## Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

### Papal thoughts

March 13, 2013

The people below the balcony cheered at just the word that a new pope was chosen. How come? It could have been Pope Satan III the Trickster-Pope, for all that they knew. Unless they were sure God guaranteed the new pope was a good one and not a result of human error. In which case, why cheer at the word that he was chosen? He’s not some sun god whose absence puts the world in terrible peril.

And doesn’t it matter to the people who the new pope is? Are they that damned sure God will rig the vote? That God will rig the vote to support their own personal views in the important matters facing the Catholic Church?

Imagine American voters cheering the announcement that the presidential vote has been counted — I can’t imagine anyone, except the most PR-weary, cheering just the knowledge that either the Democrat or the Republican has won.

Or is the audience made of people who think it doesn’t change anything no matter who the pope is, and of people who think the Church isn’t in the business of changing anything?

The audience is pumped up, sure, but it feels to me like the actual person of the pope is almost incidental to them; they would have cheered anyone, would have cheered any speech not blatantly Satanic and un-Catholic. Because this is not the sort of irrational behavior that I get into, this all feels confusing, amusing and a little scary.

*

Left the video stream I was watching open; it keeps showing the crowd from a distance, with its roaring, chanting and screaming on the audio channel. It could be some other religion or a soccer match just as well. If I knew more about crowds, I could probably say something incisive about pope-mobs and football crowds. (I wonder if it’s a pope-mob no-no to get falling down legless drunk after an evening like this? Wild premarital sex is probably not good; but where’s the line with celebrating a pope?)

*

As for the guy the cardinals elected, Francis I of Argentina, well, I looked at his Wikipedia page and almost tweeted this:

Oh this modern world, that I can see in real time a doddering old man take up the stole of actual factual evil, discrimination and lie.

— but it would have needed an immediate footnote, something like:

Anybody that calls gay marriage “a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God” is evil. If you disagree, you are wrong.

Evil or horribly dumb, that is; and the new pope isn’t dumb.

Obviously it isn’t nice and ecumenical to call something “evil”, but I’m personally fairly certain that holding a fairly standard collection of modern humanistic values and opinions, held by people who think homophobia is bad and feminism is good, must lead, if followed, to appraising the Catholic Church as a great force for repression, discrimination, lie, and outright evil, with most of its peculiar features being better in perpetuating these bad things than in causing and upholding good ones.

Though obviously there’s room for argument over whether, say, accepting the miracles “caused” by would-be saints is lying for the sake of expediency, or some wilfully perverse and hopeful interpretation of natural probabilities, or something else — or whether treating the New Testament as basically a historical account instead of yielding to all the interesting better-understanding-of-humanity things Biblical scholars have found out really is better classified as fearful dishonesty (God’s wrath? angry crowds? neophobia? nobody asked, not interested?), or honesty out of obliviousness and unsound philosophical-historical methodology — lying after all implies that you know better.

Ah well; I seem to be getting into one-sentence-per-paragraph mode, so I’d better stop.

### Apologetical innovation

February 25, 2013

Quoting Cardinal Keith O’Brien, whose resignation became public today (also, BBC live) after the “inappropriate conduct” thing:

“Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.”

I think this is a nice innovation, a meeting of two sophistries — the “God did all the good, for all the bad you must blame me” one, and the “I apologize at people without specifying what I might apologize about; probably just offending people and it would be kind of silly of them to not forgive me right now, right?” one.

*

Edit: But to be a bit less facetious, this is a strange case. As I understand it, O’Brien had come out saying the next Pope might consider doing away with priestly celibacy (almost mistyped that as “celibaby” — which is what may happen when celibacy doesn’t), and there’s this theory that these accusers came out because they were horrified by such a radical, 16th-century view. Which, if true, would be doing the right thing for a very wrong reason.

Then, as I understand things, O’Brien is accused of leaning on adult males with his power and authority, trying to get sex — and here the only part to be disapproved of is the power imbalance, not who he was trying to get sex from. But since he himself is publicly a very coarsely anti-gay guy, his supporters are likely to be upset and horrified by exactly the wrong part of the accusations. (Well, assuming they ever get above the exceptional logic of “But he did a good thing! He can’t do bad things!”)

### Gay marriage in the UK

February 5, 2013

So news fly out of England that the non-inbred half of the UK Parliament voted on gay marriage and saw it good. Good news; but the facts portion of the BBC article on the thing was a bit puzzling. There are parts of the bill that are probably concessions to the bone deep stupid factions of the Parliament; bits like

Making it unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to provisions for doing so

and

The legislation explicitly stating that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples.

Now, those could be bones tossed to the, er, zombies of churches and parties; but I have an alternative idea. They are a brilliant ploy of the pro-gay side, and the anti-gays totally fell for it.

If I understand things correctly, the Church of England has the same problem as the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church has with its relations with reality: their positions, including the one on gay marriage, are lagging behind mostly because of a loud, hateful minority of priests and parishioners. The Church also has a minority (majority?) which disagrees: people of conscience, courage and commitment. (Which is what the previous people are, too; but these aren’t people applying good qualities to bad causes.) Occasionally they’re religious too; but what matters is they are good people. Then when one group says march on to progress and the other says hold still in the mire, well, if you start this holding still you’re going to stay in that status quo.

Now, suppose a vicar of this latter sort is outraged by this law, and decides to go rogue and church-marry a gay couple, and then take whatever punishment falls on him/her. It’s the law now, not a church canon but an actual secular law. Crime, police, courts, punishment. What do you think the law would dole out? A fine? Prison time? Or the Church’s most horrible media disaster of the decade?

Do even the anti-gay people want to see a clergyman sent into the slammer over a theological disagreement?

As for the pro-gay people, well, I think this would be a glorious cause, whatsit, a cause celery, and I’m waiting with anticipation for it.

(Celeb-ree?)

Just a theory, mind you. Not a likely one, but it tastes better than the alternative.

(Freefloating footnote: With the CoE and with the Finnish Church I’d just like to see the progressives get themselves together and go on an intolerant rampage of punishment and dis-employment against the hate speech and hateful stupidity brigade. I’m not a big fan of big-tent leadership when that tent is spread wide enough to cover snakes and trolls.)

(Also, somewhere in the reportage the Hon. MP for Dickweed-upon-Asshole expressed fears this bill might lead to stomping on the freedoms of the bigotedly religious. Oh, if only! — it’s the part of the very liberal one to say, “I like your scare scenario! Do you have any more good ideas?”)

### On being a shite manager

April 6, 2012

So the employees of PeopleChosen Inc. looked up and cried, “Why have we not heard of the management in a long time? We grow apprehensive, as the silence of the managers is rarely a good thing!”

Then the spirit of management went into Moses, and he spake Ten Commands of Workplace Conduct to the workforce; and the workforce said: “What? No stealing? Not even Post-It notes or a few biros?”

So Moses became the line manager, and Joshua after him; and Joshua was known for his aggressive takeovers of other companies, and of then ruthlessly downsizing those assets, all of them. And under Joshua the company became a brand.

But the employees grumbled, and adopted alien practices, and dallied with headhunters; and the successors of Joshua were wroth. And some of the people took their coffee break to cry up for succor; and the management sent four and twenty bears that tore into them.

And the successors of Joshua said: “Do not meddle in the affairs of the management, for they are subtle and quick to anger; and slow to anger, too. Actually they are capable of anger on a wide variety of timeframes.”

But in time there came a man who had the spirit of the management in him; and he spoke in parables and platitudes, and was forceful and coolly anti-authoritarian; and the people said of him, “he is like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs combined, come before they did.”

The line managers terminated this man’s contract with extreme prejudice; and he started a company of his own.

In his own company he was difficult to reach, and the company was stricken with division and dissent: for some said the man had been a manager in a man’s guise, and some that he had been manager on the left side and a man otherwise; and still others said the man and the management were inseparable and made one in him. And, miracle of miracles, this strife did not cause the downfall of the new company, but much expansion because each party was eager to get to customers before the other did.

In time the founder’s actions were written into a biography in four parts, plus appendices on the early days of the company and motivational essays by one of the early directors; and though the book was something of a PR device, it was a very nice book, except for the last part which people generally thought was for a corporate vision a bit too heavy on the blood and gore.

But once again the employees cried up, saying: “The working conditions are a bit shite down here. Some limits on the plague, hail and bandits please?”

But the answer that came from the directors — for the manager in the sky was silent — was merely this: “You shall have a fuller life once you retire; as for the present time, preparations for a process of quality assessment are under consideration; and the floggings will continue until employee morale improves.”

And some of the employees cried up: “What about workplace romances?”

And one director said: “All work is a romance!”

And a second director said: “Romance is evil, for your devotions should be directed at the management that loves you. And it does; have a poster that says so.”

And a third director said: “Love is not for the directors! And honestly, if it is not for the directors it’s not for you either!”

And a fourth director said: “Workplace romances are a sweet, good thing, but not within the same department; for that is an abomination unto the management.”

And a fifth director said: “Disregard that, I approve romances within departments.”

And there was much confusion, and many employees said they rather obeyed the voice of the management that was within their own breasts; and the directors generally were of two minds or more about this.

Then a great war came to happen in the United Annex, for the employees in the North Building were for the rights of the IT staff; and the employees in the South Building were for putting the IT staff in cages and beating them with sticks. Mostly because cages, unlike IT staff, can take a beating.

And the employees of the South Building pointed at the memoirs of the founder, and said: “See! It says there you shouldn’t beat the IT staff too much, but it doesn’t say you shouldn’t beat them at all! Also states’ rights!”

And the employees of the North Building pointed at the same book, and said: “Extrusions of bovines! It says also, every employee is your fellow employee so treat them right forever.”

And then there was a great argument on whether a specific rule overruled a general rule or vice versa; and as the management above was silent, it came to sniping and catcalls and a leadership conference at Gettysburg; and the interpretation of the North Building was victorious.

Then the question of intradepartmental romances and marriages came up: and as the management above was silent, there was much division, and many employees lived out their careers fearing the discovery of their romances, and a premature retirement thereby. And the directors said, “the management has spoken already, we have the book, and it would be silly to demand the management to speak again.”

And the employees nodded and said: “Yes, it would be silly to accuse the management of poor communication skills. Why, these small problems of IT staff, of intradepartmental romances, of the wages of skirt-wearing employees, of contraception during work hours, of director misconduct, genocide and the like, are clearly something for which the management cannot be blamed for we are sinful employees and solely to blame. No efficient, quality-conscious management would ever deign to micromanage matters so small as these. Go on, blame us some more!”

And the directors said, “Wait a minute, that was not sarcasm, was it?”

And so the shite parable was ended.

March 6, 2012

A fragment from the desk of Abel Caine, freelance theologianist:

Science has found God. Scientists just call Him “dark matter”. They don’t know what they’re seeing, because they look at it through a telescope, not the Bible. And “dark energy”? The host of angels, ready for the End Days, when the Great Star Beast Satan rises from the Galactic South, when the alien Angels of God’s Wrath descend from the Heavens, their bowels writhing full of the judgments of God! The First Bowel to be loosened will color the waters of this Earth brown, and “woe” is written on that bowel’s plug in letters of fire—

* * *

(Excerpted from an article by Vagua and Travail,
in “PINS: The Journal of Important Theology”,
332 (2011), 209–2011.)

“In His image He made them,
man and woman He made them.”

It is a longstanding problem of advanced theology whether the quote above implies God to be both male and female, and how this is possible. (According to bulla Et Gallus of Pope Narcissus XI, the answer is “No.”)

Advanced computer simulation has suggested that since “God sees all”, it is metaphysically impossible for God to have a back of head, a back, et cetera. (Though it is crude and false to say God has a body, He has a body-form, that is to say, He is incorporeal but not in-corpo-formoreal. To assert the incorpoformity or even the informocorporeality (!) of the Divine is the monstrous heresy of the Hochpferdites.) Hence God’s body has only front sides, a male side on one side, and a female side on “back side” of the male side. (See Helen Frau’s definitive “The REVELATION: God has ten fingers, but twenty fingernails!”)

This confirms the saying, “Devil is the dog’s bollocks”, seeing as the body of God (having no back) has no buttocks, the buttocks being an invention of the Great Enemy, for the reasons of sitting down in idleness and buffering in anal sex. See “Devil likes big butts and always lies”, by Hammertime Youth Ministries. (Note that “dog” is here the usual aversionary byword for “God”, similar to how traditionally the Enemy is called “tac” and Richard Dawkins “elcnu s’yeknom”.)

Research is underway on the matter of the Divine Rectum, viz. whether there is one or two. Father Theo Brown of the Trirectal Confessional has even gone as far as to say there are three: the Voider, the Shunt, and the Holy Gush.

In other news, these theological developments have nailed shut the coffin of atheism; one smart-arse after another has been struck speechless by these subtle arguments! To quote Hoveryn Needle, notorious Internet atheist, “Wow. I… I got nothing. Nothing. I mean… there’s nothing I can say.”

* * *

GNOMA

by Ruprecht Gawdman

It has been revealed to august, serious theologians that some strident atheists have rejected the theory of NOMA, the “Non-Overlapping Magisteria Attack”, as “just a theory”.

To counter this senseless and monstrous rejection, a new theory is here proposed: the GNOMA (The Great Non-Overlapping Magisteria Assault). The problem with NOMA theory has been, according to these pissant bastards, “that religion intrudes on the magisterium of science anyway”. The GNOMA theory acknowledges this as a valid though crude criticism, and introduces the agent of magisteria maintenance, the gnoma.

For example: the healing power of prayer is strictly in the magisterium of religion. If a scientist (magisterium of science) intrudes, with a ruler or some other instrument of science, a gnoma appears and maintains a fractal border separation, ensuring the magisteria are kept apart. The prayer-miracle pipeline remains intact, while the ruler experiences entanglement and dilatates around a black hole. The gnoma operates below Planck length, between chunks of Planck time, unobserved and uncollapsed; the scientist can no more catch the swiftly juggled theo-particles in his pincers than a frail older atheist-type person can outrun a pack of vigorous young Mormon missionaries, who sweep on him/her like penguins on a mission from God towards a tasty fish on the shores of the Antarctic Ocean, their pincerous claws open.

A fish is Christian symbolism, too; and a “tasty fish” refers to the mystical sensation of experiencing God with all senses, including nociception and echolocation.

Since the agency maintaining the separation is a whimsical gnoma, God is not actively being evasive, since that would rightly be below and to the right of the dignity of the Divine; and if the results of intrusive scientific observation result in a terminal outcome, the gnoma and the scientist share the blame: the scientist, for attempting to pierce the Stern Boundary; and the gnoma, for imperfectly functioning due to its whacky free will and inflexible workplace safety regulations.

Note that gnomas are not angelic beings: though as ancient as the universe, they were born, not created; and though ensouled, they have no afterlife, instead reincarnating as gnomas of increased potency: $P_n(g) = \frac{n}{n-1}P_{n-1}(g)\times GOD$. The lifespan of a gnoma is threescore and ten sidereal years; and they have a dragon’s head, a pin head, and, obviously, a time head.

The theory of GNOMA is to be expounded on in greater detail in the forthcoming book, “Y U SO ATHIEST? World’s Biggest Godmen Tell Why Intolerant Bigot Babyeater Athsits Will Be Forever Alone and Have A Delusion”.

* * *

There, I think that’s all the subtle, sensitive interfaith outreach I’m capable of today.

February 22, 2012

It’s potentially very embarrassing to write commentary on something after having read only a part of it, but here goes: after Dead Beat, book 7 of the 13 currently available of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I am torn.

Mild spoilers follow.

In Dead Beat, our hero Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only publicly practising wizard, has among all his other problems a fallen angel trapped inside his mind.

A fallen angel that is nothing but helpfulness and sweetness, promising all kinds of help if Harry would just co-operate, but Harry has a problem with the “fallen angel” part.

I don’t know if I do.

This is probably because I’m an atheist and I don’t come with good prejudices to the White God, the Dresdenverse Christian God that possibly exists and if so, probably is just some kind of a spirit. (See endnote.)

Thus I don’t feel good just accepting the idea that, duh, it’s an angel fallen away from God, it can’t be good. And though the readers have seen some other fallen angels that were real bastards, they have not seen this one do anything evil. They’ve heard one Michael, Harry’s friend and a sword-bearing Christian, describe this one as the Seducer, the Webweaver, the Temptress. As one who may at first seem reasonable and give you power and wisdom but then bam! she’ll take your soul, corrupt you, possess you and whatnot.

It’s an interesting place to be in: to see this as the thing Harry believes, and that probably is true in the world of the story… and still have this suspicion in my head, whispering: “Well, that’s what someone like Michael would say, isn’t it? Who is no longer on his God’s side is all evil, all the time! Death to defectors! Uninformed prejudiced propaganda bullshit!”

I’m probably forgetting many details (and because of fear of spoilers can’t go looking for them), but that’s my view of the thing. I would end with something like, “good and evil are often more nuanced than these blanket denunciations issued by simple men of action, and one does not need to be God’s good to not be evil” — but that sounds like a fallen angel line.

* * *

Endnote, on the White God as the faeries call him. It seems Dresden’s faerie folk are not Christians, and not especially damned either; I’ve seen no religion in them, and they don’t seem to give a wizard’s cuss about the supposed Big-G God. Are they then outside the dominion of this world’s Christian God, making Him a spirit not unlike the Winter and Summer Queens of faerie? Do the faeries have afterlives?

Do Dresdenverse’s humans?

In Dead Beat Harry meets his father’s ghost — and no sooner it appears than Harry says, this must be a hallucination brought by exhaustion; again, very cleverly, Butcher keeps ambiguous about the real-world-religion thing, for obvious reasons. It’s not a good marketing move in America, I think, to say “The Christian God exists but is this lesser limited lord of a part of the world!” (I can’t even say if it means anything pro or con that the irritating Christian sinfighter and wife team of Michael and Charity Carpenter, note the ha-ha surname, is not from the most pleasant and easygoing end of the Christian pool. Sweet Lucifer, the uncharitable prissiness of those people!)

And we’ve seen an afterlife of Harry’s mother, in Blood Rites I think, but only as a magical voicemail. So Heaven and Hell — Dresdenverse canon or not? Do I even want to… well of course I do; must keep reading.

Or is the Dresdenverse God just a fiction, since Harry frequently stresses that emotion, faith alone, deep honest conviction alone, is enough to power and empower the magic the Knights of the Cross and similar folks do? (I think that on that Michael the holy knight would say Harry is in a bit of denial, and I’m neck deep next to the pyramids, but that’s just the “you’re close-minded!” line Christians and placebo-merchants always say, isn’t it? One shouldn’t postulate Gods, when magic is enough to explain things.)

I don’t think the books have had an angel in them so far; so is it possible the fallen angels of the Denarius band are something else, some other creatures who like play-acting and having the Knights as their chew toys? And if there are angels in Dresdenverse, who says they can’t be liars too — or also confused between faith-is-magic and faith-implies-God?

Or perhaps this is one of those settings where all myths and religions are true. In which case, huge problems since the definition of “monotheism” is, there is but one God and he is this God of mine. If all religions are true, then many gods must be weaker than promised in the original texts. (Or there is this big hovering vague all-good God who has no position on abortion and homosexuality and isn’t Christian, Jewish or Muslim but goody good; I hate that noncommittal spectre and the writerly good sense and cowardice it implies.)

(Wait — did I just call “not pissing off the majority of your potential readers” “cowardice”? Dear fnord!)

See — being an atheist makes everything funner!

### Two more elephants

January 4, 2012

Five blind men went to see the elephant.

The first reached out, and said, awestruck: “It is as it was told! The elephant is a big warm leathery thing!”

The second one reached, and said, equally amazed: “Oh wow! It’s just like it was in my dreams yesterday! There’s a cavity with candy in it and they taste like Bob Hope! And Newt Gingrich’s sitting inside it!”

“Fucking crazy druggie”, the third one said.

“Oh!” the fourth one cried into the awkward silence. “The elephant is speaking to me! It tells me the warmness is an illusion — the true elephant is a shaggy thing of the icelands, cold as death!”

“Fucking new religious movements”, the third one said.

“Yeah”, the first one sneered. “It’s no good elephant lore if you make it up yourself.

After another awkward silence, the fifth blind man said: “I think this elephant is such an outrageous animal it must have been built by aliens. I can see no other solution!”

At which point he was attacked and viciously beaten by four blind people, because you don’t make crappy sight jokes even if you’re blind yourself.

* * *

Five blind men went to see the elephant.

The first felt it, and said: “It’s like a tree trunk! Wide, strong, and big!”

The second felt it, and said: “It’s like a weird pig, a long twisty elastic thing with a snout in the end!”

The third felt it, and screamed: “It’s a slimy rope — a tentacle — oh God! It burns! I’m in agony!”

The fourth said: “What the fuck?” — and felt the elephant. And said nothing at all.

The fifth, in gross contradiction to all common sense, called out: “Mr. Elephant?”

“No”, the so-called elephant growled, “they call me Mr. Nyarlathotep. And now I will eat you too.”

And it did.

### The reconsidered elephant

January 4, 2012

Five blind men blunder into a zoo, and meet a Keeper.

“Oh, pray go see the elephant”, the Keeper suggests, “it is a wondrous animal.”

So they go, being elephant-fanciers; and eventually, one of them bumps into a warm wall of flesh, and calls to the others: “Elephant! Come feel it! It’s like a big wall of living, warm asphalt!”

Shortly after, another calls out: “It’s not like a wall — it’s like a sail! Big floppy leathery sailcloth!”

Then a third cries, “No no — it’s a point, a bony, cruel rending tooth-horn thing! I bet it could gore just anything alive! The elephant is a killer!”

“Nonsense!” the first cries. “That is an illegitimate interpretation of the elephant, which is a creature of boundless compassion and love. Shut up!”

“Er”, a fourth pipes up. “I think the elephant is a bit like a wall or a doorway, but, uh… there’s a hole in the wall and it’s dropping shit on me.”

“No!” the first one cries. “The elephant is a creature of beauty and grace! It embodies the deepest, subtlest desires of the human race — it’s not something that shits on people!”

At which point there’s a great big moving sound and a thump, and the fifth man gasps: “I think… I think the elephant is like a great big fucking thing that’s standing on my chest. I’m in some unbearable pain actually.”

The first one yells out in outrage: “That is an illegitimate interpretation of the elephant! Stop it at once! The elephant is equally a wall, a sail, a rope, a snake—”

“Great”, the fourth mutters, “now it’s pissing on me.”

“Could you get the Keeper?” the fifth inquires from under a heavy pachydermian foot.

“As if!” the first blind man screams. “As if she had better insights than we! What is she supposed to be, some elephant doctor? All true study of the elephant is based on admitting the elephant is unknowable, so I deeply resent your allegation of her expertise! I—”

Upon which point the Keeper clobbered him with a bucket, and escorted the five out.

### Peter

January 2, 2012

Jesus said of Peter, “Upon this rock I shall build my church”.

This was a pun, the name Cephas (Hebrew) / Petros (Greek) meaning, “the rock”.

These latter and undignified days, Jesus could have engaged in some self- and other-deprecation and pronounced, pointing, “Upon this peter I shall build my church”.

To which Peter could have answered, “Oh Lord, be thou not a dick.”

To which a latter-day Jesus, snappy and witty and irreverent, would say: “Do I hear a peter calling someone a dick? Oh my.”

### Christmas Special: Xmas at the Christs

December 20, 2011

Today our Christmas Special comes from Heaven itself; and from the original first family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus Christ. In this sneak peek to the whole evening extravaganza of laughter, memories and good time, the true trio answers a few precollected questions from the audience, as best as they can!

*

Audience question: “Christmas, then and now. Do you think anything has changed?”

Mary: “Oh, everything has changed! Look at my widdle baby. How time flies, it really does. Now King in Heaven, yesterday born in a stable, the day before conceived in a—”

Jesus: “MOOOM!”

Joseph: “Mary, let’s not get into that.”

Mary: (giggles) “Oh yes, this is a family show after all, and not Bethlehem After Dark.”

Joseph: (laughs) “I— oh, you wouldn’t, would you?”

Mary: (laughing) “Oh God, yes, oh my God, yes, oh yes—”

*

Audience question: “Back on track. Has anything changed… Joseph?”

Joseph: “No mangers, now. Not necessarily an improvement.”

Mary: “Shush, dear.”

Joseph: “I like mangers. Good solid carpentry.”

*

Audience question: “To Joseph. You’ve been the silent one of the Holy Family for a long time. With all the fame that’s come to your son and your wife, do you feel left out?”

Joseph: “Well, that’s a bit blunt isn’t it? (laughs) I’m not jealous if that’s what he’s asking! I’m just a simple carpenter. Carpentering is what I do; if you need a cabinet, get to me. Some people do seek me out; they’re nice people usually, not the pushy sort you sometimes see round Miss and Sonny, no offense meant. Why, last August I spent a whole week with this Russian guy Vasili, black hair, scowly face. A true artist. A true master. He could do things with a plane you wouldn’t believe. A chair bottom so smooth it’d be a miracle — pardon — if someone could get a splinter off it!”

Joseph: (unsure) “The son, you mean?”

Audience question (cont’d): “Jesus?”

Joseph: “I can’t complain, can I? I wouldn’t be just stupid to say he could have done better, I’d be outright blasphemous! Though, I’m a little bit disappointed he didn’t take to carpentry, I must admit. I kept thinking the son-of-God thing was just a phase, he would get over it… then he gets crucified. I mean, that’s cruel irony there. A carpenter’s son, killed on a piece of carpentry. And not a good piece either. Sorry if I come off as morbid, but no son of mine should be killed on a shoddy cross like that. Was surprised the bar didn’t drop off halfway through it. Substandard Philistean work the whole thing; typical of the Romans, always hiring a cheap illegal immigrant to do a honest man’s work, cheaply and badly. If I’d built the cross he would have stayed up there! There! I’ve said it!”

Joseph: “(laughs) Sorry. Got carried away there.”

*

Audience question: “To all of you. How has fame affected you?”

Jesus: “It’s been wonderful! I don’t mean to brag, but I really feel I’ve made a positive difference in the world.”

Mary: “I’m so proud of my little son. You wouldn’t believe all the causes he’s for! Environment! Disarmament! Peace! Slavery! Germany! Chastity! Sodomy! Compassion—”

Jesus: (laughs) “Yeah, I’ve done a lot. I’m a big believer in consciousness raising. It’s one thing to believe in something yourself; it’s a whole other thing if you can point at me and say, ‘He’s doing it. Why’re you not doing it?’ Works beautifully.”

Joseph: “I think I answered this question already. Let me show you this cart Vasili and I—”

*

Audience question: “What has been your biggest mistake, and how you got over it? Jesus?”

Jesus: “Second Coming. No question about it, the Second Coming. It’s the sophomore thing, you know? Sophomore slump? You get one big success, there’s no way the next one will measure up. And, now that I’m past it I can admit it, it was my super-artistic crazy abstract period—”

Mary: “Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Jesus: “— and it wasn’t all that good. I thought I should simplify, simplify, get back to basics, make the package nice and tight… and then I chose Moesia. Seriously, like two people showed up. And one of them was a horse. Like, the greatest prophet bomb ever. Absolutely no impact. I waited for the write-ups, but they just didn’t come. I think the horse ate the other disciple. (shakes head) That wasn’t a good teaching. Sometimes I get the feeling I was a one-hit prophet—”

Mary: “Don’t be so hard on yourself!”

Jesus: “— but then I look around and say, I got my family, I still got followers, and I’m the King of Heaven and the Lord of All Creation. I guess what I’m saying is you just gotta have faith in yourself.”

Audience question: “What has been your biggest mistake, and how you got over it? Mary?”

Mary: “I feel really, really bad about James. I put way too much pressure on the poor boy. I don’t want to say I was a bad stepmother or anything, but when one of your sons becomes the literal Son of God, you can start asking the impossible of the others.”

Jesus: “You gotta admit, Mom, that Baal bit was hilarious.”

Mary: “Shush. An embarrassment, it was. ‘Son of Baal’, really? I blame myself. But he made a good turn, and works for Jesus now.”

Jesus: “My big brother, working for me. Living the dream, Mom, living the dream.”

Mary: “Oh, Jesus Christ!” (laughs)

Audience question: “What has been your biggest mistake, and how you got over it? Joseph?”

Joseph: “Delaying getting into joints. Seriously. Whether you choose birdsmouth or dovetail can be the difference between masterpiece and kindling, so I’m pretty sure life would have been much easier for me if I’d started paying attention to that much earlier. That’s it, basically.”

*

Audience question: “So what’s in the future for the Christs?”

Joseph: “I’m thinking about ironworking. Just as a hobby. I could use a good chariot.”

Mary: “Nothing special. But I might need to get a new photo album!”

Jesus: “Worldwide peace. Snuggles for everyone. And a gay black she-Pope!”