Washington, D.C. – On Friday, White House spokesman, Jay Carney, announced that President Barack Obama had called California Attorney General Kamala Harris to apologize for comments he made concerning her physical appearance.
Earlier in the week, at a Democratic Party Fundraiser, Obama made headlines by referring to Harris as being “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.” His comments were ill-received by media outlets, human resource departments, and feminist groups around the country.
“He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments,” Carney announced to the White House press corps.
“The President did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities and fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance,” Carney added.
“But more importantly,” Carney told reporters, “in the heat of the moment, the President totally forgot about [Florida Attorney General] Pam Bondi.”
“On stage, it is difficult to flip through the mental Rolodex of all 57 state attorneys general,” said Carney, defending his boss. “However, when he had some time to reflect, President Obama came to the conclusion that any warm-blooded male would come to: that Pamela Bondi is objectively the best-looking attorney general in the country.”
Carney said that Attorney General Harris has accepted the President’s apology, calling the oversight an “honest mistake” and is fully prepared to relinquish the title to Bondi.
Grandville, Mich. – A cache of correspondence, manuscripts, and drafts of Love Wins, the controversial bestseller by Rob Bell has recently surfaced, shedding light on the evolution of the book as well as the process of publication.
The material was found in a dumpster, by public sanitation workers, outside of Mars Hill Bible Church, where Bell serves as pastor. Two manila folders were recovered. One large, unmarked folder contained ideas, outlines, early drafts, and print-outs of email correspondence between Bell and Les Molder, an editor at HarperCollins. A second folder labelled “Biblical Exegesis/Word Study” contained only 2 pages of handwritten notes.
The leaked files reveal that the original, working title of the book was Justice Loses, and the opening hook was not, in the earliest drafts, an anecdote about a Ghandi quote on a piece of artwork. In fact, Bell had originally planned to share an experience he once had in Poland. Here is an excerpt from an early draft:
Several years ago, I visited Auschwitz, and saw all kinds of remnants of the horrors inflicted by Nazis through concentration camps. And there was this one wall, in what was used as a gas chamber, where you could still see scratches from the fingernails of the prisoners that clawed the walls in final acts of desperation. Lot’s of people in the tour found this compelling. But I noticed that one visitor had etched into the wall “Be encouraged, Hitler is in Hell.”
Hitler’s in hell?
Somebody knows this for sure?
And felt the need to let the rest of us know?
Printed copies of email correspondence confirms that this version was abandoned on the professional advice of Molder, who appealed to Bell to choose “a more benign, sympathetic figure” to serve as the main character for his opening illustration. The correspondence reveals that Bell did not immediately submit to this advice, until Molder pointed out to him that using Bell’s own definition of hell as a present reality created by a person’s own sinful choices, Hilter was, in fact, in hell until his suicide in 1945. Writes Molder,
So, Hitler is in hell while he is living, but after he is dead, we can’t know for sure. I get that, but for the average reader this is potentially too confusing. Remember, your target audience isn’t used to having to make these kind of fine distinctions.
The files clearly reveal Bell’s penchant for incomplete, sometimes only one word, sentences and questions. One early draft contains a 6-page run of these short, incomplete phrases and questions, each separated by a hard return. Referencing this portion of the manuscript, Molder advises in an email,
You’ll want to keep that stuff to a maximum of 10 lines. Beyond that, we are going to have a really hard time passing it off as poetry (which is what we are still intending to do, correct? LOL!)
The correspondence shows Molder not just to be an editorial genius but also an savvy marketer. For example, just before the book with its original title was set to go to the printer, Molder urged a last minute title change. In an urgent email to Bell, Molder writes,
How tied are you to Justice Loses? I’m sure you’ve seen the Charlie Sheen train wreck by now. I’m thinking we can capitalize on some of the hype surrounding his shenanigans. Just brainstorming here, but what do you think about Duh! Love, Winning! ?
A few emails later, Bell and Molder had reached a compromise, and the book was sent to the printer with its current title.
At a press conference yesterday, Rob Bell said that he was “quite disappointed” that the files were now in the public domain, though he holds “no anger, bitterness, or resentment towards the garbage men who recovered and leaked the documents.”
When asked why he wanted to get rid of the documents, Bell responded, “The whole experience surrounding this book has been hard. I didn’t expect that denying what most believe to be a central tenet of Christianity would be so controversial.”
Bell teared up as he continued, “In the weeks leading up to the release of the book, we could blame the publisher for the content on the promo material, and we could accuse people of jumping to conclusions based solely on my provocative trailer. But when the book was released and people reached those inevitable conclusions after reading it for themselves, all of the pressure came to me. And it was hard, really hard.” For Bell, the easiest solution was to throw out the related documents.
To a question about why he didn’t shred the documents before disposing them, Bell responded, “I don’t like shredding. It’s too gruesome. Too final.”
The official decree confirmed that the healing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre from Parkinson’s Disease, was in fact, a miracle. The Pope’s declaration came after a thorough investigation by independent, objective, Vatican appointed experts. In response to reports that Simon-Pierre had suffered a relapse last March, the Congregation for the Cause of Saints explained that the sister had “misunderstood her symptoms after an all-night poker tournament in her French convent, fueled by espresso and Four Loko ™.”
When reached for comment, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre said, “This is amazing! The Pope finally declared what I knew all along to be true: that Pope John Paul II healed me of Parkinson’s.” Upon reflection, Simon-Pierre added, “No wait…I think I’m supposed to say that God healed me of Parkinson’s through the intercession of Pope John Paul II – yeah, that’s it.”
With this certified posthumous miracle, the final criterion for John Paul II’s Beautification was met. In his remarks, Pope Benedict praised the faithful for the patience that they demonstrated during the “lengthy and deliberative process” that church officials underwent to determine the former Pope’s eligibility. “We take these things as seriously as we do any element of Catholic faith and practice, like marriage annulments and abuse allegations.”
Beautification is the Catholic tradition of exhuming an honored corpse for an extra application of makeup. After the May 1 ceremony, John Paul II will be one step closer to Sainthood, the most elevated status in the Roman Catholic Church. More formally known as Canonization, this occurs when the corpse of one so designated is exhumed and shot from a canon in a skyward direction, symbolizing the hope of direct and forceful entry into heaven.
The requirement for the Canonization of John Paul II is a second posthumous miracle, and there are early reports that this has already occurred. Even as the Pope Benedict was issuing his decree, a recently-erected statue of Pope John Paul II outside of the Gemelli hospital in Rome, his “third home,” was reported to be be lactating.
Having trouble getting started with Twitter? Use these boilerplates to promote your personal brand, 140 characters at at time. Simply fill in the fields marked [*********] with your own unique content. In general, your tweets should follow the standard cadence, which is [Long].[Short]. A generic tweet should have the following form:
[Use approximately 120/140 characters to describe a mundane person/event/situation].[Use remaining characters in 1 to 5 words to provide your insightful evaluation of said person/event/situation].
If you get bored with the standard form and want to impress your followers with creative tweets, try the following templates:
The Open Tweet
Dear [diffuse/abstract entity], Please [state what the diffuse/abstract entity ought to do (if it could) to make your life easier]. Thanks!
The Endorsement Tweet
Hanging out with @[person with whom it reflects well on you for hanging out] at [location of this phenomenal get-together].[Positive qualitative evaluation of said person in 2-5 words].
[Short description of a mundane person/event/situation].[part 1 of 3 (1 word) of an incomplete sentence serving to mask the banality of said person/event/situation by emphasis].[part 2 of 3 (1 word) of incomplete sentence].[part 3 of 3 (1 word, usually "ever") of incomplete sentence].
Published Title Tweet
Preparing to ["preach" or "teach" or "speak"]: “[Brilliant and pithy, if wordy, sermon title that if not referenced here, would otherwise fail to get the requisite attention or acclamation]” ([sermon text]).
[Describe your current, perceived idyllic situation in <104 characters. Possible word choice includes: "snuggle" ; "fire" ; "curled up" ; "granddaughter" ; etc.]. It doesn’t get [choose between "much" or "any" depending on your level of confidence] better than this!*
*alternative: In lieu of last sentence, especially if short on characters, reference the #itdoesntgetanybetterthanthis hashtag, or some variant. For an alternative form, see below.
Utopian Equation Tweet*
[element A in your current perceived idyllic situation] + [element B in your current perceived idyllic situation] = [idyllic situation]
* The equation template can be used as a creative alternative to any mundane sentence with one or more coordinating conjunctions and a “to be” verb
Hashtag Punchline Tweet
[Short description of a mundane person/event/situation]. #[create a hashtag and dedicate its one and only use to serve as a punchline to your description of said person/event/situation].
Knoxville, Tenn. – Rocky Top Community Church will hold their fifth annual Junk in the Trunk fall festival on Friday, October 31. The festivities will be held in the church parking lot between 6 and 9 pm.
The first festival was held in 2004, when church staff recognized the need to provide an alternative to the pagan rituals practiced every year at this time in Knoxville area neighborhoods. “Halloween is a pagan holiday that promotes death, evil, the supernatural, and cavities,” explains Justin Trueblood, Minister to Children and Families at Rocky Top Community Church.
“We wanted to reclaim Halloween for Christ,” explains Trueblood. “So we adopted the holiday wholesale, except we moved it from the streets to the church parking lot.” Junk in the Trunk gets its name from the practice of having church members hand out candy from the trunks of their vehicles.
According to Trueblood, the primary purpose of the festival is to provide a “safe and sanctified” venue for children whose Christian parents want them withdrawn even further from the culture. However, the event also draws many unchurched kids from the neighborhood.
“I’m definitely going to Junk in the Trunk again this year,” says Austin Fairman, an 11-year old that lives a block away from the Rocky Top church. The youngster explains that since there is so much distance between the homes in his neighborhood, it takes a long time to get a significant amount of candy. However, when he goes to the church parking lot, he can fill up his pillowcase in about 15 minutes.
“In a way, it is an outreach,” says Trueblood. “Not that we present the gospel or anything, but when church members take candy out of their cars and put it into the kiddies’ jack-o-lantern buckets they reach out their arms.”
In the past, Junk in the Trunk has received criticism from more conservative churches. Last year, Gerald Williams, pastor of Regulative Reformed Presbyterian church in Maryville, Tennessee, was reported as saying that Rocky Top Community Church is “the world in a church’s costume.”
Regulative Reformed Presbyterian chooses instead to celebrate Reformation Day on October 31. This year’s events will include a contest to see how many strokes of a hammer it takes for contestants to nail a facsimile of Luther’s 95 theses to a hardwood door as well as a prize for the attendee with the squarest jaw. A stout German lager will flow freely from the tap, which will serve as fuel for the annual farting contest, a kirk favorite.
From “Video Tapeworm” in Leo Weekly, June 17, 2009, pg 40.
Apparently, one thing still left for nonliteralists to learn is that it is not reasonable to expect to discover a bucket of millenia-old soft tissue.
Landrum, SC – Last week, Blue Ridge Baptist Church announced the hiring of Josh Burns as Minister of Music to the 215 member congregation. Burns, 22, is a recent graduate of North Greenville University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in recreational leadership. We recently sat down with Burns to discuss his new job.
VR: Josh, good to see you. Congratulations on your new position. First of all, what was the church looking for in a minister of music, and why did you get the nod?
JB: Thanks! Yeah, I am really excited about it. I grew up at Blue Ridge and the leadership here has always placed a high priority on “excellence,” especially when it comes to worship. However, they place an even higher priority on “availability,” so I guess, above all, they were able to recognize my willingness to do it. Being a recent grad, I was looking for a job, and the church was looking to fill this slot, so I guess it just made sense for everybody involved.
VR: Your educational background is in recreational leadership. How did this prepare you for being a minister of music?
Believe it or not, there is a lot that is transferable. For example, in class we learned how to structure round robin tournaments, based on any number of participants. This has helped me with scheduling members of the worship band. Generally, every third week each person gets a bye. Also, I have the band do an icebreaker or team building activity before each service. I find that it helps us mesh better, musically.
VR: BRB’s Senior Pastor has affectionately referred to you as “Spartanburg’s Sanjaya.” Where did you learn how to sing.
JB: Coming from him, that is a huge compliment. Sanjaya is his favorite Idol of all time – he was super bummed that he didn’t make it to the end. Well, I learned by singing along with CD’s by the Christian band, Third Day. People say that if they close their eyes, I sound exactly like Mac Powell, maybe just a little bit more nasally.
VR: You lead worship with an acoustic guitar. How long have you been playing?
JB: I picked up the guitar just a couple of years ago. I noticed that a couple of my buddies in college who played were getting a lot of attention from the girls, so I asked them to teach me a few chords. They taught me 3 of the most common ones, and I’ve been playing around with it ever since.
VR: Do you play any other instruments? For example, the bass guitar?
JB: Yeah, I can probably play the bass. It’s pretty similar to the regular guitar, right?
VR: Members of the worship band have noticed your uncanny ability to transpose any song into the key of E and any time signature into 4/4. How do you account for this?
JB: Pardon? I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. Time signature?
VR: Never mind. We’ll move on. Have there been any challenges so far, that you’ve had to overcome?
JB: Well, yeah, one issue that we’re currently dealing with has to do with the piano player. She must not be overly talented because she requires sheet music in order to play. When I set down a piece of paper with just the lyrics in front of her, it paralyzes her. So she wastes a lot of our time, having to write in chords over the lyrics. To make matters worse, she doesn’t have much of a CCM repetoire, so when I say things like “Can’t you play this song the way they did it on the 2nd Passion album,” she is totally lost.
VR: What would you like to accomplish in, say, your first 100 days? What goals have you set for yourself and the congregation?
JB: Well, for one thing, there is a wealth of good Christian music out there. Musically, most of the songs I am thinking of are designed to showcase the ability of the band and the range of the lead singer. However, I don’t see any reason why these can’t be implemented for congregational singing.
VR: Thanks for your time Josh! Best of luck to you as you, through your music, help lead Christian Solidiers onward as they are “Marching to Zion” under the “Old Rugged Cross.”
Beijing, China – Chinese gymnist Yang Linlin has had an Olympic experience for the ages. On Monday, Linlin won the gold for her country in the uneven bars exercise. On Tuesday, she got her first period.
“I am so excited. I have been waiting my whole life for this,” said Linlin, speaking through an interpreter. “And then, to win the gold on top of that…it’s just surreal.”
Linlin admits being a little bit jealous in the past of some of the other young girls on the Chinese gymnastics team. “We’ve been together in the same compound since we were three and four years old – we’re kind of like family,” Linlin said, referring to China’s grooming process for potential athletes. “It was hard seeing some of the other girls do comlex pirouettes and multiple releases before I could,” confesses Linlin. “But it was excruciating when they got their first visit from Aunt Flo before I did.”
However, during the Games of the 29th Olympiad, everything changed for Yang Linlin. Throughout the preliminaries, Linlin could tell that she was on the verge of something big. “I stuck a dismount on a routine with a huge start value,” she reminisced. “And, the whole time, I felt like something strange was happening to my body.” Sure enough, Linlin outswung the competition, won the gold medal, and the next day, experienced the onset of menses.
As a reward for winning the gold medal, the Chinese government and her coaches are allowing Linlin to return home to visit her family for a week. “I am so excited,” says the young girl, who isn’t so young that she is ineligible for Olympic gymnastic competition. “I haven’t seen my family in four and a half years.”
The gold means so much for the Linlin family that Yang expects they will spend a lot of time just examining the medal. But not the whole time. “Mom has promised to take me out shopping for a training bra,” Linlin said. “That’s what really excites me!”
Boston, Mass – Before he visited the popular faith healer Benny Hinn, Adam Petrovicki was a skeptic. “I was agnostic,” explains Petrovicki, a 16 year old junior at Fenway High School, “but I was intrigued by Hinn every time I would watch his ministry, late at night when I couldn’t sleep.”
“It is fascinating to watch people come to Hinn in wheelchairs, get healed, and walk gingerly off the stage,” says Petrovicki. “I couldn’t help wondering if it could happen to me.” What makes this personal for Petrovicki is the fact that he has suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome since he was three years old. Tourette’s is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by involuntary outbursts of socially inappropriate, offensive, and often vulgar expletives, called tics.
As a result, Petrovicki joined 18,000 others in Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden, the site of Benny Hinn’s latest crusade. The teenager also found himself among thousands of others hoping for a miracle, when the time came in the service for healing. Unfortunately, Hinn’s screeners bypassed Petrovicki after a brief interview. “I didn’t fit the profile of what they were looking for,” said Petrovicki. “They were looking for people with general head or back pain…or people on crutches.” Petrovicki also speculates that since the crusade was televised, the producers didn’t want to take a chance that he would tic on the air.
Disappointed and disillusioned, Petrovicki was about to give up on his brief experience with religion, but decided to attend church the next day – “to give God one last chance to prove himself,” as he puts it. At random Petrovicki selected the First Baptist Church of Boston. Much to Petrovicki’s surprise, he heard the gospel message clearly presented, walked the aisle, and had a conversion experience.
Astoundingly, Petrovicki’s conversion to Christianity brought about a miraculous change to his Tourette’s. “Before, I would spew forth vulgarities that would make a sailor blush,” explained Petrovicki. “Now, well, I …er, ugh…geez, frick, shoot, dang-it, gosh darn freaking, sonuva gun!….as you can tell, I still tic, but what comes out is this non-offensive, sanitized, slang.”
According to Petrovicki, his post-conversion symptoms are such an improvement that “it’s as good as being fully healed.” He reports that when he has an episode around his new Christian friends, they dont’t even notice. In fact, says Petrovicki, “I think a lot of my Christian friends have Tourettes too.”