Strange, True & Religious
Archived Issue #1
Strange, True & Religious
Stories from around the world
©2000-2008 B. Allan Ross
Melted Virgin: Crowds of people flocked to a Houston apartment complex in order to catch a glimpse of the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose believers say has revealed herself in a melted ice cream stain on the concrete floor. Upon seeing the stain, one woman crossed herself and burst into tears. "She knows that we need her," she said. "I had to see her, I had to pray to her." Another woman added, "But look, look how lovely. Even the colors are the same."
In Mbabane, Swaziland's Parliamentary Speaker, Mgabhi Dlamini, was asked to resign for taking cow dung from the Royal Yard. After a hearing into Dlamini's theft of the dung, an official from the Swaziland National Council said Dlamini testified that he had a series of dreams in which he was warned that King Mswati III was in danger. Dlamini said he took the dung -- used in witchcraft ceremonies in the Swazi countryside -- to perform magic rituals to make the King invincible.
Police in Jakarta, Indonesia are not allowed to arrest someone while they are practicing a religious ritual, so a man charged with murder thought he could take advantage of that and began to stand on his head -- a ritual practiced by a local cult. He stayed that way for days, but eventually had to give up to the waiting police because his feet were numb.
A London religious broadcasting station has launched what it claims is the first-ever Internet confessional, enabling repentant sinners to use their computers to confess their misdeeds online. Premier Christian Radio describes its site, www.theconfessor.co.uk
, as "an opportunity for confession and repentance -- by the grace of God, there is a real possibility that the time spent [on their Internet site] will have real healing consequences." Peter Kerridge, managing director of PCR, says, "This is between you and God, and your privacy is totally respected." The confessions cannot be accessed or stored, the organizers reassured their estimated audience of some 200,000.
The 15th annual "Tough Guy" competition in January 2000 featured up to 7,000 men and women, some dressed as Jesus, each carrying or dragging a heavy wooden cross weighing 40-50 pounds for 2,000 yards over a grueling course, as one of a number of feats of endurance. Held in Wolverhampton, England, organizers say the event is supposed to "commemorate the torture of the original Tough Guy. Jesus Christ was not meek and mild. He is the toughest Tough Guy of all time." Contestants will sign up as "Jesus Warriors."
Monsignor Kieran Conry, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church, disagreed: "They are associating Christ with ideas of masculinity and aggression, when He was far from the ultimate 'tough guy.' He never resisted arrest or tried to defend Himself during his trial."
Former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev. Maurice Couve de Murville, commented, "I hope there will be a band of Veronicas on hand to wipe their brows."
Organizer Billy Wilson defends the event. "The man was real, he did get on the cross, he did do his bit. What we are doing is right. It will bring people back to reality, away from materialism. I haven't had many letters saying it's in bad taste. Once I have stood up and announced that it is to do with God, then it would be terribly wrong to back down."
Some Assembly Required: The editor of Joke-A-Day, an online email newsletter, reports that one of his readers sent this tidbit: Eric said his company sometimes abbreviates the shipping address of their customers in the computer. The Assembly of God Church wasn't amused when the label on their box displayed "Ass Of God Church."
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Jaywalking Thyself To Hell: A police officer in Billings, Montana got fired recently for being "too Christian" at work. She had trouble knowing the difference between misdemeanors and "the Devil's work" in her reports, all of which were written in language typical of the Christian bible's "Book of Revelations."
Spaceship Georgia: Tensions grow daily in rural Eatonton, Georgia (60 miles southeast of Atlanta), between the Putnam County sheriff intent on enforcing agricultural zoning laws and the 80 African-American disciples of Chief Black Eagle Malachi York, who has built a religious retreat, with shops and 40-foot-high pyramids, called Tama-Re: Egypt of the West. York, a convicted felon who says he was born in the galaxy Illyuwn and who invented the group's Arabic-English blend language, Nuwabic, teaches that a spaceship will land in 2003 and take away only 144,000 chosen people.
Drive-By Praying: According to a report in the October 1999 Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, a national Christian "lighthouse movement" wanted to pray for every single person in the United States of America by the end of 2000. Among the techniques suggested were praying for the 10 households to your left and right and for the five in front, praying for people listed in telephone directories and, in rough neighborhoods, "drive-by praying." In late August, a convention of related groups met near Dallas to assess how they could best spend the remaining months on their particular goal of exposing every single person on Earth to Christianity by the end of 2000.
Shakers Wanted: The Wall Street Journal reported in September 1999 on efforts by the United Society of Believers (better known as the Shakers, named for the way they tremble while worshipping) to recruit new members. By the mid-1800s, there were 6,000 members, but since part of their philosophy is celibacy, there are now only seven, living near Gloucester, Maine. Though their original philosophy was built on "separation from the world," the Shakers now have a website, give musical concerts and sell CDs.
Church Seeks Long-Term Lease: Leaders of the Little Country Church of Hollywood claimed unsuccessfully in court that they could not be evicted by the property owner because their late minister gave them a license to use the facility "until Jesus comes again."
Holy Hands-Off Job: The Holy Land is credited with being the birthplace of all three major monotheistic religions. But in recent years, it has become a magnet for unorthodox interpretations of scripture. That's where Rabbi David Batzri of Tel Aviv, Israel, comes in. It seems that the Rabbi recently began advertising his services to a special group of sinners. He specializes in blessings designed to save obsessive masturbators from being possessed by the devil.
Looked, Leaped And Lusted: "It was temptation by Satan, of course," protests David Stein, 44. The New Mexico state employee, fired for accessing credit-card Internet pornography from his tax-department work site, is now blaming it on Lucifer. Stein is appealing his dismissal despite his confession that he did "look at some pictures and stuff" once because he was curious about "what kind of smut was available out here. You know, so I could stay away from it." He claims he became trapped in an "endless loop" of demonic filth as he frantically pressed the "back" button on his browser. "It just kept taking me deeper and deeper," he shuddered. He eventually shut off his computer, but in less than an hour he was back at it because, "Satan told me to check it out some more." Stein testified that he might have been targeted by the Lord of Hell because, "The stronger you are as a Christian, the more Satan works on you because he fears losing his grip on you."
Zap-ital Punishment: The Reverend Dwight Wymer, a Baptist minister in Grand Rapids, Michigan reportedly used a 12-volt battery to shock his young students during sermons at his summer bible school. Rev. Wymer explained, "When we don't do what God tells us to do... ZAP!"
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Weather Power: Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, in a letter to the "people of the United States," warned, "You will be surprised about what is coming to you and you will not be able to do anything about it," if the U.S.A. doesn't stop pressuring them to give up a terrorist they've been harboring, Saudi fugitive Osama Bin Laden. "We [sent] a letter to the White House. In it, we pointed out to them that those who are not on the just side, may God face them with earthquake and storm. You are all witness to the fact that since the date of that letter, one strong earthquake and two devastating storms have taken their [toll] in the United States." Televangelist Pat Robertson has threatened Florida with the same retributions for flying rainbow flags during a Pride celebration, except he added the possibility of a comet.
Ernest Goes To Heaven, Two Jesuses Come To Earth: Thanks to Ernest Digweed of Portsmouth, England, if Jesus returns for the Second Coming, he'll have enough money to live in luxury. Digweed died 16 years ago and left his entire estate to Jesus Christ. He had the State Trustee Office invest his money in government bonds, guaranteeing Jesus a total yield of $615,820 by 2000. Digweed's heirs are contesting the will, offering the unusual solution of an insurance policy in the same amount, payable to Jesus upon his return. Now another problem has cropped up. Two men, each insisting he is Jesus reborn, have filed claims for the money.
3 Hotties To Go, With Everything: Three women were arrested in Lansing, Michigan after they smeared their naked bodies with mustard and hijacked a United Parcel Service truck. They told police that they were trying to reach the Garden of Eden, and had used mustard because it was "mentioned in the book of Matthew" in the bible. They admitted that they didn't really know why they had taken the truck.
The Real Tele-Tubby: According to a Purdue University study, Christians who are the most avid in their religious beliefs are more likely than other people to be overweight, with Southern Baptists at the top of the list. "I fit the mold," said televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, speaking to a Newhouse News Service reporter. However, he added, "I don't think God gives a flip either way."
Another Bless Me, Computer, For I Have Sinned: Warsaw, Poland, computer programmer Andrzej Urbanski has announced the availability of his confessional software specifically for Roman Catholics. The program, which is password-protected for privacy, asks 104 questions to narrow and focus the particular sins to which the parishioner is confessing, then ranks the sins by gravity in suggesting penance.
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Recent Rabbinical Rulings, according to the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot: No nose-picking on the Sabbath because that might dislodge hairs inside the nose. And wives must be home by midnight, even if the husband might still be out carousing.
Hey! You Down There!: Evangelist John Holme was fined about $1,700 in Salisbury, England for a stunt in which he went up in a motorized paraglider so he could preach from above the rooftops to sinners on the ground. Said Holme, "I thought that maybe if they heard this voice booming out from the sky, they would think it was God." Holme had steering problems in the wind and came down close to some houses, and although no one was injured during "God's" rough landing, he was fined for creating a dangerous condition.
I Know I Am, But What Are You?: Rev. Flip Benham, of the Operation Rescue anti-abortion, anti-Queer group, protested that the bookstore at Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University compound in Lynchburg, Virginia, is managed by indicted child pornographers. The chain Barnes & Noble runs the store and was recently indicted in Tennessee and Alabama for selling books by prominent photographers that featured artistic photos of nude children. "It's a bald-faced lie," said Falwell. "I don't know who [the Operation Rescue] people are, but I wish they'd stop calling themselves Christian leaders."
That's it, Friends and Spies.
Love out to Yas!
B. Allan Ross