Pope John Paul II in Action

Tradermaester-maestertrader Adam remembers young Karol Wojtyla (henceforth known as “the pope boy”) running through the streets of Poland in Marvel’s comic book adaptation of his life. I’m happy to bolster Adam’s memory with these EXCLUSIVE!!! images of the pope boy playing soccer in his hometown of Wadowice (larger image).

The Pope plays soccer…(Small)

For my part, the image from the comic book that has stayed with me for over 25 years, the image which I don’t even have to open up the comic book to recall in vivid detail is the Pope skiing (actually, he was only a cardinal then, but who’s keeping track?). Look at him go!

The Pope loves to ski…(Small)

What form! What grace! What cool pope shades! (Larger Image)

A glut of Popes on eBay

The Life of Pope John Paul IIInspired by the strange coincidences between Adam’s and my first forays into comic books as children, I’ve dug up this gem from my attic: Marvel Comic’s “The Life of Pope John Paul II” (full size image). Published in 1982, this graphic biography (as opposed to a graphic novel) tells the “entire story” of Pope John Paul II “from his childhood in Poland to the assassination attempt!”

What excitement! What exclamation marks!

I bring up this prematurely illustrated hagiography now because I got this comic from a trade with Adam in the early eighties. It was Adam’s and now it’s mine. My question is: what the hell did I trade for it? And how did Adam persuade me that this comic was worth a trade in the first place? Sure I was a good Roman Catholic boy, but so was Adam. He should’ve wanted the comic book just as much as he convinced me that I wanted it. And gosh, the assassination sounds like a good enough read, but I’m sure whatever I traded had some pretty violent bits too. So why did I do it? I don’t know, and for years I secretly harbored a resentment that I had been had.

It wasn’t until decades later, when the pope died, that I realized perhaps this musty old comic book had some value. So — and I now admit that this was the real impetus for rescuing my comics from my parent’s attic — after the pope’s death, and probably even before the new pope was picked, I logged on to eBay, prepared to sell this “collector’s item” to some sobbing, mourning Catholic desperate for one last piece of pope memorabilia.

Yes. I planned to profit on the pope’s passing.

Does this make me a bad person? A good person doing a bad thing? A sinner? A seller? A merchant of death?

I don’t know. But I do know that I wasn’t the only one with this idea. Apparently all across the country were hundreds of other adults who had held onto their misbegotten Pope John Paul II collectible comic books from their childhood. Because there was a glut of pope comics on eBay. Dozens of the very same comic, all for sale for the highest bidder. It was a buyer’s market in pope comics. So saturated was the market that I didn’t even bother to sell.

So here I am, a few years later, faded old pope pictures in hand, my chance to make something of a decades-old trade with Adam long gone.

Or, not…

Maybe Adam still has whatever it was I traded for Marvel’s “Life of Pope John Paul” and he’s finally ready for a counter-trade…

Speaking up for Jerry Falwell

Last week I posted a video clip of Jerry Falwell in 1998 delivering a sermon about the potential apocalypse of Y2K. In the clip, Falwell tosses off a weird aside about how he used to teach billy goats to “do what they’re best at.” It was a funny clip, especially out of context. In a similar vein I had prepared another clip, from the same series of sermons. In this clip, Falwell means to be talking about natural disasters, but he goes off on a tangent about boxing:


Again, a funny clip, especially out of context.The first clip has been viewed several thousand times (helped no doubt by its mention on BoingBoing). I was pleased so many people watched the video, but I was unprepared for the kinds of comments people left on YouTube. A few were innocuous, a few were clever, but most were simply hateful. Far more hateful than anything Falwell himself ever said. And that’s saying a great deal, considering Falwell was a close-minded bigot peddling fear and willful ignorance based upon an uninspired and incompetent interpretation of the Bible.But the things you people said. They were just mean. Whereas my clips are examples of ironic juxtaposition (say, a homophobic preacher revealing that he likes to watch big sweaty men “get with it” in the boxing ring), the comments on YouTube were spiteful, vengeful, and punctuated extremely poorly. Most were gleeful that this man had died. And most wished that in death, Falwell was due for worlds of pain, usually involving hellfire, and usually involving defilement by one or more farm animals.

I deleted the offensive comments and closed off the page to any more comments.

I don’t see this as censorship so much as good taste. However poor his grasp of biblical scholarship, however provincial his worldview, Jerry Falwell was, I believe, at heart a decent man. By all accounts he was not a moral hypocrite, as so many other famous televangelists and preachers have turned out to be. So, I say, it’s a case of hate the sin (ignorance, antisemitism, xenophobia, etc.) but love the sinner.

And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t believe in either heaven or hell.

Jerry Falwell on Y2K and Goats

In September 1998, Jerry Falwell delivered a series of sermons about the impending social collapse soon to be delivered to a wicked nation by the “Millennium Bug” — that is, the disaster that never disastered, Y2K.

In the sermons, Falwell likens the Tower of Babel to Y2K, and prophesizes that “God may use Y2K to crush us and prepare us for revival.” And oh, yeah, he talks about goats too.


More Political Tag Clouds

It doesn’t attempt the kind of analysis I try with the State of the Union addresses, but chir.ag has a great visual tool that builds tag clouds for hundreds of important presidential speeches and texts, all the way back to the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s State of the Union speeches.

The site has a slider, allowing you to dynamically scroll through the clouds, seeing at a glance what words stick out during what time periods. In the late sixties, “Vietnam” is very bold, indicating it was used quite frequently in presidential speeches. The word “economic” dominates the seventies.

Here’s one surprise: during the eight Reagan years one prominent word is “God.” And that’s one word that doesn’t often appear in G.W. Bush’s speeches, even though he is far more evangelical and beholden to the Christian Right than Reagan ever was.

One thing that would make chir.ag’s dynamic tag cloud even more functional would be an “anchor” feature, in which you could select a specific word, and that word would be highlighted all the way through the hundreds of clouds, whenever it appeared. It’d be fascinating to take an unlikely word (for example, “healing”–which was one of the top 100 words in Gerald Ford’s first address to Congress on August 12, 1974) and see who else uses that word and in what contexts.


Click the image for a larger photo

What would Jesus blog? It’s a question theologians have pondered for centuries. But the answer, finally, is here.

Yes, the Prince of Peace is back, and he’s online.

Blogging under the cryptic pen-name “Long Haired Jew,” Jesus tackles the issues of the day, such as terrorism (although he’s no Pope Benedict), global warming, and of course, what it’s like to be a bobble-head.

And for all you doubting Thomases out there, consider these divinely-inspired lines from Jesus’s blog:

There is a lot of debate going on about being “good stewards” with all of our natural resources. I admire many of your motives for wanting to keep the world pure and wanting to make sure there are plenty of resources around for generations to come.However, please don’t get carried away. This world was created for you. Use the resources wisely but do feel free to use them. Our Father knew what he was doing when he put the resources in place. They weren’t put there to never be utilized.


By the way, I didn’t mind walking everywhere but man oh man what I could have done if I would have had one of those SUV’s. The four-wheel-drive would have come in handy in those hills around the Sea of Galilee.

There you have it. Truer words have never been spoken. Unless you count all that Sermon on the Mount stuff, but who pays attention to that anymore anyway?

By the way, here’s the postcard Jesus mailed me. Direct mail–what an improvement over those old school marketing techniques, like that matted-hair, bug-eating, bearded, wait-where’d-you-go-with-my-head, prophet in the desert thing his cousin John had going.

Click the image for a larger photo

Now if only Jesus had a myspace Facebook page, he’d really be hip.

More liberty from the liberty-loving Liberty Baptist Church

Yesterday I focused on the bag I received, like manna from heaven, except it wasn’t the desert and it wasn’t edible, and it wasn’t from God either, from the Liberty Baptist Church. Now I’d like to share, because that’s WWJD, what was in the shiny, plastic, shopping bag from what I like to think of as God’s grocery store.

You can see below the “Response Card” that I’m presumably supposed to fill out and presumably supposed to return to Liberty Baptist Church. Because I am, after all, of course, going to rush out this weekend and attend services there.

The front of the card is straight-forward enough. Name, email, phone, address, my kids and their birthdates. Keep expanding that database! Sell it to the Family Research Council! Sell it to Karl Rove! Because that’s WWJD.

It’s the back of the card that really attracts my attention. There, with a simple checkmark, I can select a box that says, “I’m committing my life to Christ.”

That’s it? It’s that easy? I just check the box? With my pencil? And that’s that? I’m saved? My life of sin, gone? The iniquities and depravities? The feeding tube business? Wiped away? This box here, right here? I check it? And I’m saved? My soul cleansed in the cleansing cleanser of Liberty? And what, no signature required? No photo id?

It’s like Salvation for Dummies. It’s like Redemption for Idiots.

But wait, it can’t be that simple, can it?

Ah-ha, I see it…There’s a trick to it, a test. For beyond the checkbox, temptation lies…Just a few lines down I have the opportunity of requesting more information. Among the things “I’d like information on” are “Couples,” “Men,” and “Women.” So, like, if I’m into wife-swapping, that’s what they’re asking? Or looking to hit on some young pure Southern ladies? I sign up here? What if I check the box for more information on men, will I be reported to the Gay Squad? It’s a trick!!! Entrapment, I tell you!! Don’t check any of these! Just check to commit your life to Christ and get the hell out of there!!

liberty-card1.jpg Click for larger image

Liberty Baptist Church Wants Me!!!

Yesterday I had the good fortune of receiving, on my front porch, a gift bag from Liberty Baptist Church in nearby Mooresville (“Race City U.S.A.”). At left is this fabulous surprise, which made my day (click the image for a larger photograph). How ironic that just moments before finding the bag, I had been pondering my near certain eternal stay in Hell, roasting like a puffy white marshmallow in the fiery depths of infernal damnation. I wasn’t sure which mortal sin would be the one to ultimately land me there, but I’m sure it had something to do with feeding tubes.

Liberty Baptist is, as the pamphlet inside the bag assured me, an “old fashioned, missionary” church, just like the ones I see on TV!!! None of that New Age feel-good stuff. We’re talking Baptist, pure and simple and God-fearing and Footloose free.

But what really draws me to the church is the name itself: Liberty.

Man, am I a sucker for liberty. It’s right up there with freedom. I mean, liberty, that rocks. And if liberty weren’t enough all by itself, the name is actually sanctioned by the Bible!

In this detail from the photograph of the bag, you can see that “Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (II Corinthians 3:17). True, true.

But I wondered what else the Bible has to say about my favorite word, liberty. Well, in the King James Bible there’s a great book called Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach (i.e. Not That Jesus). In Sirach the good prophet tell us, “Give the water no passage; neither a wicked woman liberty to gad abroad” (Sir. 25:25). Cool, “gad” in the King James Bible! And yes, I agree–keep those wicked woman home to gad.

And in Sirach 26:10, “If thy daughter be shameless, keep her in straitly, lest she abuse herself through overmuch liberty.” Whoa, not just liberty but overmuch liberty? That’s heavy. Like, I’m thinking, and I’m probably wrong here, but “overmuch” kind of means “too”? As in too much liberty? Hell, yes, when you’re talking about women!! If there’s one thing the Bible teaches us again and again, it’s that shameless women and liberty don’t mix. Give a woman an inch and she’ll take a mile, or whatever distance it takes to get her abroad, where she can gad about all she wants.

Tomorrow: what else is inside my bag from Liberty Baptist Church?