Category Archives: religion

True religion

Some of the most important questions ever posed by humanity involve religion, spirituality, faith and belief. Most people, in every culture, profess to some spirituality, though things get more complicated when it comes to religion. Religion is related to spirituality, and faith, and belief, but you can be spiritual, and have faith, and belief without belonging to a religion.

So what, exactly, is a religious requirement? Apparently there are four of them, at least according to a mail order ministerial ordination company. From the questions, it is clear the company is of the (sort of) Christian variety. Here are the four requirements for being ordained a minister:

  1. Swear a belief in one true God.
  2. Accept Jesus Christ as the savior.
  3. Confess you sin, and ask for forgiveness. (And if you haven’t confessed yet, the form, below, encourages you to do so as part of the application process.)
  4. Pay $139.00. Note that you can “add $25 for optional wallet ID card.”

The form is reproduced below, only with the address and other identifying information blotted out. Some have spent their life working for ordination. Others pay $139. Or optionally $164.

Application for ordination. Yes, this might be crass, vulgar, and more profane than sacred, but they do accept cash or credit.
Application for ordination. Yes, this might be crass, vulgar, and more profane than sacred, but they do accept cash or credit.

Earth Day

The current Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970, as an “environmental teach-in” at two thousand colleges and universities and ten thousand elementary, middle school and high schools across the United States. It was a grass-roots response to a series of environmental disasters, in particular the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and a growing awareness that, in particular, air and water pollution were causing increasingly severe problems.

While initially a secular issue, many religious institutions have endorsed the goals of Earth Day, educating their followers on the need to be good stewards of God’s blessings. The United Methodist Church has a statement on Environmental Stewardship that begins:

All creation is under the authority of God and all creation is interdependent. Our covenant with God requires us to be stewards, protectors, and defenders of all creation. The use of natural resources is a universal concern and responsibility of all as reflected in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

Emmanuel United Methodist Church, in Laurel, Maryland, decorates the altar with a variety of items to reflect the liturgical calendar, or the pastoral message, or other themes. This April the altar had a particularly wonderful decoration in recognition of Earth Day:

Emmanuel United Methodist Church altar for Earth Day 2016. The papier mâché tree was built at a member's home and then assembled in the sanctuary.
Emmanuel United Methodist Church altar for Earth Day 2016. The papier mâché tree was built at a member’s home and then assembled in the sanctuary.

The tree, surrounded by paper butterflies and birds and decorated with paper flowers, was beautiful and moving. And recyclable.

Fishy, but chocolate

Take two Asian religions (Judaism, Christianity), mix in some pagan and commercial European elements (evergreen trees, stocking caps, candy canes), add in a food from the Americas (cocoa) and a subject that mixes Christian theology (“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”) and loafing (sport fishing) and you have…

A run-on sentence, and this fascinating Christmas gift.

This chocolate fish with stocking cap is one of those things that just can't be explained.
This chocolate fish with stocking cap is one of those things that just can’t be explained.

Halloween costume

Why go to great lengths for a Halloween costume when you can wear a polo shirt from Transylvania University?

Transylvania University polo shirt logo
Transylvania University polo shirt. In red, of course.

Of Monsters and Men and Merriweather – and spotlights

Of Monsters and Men, an Icelandic rock group, visited Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, in September. The name doesn’t really seem to describe the group all that well, though a few photos may help clarify things.

The opening act was Oh Land, a Danish singer-songwriter who is not named either Oh or Land.

Oh Land at Merriweather Post
Oh Land, the professional name of Danish singer-composer Nanna Øland Fabricius, at Merriweather Post Pavilion, serving as the warmup act for Of Monsters and Men. Nanna is the one wearing a skirt at the center of the stage. And yes, using an iPhone to take photos of a psychedelic light show is silly.

Oh Land started writing music in her bedroom after being forced to give up dance, due to an injury. It was an impressive move; she is an impressive singer and songwriter. It seemed half the audience sang along with every song.

Then the Monster appeared, much like the famed Flying Spaghetti Monster, only without (usually) the religious overtones:

The Monster
On the left, the OMAM (Of Monsters And Men) logo. To the right, the monster. Or perhaps an odd artifact of shining powerful lights at the audience.

Of Monsters and Men is itself something of a cultural miracle. Most two-album bands are opening acts, not the main event, much less main events singing in a language not their native tongue.

Of Monster and Men
The Icelandic group Of Monsters and Men visited Merriweather Post in Columbia. Center stage, Of Monsters and Men, with a spotlight aimed at the audience. Off to the right, a video screen showing a not-much-better-exposed image of the same thing.

Carrying on where Oh Land left off, the audience sang along with everything Of Monsters and Men had to offer. Fortunately, the band had amplifiers. And spotlights.

Light tubes and monsters
Of Monsters and Men used light tubes to mimic the Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) logo behind them, in different colors with different lights in use. It was an interesting, minimalist visual effect.

Spotlights lighting the band (especially a band dressed in dark colors against the black background of a stage) makes sense. It is less clear why rock concerts shine spotlights on the audience.

Blue and white monster
Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, in blue and white pants, and co-lead singer and songwriter Ragnar Þórhallsson, to the left, perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. For a brief moment in time, spotlights were not aimed at the audience.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a warm autumn day outdoors.