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Lidwina was born in Holland in 1380, the daughter of a nobleman and a peasant woman. At an early age she’d already  decided to join a convent and lead a holy life, which like I keep saying on this blog, wasn’t such a terrible choice when your options are a) spend all day praying or b) spend all day feeding some man your parents chose for you while having and raising his children. Medieval marriage: not a picnic.

When she was 15, Lidwina went ice skating with friends, as you do in Holland, but fell on some rough ice and sustained a broken rib and some sort of internal damage. Her wound became gangrenous, and over the course of years the gangrene spread over her entire body.

Things get increasingly disgusting from there. Her entire body putrefied, but she didn’t die. She had fevers, she vomited blood and it poured from all her orifices. She stopped eating gradually, first only eating a bite of apple a day, then a little bit of bread and wine each week, and eventually she was only eating communion brought to her by the priests, some of whom were convinced she was possessed by a demon. Her hagiographies report that parts of her skin fell off, entire bones fell off, and parts of her intestines fell out. Instead of getting rid of those things like normal people, her parents kept her shed body parts in a vase, where they allegedly gave off a “sweet odor,” leading me to wonder if the rest of medieval Holland was even more awful than we thought.

In researching this one, I found way more stories about female saints miraculously nursing others than you would think exist, and Lidwina is one of them. A widow who cared for her since she was bed-bound, Catherine, had a vision of Lidwina’s breasts filling with milk. Shortly thereafter, Lidwina had a vision of the Virgin Mary and a host of other holy women surrounding her bed, opening their tunics and lactating into the sky. As expected, the next time Catherine came over to change her sheets, Lidwina rubbed her breast, it filled with milk, she fed Catherine, and religion is officially weirder than fetish porn.

Another scrap that appears a few times in the literature is the rumor that Lidwina was impregnated by the local priest. Specifically, the sources state that four soldiers “abused” her with this rumor, taunting her that her body was bloated because she’d been impregnated by the priest. This priest was the same priest who refused her communion more than once, and once tried to give her an unblessed wafer, but of course she had saintly superpowers of communion detection and spit it out. Later on in her life she “saw his heart,” rightly accused him of adultery, and of course he repented. Since the priest was kind of a dick (what kind of priest wouldn’t give communion to a clearly devout, clearly sick woman?), I have to wonder whether the adultery thing was really divinely-inspired knowledge, or more first-hand knowledge that the guy was a rapist.

Before she died at age 53, Lidwina slowly became paralyzed, though she never got up from her bed again after the ice skating accident. When she died, the only thing she could move were her left hand and her head, and the descriptions of her illness have led some medical types to speculate that she may have had Multiple Sclerosis. If so, she would be the first recorded person with the disease.

St. Lidwina is officially the patron saint of ice skating, and unofficially the patron saint of MS. Please keep all of your internal organs internal for her saint day, April 14.

St. Lidwina on Wikipedia

St. Lidwina of Schiedam on the Catholic Encyclopedia

Holy Feast and Holy Fast, by Caroline Walker Bynum

The Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Alban Butler

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It’s old news by now (The Illitegerati: Not Breaking News), but a group of filmmakers funded by evangelists found Noah’s Ark in Turkey. Again. As everyone is reporting, these people say it’s 99.9% certain that it’s Noah’s Ark, which sounds cool and all, and even better when you realize their reasons are as follows:

1. That thingie is totally boat shaped

2. Really really want it to be Noah’s Ark

The other best part is the amount of effort the other crackpot biblical archaeologists are putting into proving this Ark a fake, because how can you not love something that uses scientific evidence then follows it up with the following ad:

Yes, Noah’s Ark is completely real! Now find out “what you don’t Noah” about the story as well as your spectacular destiny they rarely ever mention in church in this autographed No. 1 best-seller!

Looking into this story I found out that there’s a lot I don’t Noah (get it?) about proving that the Old Testament is 100% real, true and definitely happened just like they say it did. After all, the most important part of faith is using scientifically gathered evidence to ensure that you’re absolutely right about the minutest details of everything you believe.

I’ll go into the scientific explanations of Noah’s Ark another time–there are plenty, and they are good— so now we can talk about one Ron Wyatt, who keeps finding biblical stuff.

First, I should say that there are two types of biblical archaeologists. Some are archaeologists who study the same approximate time period and place of the Old Testament, and they turn up some pretty interesting stuff. For example, no one thought the Hittites were real for a long time, or that Sargon I was a real Assyrian king. But, even though people like you and me think that stuff is pretty cool, it’s not a big fucking ship.

The other kind of biblical archaeologists grabs a Bible and uses it like a Lonely Planet guide to the Middle East. They do not carefully comb through records of ancient cultures written in cuneiform to discover new lineages. Oh no. They climb mountains and find arks in the morning before taking a little swim in the Red Sea and finding ancient chariot wheels in the afternoon. Right where the Bible said they’d be.

Mr. Wyatt has, thus far, found not only Noah’s Ark but Sodom and Gomorrah, Mt. Sinai, the Egyptians’ chariots in the Red Sea, and the Ark of the Covenant. For my money, Sodom and Gomorrah is the best–mainly pictures of weird rock formations with explanations that the fire of God was so hot it burned the limestone into little crumbly layers, or something like that.

The important thing here, of course, is that we prove that what we believe is 100% true and therefore worthy of being believed, so we’re going to go look for it because this book that we believe to be true says so, and we believe the book because we found this rock that… oh. Oh my head hurts.

Enjoy, and try not to giggle with delight next time that one guy you know brings up how they found the Ark.

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Technically, Columbia of Rieti is not a saint. Technically she gets the title “Blessed,” which is one rung below sainthood on the Catholic Ladder of Holiness. The process of beatification is simultaneously quite thorough and totally haphazard, as best as I can tell, and anyway her technically non-beatified status doesn’t make her any less interesting. Onward!

Columba was born Angelella Guardagnoli in 1467 to parents in Rieti, Italy who were poor but still gave money to the church because how else are they supposed to get those nice hats, hm? When she was baptised a dove flew into the baptismal font, so she was nicknamed Columba. She was educated by the Dominican nuns whose laundry she mended and made, and while still a teenager she had a vision of Christ on a throne, surrounded by angels. When you start having visions of Jesus there’s usually only one way for your life to go if you’re a young lady in Renaissance Italy, and that is straight into the convent. Unfortunately her parents had other plans (have you noticed that the parents of these virgin, female saints ALWAYS have other plans? Was no parent ever like, oh, okay honey, sure you can be a nun! Follow your dream!) and betrothed her to a young man. As was done at the time, and thankfully no more, she cut off her hair and sent it to him which was a clear signal that she had no hair and thus meant to become a nun.

At ninteen she became a Dominican Tertiary, and sometime before that she became anorexic. There’s a long long tradition among the more mystical parts of Catholicism of lots of fasting, or subsisting only on the communion wafer, or eating severely limited diets, and throwing up everything that gets forced down. It goes along with other physical self-punishment in lots of cases. Columba’s fasting, or anorexia, or whatever you want to call it went along with visions in which her spirit toured the holy land, like an early Birthright Israel for non-Jews.

Anyway, Columba was barely eating if she was eating at all, and then one day she wanted to throw her family a feast. She did, and then disappeared, leaving only her vestments behind in her chamber folded in the shape of the cross. There was no way out of her chamber or the city gates, but she left somehow.

It’s after she wanders away–with no real idea where she’s going–that the weird stuff happens. At an inn she’s mistaken for a noble girl who was seduced and then left by a priest, Chiaretta of Naples, whose father had a pretty good reward for her return. The innkeeper says he’s got a wife and daughters, and then shows up with some drinking buddies and demands the reward. Columba explains she’s not the noble runaway, and things get ugly when they try to rape her. However, after they rip her clothes off they’re shocked to discover lashmarks, blisters from a hair shirts, iron bands around her neck, waist and breasts, and that she was incredibly thin. Two men run off and the innkeeper drops to his knees and prays for forgiveness.

She ends up going to Perugia, and on the way her travelling group, all women, keeps being beset by people who want nothing more to rape Columba, whose holiness keeps getting her out of it: once a man who sticks his hand up her skirt feels a “pang in his heart,” once she stops at a roadside chapel and they can’t find her. Take home lesson:  if you don’t want to get raped, be holier! An unspecified amount, naturally, and mind that this is of course all your responsibility since we can’t expect men to stop raping or anything.

Once in Perugia, Columba joins another convent and keeps not eating. Due to this whole “not eating” thing, lots of church higher-ups thought she may be in league with Satan, and no less than Lucrezia Borgia accused her of witchcraft, but Pope Alexander VI (also a Borgia) asked her advice once in a while.

As usual, there are conflicting reports on her death. Some sources say that when the plague struck Perugia, she became ill in place of the townspeople, saving them and dying herself at 34. Other sources say she starved herself to death, and honestly, given a history of self-starvation vs. a miraculous report of plague-gathering, I know which one I’m going to believe.

Her feast day is May 20, though maybe you shouldn’t feast so much as look longingly at some food while thinking about getting closer to God.

Holy Anorexia on Google Books

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With the Jewish holiday season right around the corner–the fun begins tomorrow night with Rosh Hashanah– for a while I’ve been meaning to put together a list of my favorite Jewish holidays, because they’re fun, kind of exotic (unless you’re actually Jewish or something), don’t require getting up early, and most importantly, they are hella tasty. L’chaim!

1. Passover

The Jews followed Joseph into Egypt, and it was cool for a while until the Pharaoh decided to enslave them. But then Moses came along and told the Pharaoh (probably Raamses II) to Let His People Go, God sent a bunch of plagues, and the Jews invented Matzoh right before walking through the Red Sea. All this so that thousands of years later, matzoh ball soup could exist. It’s mainly for this most delicious of all Jewish foods that Passover gets the top spot on the list, but I kind of love the whole thing. You get to drink four glasses of wine, which is Manischewitz if you’re doing anything right, before dinner and that ALWAYS makes food good. You get to mix horseradish with charoset, the Jewish interpretation of mortar.

I can see where it would be a drag if you went to a seder that was four hours long and entirely in Hebrew, but the reform Jews I party with never make me wait that long. Plus, unlike Yom Kippur, the mere hour of sitting and waiting for food makes the anticipation build to the perfect level, unlike not eating for 24 hours.

2. Chanukah

However you spell it, it means latkes. If you have never had a latke I weep for you; imagine mixing onion rings and french fries, then dipping them in sour cream, then chasing the whole thing with a jelly donut. Sound pretty good? Yes it does. It’s also the only Jewish holiday where I’ve ever set wrapping paper on fire in the living room. Hey, it’s the festival of lights.

3. Rosh Hashanah

Jewish new year means dipping apples in honey and then eating them, and also that the challah bread is round. Actually, for whatever (deeply symbolic I’m sure) reason, we usually get chocolate chip challah, which is pretty good. Plus the Hebrew part is short and you’re free to snack throughout.

4. Yom Kippur

I imagine this is down near the bottom of anyone’s list, because it’s the Jewish holiday that focuses on the opposite of eating. I did fast for the day once, though I had a normal life and didn’t have to go to Jewish services all day that day or anything, which I hear makes you even hungrier. The break fast food is usually just OK, relatively bland and light because after all these people haven’t eaten anything all day.

5. Purim

All I know about Purim is Hamentashen (and that it’s “Jewish Halloween”), and those are pretty good.

6. Sukkot

I celebrated this once. we sat in a tent and ate Domino’s pizza. Good, but it wasn’t any matzoh ball soup or latkes.

There you have it. A knowledgeable, culturally sensitive guide to which Jewish holiday invitations you should accept and which you should turn down.

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This morning, drinking coffee and reading Pharyngula, I came across this:

The Voyage that Shook the World: Trailer
The Voyage that Shook the World: Darwin as a Boy
(Embedding has failed me. Sorry.)

Which is the trailer for a creationist movie neatly reviewed by the Lippard Blog. Obviously I would like to see this movie, but the closest screening to me is in Austin (I’m in Los Angeles, where I can get anything I want any time of the day, except apparently creationist movies).

Creationism actually bothers me, unlike most of the religious stuff I blog about. I don’t think we’re in much danger of Quiverfull becoming anything more than a fringe movement (the thing about having a dozen kids is then you have a dozen kids),  just like the American public at large will not suddenly become enamored of Sharia law or think speaking in tongues is an awesome fad. Yeah, I could be wrong, but we’re on a pretty clearly unreligious course as a whole and besides, I’m an optimist.

Evolution, however, is totally hard and complicated. It requires a basic understanding of genetics and biology to even grasp properly, otherwise I suspect it starts to sound a lot like “Your grandfather was a monkey,” which is the most interesting family secret I can think of. (“We wanted to tell you when you were a child, but your father was so ashamed and we just couldn’t, we thought maybe you would come to some conclusions on your own…”) Creationism or “Intelligent Design,” on the other hand, are delightfully simple: someone else made everything this way. Bam! I suspect that it’s worming its way into public schools in no small part because of this.

Here is something I don’t understand: why Charles Darwin is always dragged into this mess. I know 2009 is his 150th birthday year and we’re all celebrating, because figuring out evolution is a cool thing, but I don’t understand the smear campaign that Creationists are running against the guy himself. It’s not as though he’s responsible for the fact that this stuff seems to be going on, he just found out about it. Demonizing him won’t make the last 100 years of scientific research magically go away; Galileo recanted on geocentrism but the earth doesn’t go around the sun any less.* If you’re going to disprove evolution, shouldn’t you be, you know, disproving evolution?

The whole thing puts me in mind of heresies more than science, because they seem to be operating on the idea that this is a movement, led by this one (albeit dead) guy, and if they can discredit him then everything else will fade away. If that’s true, I think it might belie a serious misunderstanding of what science is by those trying to discredit it–it’s a testable set of hypothesis about how the world works, not a movement dedicated to following one person’s ideas.

Any creationists reading this want to suggest why the movement is so focused on Darwin and not on what he said? I am all ears.

*”It still moves,” I know I know.

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My weirdly intense-yet-atheistic interest in religion can pretty much be traced to growing up in a very Christian place while not having a religious family at all. I’m sort of like that kid you know who’s never left Wisconsin but is really inexplicably into Japanese culture, except there are no swords hanging on my wall. Yet.

This puts me in a position of having several religious friends who I’m close with, but an absolute deluge of Facebook friends (otherwise known as “people I vaguely remember from high school”) who are very religious. Then they post things. Fantastic, terrible, religious things for everyone to “think about.”

These posts are about those things.

Our first is actually from a friend of a friend, who got so excited that she emailed the whole thing to me.

Cell phone vs. Bible
Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?
What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we flipped through it several time a day?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it when we traveled?
What if we used it in case of emergency?
This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?
Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.
Makes you stop and think – “where are my priorities?” And no dropped calls!

This particular nonsense comes from a long, proud line of nonsense which gets all upset that something secular (e.g. cell phones, iPods, cars, television, laser discs, the Beatles) are now more popular than the Bible; these things also all assume that the reader is already Christian. That makes sense, given that 77% of Americans self-identify as Christian (even though something like 15% of them attend church more than twice a year*). Presumably, the answer to all these questions is supposed to be, “My life would be better in every way!” not, “I would have the extra encumbrance that comes with carrying around a big book.”

This little missive mostly makes sense. Mostly, because I have never “received messages from the text” from my cellphone. Nope. I just receive texts like everyone else, except apparently the author of this note. I’d use my Bible when I traveled, but does it still work in Europe? Do I have to get a different BibleCard for it so I can use it over there? Can I somehow use it to contact AAA in case of an emergency? Maybe I should upgrade to a Bible with 100-mile tow. I bet that would be extra useful if you were stuck in the Devil’s Punchbowl or Hell’s Gate, and it would all be free because our buddy Jesus has apparently pre-paid the bill.

My favorite, though, is the “And no dropped calls!” tacked on at the end there. Well, no, the Bible does not drop calls. It also doesn’t carry calls in the first place, unless “calling” here is a metaphor for “praying,” in which case maybe the call is never dropped but we’re more like that guy in the old Verizon commercials wandering the globe, shouting, “Can you hear me now?” into a book. And then we give up and just call God back from our landline, because our Bible doesn’t work in our office building, and this metaphor is really overextended by now.

The point of this is, I think, Jesus should be #1 on your speed dial. That’s right, even before your mom.

Two stars because while entertaining, I am not enlightened and it did not really bring the crazy.

★★☆☆☆

*Totally made the second number up.

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Or, cooking with the Illegiterati!

This stuff was in the bread aisle when I went to Whole Foods today to pick up approximately one gallon of my favorite peanut butter:

Since I’m like a moth to the flame of anything random with a bible quote on it, I bought it, brought it home, re-read Ezekiel 4, and made a sandwich. It turns out that you couldn’t get a recipe from a much weirder biblical source. Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament–I like to call them the crazypants prophets–who basically used his priesthood to warn the Israelites of impending doom while they were exiled in Babylon (approx. 6th century BCE).

You’ll notice that this is pretty much the healthiest, most granola-crunching-hippie bread you can buy. It had lentils. It’s sprouted. It’s got a low glycemic index, it’s vegan, it’s organic. Already my hangnails have healed and my hair is shiny and bouncy.

Anyway, according to God’s orders, Ezekiel eats a scroll so that he can speak God’s words and goes to Tel Aviv. Then he shuts himself inside his house and binds himself with ropes. Then he takes a brick and draws a relief of the city of Jerusalem on it (how he does this while bound is unclear), then puts an iron plate between himself and the brick, and then lays siege to the brick (somehow).

Next, he lies on his left side for 390 days (to represent the number of years Israel will spend in exile), then flips over and his right side gets off easy with 40 days (how long Judah will be in exile).

(It’s turkey and fried egg. Don’t you judge me.)

Finally, we get to the part about the food. God tells him to mix wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spent in a big jar and then to cook it into cakes over a fire made with human poop, though Ezekiel asks real nice and gets to use cow poop instead. Basically, that’s a starvation diet–God just told him to essentially mix the dregs together and eat that to keep from dying.

And now you can buy it for only $5.69 a loaf!

I couldn’t find anything at all about the religious views of the company who makes this, sadly.  They have some doves on their homepage, so they seem vaguely Christian, though they seem to have bought the Ezekiel bread from someone else up in the Pacific Northwest. My theory is that some guy got really stoned, decided it would be fun to read the bible for a while, and then got some serious munchies around Ezekiel 4:9. It makes more sense than a marketing ploy, because I suspect the audience who would buy a bread because it’s from the Bible doesn’t overlap much with an audience who are into sprouted vegan bread.

The rest of Ezekiel (and the prophets in general) are pretty crazy and excellent rainy day reading. I can’t wait until they come out with more biblically inspired foods. Revelations bee-beast honey!

Four stars, since it’s pretty tasty (if you’re like me and the hippier the bread, the better) and good for vegans, but it does cost more for a loaf than an hour’s worth of minimum wage.

★★★★☆

Sorry for the less-than-stellar photos. I’m no Pioneer Woman.

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I owe this episode of Obscure Saint Blogging to Twelve Byzantine Rulers, a podcast I’ve been listening to on my runs lately and enjoying the crap out of. As a half-assed classicist, my understanding of Roman history goes something like: lots of detail, names and dates up through about 69 CE; something about Trajan and Hadrian; organized Christian persecutions; Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, Diocletian splits the empire into four; Constantine loves Jesus and moves the capital to Constantinople; lots of stuff; Rome gets sacked in 410CE and then it happens about every ten years until the last Western emperor just gives up in 476CE; more stuff, Constantinople falls in 1453CE. Nuanced, yes? Suffice it to say, there are some gaps in my knowledge.

Irene of Athens, born in 752CE, was the only woman emperor the Byzantine Empire had. She was chosen for the future emperor Leo IV, possibly in a bride show as apparently she was a total hottie, and had a son, Constantine VI.

Irene’s story is partly the story of the iconoclastic movement, which is a big hairy, complicated deal but this is a blog so I’ll keep it simple. Christianity has a really weird relationship with pictures of people they consider holy, coming mostly out of Judaism like it did, and of course the second commandment says no making pictures of God. Now, Christians generally pick and choose which parts of the Old Testament they feel like following–no other gods? Got it. No bacon cheeseburgers? Yeah, about that…

Additionally, the neighboring Arabs had just gotten religion in the form of Islam, which has similar views to Judaism about when you make pictures of God (never), and they started knocking on the door in the mid-seventh century, taking Egypt and the Levant from the Byzantines, and probably having an influence on the Christian theological discussions of the day.

As a result of these two things, the Byzantines got into a big fight over whether it was okay to make and venerate icons, which, to be fair, are always pictures of Jesus or a saint, and one asks for the saint’s intercession with God on one’s behalf, not directly to the saint. This useful Orthodox Information page likens icon veneration to how Americans treat our flag (with important differences, but if praying to an American flag ever cures anyone of leprosy, I would really like to know about it). Shades of gray. Those against the icons were the iconoclasts; those in favor were the iconodules.

Leo IV’s father, Constantine V, was a fervent iconoclast who was reported to have crapped in the baptismal font at the Hagia Sophia during his coronation. Since history’s written by the winners, and the iconoclasts didn’t win (spoiler!) I am guessing that didn’t really happen, but it’s a good story. He convened a council of bishops to declare icon veneration heretical, then forced monks and nuns to marry since monasteries were notorious locations of icon veneration. Bishops got lynched in the streets, and by the time he died he was against all relics and prayers to saints. Two hundred years after he died, he was dug up again and thrown into the sea, just to make he didn’t forget he wasn’t welcome.

Leo IV, who became emperor when Constantine V died in 775 CE, didn’t care so much about who people did with icons at first. According to legend, the iconoclast Leo found two icons in Irene’s possession, and afterwards cut off all sexual relations with her, which really must have been a huge loss because he sounds like a fun dude. Possibly in reaction to this, he slowly got more intense about the iconoclasm, but then died before long, leaving his four-year-old son Constantine VI (Byzantium suffered from a severe shortage of first names) nominal emperor.

When you’re four and the emperor, mama really rules the empire, and that’s just what Irene did. She reinstated icon veneration, much to the delight of most people, and then fucked the empire seven ways from Sunday. The Arabs attacked. The Franks attacked. Everyone hated her for one reason or another, including her kid who was nearly an adult. He tried to overthrow her twice, nearly succeeded the second time and she had him thrown in jail. Then, in an act shocking even to the Byzantine empire, she had him blinded so brutally that he died from his wounds several days later.

After this slight whoopsie, she went ahead and declared herself Emperor (not Empress), and everyone freaked the hell out. No one really liked her to begin with, and since there was no man on the throne the Pope in the west decided the Byzantine empire didn’t have a ruler and just crowned one himself, so Charlemagne became the first Holy Roman Emperor. Yeah, I didn’t know an empire that ruled for a thousand years was based on sexism, either. Shockingly this deepened the rift between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, although it was rumored that Irene accepted a marriage offer from Charlemagne in order to fix all her problems. Before that could happen, though, one final big conspiracy unseated her and she was exiled to the island of Lesbos and someone else put on the throne. She died a year later, after ruling as sole Emperor for five years.

Much to my dismay, the podcast was wrong and Irene’s not actually a saint in the Orthodox church, but lots of Western sources think she was. She did reinstate icon veneration, which the Eastern Orthodox church is really into. On the other hand, she was a terrible emperor and had her only child blinded in a particularly gruesome manner. You win some, you lose some. Since she doesn’t actually have a saint day, you can ask a picture for a favor and then do something truly awful any time you damn well please.

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This Was Your Life is a pretty standard Chick tract, but also the most popular worldwide. It’s been translated into over 100 languages, and not just the text–other translations are actually illustrated differently as well, so presumably you can relate no matter your skin color (as long as you’re a dude). A really fun game is to look at the translation page, click a language you don’t know anything about, and then figure out where it’s spoken according to the vaguely racist drawings. Enjoy!

In the comic, there is a guy. This guy dies, goes to the Pearly Gates, and gets to review his entire life. In a shocking twist, he has not lived according to the principles that Jack Chick thinks are laid out in the Bible—complete with out-of-context Bible quotes!—and he gets sent to Hell in the end.

This one might be more poorly written than most; the best panel is when he sees a “hot” woman on the street, and the best he can do is, “ummm hey.” He’s like the awkward gentleman in Wondermark. He goes to church and mocks the pastor to his face, which makes no sense. Why go if you’re only going to mock it? Nobody answer that.

The other best part is the montage of sin, especially this one:

Is a whoremonger the same as a pimp? A fishmonger sells fish. A cheesemonger sells cheese. It only follows that a whoremonger sells whores. This guy, however, seems to just be looking… somewhat lecherous. Probably just barely lecherous enough for a glare; I don’t think that look would warrant even flipping him off.

“But where,” you are asking, “is the redemption part? It’s a Chick Tract. We know there is a redemption part.”

I’m glad you asked. Because in This Was Your Life, the redemption part is fucking revolutionary: they break the fourth wall. Yeah, they went there. There’s a cartoon of you, the reader—by the way, you’re a middle aged man, surprise!—and you repent. You accept Jesus Christ and all that noise, and there’s a “good works” montage to complement the earlier “sin” montage. There’s nothing to do with whores, though Chick would like to remind you that giving to your local church is a VIRTUE, and they’re not even Catholic. On the last page you have a heart attack, I think, mentally yelling, “Take my hand, Jesus, I’m coming home!” in a clear homage to 30 Rock. Apparently the Grim Reaper is also a biblical truth, since he’s in that panel with you.

And then you get into heaven. Good job!

The main thing about this Chick tract is that the main character—the dude at the beginning—is not the one who receives the redemption. Usually that’s the case, because the sinner/Mormon/Catholic/Jew/atheist/woman realizes the error of his or her ways, repents, and is saved. We at least assume that they get into heaven, as the tracts make abundantly clear that heaven is the main point of Christianity. Of course the only way to get into Heaven is to accept Jesus and repent for that time you looked extra evil as a baby:

This Was Your Life is a pretty standard Chick tract: do vague, normal bad stuff and go to hell; do vague, bad stuff and then love Jesus, go to heaven. It’ll be a good measuring stick to measure other insanity against.

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It’s finally time for me start something that was supposed to be a main attraction when we started the blog: religious tract reviews. You know all those folded sheet of paper with a cross on the front that you kinda step over on your way to the corner mart for your morning Sin Coffee? I love those. I collect those, I will cross streets to pick them up off a dirty bus bunch, I risk long discussions with people wearing misspelled sandwich boards just to obtain one more, and I occasionally cross streets, risk discussions, and then don’t even take the pamphlet because I already have that one.

So, you know, I’ve got a couple stashed away. They’re mostly Christian, because that’s what tends to be around, though I have a few from Jews for Jesus, some Mormon stuff, and a Scientologist graph of something from back when I lived next to the Dianetics Center. I’ve also got a Qu’ran and an entire book of introduction to the Qu’ran, but people, I am not reviewing the Qu’ran for this blog. Same goes for the splinter group Buddhist books I got a few years ago from the train station in DC.

In order to start this party off with a bang, I went to the gold standard of crazy pamphlet lit: the Chick tract. Jack T. Chick was born in 1924, and is an Independent Baptist, which isn’t a specific church but basically means that regular Baptists weren’t conservative enough. He’s also a dispensational premillenialist, and in case you’re not up on your proper End Times lingo, just know that Jesus’ second coming is incredibly confusing and the subject of much debate requiring graphs, tables and illustrations, and this guy has a definite opinion on it.

Jack Chick hasn’t given an interview since 1975, and has never released a photo of himself, though there are other photos that claim to be of him. He’s like the Thomas Pynchon of the Christian Comics world. According to his Wikipedia page, he got the idea of spreading the word through comics from Communist China.

The first review in a sporadic, untimely series is going up tomorrow. Try to contain yourselves until then.

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