unHoly Land Update

So, another joyful Chrismahanakwanzaka has passed, and I was lucky to spend it with family. There really is no place like home for the hollowdaze - the smell of burning credit cards as we open gifts, the faint sound of my arteries hardening as we enjoy family recipes, and the familiar taste of guilt as my mother tries to get me to go to midnight mass. I wouldn't have it any other way.

All too soon we have to rush back to our busy lives. I was prepared to leave the unHoly Land today, but biblical rains, flash flooding, high winds, and snow covered the majority of my route, so I settled in for another day of leftovers and Murder She Wrote. (My mother is an addict. She has seen every episode several times, but she seems unable to change the channel. Between the A&E Network's holiday marathon and the Biography Channel's six episodes per day I am developing a serious pathological hatred of Angela Lansbury.)

The meteorologists out here in Southern California are beside themselves. Four to six inches of rain in the L.A. basin is big news - like, 'plagues of Egypt' kind of big. Big enough, in fact, to break into regular programming. In the middle of a great episode of Lilo and Stitch, The Series (oh yeah, like you don't watch it...) a well-coifed young meat puppet named Bitsy appeared on the screen to introduce a live shot of cars sloshing through an intersection somewhere in Los Angeles. The on-the-scene voice-over was delivered by a breathless graduate of the Kent Brockman school of broadcasting.

"As you can see Bitsy, the water here is actually coming up OVER the hubcaps of the cars - incredible! One motorist had to be rescued when the lower door seal on her BMW failed, allowing water to rush into the floorboards, possibly ruining her Prada Neros. Law enforcement officials are warning against any unnecessary travel."

Naturally, no one at the local station had the common sense to realize that these reports might look foolish on a day when the lead story of every national news outlet is "Tsunamis kill 60,000 in Southeast Asia."

Clearly, I don't call it the unHoly Land for nothing.

I'll be on the road tomorrow, barring locusts, frogs, or rivers of blood. I will be taking a lengthy route, perhaps going as far south as Phoenix to avoid the bulk of the rain and snow. Ordinarily, I'd feel fine about soliciting prayers for my safe arival, but right now I'd prefer that you spread all your prayer juice on the survivors in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and everywhere else that got hit by the waves.

Should I fail to show up by New Years Eve, here are my instructions;

Since the "Cybernetic Afterlife Vessel" is not completed yet, the BCPs must begin the preparations for my funeral and the requisite 30 days of mourning. Something simple; a funeral pyre, surrounded by 40 dancing girls, maybe sacrifice a few white bulls... you know, the usual.

The Deacon Mark is to prepare and deliver a suitable eulogy.

The Artist Theolaureate is commissioned to design and build an impressive tomb for me. Something gothic and spooky...

The Scribe is to collect my works, both written and spoken, in a single volume. She is also to edit them so as to make me not look stupid.

She Who is All Things Good and Cute is immediately elevated from 'Inquisitor' to 'Sainted High Lord Inquisitor' (it's not easy being the platonic girlfriend of the dark pontiff).

Although it is up to the Flock to choose the new Black Pope, I consider the Apostle Ben to be the heir apparent.

Oh, I almost forgot - if Mother Tessa says something's a bad idea, you might want to listen to her.

I'm sure this is all unnecessary - what could possibly go wrong?

Road Trip

This just in:
His Sinfulness departs today for the annual trek to the unHoly Land (Orange County, California). Black Vatican aids say he will visit numerous shrines and unHoly sites, including the Sacred Kite Fields of Huntington Beach, the unHoly Hometown of Los Alamitos (where His Sinfulness first became aware of his infernal purpose) and the Citadel of Wretched Excess (known to unbelievers as South Coast Plaza Mall).

Stretch Shelby Cobra Limo - the Black Popemobile

As the Dark Pontiff will be visiting the Basilica of St. Vegas on Sunday, the Sermon will be delayed until Monday - or later. Although Las Vegas is not technically a Ministry Approved unHoly site, Linus stated, “you’ve got to admire the accomplishment. It just goes to show what simple desert folk can accomplish with hard work, mafia ties, and a deep-seated belief in prostitution and gambling.”

The Sunday Sermon will return to its regular schedule following the Hollowdaze. For those members of the Flock who feel lost without this weekly inspiration, His Sinfulness has the following suggestions; “This is an excellent opportunity to read through the archives and attempt to interpret the mysterious numerological code with which every third, fifth, and seventh paragraph is encrypted. Or, you could just get a life.”

Happy Hollowdaze!
Go in Peace.

The Black Vatican's official Webmonger has just discovered an interesting little sect...

*poke* *poke* *poke*

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict are a monastic order who have an extremely liberal interpretation of what it means to be a monk. The webpage for the order says, "They may be married or single, in any walk of life — and yes, from divergent religious traditions. Yet, each finds a commonality in the preciousness and dignity of life. They sense that an effective way to insure this preciousness and dignity is to practice compassion."

So far, not too far removed from the Unitarians, right? Well, here is where it gets interesting...
"The Monks live their life according to an adapted version of the Rule of St. Benedict, the foundation stone of Western monasticism. Their Rule provides for a meditation practice known as zazen. They follow the advice of David: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 45:10). The specific practice is that which the Soto Zen tradition teaches in the writings of Dogen. Dogen brought the Chinese Chan practice to Japan where it became Zen. Thus the Holy Rule blends Zen and Catholicism."

Zen Catholics - how cool is that? (And you all thought that Mark was just an aberration.)

How, you may ask, does Mother Church see this? Well, offical church pronouncements on small groups like this are hard to find, but I did come across the website of "Our Lady's Warriors", a self-described "portal for those Catholic laity who are 100% loyal to and obey the Holy See (the Pope) and the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium), and who wish to defend our Faith against the wolves in sheep's clothing - those better known as dissenters." A fun crowd, no doubt. I hear they throw a big kegger every summer. Not.

At any rate, they had this to say about the White Robes in their list of dissenters:
"A neo-Gnostic group which incorporates Zen Buddhism concepts. They minister to "the Catholic [who] has outgrown the co-dependent need to adhere to an institutional church: its petty, bureaucratic, authoritarian, dictatorial, patriarchal, unresponsive ways. He or she is no longer co-dependent on religion to tell him or her what to do and how to do it." Also embracing Jungian psychology and feminist theology ("sophia wisdom"), they will accept any faith (indifferentism): "Membership in any church is not a prerequisite to be a White Robed Monk." Yet they still claim: "The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict are neither Roman Catholic nor Old Catholic, Liberal Catholic nor Eastern Catholic. The White Robed Monks are just Catholic."

Preaching free thought, universal acceptance, feminism, and compassion? Heretics, clearly.

Of course, they left out the rest of the White Robes comments about their brand of Catholicism: "Catholic in the sense of neither Roman nor non-Roman, but Catholic as the historical Christ originally taught. Christ opened his arms to everyone and accepted everyone without question. He turned no one away."

The knee-jerk response of hardline Catholics aside, this gives me hope. In fact, it may just be sleep deprivation, but I'm downright inspired.

Brace yourselves - I'm putting on my preachin' boots and my new robes. I've got a hell of a sermon brewing - hand me my poking stick...


I've noticed that attendance at confession is way down lately. I think it has to do with that nasty rumor that's been going around about me being an informant for Santa - you know, that I tell him who among the Flock has been naughty and who's been really naughty and who's been really damn naughty...

Well, I want to set the record straight right now; Nick and I are just friends, with no professional connections. Anything you may have heard about VIP parties at the Workshop or nude hot tubbing with the elves is all nonsense. We really only see each other at big events, you know, red carpet stuff. There's hardly ever anytime to really sit down and talk shop, so you've no reason to worry that your dirty little secrets will leak from the confessional booth to the North Pole.

One of the many confessional booths in
the Ministry's headquarters, built to
the Dark Pontiff's specifications.
This one has a wet bar and satellite TV!

If, however, you still feel that you cannot trust your beloved Reverend with your confessions, the Ministry refers you to this service. There you can bare your soul in total anonymity, and be absolved in the vast unsleeping eyes of the internet. It's Pope Tested, Ministry Approved!

Number 1 on the charts

On the day I was born, the number one song in America was;

"This Diamond Ring" by

Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

What was the number 1 song in America on the day you were born?
Find out here. Isn't the internet a supreme waster of time?

Sunday Sermon
Crazy Wisdom

Ten Guides Along the Path

1) Why hope for perfect health? Perfect health leads only to greater greed. Treat illness as medicine, not disease.

2) Why long for a life free from hardship? Such a life leads only to haughtiness and self-pampering. Make worries and hardships a way of life.

3) Why hope for a lack of impediments in your study? Release is hiding right behind obstructions.

4) Why hope for a lack of temptations in your training? A lack of temptations will only soften your resolve. Treat temptations as friends who are helping you along the way.

5) Why hope for easy success? Easy Accomplishment leads only to increased rashness. Accomplish through difficulties.

6) Why hope to get your way with friends? Having friends give in to your wishes only leads to arrogance. Make long-term friends through compromise in your relationships.

7) Why expect people to follow your wishes or commands? This, too, leads to arrogance. Consider those who differ with you to be your character builders.

8) Why expect rewards for your kindnesses? This leads only to a scheming mind.

9) Why expect more of your life than you deserve? Exaggerated profit seeking leads only to foolishness. Become rich at heart with small amounts.

10) Why complain about vexations? This leads only to resentment and poison in the heart. Consider vexations as the first door on the path.

Go in Peace.

In our never-ending struggle to better serve the Faithful, the Ministry, in conjunction with the MBI* and the AIOBCP** is proud to present...

The Black Pope's Guide to Web Comics
(originally titled "Eleven Ways to Fail Your Finals")

Usually cute, often obscure, and frequently poignant.

Sluggy Freelance
Torg, Riff, Zoe, and a switchblade-wielding minilop. "Stay good Riff, stay good!"

Questionable Content
Indie love stories where no one gets laid. Faye lives with Marten, but he can't get anywhere with her. Dora likes Marten, but she can't get anywhere with him. Ellen likes Steve, but she's only 17, so no one should be getting anywhere with her. And Pintsize is like an iPod with legs - only he eats cake mix.

Diesel Sweeties
Pixelated robot love stories where everyone gets laid regularly.

Butternut Squash
The adventures of Ramon, Rob, Evan, and Vince - with special guest star Cola, sweet ginger pony nipple kitten...

Little Gamers
They're little. They play games and curse a lot. 'Nuff said.

Fabulous art, Windows bashing, and a new character that just sucked dry the power grid of the Eastern seaboard.

Largo and Piro are trapped in Tokyo, surrounded by hordes of mindless zombies and beautiful anime voice actresses. Poor Piro and Largo.

Oh My Gods!
It's Little Gamers meets Charmed - only funny. Nice, normal, queer pagans trying to deal with the Pope, Clowns for Christ, the Booby Vampire, and a Unitarian.

Surreal U
I'm a minor character in this one, so you know it's good.

This next strip is just plain fucked up. You've been warned - don't come crying to me. (These words coming from His Sinfullness, the Black Pope himself. Think hard about that before you click this link.)
Sexy Losers
A healthy mix of incest, necrophilia, coprophagia, face shots, and obsessive masturbation. Despite that, it still manages to be funny - sort of.

These comics are all Pope Tested, Ministry Approved.*** Be careful; some are seriously addictive - Sluggy is worse than sex and crack combined in a crunchy candy shell, while Sexy Losers is the proverbial train wreck that you just can't turn your web browser away from.


*The Ministry's Bureau of Inquisition
**The Ancient Infernal Order of Bisexual Cyber-Preistesses

*** The Ministry will not be held responsible for late papers, failed finals, or carpal tunnel caused by excessive archive surfing.

Sunday Sermon

The house smelled like Christmas - cinnamon and sugar, ham, candied yams, and melting marshmallows. An LP crackled and hissed on the ancient record player, filling the house with the voice of, naturally, Bing Crosby. The tree stood twinkling in the living room, and the place settings sparkled in the dining room, but all attention was on the newest member of the family.

Jeopardy was small and clumsy, but it was generally agreed that he was very lucky. His mother's death had left him an orphan so he was skinny and a bit behind the curve on size, but now that my mother had seen to his vet bills, he was reasonably healthy. His black and white coat was sleek, and free of the fleas and ticks that had plagued his earliest days. He was being passed from person to person, petted and fawned over, and generally being spoiled rotten.

"He's getting stronger everyday," someone said, "but the vet says we still have to watch him. He wouldn't have made it out there for much longer." We all agreed again how lucky he was.

The timer on the oven dinged, and our focus shifted to dinner. Whatever failings my family might have, they are not in the kitchen. My grandmother, my mother, my aunt, and my sister all cook quite well, so holiday dinners are usually an epic event at our house. Like many Irish folk, we obsess over food. We communicate with it. We say "I love you" or "Happy Birthday" or "It's good to have everyone home for the Holidays," by filling the table until it groans; that way, we don't have to say those awkward things face to face. My mother once said to me, "I'm sorry to hear you're getting a divorce" by way of a big plate of spaghetti, and I understood her completely.

Given that food means so much to us, it was only natural that no one was watching Jeopardy closely. It wasn't until we heard the ornaments crashing to the floor that we suspected anything.

We rushed into the living room, to find him hanging by his neck from a loop of the twinkling Christmas lights. He was flailing wildly, spinning the green wire into a tightening noose. We grabbed him and tried to untangle it, but his panic had made quite a knot. He stopped thrashing and lost consciousness as a knife was hurriedly fetched from the dinner table. He hung limply as my mother carefully slipped the blade between his neck and the wire. Just as she began to pull the blade up and away from his throat, it occurred to me that the lights were still plugged in...

That was about 17 years ago - he was indeed, quite lucky. Jeopardy not only recovered, but he overcame his rough start in life to become a mighty giant of a cat, both in size and in capacity for love. I'll admit, he wasn't quite right (in the head) after his 'shocking' hypoxic first Christmas, but he was possibly the sweetest cat I have ever known.

My mother had to put Jeopardy down yesterday; he had a fast-growing tumor in his jaw. He had been a part of the family for over half my sister's life. Although he didn't seem to be in pain, it had reached the point that he wasn't really able to eat anymore. The vet came to the house and gave him a lethal injection while Mom held him wrapped in his favorite towel.

Our animal companions are great teachers. Emotionally honest, comfortable in their identities, and definitely living in the moment. I'm convinced that my American Eskimo, Tobi, stepped up the ladder during reincarnation - I can't really be so sure of that for myself.

I've been somewhat disgusted of late. The greed, the selfishness, the whining, the brutality, the laziness - and that's just me; don't even get me started bitching about other people. I'm not going to insult you all now with some lame-ass moralizing about trying to be the people our pets think we are - I'd just like to be half the people they are. Over the years, my pets have been some of the finest human beings I've known.

A cat never mopes about feeling that she's not a very good cat. Dog's don't have midlife crises. My parrot isn't worried about renovating the cage to keep up with the Joneses. They simply are. They love us when we are there, and they miss us when we aren't. They listen when no one else will. They tolerate our foul moods patiently (albeit sometimes by going under the bed, but who's to say that's not the best method?). They forgive, and if they ever take revenge it is usually limited to the destruction/disappearance of a sock or something similar. Pretty mild considering that we usually cut out their sexy parts...

At the holidays I always see the dog and cat stockings. This year I have even seen them for birds - complete with four little toes - filled with honey sticks and chewies. But we know those gifts are for our benefit, really. If you asked your pets what they really wanted for Christmas, they wouldn't ask for toys and treats. They would just ask for more time with you. Give them that gift. They have something great to give you in return.

See you 'round, Jeopardy.

Go in Peace.

Questions of Faith, Index

For those who aren't familiar with the Ministry's on-going Questions of Faith series, see the post that started it all. For the rest of you who may wish to revisit the collective wisdom of the Flock, the posts are listed below. This index will be updated as needed, and this post is permanently linked in the "Sacred Texts" on the right sidebar. For the sake of posterity, the hard copies will be lovingly cared for by the Ministry's bisexual cyber-priesteses, and kept in a mayonaise jar behind the books in this alcove

in the Black Pope's Study.

Part I, The Path of the Druids by Zeus
Part II, Catholicism with a small c by Mark
Part II.V, Mark's Catholicism continued
Part III, The Baha'i Faith by Rachel
Part IV, A more catechismal Catholicism, by Tessa
Part V, Curanderismo, by Jim
Part VI, The Latter Day Saints (LDS for short), by Clay
Part VI.V, LDS continued
Part VII, Wicca, by Mandy
Part VIII, Buddhism, by the Reverend
Part IX, Islam, as seen by Wahab
Part IX.V, Wahab's Islam continued
Part X, Another view of Islam, by Ayesha
Part XI, Germanic Reconstructionist Paganism, by Christin

Unfortunately, the wonderful questions and comments on most of these posts have expired, but I'm sure that the original posters would still be happy to answer any questions directed to them.

If you would like to add your faith to our little survey of world religions, check out the original list of questions here. The Ministry welcomes all faiths! If you are a Jew, Hindu, Jain, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witness, Quaker, Mennonite, Peyotist, Metheist, Satanist - or anything else - please drop me an Email at the address listed in my profile.

Go in Peace.

Questions of Faith, part XI

Perfectly timed to coincide with my current case of writer's block, Christin has given us her take on Paganism.

Freya, riding Hildisvini the boar.

What faith do you espouse?

I just call myself a Pagan or a Heathen. I'm a Germanic Reconstructionist, but I don't want to lay claim to any specific name, like Asatru or Odinism, because I'm just getting started in this faith so I don't feel I have the right to yet. I also feel that some specific groups (like Asatru) focus a bit too much on the Scandinavian traditions and not enough on the German ones. My ancestors were mostly German, so those are the Gods I want to honor. Also, with Germanic/Norse faiths you have to be careful that the specific group you join or lay claim to doesn't have racist ties. That really sucks. Those assclowns ruin everything.

Who was the founder of your faith? When did he/she live?

The Gods are the founders of my faith. They live now!

What are the sacred texts of your faith?

We don't have specific sacred texts, per se. The myths, sagas, and legends are sacred to us. Old oral tradition and all that. A lot of them got written down in the Prose Eddas and the Poetic Eddas by a guy named Snorri Sturluson in 13th Century Iceland. However, even though Sturluson did a pretty good job, that was after Iceland had already been Christianized, so it's a challenge to sift out the old meanings from Christian influences. There are other sources, but the Eddas are the major ones. Any stories about our Gods or heros are inspiration to us. We also look to modern archaeology to give us information about the way our ancestors lived and thought, but you have to be careful with that too, what with the modernized Christian influences on it.

What is the central teaching of your faith?

Basically, honor the Gods, the earth and each other! There are nine major virtues that are promoted: Fidelity, Truth, Honor, Courage, Hospitality, Discipline, Self-Reliance, Industriousness, and Perseverance. Family and community are important, but so are diversity and idividuality. The challenge is to find the right balance. Also, we're hard polytheists, which means we believe all of our Gods and Goddesses are individuals, not facets of "The God" and "The Goddess," or of "The All."

How does your faith define sin? What are the major sins, and how is one absolved?

"Sin" is such a troublesome word. It's really heavy and guilty. Our "sins" are not always so heavy. They would just basically be ignoring one of the major virtues or dishonoring the Gods. To be "absolved" isn't that hard. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them, and if you've hurt someone try to make amends if you can. You don't have to be perfect, but you're expected to at least try not to be a complete failure. Dishonoring the Gods is a more serious matter. Fixing that is between you and the God you pissed off. And good luck trying to make amends with some of them, they can be a bit hostile sometimes.

Roughly how many adherents does your faith have?

No one knows. It's hard to be a Pagan of any kind in today's world, especially in America with our current religio-political climate. There are a lot of people who are still deeply in the broom-closet, lots of people who (like me) are out to some people and not others. My family doesn't (and will never) know and I only recently came out to my boss (she's awesome. Her sister is Wiccan).
[Reverend's Note: I hope your family doesn't stumble upon the Ministry...]

What does your faith teach about the afterlife? Is there heaven, and how do you get there?

There are several places you can go after death. People who die in battle (or even by edged instruments in other situations) go to Valhalla and party with some of the Gods. Others go to Hel (not to be confused with the Christian Hell). It's calm and peaceful there; the horrific descriptions of it in the Eddas are a Christian addition. Some also believe that evil people and oathbreakers to to Nastrand or Niflhel, which is a pretty bleak place. Other people can end up with various other Gods(Valhalla is not the only residence of Gods) if the God has a special attachment to that person.

What are the practices of your faith? (Daily, weekly, etc.)

Well, the nine virtues are a daily practice. There are four main holidays on the quarters (the equinoxes and the solstices). A lot of people also celebrate four other holidays around the cross quarters (about half way between one main holiday and the next). You can also do rituals and celebrations for a variety of reasons at any time. Stuff like marriages, births, or deaths can have their own religious rites and sometimes people just want to connect with their Gods or they need help with something, so they'll have a ritual for that.

How is your faith organized? Are there priests and bishops and
archbishops (oh my!)?

Paganism in general is pretty disorganized. Organizing Pagans has been likened to herding cats. A lot of people (like myself) practice alone. However, a lot of people also organize into groups (Hearths or Kindreds). They have a priest and a priestess. People can dedicate themselves to a particular God or Goddess and become a priest or priestess that way.

Are there regular services available to you locally? If so, where?

None that I'm aware of.

How did you come to be a believer?

I was raised Christian, but I'd been questioning it since I was about 6. In Sunday School I asked, if Adam and Eve were the first people, then where did Cain and Abel's wives come from. In response, my teacher snapped at me not to question the word of God or I'd go to Hell. So, of course, I began questioning constantly. By the time I was a teenager, I was calling myself an atheist, but what I really meant was that I was most decidedly not a Christian. Then, when I was on an internet message board when I was about 16 and the discussion turned to religion. Because of so many different people there it really hit me that Christianity was not the only option. I knew that before, of course, but it was only then that I realized the option of other religions was open to me specifically. I started looking into other religions and neo-Paganism and Wicca really appealed to my strong feminist and environmentalist convictions. When I went away to college at 17, I really started researching it and calling myself a Pagan. Eventually, I realized that I was a hard polytheist (I believed each God and Goddess were seperate beings, not a facet of the Great God or Great Goddess), so that ruled out Wicca and a lot of neo-Pagan stuff. I wanted to worship the Gods of my ancestors, and at the time I believed my ancestors were Celts. So I started looking into Celtic Reconstructionism, but I always felt an affinity with the Germanic Gods. Then, this summer I found out that most of my ancestors were, in fact, German and that my grandmother had hidden this my entire life because she never quite got over WWII. So now, I'm studying Germanic Reconstructionism. For a lot of reasons that would take forever to tell, I found my patron Goddess, Freya, fairly recently. She rocks.
[Reverend's Note: It is remarkably hard to find a good jpeg of Freya...]

What do you wish others knew about your faith?

We're not Satan worshippers! We're also not racists and we don't want to sacrifice your pets or your kids. While it's true that in the past animal sacrifice was a part of religious practice, that's not necessarily true anymore. A lot of us (myself included) believe that the entire point of a sacrifice is to offer something of value to the Gods. In an agricultural society, animal sacrifice makes sense. Now, however, that's not really the case. I think the most important sacrifice we can make now is time or money. Or offer up a computer or cell phone or something. However, there are some who stick to the old practices, but it's always done humanely. A lot more humanely than commercial slaughterhouses, that's for damn sure.

Well, there are my answers! I hope they help.



Feel free to direct questions to the comments window. If you have a more private question for Christin you can send it to the Email address listed in my profile and I'll forward it along.