"Like all great satire, the book is cerebral, irreverent and hilarious, while also edifying" Publisher's Weekly
"This book is hilarious... [Lanham] didn't skimp on his research. The book provides a telling overview of the religious right's leadership, the beliefs they espouse, and just how incredibly absurd and hypocritical they are." The Campaign to Defend the Constitution
Editor's Pick: "From the author of The Hipster Handbook comes this irreverent navigation of all things Evangelical. Learn enough slang to fit in at a church picnic or why SpongeBob SquarePants is an agent of the Devil" Chicago Sun-Times
"This guy has written quite a funny book." Alan Colmes, Fox News
"A funny book with some funny cartoons on everyone from Rick Warren as the evangelical Jimmy Buffett to a guide for Christian haircuts that is hilarious... I was chuckling until I saw that I am the postscript" Mark Driscoll, pastor of the largest megachurch in Washington State
"Every good little liberal will have this book on order as a stocking stuffer come Jesus' birthday." Time Out
"A handbook for coping with bible thumpers.... When considering the power and influence evangelical Christians wield in this country, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Robert Lanham... understands this well and offers much needed, totally biased comic relief." Village Voice
"Not only is this an important book, it's a funny book." Marc Maron, Air America Radio
"Author Robert Lanham is an observer... but with his latest, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right, Lanham's keen eye has hit perhaps his most entertaining target." Metro Paper
"It’s hard to remember a more pointed and scathing attack… Lanham launches a focused, sustained barrage on the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of the world… He’s done his homework. The book is thoroughly researched and packed with quotes and analysis of the famous and not-so-famous leaders of the evangelical right… the research is truly impressive. " The Reader
"An utterly biased, humorous one-stop guide to the major evangelical players." Details
"Check out Robert Lanham's (author of the fabled Hipster Handbook and former Bible Belt resident) Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. It's funny because it's true." Elizabeth Spiers, founding Editor of Gawker
"Like the Daily Show or The Colbert Report, it's humor reveals the basic truth. Which is to say that the "sinners" of the world may be closer to Jesus and the divine than those who use God's name for personal enrichment, power building, and political gain." Buzzflash
"The book does for religion what Jon Stewart does for politics." CanWest News Service
"Informative, laugh-out-loud funny and horrifying at times, check out this snide, leftie-geared guide to the major evangelical players... Robert Lanham has a writing style that resembles... McSweeney's, and the irony-stacked humor of TV programs such as "The Daily Show" Style Weekly, Richmond VA
"Hilarious... go out and buy this book now." Sam Seder, The Majority Report
"This book should lay at the lifeless feet of your corpse as a silent, yet
powerful and all encompassing explanation as to why you took your own life."
David Cross, Arrested Development
During and after the game on its "Faith Nights," the Nashville Sounds minor league team also hands out bobblehead Noahs and camouflage Bibles instead of free T-shirts and bats.
Minor league teams from Buffalo, N.Y., to Huntsville, Ala., are holding similar promotions. The effect on ticket-sales is often dramatic. Faith Nights in Nashville regularly increase ticket sales by 60 percent. The Las Vegas Gladiators, the arena football team, had its highest Sunday attendance ever during a Faith Day event this spring.
Results like those captured the attention of big-league promoters, who are determined to bring the phenomenon - without the flashiness of camo Bibles - to "The Show." After the Braves hold their major league-first Faith Day Thursday - which includes a post-game Christian music concert - the Arizona Diamondbacks will hold its first Faith Day later this season. The Florida Marlins will try one next season. [read it all]
The Times has yet another article today about the so-called Evangelical Left. This time they're featuring evangelical pastor Rev. Gregory A. Boyd. Boyd has a congregation on the outskirts of St. Paul. The Times considers him to be a progressive and even titled the story: "Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock." Nevertheless, Boyd is the first to admit that he is "no liberal." Furthermore, "he is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal." Boyd won't even discuss his political persuasion and remains cagey about criticizing the policies of Bush. Needless to say, if Boyd was truly "disowning conservative politics" he'd be standing up for the rights of gays, women, and the people we are killing overseas.
A few weeks ago, the Times had a similar story on a so-called progressive evangelical Rob Bell. We spoke with Bell while researching our book, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. He's absolutely more progressive than, say, James Dobson, but like Boyd he's on the wrong side on abortion, gay rights, and he refuses to be critical of Bush. In other words, he's no progressive. The Times needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Bell and Boyd are not "disowning conservative politics."
The Passsion of the Christ director, Mel Gibson was arrested last night for driving under the influence. Of alcohol, that is, not Jesus. Turns outs, Mel, has "battled the disease of alcoholism for all of [his] adult life." Sounds like he's also battled antisemitism, sexism, and overall creepiness: [From TMZ]
The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "Fucking Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"
The deputy became alarmed as Gibson's tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"
If that video becomes public, it's going to have an even bigger audience than his blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ.
Secular Elitist At PBS Says "Bring It On" To The Christian-Smelling FCC
New PBS CEO Paula Kerger says "bring it on"
Last week the FCC issued a S15,000 fine to a PBS station in Northern California. The crime? The PBS affiliate aired a Scorsese documentary on the Blues that contained two "inappropriate" words. (Incidentally, harsher language was allowed to be broadcast in prime time by the FCC who issued no fines for the airing of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Does the FCC prefer Spielberg to Scorsese?). Infuriated by the infringement upon free speech and unclear obscenity guidelines issued by the FCC, PBS is ready for a fight. [From SF Chronicle]
The current Issue du Jour at PBS as it pertains to cowering from government fines relates first to San Mateo station KCSM - which is facing potential fines for showing, of all things, Martin Scorsese's documentary about blues music - and Ken Burns, who's making a documentary called "The War" (fall of 2007) and who's worried that swearing may result in the FCC going ballistic in response to people at the Parents Television Council who think war should be "heck" and not "hell." For the safety of the kids, I suppose. [...]
What has been so encouraging during the two days of PBS here, which closes out the TV critics' summer press tour, is that new president and CEO Paula Kerger seems to be more upset and thus proactive than past leadership on the FCC issue:
"The situation with the FCC is tremendously concerning," she said.... As you know, there is a case pending now with our station in San Mateo around the broadcast of Martin Scorsese's 'The Blues.'We are filing, I think next week, August 2nd, an amicus brief. And as part of that ruling - as part of that case, we have provided additional legal support to KCSM. We think that this is a tremendously important issue. It is an issue because of free speech. It is an issue because our filmmakers deserve to be able to tell their stories and tell them well. And we, as an industry, are very concerned. When you have stations whose operating budgets in some cases are only a couple million dollars, even, frankly, the old fines, once you factor in all the legal work and so forth, were daunting. The fines now would put stations out of business, and we cannot allow that to happen... this is not just about Janet Jackson, that this is about filmmakers that have powerful stories that now are not being allowed to tell those stories on public television or on broadcast television... I think that we certainly have a couple cases coming up that I hope we as an industry will stand together and be bold and sort of 'bring it on.'"
"The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching.... Rejoice and be exceeding glad"
Those are the words of Christian Zionist John Hagee. We've been following his mounting crusade to hasten the Rapture on this site. Today the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on the pastor's rising fame [hat tip: Kevin]
Last week, as Israel's armed forces pounded Lebanon and worries of a wider conflagration mounted, Mr. Hagee presided over what he called a "miracle of God": a gathering of 3,500 evangelical Christians packed into a Washington hotel to cheer Israel and its current military campaign.
Standing on a stage bedecked with a huge Israeli flag, Mr. Hagee drew rapturous applause and shouts of "amen" as he hailed Israel for doing God's work in a "war of good versus evil." Calls for Israel to show restraint violate "God's foreign-policy statement" toward Jews, he said, citing a verse from the Old Testament that promises to "bless those who bless you" and curse "the one who curses you."
The gathering was sponsored by Christians United for Israel, a national organization the 66-year-old preacher set up this year. The group lobbies politicians in Washington, rallies grassroots support for Israel and aims to educate Christians on what it calls the "biblical imperative" of supporting the Jewish state.
Mr. Hagee is a leading figure in the so-called Christian-Zionist movement. This evangelical political philosophy is rooted in biblical prophecies and a belief that Israel's struggles signal a prelude to Armageddon. Its followers staunchly support the Bush administration's unequivocal backing of Israel in its current battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
President Bush sent a message to the gathering praising Mr. Hagee and his supporters for "spreading the hope of God's love and the universal gift of freedom." The Israeli prime minister also sent words of thanks. Israel's ambassador, its former military chief and a host of U.S. political heavyweights, mostly Republican, attended.
At a time when Islamist groups are displacing secular nationalists as the main vehicle for political revolt across the Middle East, Mr. Hagee and like-minded evangelicals are injecting greater religious fervor into American attitudes and policy toward the region. They see, and even sometimes seem to embrace, the notion of a global conflict between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West, just as do many zealous Muslims.
"This is a religious war that Islam cannot and must not win," Mr. Hagee wrote in a recent book, "Jerusalem Countdown," which focuses on what he says is a coming nuclear showdown with Iran. "The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching.... Rejoice and be exceeding glad -- the best is yet to be." The book has sold nearly 700,000 copies since it was released in January, according to his Florida-based religious publisher, Strang Communications. [read it all here]
While researching our book, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right, we spent some time with New Life Church's Ted Haggard. We know he's a little nutty. He speaks in tongues, says Halloween is "evil" and told us that pro-business capitalism produces a clean environment. He also talks to George Bush every Monday and is the head of the National Association of Evangelicals. This documentary by Richard Dawkins is priceless. Be sure to watch the whole thing. It ends with Haggard nearly blowing a gasket. We really thought he was going to punch Dawkins for a moment there. Just watch it. [thanks Chris]
Rod Parsley, an important evangelical force in Ohio
The New Yorker has an essential article on the religious right in Ohio. Theocrats like megachurch pastor Rod Parsley are working hard to convert and register Ohio voters. And as the New Yorker underlines: "The road to the White House in ’08 runs through Ohio in ’06... Since 1900, Ohio has voted for the winner in twenty-five of the twenty-seven Presidential elections."
This article, which discusses voting irregularities and Ohio's key rightwing players, is essential reading: [From the New Yorker]
Pastor Rod Parsley stood on a flag-bedecked dais on the steps of Ohio’s Statehouse last October and, amid cheers from the crowd below, proclaimed the launch of “the largest evangelical campaign ever attempted in any state in America.” A nationally known televangelist and the leader of a twelve-thousand-member church on the outskirts of Columbus, Parsley had gathered a thousand people for the event, and attracted bystanders with a multimedia performance involving a video on a Jumbotron and music by Christian singers and rappers broadcast so loud that it reverberated off the tall buildings south of the Statehouse. TV crews from Parsley’s ministry taped the event. “Sound an alarm!” he boomed. “A Holy Ghost invasion is taking place. Man your battle stations, ready your weapons, lock and load!” In the course of the performance, Parsley promised that during the next four years his campaign, Reformation Ohio, would bring a hundred thousand Ohioans to Christ, register four hundred thousand new voters, serve the disadvantaged, and guide the state through “a culture-shaking revolutionary revival.”
Among those who spoke at the rally were Senator Sam Brownback, of Kansas, and Representative Walter B. Jones, of North Carolina, both Christian conservatives, and J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s secretary of state, who is now the Republican nominee for governor. All talked about the need to bring God and morality back into government. “We refuse to give up or back up or shut up until we’ve made a better world for all,” Blackwell said. [continue reading]
OK, this is more about "the base" than the evangelical right, but Toby Keith terrifies us. And since we're on the subject of Toby Keith, we simply *must* visit Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. The website claims “We got cowboys; we got truckers; Broken hearted fools and suckers, Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm... Enjoy one of our signature blue Cabo Wabo Margaritas featuring rock singer Sammy Hagar’s tequila." And of course, they have freedom fries.
Texas Mayor David Miller Organizing A Day For Public Officials To Pray For Rain
Mayor RainDance: David Miller, the Mayor of Lubbard Texas
We guess we shouldn't be surprised by this headline, given Miller's statements to the press after becoming mayor:
"Mostly I'm grateful to our heavenly Father for giving us the energy and the vision and support we needed...." said an excited Miller when he learned of his victory.... "It is about Him."
If you elect a snake handler to govern you, we suppose crazy shit like this is par for the course: [from UPI]
Public officials in Lubbock, Texas, are organizing a day to pray for rain.
"Nobody is going to tell God what to do and what not to do, but we are in a serious drought in West Texas and since he is the man who controls the rain clouds, we're asking him for his mercy and his help," Mayor David Miller told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
The City Council and the Lubbock County commissioners are expected to adopt resolutions this week asking local residents to both pray and fast for rain this Sunday.
So far this year, Lubbock has received about half of its normal 10 inches. In the weeks since June 1, the growing season for cotton, rainfall has been a scant .75 inches, far less than the normal 4.43 inches.
Officials have tried prayers before and say they were answered. In January 2004, after a year of drought, the city and county set aside a Sunday to pray for rain and got the second-wettest year since records have been kept.
PBS Host Gets Canned For Video Satirizing The Stupidity Of Abstinence Education
via Gawker: "Meet Melanie Martinez, until recently the host PBS Kids Sprout's "The Good Night Show," a collection of stories and cartoons designed to ease the kiddies into slumberland. What came between Melanie and her role as toddler tour-guide? Oh, you know, just a couple parody commercials endorsing assfucking."
A pagan religion that some experts say can be interpreted as encouraging violence is gaining popularity among prison inmates, one of whom is scheduled to be executed this week for killing a fellow prisoner at the foot of an altar.
Michael Lenz is scheduled to die Thursday for the death of Brent Parker, who was stabbed dozens of times at Augusta Correctional Center during a gathering of inmates devoted to Asatru, whose followers worship Norse gods. At his trial, Lenz testified that Parker had not been taking the religion seriously and had to die to protect the honor of the gods.
Other followers call the religion misunderstood and say most adherent inmates do not use it to further violent agendas.
Asatru has been gaining popularity among inmates, say religious leaders and prison experts who believe its roots in Viking mythology attract prisoners seeking power, protection and unity.
The gang culture in prison also contributes, said theologian Britt Minshall, a former police officer and Baltimore pastor who ministers to inmates. Some white inmates who felt threatened by black prison gangs formed their own gangs and sought out a belief system they felt would provide additional security, he said.
"It's a way of grouping together for safety," he said. "And you have to have a god in the middle of that to really keep you safe."
Asatru is often referred to as Odinism, although some followers believe the two are separate religions. It is a polytheistic, pre-Christian faith native to Scandinavia whose adherents worship gods including Thor and Odin.
It emphasizes a connection with one's ancestors and values honor, loyalty, generosity and truth.
An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in the United States consider themselves Asatruars or Odinists, said Stephen McNallen, director of the Asatru Folk Assembly, a leading Asatru group.
No national statistics are kept on how many inmates follow Asatru. But experts say its popularity enjoyed a boost from the Supreme Court, which last year sided with an Asatru inmate by upholding a federal law requiring state prisons to accommodate prisoners' religious affiliations.
Asatru is often associated with white supremacy, although most Asatru leaders bristle at suggestions of such a relationship.
FBI report on domestic terrorism described Odinism as a "white supremacist ideology that lends itself to violence."
"What makes Odinists dangerous is the fact that many believe in the necessity of becoming martyrs for their cause," the report said.
Such comments are typical of those who don't understand Asatru, said Jane Ruck, who runs the National Prison Kindred Alliance and ministers to Asatru inmates. White supremacists make up only a small portion of Asatruars, and most inmates who follow the religion do not use it to push hate-filled, violent agendas, she said.
"There might be some white supremacists who consider themselves Asatruars, but they're not (Asatruars) because they're not following our beliefs," Ruck said. "We don't hate anybody; we just want to take pride in our heritage."
Lenz and another inmate, fellow Asatruar Jeffrey Remington, stabbed Parker a combined 68 times with makeshift knives. Remington was also sentenced to death but committed suicide in 2004.
According to Art Jipson, who studies white racial extremism and directs the University of Dayton's criminal justice studies program, Lenz's belief that fatal force was warranted is not surprising.
"If he believes the fight was necessary, whether or not it was legal is the least of his concerns," Jipson said. "If he's a truly devout practicing Odinist or Asatruist, he's doing what he must do. And it would be a shame — it would be a black mark on his soul, his spirit ... for him to be cowardly and not to fight."
That kind of warrior mentality can exacerbate the tense environment behind bars, said Mark Potok, a leader at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which monitors hate groups.
"It's a theology that celebrates raw physical power and domination, and that is why I think it is so popular among prison inmates," Potok said. "The kind of inmate who might be attracted to this is a white man who is looking for justification for extreme violence, who is looking for an ideology which explains why he should be the boss."
When evangelicals are discussing End Times prophecy, they often use the term "birth pangs" as shorthand to refer to a core "prophetic" verse in Matthew:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs." (Matthew 24:3-8 RSV)
Simply put, they believe that when the "pangs" (aka wars, earthquakes, etc) begin to intensify the Rapture is about to occur. (Similar to the way a woman can tell she is about to give birth when her birth pangs intensify and become closer together). You can see the term used everywhere in Christian's online chatter. Most evangelicals also believe that conflict in Israel is the most telling sign of the End Days.
Aside from the unbelievable arrogance of that statement, which is virtually designed to piss off just about everyone in the region, this "birth-pang" characterization struck me a bizarre when I heard it. It seemed like an odd image to evoke under the circumstances and I didn't quite understand what she was referring to since the "democracy baby" she and her unofficial husband call Iraq is dying a violent death before it is even born.
Now I get it. Members of the Bush administration have been speaking in code to the Christian fundamentalists for years. In fact, they've been praised for their innovation by the mainstream press. From "culture of life" to "Dred Scott" to "wonder working power" the administration is often talking above the mainstream discourse directly to its Christian Right base.
The only explanations for employing such language at a time like this are that the Secretary of State of the United States is a flipped out fundamentalist herself --- or Karl Rove is deeply involved in the diplomatic language Rice is employing in order to stimulate their base. I lean toward the second (Karl's legacy depends upon his holding the congress this fall) but I wouldn't rule out the first.
Either way, it's unbelievably inappropriate for the top diplomat of the US to be using coded Christian fundamentalist language to discuss this, of all topics. What is wrong with these people?
BYOB: Mark Your Calendar For The Ninth Annual "Scriptures in Schools Week"
This promises to be *exciting.* Because children are never too young to begin "recruiting." And as one school teacher insists, why not "tote 'em and quote 'em! And use 'em in class." Via The Right Reverend Rabbi Judah:
Students to bring Bibles to school
Christian students, teachers, and support staff in U.S. public schools will bring Bibles to class Sept. 24-30. The ninth annual "Scriptures in Schools Week" will be marked by participating students using Bible references to complete various in-class assignments and homework.
The nationwide kick-off event is designed to establish the habit for students to bring Bibles to class all year long and make the Bible a commonplace text in America's schools once again.
SIS Week complements other national student events such as "See You at The Pole" and "Challenge Sunday-Adopt a School for Christ." Christian parents can make it a family affair by bringing their Bibles to work for "The Word at Work Week."
Inspired by the Great Commission and Isaiah 55:11, SIS Project is an effective, friendly, low key, legal and ethical way for Christian students in public schools to casually and routinely introduce Biblical concepts into America's public school classrooms using what SIS Coordinator Bob Pawson calls "Academic Evangelism."
"Tote 'em and quote 'em! And use 'em in class," says Pawson, a teacher in the Trenton Public Schools since 1980. "Dare to bring your Bibles. Let's return the Bible to our public schools and restore basic Biblical literacy to America's children."
Pawson says, "Academic Evangelism is legal, non- disruptive to the school, and should lead to enhanced scholarship, as well as improved student behavior. A Great Revival is occurring in a most unlikely place: America's public schools - led by teens and children."
"Academic Evangelism creates daily opportunities for students from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade to share Bible concepts with classmates and teachers in a scholarly manner. Students can present Gospel truths academically by using Biblical references to complete some assignments each week such as essays, book reports, spelling sentences, penmanship or word processing samples, oral readings, dramatic presentations, and biographies. Bible concepts can even be presented in subjects like math, science, social studies, art, and music."
"Ironically, the only people keeping Bibles out of America's public Schools are - us Christians. All we have to do is bring them in. Let's do so. It's a real confidence booster to participating students knowing that millions of other people all across America are also bringing their Bibles to public schools that week."
Students and teachers are encouraged to read their Bibles in class, silently or aloud (if circumstances permit), during free periods, lunch, recess, or before and after school. It is absolutely legal to do this. Students can also witness by using textbooks covers featuring the Ten Commandments or Bible verses; wearing Christian t-shirts or patches, buttons, jewelry, and neckties. Bring extra Bibles or tracts as gifts for classmates.
SIS Week is easy to implement in your church, town, school or sphere of influence. Just follow the plan on the web page. SIS Week is a "grass roots" operation which means that you (the Christian reading this press release or article) should exercise personal initiative and leadership to promote or publicize SIS Week in your sphere of influence. Don't wait for a "leader": Be one. Recruit others.
Details are available at bringyourbible.com.
The Bishop of London has declared it sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a “gas-guzzling” car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home, writes Jonathan Leake.
Richard Chartres will encourage vicars to preach more green sermons and warn congregations that it is now a moral obligation for Christians to lead eco-friendly lifestyles. [read it all here.]
Realizing Fundamentalism & Facts Don't Mix, Colleges Break With Their Baptist Roots
From NY Times: "William H. Crouch Jr., the president of Georgetown College, which separated from the Kentucky Baptist Convention last year."
Fed up with Southern Baptists who think Creationism and talking snakes belong in the classroom, many Baptist colleges are being to wake up and smell the decade. [From NY Times]
The request seemed simple enough to the Rev. Hershael W. York, then the president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He asked Georgetown College, a small Baptist liberal arts institution here, to consider hiring for its religion department someone who would teach a literal interpretation of the Bible.
But to William H. Crouch Jr., the president of Georgetown, it was among the last straws in a struggle that had involved issues like who could be on the board of trustees and whether the college encouraged enough freedom of inquiry to qualify for a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.[...]
Georgetown is among a half-dozen colleges and universities whose ties with state Baptist conventions have been severed in the last four years, part of a broad realignment in which more than a dozen Southern Baptist universities, including Wake Forest and Furman, have ended affiliations over the last two decade...
“The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education,’’ Professor Key said. “In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths.’’ [...]
Georgetown asked the Kentucky Baptist Convention two years ago to allow 25 percent of the college’s trustees to be non-Baptist, but the proposal was rejected. Only about half of Georgetown’s students are Baptist, and less than half of the alumni are Baptist, Dr. Crouch, the college’s president, said.
“I realized that our fund-raising depended on getting non-Baptists on our board,’’ Dr. Crouch said.
Then, a year ago, the Kentucky convention turned down a nominee for Georgetown’s board for the first time. Around the same time, Dr. York asked the college to look for a religion professor who would teach theologically conservative positions.
“You ought to have some professor on your faculty who believes Adam and Eve were the first humans, that they actually existed,’’ Dr. York said.
Episcopal churches in Arkansas can offer blessing ceremonies for gay couples, the state's bishop said in a letter to clergy.
"It is my belief that seeking ways of recognizing and blessing faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships falls within the parameters of providing pastoral concern and care for our gay and lesbian members," wrote the Right Rev. Larry Maze, bishop of the 14,000-member Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas.
Maze noted in his letter sent to clergy Wednesday that no other national or state Episcopal leaders have produced or approved official rites for the blessings of same-sex unions.
He said the ceremonies will be local observances in each church, not approved formal rites. Arkansas has banned gay marriage, so same-sex couples will have no legal standing in the state.
Two churches St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Little Rock and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville plan to offer the ceremonies.
Maze who was among the bishops who approved the election of an openly gay bishop, the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire is set to retire later this year.
At its 2003 national convention, church representatives passed a resolution in favor of allowing churches to explore the option of offering blessing ceremonies for gay couples. But at its convention in Ohio this year, leaders passed a resolution telling dioceses not to elect another gay bishop. The most recent convention did not address blessing gay couples.
Most Anglican archbishops believe gay relationships violate Scripture, and many broke ties with the U.S. church over Robinson's election.
Several Episcopal dioceses that consider gay relationships sinful are distancing themselves from the U.S. church over the election as presiding bishop of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who will be installed Nov. 4, because she supports ordaining partnered gays and blessing same-sex couples.
At St. Michael's in Little Rock, the Rev. Ed Wills said a same-sex couple is planning a blessing ceremony that is tentatively set for September.
"God is about community, about belonging, about a relationship," Wills said. Couples are blessed in the church "not just so that they can be special but that they can be a blessing to other people."
The Rev. Lowell Grisham of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, said no one has requested a blessing yet, but that he expects a ceremony before the Episcopal general convention in 2009.
"My gay friends are very sensitive about the notion that we've been blessing animals for years and find it so difficult to bless their relationships," Grisham said
Someone covered up a billboard on La Branch at Winbern with a poster featuring a picture of Jesus Christ holding a Budweiser can. The company that leases the billboard believes vandals made the poster at home and then pasted it on top of the ad that's supposed to be there. It shows Jesus holding a Budweiser in between the phrases "Jesus, King of Jews" and "Jesus, King of Beers."
"I thought that was just crazy," said commuter Jose Cazares. "It looks professional too."
Author Who Dresses Like Stevie Nicks Claims To Be Descendent Of Jesus And Mary Magdalene
In her upcoming autogiographical novel, The Expected One, Kathleen McGowan claims to be a direct descendent of Jesus. Just like Audrey Tatou in The Da Vinci Code. Evidently Simon & Schuster didn't hire a fact checker on this one. McGowan claims Mary Magdaleen comes to her in visions and provides zero proof of her claims [from USA Today]
[McGowan's] first vision of Mary Magdalene took place during a visit to Jerusalem in 1997. She experienced vertigo and saw a blinding flash. She then saw Mary Magdalene, surrounded by an angry mob, walking toward the mount where Jesus would be crucified....
So far, McGowan is offering only her word about her lineage and only hints at her proof. In addition to the visions, she says, she has discovered that her family is related to an ancient French lineage that traces its roots to Jesus and Mary Magdalene's descendants. Legend holds that Mary Magdalene settled in France after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. "That's all I'm prepared to say right now," McGowan says. Some members of her family, she explains, want her to respect their privacy and not discuss it.
James Dobson Uses "Ex-gay" Penguins And A Dog To "Prove" That Humans Aren't Born Gay
The Mascot For Dobson's New Anti-gay Website, Sherman
You know, because he's a moron. And that's the type of science homophobic nutjobs who believe the word is 10,000 years old rely on. [From Dobson's new anti-gay website "No Moo Lies"]
Meet Roy and Silo two penguins living in Manhattan's Central Park Zoo.A few years back, they started spending a lot of time together and became celebrities as Manhattan's "most famous gay penguin couple." Even the zoo started selling books to kids about the two male penguins who loved each other.
Then something happened that messed it all up: Silo met Scrappy, a female penguin from California.
Silo ditched Roy and built a nest with Scrappy. They've even started trying to have kids.
It just goes to show: Penguins can change.
Visit Focus on the Family's new anti-gay website, No Moo Lies, where you can learn all about science and the human genome from a dog. [via Huffpost]
Yesterday, the House passed a bill that will shield "activist judges" from removing "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. [From the AP]
The House, citing the nation's religious origins, voted Wednesday to protect the Pledge of Allegiance from federal judges who might try to stop schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase "under God." [...]
"We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage," said Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. "It surrounds us. It cries out for our country to honor God."[...]
The pledge bill would deny jurisdiction to federal courts, and appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, to decide questions pertaining to the interpretation or constitutionality of the pledge. State courts could still decide whether the pledge is valid within the state.
Ironically, evangelicals and lawmakers keep driving home the point that we need to be true to our "spiritual heritage," ignoring the fact that there is no mention of God in the original Pledge of Allegiance. Or, for that matter, in the Constitution.
[From Slate] The pledge was written in 1892 by the socialist Francis Bellamy, a cousin of the famous radical writer Edward Bellamy. He devised it for the popular magazine Youth's Companion on the occasion of the nation's first celebration of Columbus Day. Its wording omitted reference not only to God but also, interestingly, to the United States:
"I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The key words for Bellamy were "indivisible," which recalled the Civil War and the triumph of federal union over states' rights, and "liberty and justice for all," which was supposed to strike a balance between equality and individual freedom. By the 1920s, reciting the pledge had become a ritual in many public schools...
The efforts to bring God into the state reached their peak during the so-called "religious revival" of the 1950s. It was a time when Norman Vincent Peale grafted religion onto the era's feel-good consumerism in his best-selling The Power of Positive Thinking; when Billy Graham rose to fame as a Red-baiter who warned that Americans would perish in a nuclear holocaust unless they embraced Jesus Christ; when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles believed that the United States should oppose communism not because the Soviet Union was a totalitarian regime but because its leaders were atheists.
Hand in hand with the Red Scare, to which it was inextricably linked, the new religiosity overran Washington. Politicians outbid one another to prove their piety. President Eisenhower inaugurated that Washington staple: the prayer breakfast. Congress created a prayer room in the Capitol. In 1955, with Ike's support, Congress added the words "In God We Trust" on all paper money. In 1956 it made the same four words the nation's official motto, replacing "E Pluribus Unum." Legislators introduced Constitutional amendments to state that Americans obeyed "the authority and law of Jesus Christ." [read it all]
Federally funded "pregnancy resource centers" are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged yesterday.
The report said that 20 of 23 federally funded centers contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion.
The pregnancy resource centers, which are often affiliated with antiabortion religious groups, have received about $30 million in federal money since 2001, according to the report, requested by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.). The report concluded that the exaggerations "may be effective in frightening pregnant teenagers and women and discouraging abortion. But it denies the teenagers and women vital health information, prevents them from making an informed decision, and is not an accepted public health practice."
A spokeswoman for one of the two large networks of pregnancy resource centers, Sterling-based Care Net, said that the report is "a routine attack on us that's nothing new."
Care Net's Molly Ford said the centers criticized by Waxman received federal grants for abstinence-only programs they conduct, but not for pregnancy counseling. "The funds are kept entirely separate," she said.
Ford said, however, that she agrees with pregnancy counselors who tell women that abortion may increase the risk of breast cancer, infertility and a condition described by antiabortion groups as "post-abortion syndrome."
"We have many studies that show significant medical problems associated with abortion," she said.
Those studies are at odds with mainstream medical opinion. An expert panel of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), for instance, concluded in 2003 that an "abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer." The experts said their conclusion was "well established" by the evidence.
The report, from the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee, found that counselors at eight of the centers told callers that abortion substantially increases the risk of breast cancer. Some counselors also said the psychological effects of abortion are severe and long-lasting, while research generally has found that severe stress reactions are no more common after an abortion than after giving birth.
President Bush has been an advocate for pregnancy resource centers and for abstinence-only sex education. Few of the pregnancy resource centers -- formerly called crisis pregnancy centers -- received any federal funding before 2001. Care Net's Ford said there are now about 2,000 centers in the United States and Canada.
Waxman has been a critic of many Bush administration women's health programs, including a 2002 reference on an NCI Web site suggesting that there was serious debate about whether abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. As a result, the NCI brought together experts to review existing data and came up with its conclusion that no abortion-breast cancer association exists. The statement was later deleted from the NCI Web site.
Last year, Waxman initiated a study of a government Web site intended to help parents and teenagers make "smart choices" about sexual activity. A team of medical experts who reviewed the Web site said it included inaccurate or misleading information that could alienate some families or prompt riskier behavior.
Rapture Ready Pastor Creating Pro-Israel Lobby To Hasten Armageddon
John Hagee, a Texas pastor with a congregation of 20,000, is in Washington DC spearheading his pro-Israel Christian lobby this week. He's signed up thousands of Zionist Christians and evangelical leaders to join his crusade. Hagee hopes to "institute an annual 'Night to Honor Israel' in every major American city to assure Israel and Jews everywhere that 'you do not stand alone.'" Of course, he also believes the Rapture won't occur until Israel is a completely sovereign theocracy, this being the real impetus of his support. Even more troubling, Hagee actually has lots of fans and has written extensively about an inevitable war with Iran. [From the American Prospect]
Pastor John Hagee, the author of an incendiary new book purporting to show that the Bible predicts a military confrontation with Iran... Hagee’s book, Jerusalem Countdown, [has] sold nearly 500,000 copies. It had occupied the No. 1 position on the Wal-Mart inspirational best-seller list, showed up on Wal-Mart’s list of top 10 best sellers for seven weeks, and made the USA Today top 50 best-seller list for six weeks.
Hagee spoke with All Things Considered recently, articulating why he feels compelled to support Israel unconditionally:
"It's a direct commandment that Christians should be supportive of Israel [even though they will all burn in hell if they don't convert]," Hagee says. "It's the only nation that God ever created [and the Rapture will happen once the Jews have complete control of Israel]. It’s the only nation that Christians are told to pray for, and therefore, because the Bible is the compass of our faith, we do what it says."
Who Knew?! God Sends A Plague Of War To Cancel Gay Pride Parade
At least according to Christian Zionist Christine Darg: [big hat tip to Bartholomew]
Military events in Israel are now likely to force the cancellation of the World Pride homosexual desecration of Jerusalem next month...
Believers in Israel and all over the world have been bombarding Heaven for God to intervene . . .. But sometimes God answers in ways that nobody wants. War is never pleasant, but its security demands take precedence over something as frivolous as a gay parade.
Samuel Jackson To Provide Voice Of God For Audio Bible
We just hope they use the audio track from his Pulp Fiction speech as well:
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish, and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brothers keeper and the finder of lost children..."
Dinosaur Adventure land, where Dinosaurs and the Bible meet!
Dinosaur Adventure Land is a Theme Park, Science Center, and Museum - It is run by Creation Science Evangelism, the world-changing ministry of Dr. Kent Hovind who travels internationally speaking (and debating) on the Creation vs. Evolution controversy. [...]
Since the success of our Home school Appreciation Day of 2006, we have decided to do more themed-events at Dinosaur Adventure Land. To start things off, we have decided to make April fool’s Day (April 1st) “Darwin Day”
The museum claimed that the earth is only a few thousand years old, that dinosaurs and humans coexisted, and that their goal was "to leave you tired, smarter and closer to the Lord." Last week, Dr. Dino was cited "with 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators." He claims that "as a minister of God, everything he owns belongs to God and he is not subject to paying taxes to the United States on money he receives for doing God's work." Needless to say, the IRS does not agree. Here's our favorite part of the indictment: [From Pensacola News Journal]
The indictment [also] alleges Kent Hovind paid his employees in cash and labeled them "missionaries" to avoid payroll tax and FICA requirements.
Middle East Conflict Has Rapture-Ready Nuts Very Excited
The insane folks at RaptureReady.com are looking towards heaven in anticipation. They believe that the bloodshed in the Middle East is good news. A sign that Jesus is about to Rapture them. In a post (which has since been pulled) one visitor to the website claims that the bloody headlines have her circling "her fist over her head and imitat[ing] Arsenio Hall by yelling WHOO-WHOO-WHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!." Here are some other choice postings found on the website [via Bartholomew's Notes and Cursor]:
“I am excited beyond words that the struggle of this life may be over soon and I can finally be FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!”
“I will just have time to get my hair and nails done”
"It has been quite a day today, if you caught all the news; I'm getting the feeling world tension is gonna be high for a long time with increased terrorism and nations being defiant. I don't think it will cool down until after the rapture when the peace deal is confirmed."
"I am too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what's going on in the M.E.!!... And Watcherboy, you were so right when saying it was quite a day yesterday, in the world news, and I add in local news here in the Boston area!! Tunnel ceiling collapsed on a car and killed a woman of faith, and we had the most terrifying storms I have ever seen here!! But, yes, Ohappyday, like in your screen name , it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited."
Despite constitutional concerns, Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill [this week] requiring all public and community schools to display any donated copies of the national and state mottos — "In God We Trust" and "With God, All Things Are Possible." […]
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, requires public schools, including charter schools run by private entities using state money, to display copies of the mottos if they are donated in a classroom, auditorium or cafeteria. An earlier version of the bill required display in every classroom in the state.
Moms for Ohio, a small political-action committee that mostly promotes conservative causes, pushed the bill as instilling the right values in children.
How wonderfully logical. Children will see "In God We Trust" posters everywhere, every day, until they've lost all meaning. This will "instill the right values," the same way putting the phrase on all currency since 1954 has dramatically curtailed the rate at which people steal others' money. Oh wait, it hasn't.
But evolution remains a theory in Kansas, just like gravity. From the AP
Finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution are now helping confirm itby evolving.
A medium sized species of Darwin's finch has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds just two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source.
The altered beak size shows that species competing for food can undergo evolutionary change, said Peter Grant of Princeton University, lead author of the report appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
Grant has been studying Darwin's finches for decades and previously recorded changes responding to a drought that altered what foods were available.
It's rare for scientists to be able to document changes in the appearance of an animal in response to competition. More often it is seen when something moves into a new habitat or the climate changes and it has to find new food or resources, explained Robert C. Fleischer, a geneticist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo.
This was certainly a documented case of microevolution, added Fleischer, who was not part of Grant's research.
Grant studied the finches on the Galapagos island Daphne, where the medium ground finch, Geospiza fortis, faced no competition for food, eating both small and large seeds.
In 1982 a breeding population of large ground finches, Geospiza magnirostris, arrived on the island and began competing for the large seeds of the Tribulus plants. G. magnirostris was able to break open and eat these seeds three times faster than G. fortis, depleting the supply of these seeds.
In 2003 and 2004 little rain fell, further reducing the food supply. The result was high mortality among G. fortis with larger beaks, leaving a breeding population of small-beaked G. fortis that could eat the seeds from smaller plants and didn't have to compete with the larger G. magnirostris for large seeds.
That's a form of evolution known as character displacement, where natural selection produces an evolutionary change in the next generation, Grant explained in a recorded statement made available by Science.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Is your phone a secular humanist, a Jew, or a Muslim? Do you know where your phone will spend eternity? Has your phone ever taken communion or confessed its sins to a priest? Why not choose Catholic Mobile today. From the Catholic Mobile website:
Catholic Mobile provides families and individuals with inspiring Catholic content in English and Spanish that will enrich their daily wireless experiences. Catholic Mobile users can receive messages by subscribing or selecting from a range of services anytime, anywhere, from their cell phones, PDA's or smart phones. Using a text messaging service (SMS or Short Message System), daily prayers, the saint of the day, or daily scripture readings will be sent directly to the individual's cell phone or mobile device. Users will also be able to personalize their phones by downloading Catholic wallpapers and ringtones.
Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus Christ, Ghandi, Kenneth Lay
According to Reuters, the Reverend at Kenneth Lay's memorial service compared the crooked CEO to Jesus, not to mention Martin Luther King. The ceremony was attended by other saints including George Bush Sr., James Baker, and undoubtedly a multitude of God's holiest angels seated invisibly in the rafters above. Here are some other highlights from Reverend Dr. Bill Lawson's speech:
"I know he's in heaven, and I'm glad he's not in a position anymore to be whipped by his enemy"
"He was taken out of the world right at the right time..." Rev. Lawson said. "History has a way of vindicating people who have been wronged."
Amen Rev. Lawson. Your words will undoubtedly be inspirational to the thousands of mourning ex-Enron employees and stockholders nationwide. It's good to know Kenny Boy is free at last with MLK in Heaven. [Thanks Heather]
A conservative Christian leader says the organization known as the National Religious Campaign Against Torture isn't saying anything about torture in places like North Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia -- but instead is focusing its ire upon the U.S. and the Bush administration.
... Tooley says he has reviewed the declaration issued by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and has noted the document does not say anything about torture in places where it really occurs. That causes him to question the group's motive.
"If this group were genuinely interested in torture, of course they would be addressing those regimes that actively and deliberately do practice torture rather than focusing exclusively on the United States," he comments. He says he detects a "double standard" in the campaign against torture. "[It] is primarily a creation of the religious left and whose interest is not so much in torture, per se, but about opposing U.S. foreign policy."
Aren't Christians supposed to set a good moral example for everybody else? And furthermore, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture was signed by dozens of card-carrying right-wingers, such as Rick Warren and Ted Haggard. Tool-y makes it sound like the document was drafted by Ted Kennedy and Al Gore in a pot haze after attending a James Taylor concert. Mark Tooley, you win our nutjob of the month award.
This Bible sticker is based on stickers in Georgia biology school textbooks. The stickers warned that "evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things" etc.. (Gravity is just a theory too). The stickers were approved in March 2002 and were removed by court order in June of 2005. With our Christian fundamentalist government, this battle will continue to be fought. Do your part.
The Centennial Society has lots of other hilarious products as well. Check out the entire collection here. [Via Gawker]
Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, whose campaign for Georgia lieutenant governor has been clouded by questions over his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is promoting himself as the candidate with "stronger values."
Some New York Jewish leaders are reported up in arms over a subway ad campaign urging acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. The ads were posted at subway stops and the Times Square station by the Jews for Jesus organization as part of a million-dollar campaign, the New York Post said.
Several riders, on seeing the signs for the first time, voiced displeasure, finding them offensive and inappropriate, the Post said.
The transit authority told the newspaper the signs do not violate its rules that ban only discrimination on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation or certain subjects inappropriate for children.
Turns out, the conversion-happy group is putting more resources into converting New York. From the NY Times:
During previous summers in New York, a small group of Jews for Jesus missionaries concentrated on Manhattan. This year the group plans to make its presence known in all five boroughs, as well in Westchester and Rockland Counties, in northern New Jersey and on Long Island.... With a campaign budget of roughly $1.4 million, Jews for Jesus has already sent out mailings to 400,000 Jewish homes in the area and DVD's in Yiddish about Jesus to 80,000 Orthodox homes. It has launched a marketing campaign with radio spots and subway and newspaper ads featuring the slogan "Jesus for Jews."
Our "favorite" Jews for Jesus outreach is a tract that features a cartoon image of Howard Stern. We spotted one on the F Train at 42nd Street last week. [From Forward.com]
"Howard Stern - A Jew for Jesus?" it reads, pointing out similarities between Mr. Stern and the organization: Both aren't "afraid to break the old models," both "have respect for God's creation" and both care about "talking truth." A spokeswoman for Mr. Stern, who is Jewish, said he has no affiliation with the organization and thinks the ads are "trash."
1) The greatest threat to religious freedom in America, are secular fundamentalists who want to ghetto-ize religious faith and make the wall of separation between church and state a prison wall keeping religious voices out of political discourse.
A. George W. Bush
B. Robert Byrd
C. Richard Land
E. Pat Robertson
Jewish Family Harassed By Proselytizing "Christians," Forced to Leave Town
"Stop the ACLU Coalition" director and Tub of Lard, Nedd Kareiva, is "pleased" with their harassment (his cell # 773.309.4463)
A Jewish family was forced to leave their Delaware home after complaining about rampant proselytizing in their child's Indian River School District:
[From Jews on First] A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit...
On the evening in August 2004 when the board was to announce its new policy, hundreds of people turned out for the meeting. The Dobrich family and Jane Doe felt intimidated and asked a state trooper to escort them.
The complaint recounts a raucous crowd that applauded the board's opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him "take your yarmulke off!" His statement, read by Samantha, confided "I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy."
...A former board member suggested that Mona Dobrich might "disappear" like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the atheist whose Supreme Court case resulted in ending organized school prayer. She disappeared in 1995 and her dismembered body was found six years later.
The crowd booed an ACLU speaker and told her to "go back up north."
In the days after the meeting the community poured venom on the Dobriches. Callers to the local radio station said the family they should convert or leave the area. Someone called them and said the Ku Klux Klan was nearby.
To make matters worse, a creepy group called the "Stop the ACLU Coalition" publicised the Jewish family’s address and telephone phone number and stigmatized them as "ACLU plaintiffs" in order to ensure further harassment of the family. In response, Jesus General sent the head of the Stop the ACLU Coalition, Nedd Kareiva (cell # 773.309.4463), this hilarious letter.
UPDATE: The Stop the ACLU website has posted a very un-Jesusy response to all the attention they're suddenly getting. Here's a highlight:
To all you liberals who are reading this web page as a result of a link from Salon, the Daily Kos or one of your other obnoxious blogs, be advised that there have been some minor corrections made to this page, not as a direct result of your e-mails but because I believe it was the right thing to do. However, there will be no more changes.
Yet let me say that this individual below [The Dobrich Family] is not the sole target here. It's just that I have not had time to update this page. But now I will. And I assure you of this - the more e-mails you send, the faster I will get more individuals and groups posted. And believe me, I have a lot of them.
So if you think you're angry at me now, just wait until we post more cases. We love making you mad and will do all we can to see you become unglued.
Evidently, it's okay for the good Christians at Stop the ACLU to seek revenge and call people obnoxious. Turning the other cheek is for pussies like Jesus.
As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown.
And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home. A single tear graced her cheek.
It was not clear if she was crying because of her new home, her new identity as a symbol of religion or, as the pastor said, America's increasing godlessness. But although big cheers went up from the few hundred onlookers at the unveiling, and some people even wore foam Lady Liberty crowns bearing Christian slogans, she was not universally welcomed.
Most of the customers at the Dixie Queen food counter near the church viewed the statue as a cheap attention grab, said Guardia Nelson, 27, who works there.
"It's a big issue," Ms. Nelson said. "Liberty's supposed to have a fire, not a cross."
Elena Martinez, a loan officer visiting Memphis from Houston, said her family was speechless at the sight.
"The Statue of Liberty has a different meaning for the country," Ms. Martinez said. "It doesn't need to be used in a religious sense."
At the pizza place next door, Amanda Houston pronounced the combination of the Statue of Liberty and Christianity "ridiculous," though her co-worker Landon Condit was far less critical: "I can't see anything wrong with it. This is the Bible Belt."
The Statue of Liberation Through Christ, as she is called, stands 72 feet tall from the base of her pedestal to the tip of her cross. She was the idea of Mr. Williams, a very successful pastor whose church, World Overcomers, qualifies as mega: it has a school, a bowling alley, a roller rink, a bookstore and, he said, 12,000 members.
The pastor is not shy. His church has bought full-page advertisements in The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis daily, condemning homosexuality. At the World Overcomers' previous location, neighbors complained that trees were felled unnecessarily; Mr. Williams said it had to be done so that people could see the church from the road.
The statue, inspired by a Memphis church that has three giant crosses, strikes him as "a creative means of just really letting people know that God is the foundation of our nation," he said.
Mr. Williams has written several books and pamphlets analyzing a variety of matters, among them patriotism and the original intent of the founding fathers.
In "The Meaning of the Statue of Liberation Through Christ: Reconnecting Patriotism With Christianity," he explains that the teardrop on his Lady is God's response to what he calls the nation's ills, including legalized abortion, a lack of prayer in schools and the country's "promotion of expressions of New Age, Wicca, secularism and humanism." In another book, he said Hurricane Katrina was retribution for New Orleans's embrace of sin.
Mr. Williams said his statue's essential point was that Christianity should be the guiding ethos of the nation. But because the church he leads is predominantly black, as is he, there is an added dimension to the message.
In "From Slavery to Lady Liberty: Lady Liberty's African Connection: The Key to Black America's Liberation," he pointed out that the real Statue of Liberty wears a broken shackle around one ankle, and revisited evidence that the statue, a gift from France, was originally intended not to welcome immigrants but to celebrate the emancipation of slaves.
"Many blacks are not patriotic, and they are not patriotic because of the history of our nation," Mr. Williams said in an interview at the church, in the richly appointed sitting room he uses to receive visitors. "It's good for our people to know that the nation has something for them as well."
To critics who say there are better ways to spend $260,000, Mr. Williams responds that his church gives millions to the needy and says he views the statue as outreach: "I personally feel that the answer for the poor is Jesus Christ."
To celebrate the Fourth of July, a good crowd gathered on the church grounds for free hamburgers and grape soda, carnival rides, a barbecue cook-off and entertainment. Children ate sno-cones, and a small army of volunteers and members of the staff darted around on bicycles and golf carts, dressed in white polo shirts. But the main event was the unveiling, preceded by speeches, prayers and consecrations.
"I decree the spirit of conviction on this intersection," Mr. Williams boomed from a podium decorated with red, white and blue bunting. "This statue proves that Jesus Christ is Lord over America, he is Lord over Tennessee, he is Lord over Memphis."
That's right, evidently some Christian archaeologists found an "object, nestled in the side of a hill... It looked similar to wood." That's some pretty convincing evidence. One major hurtle still exists though: "The Bible says the Ark was made of gopher wood but no one knows what it is." What is ABC News going to report next? Perhaps the discovery of Jacob's ladder to heaven? Or maybe the iconic talking snake from the Garden of Eden will be found in Detroit. Read the complete Noah's Ark "story" here.