show's "God Stuff" segment, has a great dispatch about the Crystal Clear Atheist Convention over at the Wittenburg Door:

I’m assuming that Dawkins couldn’t have known how closely his three goals correspond to a typical rally of those scary “On Fire For Jesus” teenagers:

1) Speak out and stand up for Jesus, no matter what your secular friends say!
2) Know your Bible so you can share when people quote from secular books!
3) Don’t follow the crowd!

The only difference is that Teens For Christ would conclude with a group hug and hysterical girl-shrieks, whereas atheists are not, as a rule, huggers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Trickiest Issue in Today's Church

In 2009, there's absolutely no social issue driving more of a wedge between conservative and progressive Christians than abortion. Today on Religion Dispatches, three faith-based reproductive rights activists describe the challenge of finding common ground with pro-lifers in the abortion debate:

It is hard to take seriously a movement that thinks they can dramatically reduce the number of abortions while largely ignoring access to contraception—including emergency contraception. One understands that they feel their hands are tied by the official position of the Catholic church against contraception and by evangelical opposition to comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and sex outside of marriage. But it is hard to join a movement that fails to support the measures proven most likely to achieve their goals.

The abortion reduction movement is thus left with a focus on doing something after women become pregnant rather than preventing unintended pregnancy. They emphasize helping women who are pregnant continue difficult pregnancies and either keep the baby or give it up for adoption. Even here, they fall far short, offering rhetoric, not a plan. According to the Guttmacher Institute three-fourths of the women who have abortions say they do so in part because they cannot afford a child. That is about 800,000 women and girls each year...

On adoption, the movement presents no plan at all. We have no idea what changes in adoption policy they think would lead to more pregnant women to continue their pregnancies and give the child up for adoption? Have they studied the issue or relied on existing studies? And how many abortions a year do they think this strategy would prevent? ... Have they talked to women who have given children up for adoption to understand from a pastoral perspective what effect this decision has on a woman’s life?

Historically, activists on both sides of the abortion debate have presented it as a black-and-white issue: abortion is either murder, or a meaningless medical procedure. But those who are fixated on the rights of the fetus often lack compassion and respect for the mother; while those who think only of the mother's rights like to gloss over the idea that a fetus is the first stage of a human life. As long as both a mother and a child are involved -- as long as contraception and sex education are denied by the government, as long as adoption and foster care are in desperate need of an overhaul, as long as mothers live in poverty -- reproductive rights will never be a black-and-white issue.

And this is where pro-choice Christian activists can help. Because on the whole, Christians who support legal abortion do want to see abortion rates go down; but they'd like to see that happen in a way that shows compassion and respect for women. The best thing we can do for our national conversation about abortion is to start exploring these gray areas, and to start looking at both lives involved in an abortion: the child's and the mother's.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tweets for Jesus

Inspired by this Religion Dispatches article about churches using Twitter, here are the ten most recent appearances by Jesus on Twitter (usernames removed to protect the innocent):

Today has been a good good day:) i felt sick but i got healed by JESUS!<3 Can't wait to get home, play me some guitar hero!

Preaching on Jesus miracles for the next few months.
On the plane thank u jesus

Hookers For Jesus...on Nightline ABC tonite at 11:35 pm...tell ur friends and be sure 2 watch!!!

Wasn't Jesus the first zombie? He came back from the dead


I would kill jesus zombie the only problem is that he would come back in 3 days

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever! --Hebrews 13:8


"There's a difference between following Jesus and stalking him." -Dennis Miller (pre-crazy)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Forgive Me Lord, For I Have Snarked

Last week, Roger Ebert used his very popular personal blog as a confessional, where he repented... for being snarky.

Snarking is cultural vandalism. I have arrived at this conclusion belatedly. I have been guilty of snarking, and of enjoying snarks. In the matter of snarking, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But it has grown entirely out of hand. It is time to put away childish things. I must restore my balance, view the world in a fair way, hope to inspire more appreciation than ridicule. No doubt there will always be a role for snarking, given the proper target and an appropriate venue, and I reserve the right to snark when it is deserved, as in certain movie reviews. But in general I must become more well-behaved.

And later:
What concerns me is that snark functions as a device to punish human spontaneity, eccentricity, non-conformity and simple error. Everyone is being snarked into line.How dare Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, or Mia Farrow before them, adopt more than one Third World baby? Do they have nothing better to do with their money?

I feel the need to note that Roger Ebert mainly uses his blog to say nice things; as snarky websites go, it's practically the anti-Gawker. Still, I enjoy seeing someone hold the internet to a standard of higher morality. Is being mean online as much of a sin as being mean in person? Even if it's funny? Does snark keep the bourgeoisie in check (stay humble, Angelina!), and does it do so at the expense of discouraging our celebrities -- and by extension, us -- from being risk-takers?

To me, it seems that snarkiness is linked to pettiness: it is the art of being mean for no good reason. This is markedly different, I think, from satire, which is one of the most effective ways of critiquing something that's fundamentally screwy (and I am proud to live in an age where satire is a valued form of political debate). Could it be said that satire is, in fact, moral comedy, and snark is its lesser cousin?

Which is not to say snark doesn't have its uses; a good sarcastic insult is an attack tool, focusing the writer's anger and rallying readers. It vents frustration. I've done it. Maybe you have too. But at what cost?

Perhaps Ebert should take this whole thing one step further and set up an actual online confessional, where we can cleanse ourselves of the sins accrued in the heat of blogging...

Find the Religion! Russell Brand's Comedy Central Special

It wasn't on par with an Eddie Izzard show, but Russell Brand still managed to work a few thoughts about God into his cable stand-up debut:

"No,no,no, thank YOU, Lil Wayne!"

"Even Jesus only did it once, to make a point."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Video of the Week: The Miracle of Flight

"Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, Oh my god, wow! You're sitting in a chair IN THE SKY." A lesson in gratefulness by Louis CK, currently making the rounds on Facebook.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What A Hymn Should Sound Like

If every Presbyterian choir sang like this, there would be a lot more Presbyterians in church.

Four greatest-hits selections from a recent performance by my very own church choir:

"I Don't Feel No Ways Tired" (which they do so much better than Hillary)

"We Fall Down"

"Order My Steps"

"I Woke Up This Morning"

Of course, if you happen to be in Brooklyn, you can catch a free live performance every Sunday.

God's Love at the Oscars

"No matter what anyone tells you, God does love you": Dustin Lance Black's moving speech upon winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Milk was the evening's highlight. (It's also the first time I recall Mormonism being mentioned in an acceptance speech; has that ever happened before?)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In the News: Religion & the Super Bowl

The Dallas Morning News points out Troy Polamalu's subtle giveaway of his Greek Orthodox faith.

The LA Times argues that athletes shouldn't practice displays of faith on the field, Greek Orthodox or no.

The Pueblo Chieftan sees the Super Bowl as "football as religion," and backs that up by quoting... Billy Joel.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can You Really Outlaw Silent Prayer?

A federal judge, in response to a lawsuit by atheist Rob Sherman, has struck down an Illinois law requiring a moment of silence in public schools.

Said Judge Robert W. Gettleman: "The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Find the Religion! Inauguration Edition

And now, it's time for everyone's favorite game: Find the Religion!

1. Rick Warren gave the opening prayer, as his usual self: bombastically humble, mostly inoffensive and slightly smug. Despite concerns about his some of his "anti-change" politics, he played nice; he referenced Martin Luther King, and didn't drop any Bush-style Evangelical "code words." (Then again, my Evangel-dar isn't that well-honed.) He closed, Protestant-style, with the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:5-13).

2. Aretha Franklin sang a couple verses of "My Country Tis of Thee," written by New England Baptist pastor and poet Samuel F. Smith in 1843. Although intended purely as a "patriotic hymn," the song is a fixture in many American church hymnals. (It does use more religious imagery in the later verses.)

3. An all-star classical quartet performed a moving John Williams arrangement of "Simple Gifts," a Shaker hymn from 1848. The Shakers, of course, were a British sect of Quakerism who came to America in 1774 to flee persecution, practice celibacy, dance and make furniture.

4. In the opening lines of his speech, now-President Barack Obama referenced 1 Corinthians 13, as both a metaphor for our troubled times:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And a call to service:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

5. Later on, in what must surely be an inaugural first, Obama acknowledged American followers of the four major world religions, as well as (gasp!) nonbelievers:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

This seemed to me to deliberately evoke Paul's great words in Galatians 3:28, applying them to the body of America, rather than the body of Christ:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

6. Finally, there was Reverend Joseph Lowery's heartfelt benediction, which does not seem to appear on CNN. (Come on, CNN! Keep up!). Lowery, a civil rights activist since the 1950s, opened with the words to "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a civil rights anthem and church standard, which appears in the Congressional record as the official African American National Hymn:

Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.

So... did I miss anything?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In the News: Steve Jobs, Minor Deity

Is Apple "on the verge of becoming a for-profit religion among its users"? And if so, does that make John Hodgman a saint?

Atheist billboards have been up in Portland for a month now, and nobody has particularly objected.

This 'non-religious' church, called The Vibe, is trying a little too hard. To wit: "We’re not like other churches," claimed Brown. Then with a subtle wink he added, "and I’m not like other pastors."

A better idea: football-themed church services.

Obama is now covering all his inaugural bases with Rick Warren and Eugene Robinson. Or is he?

And finally: the Catholic church is bringing back indulgences! Let's all party like it's 1499!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Progressive Christian T-Shirts (and Other Swag)

Wondering what to wear to the inauguration? A few budget-friendly options...

WTFWJD? t-shirt, $19.99 at the Going Jesus store.

As God Is My Waitress button, $3.49 at the Betty Bowers Store.

Fighter Wings Sticker, $1 at the Revolution Church Store.

Christians Have the Best Sects shirt, $17.97 at the Mental Floss store.

The Real Jesus Forgives Your Jesus button, $3.49 at the Betty Bowers Store.

Christian Who Thinks shirt, $22.99 at the Going Jesus store.

The Virgin Mary is a MAN, Baby!

In The Guardian, geneticist Aarathi Prasad contemplates a scientific explanation for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ: Mary was genetically male.

Prasad gives a layman's explanation of "testicular feminisation" (more often refered to these days as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome), a condition by which a fetus is born with an X and Y chromosome, but carries a mutation that makes the body insensitive to testosterone -- ergo, the fetus develops as a woman with a man's genetic make-up. Most women with this condition (about 1 in 13,000 births these days) are sterile, but Prasad lays out a series of unlikely mutations and events by which Hypothetical Male Mary could have a child without doing the deed.

In fact, the author believes that virgin births may be the wave of the future:

Zoologists have long known that there are many species that can reproduce without sex, and have now started to discover that it can also happen in the most unexpected places. In the last five years the list of virgin mothers has expanded to include a python, hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks, and Komodo dragons. As the British zookeeper who discovered virgin births in Komodos put it, rather like buses, you wait ages and then loads of them come along all at once...
Similar things are now happening in the laboratory, with scientists creating healthy, fertile mice with no fathers. The fact that they were able to make such animals means that we can now get over the genetic barriers to a mammalian virgin birth – in mice at least. Who knows, one day a virgin birth in humans may not be so implausible after all.

I admit, I enjoy this variety of far-fetched speculative science/theology. While Prasad isn't the first person to suggest that Mother Mary was making like a Komodo Dragon, this is definitely the most elaborate hypothesis I've seen.

Photo: drag queen Mimi Imfurst, via Time Out New York.