The early part of February has turned into a PR nightmare for the world’s faithful.
Leading us off: the Buddhists. Yes, you read that right. Joshu Sasaki, famous American Zen Master (although originally from Japan), has been accused of using his position and celebrity to sexually harass female students for decades. The most… well… titillating piece of the story is the accusation that Sasaki literally asked women to show him their breasts as part of a koan. Our money is on the classic, “What is the sound of one hand groping?”
Then there’s the Connecticut Pastor who has publicly apologized for providing the closing benediction at a December prayer vigil for victims of the Newtown elementary school shooting because his church bars its clergy from participating in interfaith services. Rob Morris issued the apology at the behest of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison, who wrote a letter admonishing Morris for participating in “joint worship with other religions.” Just to get into the spirit of the thing, The Revealer would like to publicly request an apology from Mr. Harrison for being a massive dick.
And it seems that the granddaughters of Fred Phelps have inherited his media savvy and sense of self-importance, but not his faith. Megan Phelps-Roper, the older of the two sisters, has taken to her blog and to text messaging media outlets, as well as various social media, to announce their split from the Westboro Baptist Church, saying that they regret the hurt they’ve caused while participating in church activities.
To make matters worse, it seems the left has picked an advantageous time to pick a fight. Salon, citing “the story of a pastor who stiffed her Applebee’s waitress [that] has gone viral,” audaciously asks, “Do Conservatives Make Lousy Tippers?”
I, for one, would prefer NOT to base my assumptions about the workings of the modern world on what transpires at the local Applebee’s. It’s a great place to win Bud Light Lime bottle opener keychains while drinking pre-made peach daiquiris on trivia night, but that’s about it. It is also worth noting that this one story is the only piece of evidence the Salon article puts forth. Essentially the (really, truly, deeply unconfirmed) thesis of the article is that Christians are taught to be generous in giving to their Churches and affiliated organizations, but that’s as far as their generosity goes. Everybody outside the faith gets stiffed.
We would also like to note that the pastor involved in this anecdote certainly fits the portrait Salon is trying to paint – after learning that the receipt had been posted online, she called the restaurant and demanded that the entire staff be fired. The server who posted the picture was.
Things aren’t any better for the world’s Alleged Sorcerers (you also read THAT right). Between being blamed for house explosions in Zimbabwe and being burned alive in Papua New Guinea, it seems that they could certainly use a PR campaign (or maybe better regional access to education) on their behalf.
And as for the Catholics…oh, the Catholics. It’s been a rough couple of years/decades for The Church on the PR front. And it doesn’t show signs of letting up any time soon. Look no further than the Archdiocese of LA, who, it has been recently discovered, had gone so broke as the result of settlements from child sex abuse scandals that Cardinal Mahony literally pilfered money from his own church’s dead. Mahony took $115 million from the cemetery maintenance fund in 2007, and then neither asked permission (nor begged forgiveness) until the “transaction” was unearthed by journalists. While the fiasco does represent a nice inversion of the traditional sale of indulgences – pressing the dead to pay for the sins of the living – it stands to reason that his former parishioners are none too pleased.
Interesting, then, that the very same archdiocese has entered into talks to “discuss the feasibility” of a $200 million fundraising campaign to recoup some of the losses from the 2007 sex abuse settlements. The bold move would erase the Church’s current $80 million debt. I mean, if Penn State can still play football to recoup their institutional losses, why not? But maybe they should wait for some of the ongoing rage to get less press. Or ask TobyMac and the recently resurgent Christian pop music industry for a little spare scratch.
And we haven’t even touched on the whole “first pope to resign in 600 years” thing! For those of you who smell a scandal, don’t worry. Apparently, there’s precedent for such an action. The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that there have been four other popes who have resigned in the history of the church. So, let’s see…approximately 1.5% of the Vicars of Christ throughout history have resigned. One did so because he started making pagan sacrifices, another because he straight up SOLD the papacy. Still another resigned because he had the world’s worst case of Social Anxiety Disorder, and the most recent did so in order to end a 40 year schism in the Church. Yup, nothing fishy at all about papal resignations. Benedict totally has precedent. We should all line up to celebrate the grace with which he is stepping down.
I, for one, think the real reason the Pope resigned is this: he got wind of recent Kepler Space Telescope data, realized it’s nearly statistically impossible that we’re alone in the universe and figured he’d head off to a monastery rather than spend all his time sitting in uncomfortable chairs trying to navigate the treacherous moral waters (or, perhaps more appropriately, vacuum) surrounding the issue of alien-on-alien marriage and interstellar condom exchange.
Nathan Schradle is a graduate student in the Religious Studies Program at New York University.
Image: St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church, via archrecord.construction.com