February 2009


Maybe the goofiest or just flat out weirdest Jesus Junk product on the market. From http://www.dziga.com/crucifix/:

Crucifix NG (Next Generation) is the principal work of the Faith-Based Electronics Group at the Interactive Televangelist Program (ITP). Crucifix NG is a printed electronic circuit board in the shape of a crucifix. The handheld, wall-mountable device houses a battery-operated transmitter that broadcasts an ASCII, non-denominational version of the Lord’s Prayer at 916 megahertz. (916 has no numerological significance – it is simply a function of available low-cost transmission chips within this FCC license-free bandwidth.) 

Many people affix crucifixes and other religious iconography to the walls of their homes for metaphysical security. Crucifix NG goes a step further, bathing a physical space in an anointed electromagnetism. The signal is strong enough to fill the average size room, perfect for use at home or at the office, and is received by any object that acts as an antenna. As electronic objects may be the strongest antennas within range, believers will see a marked improvement in the security of their devices, both at the software and hardware levels, whether the device in question is a cell phone, portable music player, or computer. 

The power of Crucifix NG is even stronger when one considers that the human body itself is an effective antenna. While we are not tuned to perceive electromagnetic signals at 916 Mhz, our body receives these signals nonetheless. In a gallery context, all people within range of the signal receive the Lord’s Prayer, their bodies imbued with an anointed electromagnetism, and it is beyond their ability to accept or reject this transmission. It simply happens. And as the transmission is entirely invisible, the only evidence of it is noted on the placard next to the device. Even then, the gallery visitor has no verifiable way of knowing that the signal is being either transmitted or received. After all, it is a faith-based initiative. The battery will eventually run out. And it may not matter. 

Next time you come to my house, you’ll be getting a subliminal blessing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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For years, I’ve had issues with the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what about it bothers me (aside from the interference my own less-than-pro-state politics runs with it), and the argument that some folks use about idolatry has had some personal resonance, but I admit that particular argument has its weak points.

But tonight something else occurred to me — think about procedure (you can read the U.S. Flag Code here). You place your hand on your heart, and then recite the Pledge, which is — make no mistake — a loyalty oath. But here are the words of our Lord:

I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one. (Matthew 5:34-37 ASV)

I would rather err on the side of caution and not swear by my heart than ignore Christ’s commands.

I grew up and still live in Louisiana, which has a strong Catholic presence, and every year I knew that Lent was here even before I followed the liturgical calendar because of one thing: Mardi Gras. Big parades, beads and king cakes made their way even to the northern end of the state, which is just as likely to be populated by independent fundamental Baptists and Pentecostals as anyone whose practice even resembles Catholicism. When I go out of state (exceptions — Mississippi, east Texas and southern Arkansas), people always ask about three things: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and Mardi Gras. It’s like Mardi Gras is a part of my cultural identity, even though I’m not from the French south.

But this year, the thought of Mardi Gras — a non-holiday that is celebrated by Catholics, Baptists and atheists alike — has left me a little nauseous. Aside from the fact that the revelries these days bear a distinctly pagan flavor, it flies in the face of intention the Lenten season. Hey, we’re about to start fasting, so let’s have an orgy.

I’m not opposed to parades, beads or beer. I like the idea of random displays of public jubilation involving lots of feathers and masks. But let’s just be honest — Mardi Gras is not a joyful celebration of the coming of our salvation, a last bit of glee before we take 40 days to seriously contemplate Christ’s sacrifice. It’s an excuse for the world to co-opt the Christian calendar and get drunk…and it’s an excuse a lot of the Church likes. Pathetic.

Maybe I’m just grouchy. 

Remember a few months ago when Democratic U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tried to use Catholic apologetics to prove a pro-choice position? Apparently —surprise! — Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t agree with her reading of St. Augustine, and told her so face-to-face.

She didn’t seriously think she could take on the Roman magisterium, did she?

A couple of days ago, I was passing by a television when I heard this question posed: How much will Octomom’s children cost taxpayers?

Fox News. How crass. How typical.

In case you’re lucky and have somehow missed the media blitz, Octomom is a woman in California who recently had a healthy set of octuplets. Where the story differs from the story of other celebrated parents of multiples like the McCaughey septuplets, though, is that Octomom (real name Nadya Sulman) was not the second half of a whole wedded bliss. In fact, she was unemployed, on government assistance, living with her parents and already had six children.

Her story is the same as the other parents of multiples, though, in that her multiples were conceived by IVF. (For my views about IVF, see what the Catholic Church has to say.) The father of Sulman’s multiples was a sperm donor, a friend who was in fact the father of all of her previous children through the dubious miracle(s) that can be performed in a petri dish. I cannot even begin to fathom the thought process that led to this situation.

But putting aside the immoral and incredibly stupid situation that led to the birth of the children, I want to address the original question by Fox News. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this right now because my second child is weeks or perhaps days away from being born, but I am convinced that we live in a child-hating society, or at least one with strangely screwed-up priorities when it comes to children. Like my friend Calley says: “The Bible tells us that children are a blessing and debt is a curse, but we try to avoid for the blessing and apply for the curse.”

The problem is that Fox News was lifting up these children and making a spectacle of them, saying, “These lives are a burden. Their existence harms you, the taxpayer.” They were asking, “What, per dollar, is the value of one of these lives?”

And that’s the crux, not only with how society views the octuplets, but children as a whole. They are seen as a burden and necessary debt at worst, or as something you should save for for 10 years before making an investment, like a house or a nice boat. (As if to confirm the children as a commodity theory, it’s becoming a trend among the wealthy to have trophy children.)

The New York Times recently ran a piece about people with five or more of children, and one of the mothers quoted in it said that when people would admonish her about having more than the average 2.5 children, she would respond that it is not children that are expensive, but lifestyles.

But having a biblical understanding of children helps us counterbalance the propaganda that raising more than two children is an an irresponsible act or — God forbid — accidental.

As for me, I never really considered a small family an option outside of providential hinderance. After all, I am the second of six.

I thought that seeker-sensitivity was goofy, but never underestimate the power of creative liturgical chaos.

I’m having a Westminster moment.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday party for the child of some friends of ours. During the course of the party, the father took a moment to pray, thanking God for the four years he has given the family with the child and for the hope of more years to come. Then he prayed something that caught my attention: “Lord, we ask you that he will one day get saved.”

The child in question is two months older than my own son. Both children come from Christian homes, both can articulate a basic — let me emphasize basic here — understanding of the faith, and both have actually expressed in some way a love for Christ.

But I’ve been thinking about that prayer for the last couple of weeks, and tonight it hit me — I don’t pray that way.

Every night, when I put Micah into bed, I pray with him in part to teach him how to pray and in part because I believe in praying for and with my children; my prayer, however, is not that one day that he will have a crisis moment and be saved, but rather that he will continue to grow in wisdom and faith (yes, I actually pray for my child to receive wisdom), and that he will always know of his dependence on God for salvation and rest in Christ. If he has some kind of Damascus road experience, great, but as a covenant child my hope is that he will serve the Lord from childhood. Even if my four-year-old still acts like a sinner when he wakes up tomorrow, that doesn’t change my ultimate perspective — I believe him to be elect because of God’s promise that my household will be saved.

My prayers and the prayers of my friend are not all that different. We have the same goal. We will both continue to pray for our children and their salvation even as they can better and better articulate the faith. But I think we’re looking through different windows at that goal.

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