Vatican Goes Viral

Today, January 24th, is World Communications Day. (Who knew? I mean, seriously, who decides which day is dedicated to which cause?) Although I saw no official statement last week about National Squirrel Day, the Roman Catholic Church has weighed in on today’s festivities. Pope Benedict’s message was titled "New Technologies, New Relationships," and covered the promise and dangers of social networking sites like Facebook and the Jesus or Squirrel? Blog.

The Pope spoke to the "fundamental desire of people to communicate and to relate to each other," which he praised as a "reflection of our participation in the communicative and unifying love of God."

At the same time he warned young people not to pursue "on-line friendships" at the expense of "real social interaction" with relatives, neighbors and co-workers.

"If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development," the Pope shared.

As an application to his message the Vatican released a new news channel on YouTube (www.youtube.com/vatican). It includes two minute news clips of your favorite Vatican officials including the Pope himself.

Unfortunately, though, the comments section has not been enabled on the channel. Maybe more threatening than ‘on-line-friendships” is the one-way-communication of religion.

Pope Benedict blesses Two Lambs to be used in Feast

Here’s the explanation:
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, looks on at two lambs at the Vatican, Wednesday Jan. 21, 2009. The pontiff blessed two lambs whose wool will be shorn later this year to make a shawl for newly appointed archbishops to wear. The blessing Wednesday took place on the feast day of St. Agnes, a martyr of early Christianity who is often symbolized by a lamb. In the ritual, the pope blessed the animals, who were laying down in two baskets, each wearing a crown of flowers on its head. New archbishops receive the wool pallium on June 29. The pallium is a band of white wool decorated with black crosses that is a sign of pastoral authority and a symbol of the archbishops' bond with the pope.
Makes perfect sense.

Dude... I Can See Jesus in this Rock

Jonathan Garcia and his employee named Smokey found an image embedded in their store counter.

"It looks like a picture of -- could be a Jesus Christ -- like a picture or something,"

Smokey added, “This here is thorns on his head.”

It should be noted that Garcia also owns the “THC Smoke Shop” next door.

Praying for the President in Jesus’ Name?

One of the biggest discussions the past few weeks around the inauguration has been about prayer: who should pray, what they should pray, who they should pray to. The President-elect chose Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation even though he they differ on important theological and political views. This weekend Pastor Rick told his congregation that he would pray in the name of Jesus but today his spokesman left room while talking with the media that he might not do so. Some critics have complained that Rick would exclude other religious groups by praying a strictly Christian prayer. What will be his purpose driven prayer?

The Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese gave some very interesting inauguration history in a recent article:
“…inaugurations did not start with a prayer until 1937. Perhaps the depression focused people's minds on God. Roosevelt had a Protestant and Catholic minister pray. Truman added a Jewish Rabbi. Eisenhower added a Greek Orthodox bishop. Jimmy Carter cut it back to a Protestant and a Catholic. Ronald Reagan had only a Presbyterian for his first inauguration but by his second he had two Protestants, a Catholic and a Jew. George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton had Billy Graham, with Clinton adding another Baptist in 1997.

Although there was no prayer at the inauguration of George Washington, after the inauguration, the participants marched off to St. Paul's Chapel for a prayer service led by the chaplain of the U.S. Senate, who used the Book of Common Prayer. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson went to church before being sworn in. Jimmy Carter attended an interfaith prayer service at the Lincoln Memorial on inauguration morning. Ronald Reagan in 1985 and George W. Bush in 2005 attended a public prayer service at the National Cathedral on the day after the inauguration, a custom Obama will follow this year.

Obama will make his oath on the same bible used by President Abraham Lincoln. Washington began the tradition of swearing the oath on a bible, and it appears to have been followed by most presidents except John Quincy Adams, who used a volume on constitutional law. After the assassination of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson was sworn into office on Kennedy's Roman Catholic missal because there was no bible on Air Force One.”
So what is the right thing for Pastor Warren to do? What is the purpose of his prayer? Who will be offended? God, Christians, Others?

I think the most significant quote of Father Reese about this topic is the following:
“We who favor public prayer should be the first to acknowledge that a prayer at the inauguration will not magically save our nation nor will the absence of a prayer damn us.”
My hope today isn’t found in a prayer, in a new president, or even a new start for our country; though I am happy for all of them, my hope rests firmly in Jesus.

Whom, by the way, Billy Graham didn’t mention in his inaugural prayers in 1989, 1993 or 1997.

Is Lance Armstrong the 2nd Coming of Jesus?

When Lance Armstrong retired at the end of the Tour de France in the summer of 2005 he soared up into the air with a cloud of witnesses watching. He did this ascension with the aid of an airplane which instead of taking him straight to heaven took him back to his home in Texas. Much to the chagrin of the Lone Star residents these locations are not actually the same place.

This fall Lance announced that he was returning to the professional bicycle racing circuit. He made his debut last week down under in Australia where was given a hero’s welcome. One reporter acknowledging the religious fervor of the crowd commented to Lance, “It looks as if Jesus Christ is going to cycle."

I can understand why some people have assumed that Lance was a reincarnation of Jesus. Consider these facts:
  • Lance has superhero strength.

  • Lance inspires faith, even in France.

  • Lance practically came back from the dead (he was healed of testicular cancer that got into his brain, lungs and abdomen).

  • Everywhere he goes Lance is followed closely by disciples and is watched by crowds of onlookers.
But a closer look at the facts indicates that that although Lance is an amazing bicyclist he is not the Messiah:
  • Jesus didn’t actually retire; he went to Heaven to build homes.

  • Jesus preached that the first would be last, which hardly makes you a good cyclist.

  • Jesus prefers earthen tones and doesn’t particularly look good in yellow.

  • Jesus certainly loves Sheryl Crow, but he’d never date her.
Although Lance's return is exciting, we will have to rate the Australian's fervor as mere hype.

Squirrels Just Wanna Have Fun!

My Niece Paige sent me a couple of pictures good enough for another JoS vote for the Squirrel!


What Would the President Eat? Squirrel?

President Garfield was the 20th president of the United States. His presidency was cut very short after being shot just four months after taking office. He died two and a half months later from subsequent infections that weakened his heart. The descriptions of the doctors probing the bullet hole with their unsterilized fingers are frightening. They never found the bullet that was most likely lodged beside his spine but they did manage to perforate his liver.

The President’s last meal was squirrel soup, fed to him on his deathbed in an effort to revive his appetite. He never regained it. After Googling for pictures of squirrel soup I may never regain mine either.

If you are interested in making the Garfield delicacy yourself, follow the instructions of F.L. Gillete, who published “The White House Cook Book” six years after the President’s death.

The meat should be "boiled to shreds," then strained through a colander, "so as to get rid of the squirrel's troublesome little bones,"

One JoS point for the squirrel who gave his life for his President.

Jesus will Stop the Alien Abductions

Stephen Yulish by his own admission has always been interested in UFOs. He shares on his website that he was a member of NICAP and APRO in the 1960s after reading Project Bluebook. I have no idea what any of those letters mean, nor did I know there was a project behind the bluebook.

He explains that he became interested in the Bible Prophecy after he had “a head-on collision with Jesus Christ in 1988.” I wish he had described the incident in more detail because I have vivid pictures in my mind of that wreck.

He currently writes for UFO periodicals. This statement again begs questions. Is he writing for journals about UFO’s, or is Mr. Yulish actually authoring stories for aliens’ periodicals? His other favorite pastime on his earth-bound days is writing about End Time scenarios. Today’s offering was a new article for the UFO Digest (it’s none of your business what I was doing on their web site- honestly, it was just research). He explains in this writing and with links to other of his opinions that extraterrestrials tremble at the name of Jesus (and not because of his driving skills). He says that the aliens are actually fallen angels and that the way to stop them from abducting you is to invoke Jesus’ name.

He backs this up with several scriptures taken out of context and references to conversations he had with German, Nazi scientists. I kid you not.

Another JoS (Jesus or Squirrel) vote for Religion. It may be a spaced-out form of belief, but it is certainly fervent.

Jesus Heals. So does the Black Nazarene?

For a short time in 1987 I lived down the street from the famous Quiapo Church in Manila. This is an ominous building that towers over a section of the city known for its poverty and crime. One reason this Catholic Church is well known is for its 400 year old statue of the Black Nazarene, a life-sized, dark wood sculpture of Jesus carrying his cross, brought to the Philippines from Mexico after being carved from an unknown Aztec carpenter.

The statue has become a Philippine national symbol of surviving turmoil and pain. Although the church building itself has been destroyed twice by major fires in 1791 and 1929 and barely survived the bombing of Manila from the Japanese in World War II, the statue has remained unharmed. This has evolved into the idea that the wooden image is blessed by God and is instilled with healing powers for itself and others.

This has become a spectacle at both the local and national level. At the end of every Mass the church congregation proceeds alongside the statue clapping their hands in praise. Then once a year, on January 9, the idol has its own parade through a section of Manila with people pressing in to touch the statue, hopefully to receive healing. This year over 2.5 millions people lined the three miles of the parade route, with the statue taking 13 hours slowly rolling by on its carriage.

Although the desired result is healing the parade has become rather dangerous. This year there were over 220 injuries resulting from the pressing crowds including many fistfights and lost children. In 1998 a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo church (a major church denomination in the PI) shot the statue in the head. Now the original head and cross remain in the church with replicas placed on the 400 year old wooden body during the parade. I could find no news reports of people receiving miracles this year.

How do we score this one? If it was merely a matter of judging whether or not the statue has Jesus’ miracle powers I’d vote no and give the point to the Squirrel. I’m also tempted to chalk it up to tradition as it is such a symbol of national pride. But before the final ruling I want to point out that I’m rather disappointed in the Catholic bishops. Instead of shepherding their flock with truth they have made a practice of selling raffle tickets (21st century indulgences?) with the winner getting a face-to-face meeting with the Pope in Rome. Yes the Filipino priests deserve some blame for this one. Still, I’ll the put the majority of the blame on the people themselves and mark this one down as superstition.

Who Would Jesus Smack Down? Mark Driscoll?

Molly Worthen wrote an article for the New York Times this last week about Mark Driscoll, the pastor of the popular Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Here is one of her observations:
God called Driscoll to preach to men — particularly young men — to save them from an American Protestantism that has emasculated Christ and driven men from church pews with praise music that sounds more like boy-band ballads crooned to Jesus than “Onward Christian Soldiers.” What bothers Driscoll — and the growing number of evangelical pastors who agree with him — is not the trope of Jesus-as-lover. After all, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ. What really grates is the portrayal of Jesus as a wimp, or worse. Paintings depict a gentle man embracing children and cuddling lambs. Hymns celebrate his patience and tenderness. The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”
I have visited Mars Hill and have listened to many of Mark's sermons via his podcast. I find him very entertaining. There is a reason that his sermons are at least twice as long as most pastors- he has a remarkable gift of gab and can certainly hold his congregation's attention. But I also experience Mark to be angry- angry against American culture, against the feminism of the Church, against anything that doesn't line up with his hard-core Calvinistic approach to Christianity. That anger is having an impact, especially right there on the green ground in Seattle. But even though this local church is growing into a multi-campus ministry, I don't know that Mark's particular message or model should be interpreted as pure Gospel. In his welcome video on the church's web site is the tag line, "It's all about Jesus, it's only about Jesus, it's always about Jesus." But sometimes I wonder if Mark is designing his macho, masculine and Fonzie-cool image of Jesus while he is staring in the mirror.

Your church is cool, Mark, but remember, even Fonzie jumped the shark.

Mars Hill style of Calvinism has its pitfalls, in my opinion, and I think there are more productive responses to feminism than flexing our manly muscles. Sometimes it is only good for a laugh, not too unlike this blog.

Jesus is a Homeless Cat?

This testimony of Anne Lamott's is a quite raw, and very real.
I didn’t go to the flea market the week of my abortion. I stayed home, and smoked dope and got drunk, and tried to write a little, and went for slow walks along the salt marsh with Pammy. On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily. It did not stop over the next hour. I was going through a pad every fifteen minutes, and I thought I should call a doctor or Pammy, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten so drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn’t’ wake someone up and ask for help. I kept on changing Kotex, and I got very sober very quickly. Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, shaky and sad and too wild to have another drink or take a sleeping pill. I had a cigarette and turned off the light. After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.

And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends, I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christina, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.”

I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with.

Finally I fell asleep, and in the morning, he was gone.

This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-lathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my houseboat door when I entered or left.

And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I just thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling – and it washed over me.

I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along at my heels, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams and I opened the door to my houseboat, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, “Fuck it: I quit.” I took a long deep breath and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.”

So this was my beautiful moment of conversion
.Gloriously Jesus! Don't you think?

Who Does Jesus Root For?

The National College Championship game is tonight and both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Florida Gators are doing everything they can to win the game.

They both have great coaches, storied programs, lots of fan support and Heisman winning quarterbacks. In fact both of these quarterbacks are outspoken Christians, and by outspoken Christians I mean that they are verbal about their faith.

So which team does Jesus choose to bless tonight? Does he go with Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (Jesus is known for being a big, 900 ft., Oklahama fan), or does he go with Tim Tebow from Florida who grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines? From what I have heard Jesus is especially fond of both of them. That in itself, makes both Sam and Tim winners. You too for that matter, even though you can’t throw a football worth beans.

By the way, what do you think the caption for the above picture should be?

UPDATE: Tebow wins with creative scripture placement. He won on the field too.

Vicar Removes Scary Crucifix from His Church


St. Johns church in Horsham, England has had the same dark crucifix since 1963, the year the church doors were first opened. It was designed by Edward Bainbridge Copnall, a sculptor who artfully constructed the crucifix out of coal dust and resin.

When I first read the Reverand Souter’s quotes about removing the long standing icon from the front of his parish I thought maybe I was reading a satire story on Larknews or The Onion.
"The crucifix expressed suffering, torment, pain and anguish. It was a scary image, particularly for children. Parents didn't want to walk past it with their kids, because they found it so horrifying. It wasn't a suitable image for the outside of a church wanting to welcome worshippers. In fact, it was a real put-off."

“We're all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross."
But this story isn’t a joke, nor is the fact that the cross is, as the Apostle Paul shares (in 1 Corinthians 1:23) a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. I’m not sure how best to put that sentiment into words today. Perhaps it’s the idea that the message of a tortuous death didn’t make sense to the religious crowd who were instead looking for a glorious deliverance. Nor did it make any sense to the pagans, who saw no wisdom in the horrific murder of a man/prophet/teacher who had great potential. The cross is such a picture of brokenness, of shame, of weakness. It is impossible for humanity to comprehend, even remotely consider the Supreme Being being humiliated in that way. Yet it is out of that horrific sacrifice of Christ’s death that God’s love and his power were demonstrated in such finality that the moment continues to shake all of creation. It has certainly shaken me.

It is with the same brokenness and humility of Christ on the cross that Paul shared with others about Jesus’ death (read his first letter to the Corinthian church, especially the first several pages). He didn’t do it with a bullhorn, with great speeches or angry debate. We should consider his example today.

So should Reverend Souter leave up the religious icon because it has been the tradition of his church? Maybe not. Does it honor Jesus by having it up? I’m not sure of that either, but I can’t imagine Jesus telling us a story of the Kingdom of God with any cross as the backdrop. So does it dishonor him by taking it down from the church building? probably not if the pastor is right about it scaring away the very people in the neighborhood that he is trying to attract.

Still, I’d feel a whole lot better about his decision if it wasn’t for the fact that he is replacing the scary sculpture for a modern, stainless steel cross. Reverand Souter’s words that the new cross will present “a positive message of hope” on the side of his church is chilling to me. You can’t sanitize the crucifixion. At least you shouldn’t. Copnall’s art sounds like it evokes a response, which is appropriate. I am glad that his sculpture has been moved to a local museum where it can be appreciated for the abhorrent scene it depicts.

But I’ve saved my strongest ire for the last. One “long-standing” member of the church, which is a kind way of saying something else, had the following opinions:
"The crucifix is the oldest and most famous symbol of the Christian church. Pulling it down and putting up something that would look more at home on the side of a flashy modern shopping centre is not the way to get more bums on seats. Next they'll be ripping out the pews and putting sofas in their place, or throwing out all the Bibles and replacing them with laptops. It's just not right."
You are arguing about icons, focused on yourself, stuck in your seats, and forgetting who this whole sweet conversation is supposed to be about: Jesus!

Score one point for Religion (since it trumped tradition in this story) and another for the peers of Oral Roberts.

Jesus Wants You to Eat Monkeys

A woman, Mamie Manneh (whom I would make my friend just because I like her name) is in trouble with a New York Judge by the name of Raymond Dearie (everybody loves him).

Mamie made trouble for herself when she smuggled monkey meat with her on an international flight to Kennedy Airport from her home country of Liberia.

Her lawyers tried to argue that eating monkey was a part of her religion, a sect of Christianity. Huh? Maybe this is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” (John 4:32)

Judge Dearie would have none of it. He sentenced Mamie to 5 years in prison and possible deportation.

What would you smuggle for Jesus?

Man Aiming for Squirrel, Kill's Wife

A man in New Jersey is being charged with reckless manslaughter after accidently shooting his wife while attempting to shoot a “bothersome” squirrel through a window in his home.

The wife died on route to the hospital after being shot in the back with a pellet gun.

No word on any charges against the Squirrel.

Randall's Holier than You

So my friend Randall sent me this picture because he says he can see Jesus in the Tile. Which sort of makes me happy for Randall, ensuring his salvation, but kind of makes me jealous too. This means that Randall searched the tile all day long to find God while I was searching the internet for Squirrel stories.

Fine. I'll post Randall's holiness tile, but I won't create a category just for him. For now.

Is Jesus in your Floor Pattern?

Some people see Jesus everywhere. Even in Las Vegas. Right underneath their feet.


Adapted from Finding Christ in the Kitchen
- Jeff Pope, Las Vegas Sun

[One] West Valley woman says she has had the likeness of Jesus in every one of her kitchen tiles for eight years.

Antonia Baker saw the image in the floor of her Lakes home for the first time three years ago during the Christmas season while she was recovering from surgery for an eye injury. Doctors said she had to keep her head down to allow her retina to heal. She wasn't allowed to read or use the computer, so she had to stare at the floor for three weeks.

That much concentration led her to see an image that had always been in the 13-by-13-inch ceramic tiles, but had never been recognized.

The image of Jesus from the waist up and facing to the left is the same in every tile, so it likely was made during manufacturing, she said. Baker bought the tiles about eight years ago from a shop that is no longer in business. However, it's possible others purchased the same tile and could be walking on Jesus too.

Baker said she doesn't want to make a big deal out of the image or turn her house into a shrine.

She attempted to sell a couple of spare tiles on eBay, but pulled them off after one man, who offered $100 for one, made too many demands to complete the deal.

While I am happy that this woman found comfort in her flooring, I’m not convinced it is Jesus. (Plus I’m frustrated that I can’t see the image.) We will chalk this one up to Hype.

The story of Kenny and Ranola

This story is taken from author Anne Lamott’s book, “Traveling Mercies.”

One of our newer members, a man named Ken Nelson, is dying of AIDS, disintegrating before our very eyes. He came in a year ago with a Jewish woman who comes every week to be with us, although she does not believe in Jesus. Shortly after the man with AIDS started coming, his partner died of the disease. A few weeks later Ken told us that right after Brandon died, Jesus had slid into the hole in his heart that Brandon’s loss left, and had been there ever since. Ken has a totally lopsided face, ravaged and emaciated, but when he smiles, he is radiant. He looks like God’s crazy nephew Phil. He says that he would gladly pay any price for what he has now, which is Jesus, and us.

There’s a woman in the choir named Ranola who is large and beautiful and jovial and black and as devout as can be, who has been a little standoffish toward Ken. She has always looked at him with confusion, when she looks at him at all. Or she looks at him sideways, as if she wouldn’t have to quite see him if she didn’t look at him head on. She was raised in the South by Baptists who taught her that his way of life – that he – was an abomination. It is hard for her to break through this. I think she and a few other women at church are, on the most visceral level, a little afraid of catching the disease. But Kenny has come to church almost every week for the last year and won almost everyone over. He finally missed a couple of Sundays when he got too weak, and then a month ago he was back, weighing almost no pounds, his face even more lopsided, as if he’d had a stroke. Still, during the prayers of the people, he talked joyously of his life and his decline, of grace and redemption, of how safe and happy he feels these days.

So on this one particular Sunday, for the first hymn, the so-called Morning Hymn, we sang “Jacob’s Ladder,” which goes, “Every rung goes higher, higher,” while ironically Kenny couldn’t even stand up. But he sang away sitting down, with the hymnal in his lap. And then when it came time for the second hymn, the Fellowship Hymn, we were to sing” His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” The pianist was playing and the whole congregation had risen – only Ken remained seated, holding the hymnal in his lap – and we began to sing, “Why should I feel discouraged? Why do the shadows fall?” and Ranola watched Ken rather skeptically for a moment, and then her face began to melt and contort like his, and she went to his side and bent down to lift him up – lifted up this white rag doll, this scarecrow. She held him next to her, draped over and against her like a child while they sang. And it pierced me.

…on that Sunday, Ranola and Ken, of whom she was so afraid, were trying to sing. He looked like a child who was singing simply because small children sing all the time – they haven’t made the separation between speech and music. Then both Ken and Ranola began to cry. Tears were pouring down their faces, and their noses were running like rivers, but as she held him up, she suddenly lay her black weeping face against his feverish white one, put her face right up against his and let all those spooky fluids mingle with hers.
This, my friends, is truly Jesus.

Oral Roberts and His Friends

The reason that some of these stories are credited to Oral Roberts and His Friends (which inlcude pastors, prophets, preachers, teachers, reverands, bishops, evangelists, missionaries and the Pope) is because they often speak as if they are the mouthpiece of Jesus but don't actually speak his words, or sometimes when they do they are out of context with his heart. Why pick on Oral Roberts? Because he created a 900 foot Jesus and proceeded to manipulate the media masses.
1977: Roberts said he had received a vision from God telling him to build the City of Faith. He later claimed to have seen a 900- foot-tall Jesus who told him that the vision would soon be realized and that the hospital would be a success. The City of Faith opened in 1981.

1983: Roberts announced that Jesus had appeared to him in person and commissioned him to find a cure for cancer (Time, July 4, 1983).

Media Spotlight says there has been no cure for cancer found at the Oral Roberts University or anywhere else.

1986: Roberts said God had told him, "I want you to use the ORU medical school to put My medical presence in the earth. I want you to get this going in one year or I will call you home. It will cost $8 million and I want you to believe you can raise it." (Abundant Life, Jan./Feb. 1987)

January 1987: Roberts said God had told him he had not sent out any medical missionaries. In order for him to do that, he had to raise $8 million by March 1 or God would take him home. Roberts said the money would be used to provide full scholarships for medical missionaries who would be sent to Third World countries. He made the appeal in his TV program "Expect a Miracle" of January 4, 1987. He said $3.5 million had been raised and all he needed was $4.5 million before March 1 that year.

April 1, 1987: Roberts announced that he had raised $9.1 million--$1.1 million more than needed. Of the money raised, $1.3 million was given by a dog track owner [which, like horse racing, is a gambling center], Jerry Collins.

November 1987: Roberts announced that the City of Faith medical clinic will close in three months.

January 1988: Roberts canceled the university's free medical tuition program despite his claim that God had told him to make the medical school a world outreach program.

March 1988: The medical scholarship fund went bankrupt. Students were required to repay scholarship funds at 18 percent annual interest if they transferred to another school rather than stay at ORU medical school and start paying the high tuition.

September 1989: Roberts decided to close the medical school and the City of Faith hospital to pay off debts.
So was it a giant Jesus or not? I have to go with Oral Roberts and his empire on this one. Big time.

What Would Jesus Say according to Kalamazoo

According to a news article in the Kalamazoo Gazette, local church leaders discuss what Jesus would say if he visited their town. Here are some of their statements.

The Rev. Debbie Eisenbise, Church of the Brethren, Kalamazoo:
"In my mind, if Jesus were walking the Earth today, he would say little. He would weep. Perhaps, as he did looking over Jerusalem in his day, He would say with exasperation, 'If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!'
The Rev. Douglas Vernon, First United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo:

"I believe Jesus would see the mess we've made of things -- the degradation of creation, the negative effects of greed on the economy, the corruption of the political process, the increasing numbers of the poor and the outcast -- and express his righteous indignation upon us.

"Perhaps in his mercy, Jesus would urge us to sing with the angels, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace and goodwill to all."

Bishop T.D. Lockett, Faith Temple Church of God, Kalamazoo:
"When you give, it's like making a loan to God, a loan that will be repaid by him with more interest than you can imagine."
The Rev. Tim McNinch, Vineyard Church of Kalamazoo:
"I think Jesus would say that, even though we are living in difficult times, that this is not the time to retreat, not the time to look out for our own interests. It's a time to step out boldly into the uncertainty, to care for those who are hurting and give hope to those who are giving up on a future of significance."
The Rev. Robert Anderson, Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene:
"Yes, Jesus would be concerned about our society, its commercialism and its growing hostility to the day that bears his name, Christmas."
Well the Kalamazoo Reverands didn't really agree with what Jesus would say. Sounds like he could say little, cry, scold, take an offering, or take us to on a walk. How do we score this one: Jesus, Squirrel or other? I think we give the credit for these words to the Reverands themselves.

Squirrel blamed for outage

A squirrel is being blamed on an outage that left 6,100 Idaho Power customers without power just after 3 p.m. Friday. All power was restored by 4:27 p.m.

The squirrel died.

- The Idaho Statesman, January 2, 2008
This one definitely gets credited to the Squirrel.