It’s Actually SAINT Valentine’s Day

Bob and Steve, here. Psssst. You there. The one with the mouse. The one about to click the back button because you have no idea how you ended up at a crazy place called Orthogonal Catholic. Yeah – you. We’ve got a secret. Valentine’s Day is coming up. We know – there’s nothing secret about that. Garish heart-shaped boxes of candy were neatly arrayed in shopping market floral departments and end caps starting at 12:01am January 1st. Here’s the thing – somewhere along the way, in the race to leap and lunge for the next holiday or sort-of-holiday or who-knows-what-it-is-but-let’s-use-it-to-sell-stuff-day the marketing wonks and amorous chocolate-lovers forgot that it’s actually SAINT Valentine’s Day.

If the news gets out that we’re celebrating a CATHOLIC SAINT, there will be hell to pay. Don’t believe us? Last year someone at Google made the mistake of mentioning that a new Google feature would be “family” friendly, and all hell broke loose. Why? Well because “family” is construed as meaning a husband and wife with children. What good can come from that? If these people ever found out what goes into making a SAINT, their heads would literally explode. We mean literally. Exploding heads – everywhere. There just aren’t enough shop-vacs to deal with that. Think about it. SAINTS actually, you know, believe in God (that alone would explode as many heads as in all of Italy). SAINTS actually, you know, lived out biblical principles. Seriously, they did. They denied themselves all sorts of things.

Let’s pause and think about that one for a minute. SAINT Valentine’s day actually honors a man who believed in Chastity. Wherein men and women remain pure. No marriage – no nookie. And, even if married – there’s still the call to purity. Try proclaiming purity today. Just look at the state of things. Really. Go back to that grocery store with all of the red satin boxes of high fructose corn syrup. If you want to purchase one you have to pass through the valley of smut that is the checkout line where every magazine cover drips with sex-appeal or infidelity. Fortunately nowadays you can distract yourself by looking at your smutphone …. oops, that was a typo, we keep trying to type “smart” + “phone” but it stubbornly auto-corrects to smutphone. So be it.

Purity is a funny thing. Our marketing research1 shows that most Americans consider themselves “all in” when it comes to purity. No MSG – check! GMO free – check! Hormone free – check! 100% Colombian – check! 100% Cacao – check! Ivory soap’s well-known slogan, “​99 44100% Pure” – check! But then comes the rub. 100% pure for marriage – “whoa! Hold on a minute. “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To speak of other things.”2

And St. Valentine (like all saints) worked MIRACLES. Seriously – miracles. You know – those things that don’t comport with the theorems and postulates of SCIENCE3 (the simultaneous explosion of that many heads would create a shock wave capable of sinking the entire land mass of Africa into the Pacific Ocean). Saint Valentine is remembered for curing the blindness of his jailor’s daughter so she could read a note he penned to her. He signed the note: “From your Valentine.” Yep, real miracles are much more awesome and cool than “Miracle Whip” or “Miracle-Gro” can ever be.

St. Valentine is also the patron saint of bee keepers. This reminds us – why is every Tom, Dick and Sally keeping their own bees? We at O.C. don’t understand the hysteria over a hypothetical bee shortage. We just keep the ‘b’ key pressed and they spurt right out 10 per second – bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb.

St. Valentine was also arrested because he was converting Romans to Christianity. Imagine if he were alive today! This guy was able to perform conversions of high ranking officials in pagan Rome, imagine the damage he could inflict today. No liberal would be safe. Even Nancy Pelosi could be converted to Catholicism.

The point is, the progatheists are so busy planning their bacchanalian delights, they seem to have forgotten they’re celebrating a Saint. Well, what they don’t know might actually help them. So, when they try to tell you that Valentine is some dude who’s going out with Courtney Love, don’t correct them that he’s actually the patron saint of Courtly Love. We look forward to next month when everyone, including atheists, celebrates another saint: Saint Patrick.

1 We don’t actually conduct marketing research, but if we did, it is very likely it would show exactly what we think based on our sociological research (which we don’t actually do either).

 

2 “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

The Walrus and The Carpenter, Lewis Carroll, (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

 

3 This is not science, the systematic study of the physical and natural world. This is SCIENCE – the totally awesome thingy that will solve everything, even the things that science itself says it can’t solve, and you should totally believe in it because a lot of people really, really think it’s super-true and if you don’t just believe because they say so, then you’re just a hater.

 

Mary and #MeToo

A fun-loving atheist (and university professor) named Eric Sprankle recently tweeted “The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen.  There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”  He continued, “The biblical god regularly punished disobedience.  The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’  To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”

Anecdotal information about Sprankle indicates he may also be a satanist, or it could just be a hobby.  His tweets may have meant to be puckish and stir things up.  But they merit a response – particularly because many “cultural Christians” (and “cultural atheists”) are likely to read them and think “Hey – he’s got a point there!”

There are so many teachable moments it’s hard to know where to start.  We’ll select just three.

#1 – Faith and Reason.  Most anything can be made to look contemptible if viewed only with a narrow, cynical perspective determined to grasp soundbites to find justification for its contempt.  Catholicism, on the other hand, champions the inseparable pairing Faith and Reason.  Faith tells that God is all good.  He is goodness itself. Our faculty of reason confirms this truth.  Anyone who has turned their life over to Christ can testify that when we are living closely to Him and his Church, life goes well.  As we move away from him, the going gets tough.  Our experience and reason confirms for us that God is the source of goodness.  Mary would have known this perfectly well – she was born and raised to be a deeply faithful child of God. She would have trusted in God’s goodness.  We understand this from our human experience by considering a parent-child relationship. A small child trusts their parent perfectly because they intuitively know their parent wants only good for them.  Human parents, of course, aren’t perfect (for example they often let their children attend universities with (ahem!) narrow-minded professors), but you get the gist of the analogy.  So faith and reason would tell a rational person that God is all good and if he asks something of us, it will only be good for us.

#2 – Human Dignity and Free Will.  It can be hard for non-believers to believe (get that?) the great amount of freedom that Christianity recognizes is given to humanity.  We are actually free to say no to God (try saying no to, say, an average school board…).  As Katie Yoder, from Student’s For Life, pointed out (https://www.catholicvote.org/19815-2/) another woman, Eve, was perfectly willing to exercise her option to say “no” to God (one could say she was the first “pro-choice” woman).  And we see how well that worked out (for example, with a world where highly credentialed educators use one of the most beloved scenes from the bible to try to bait people of good will).  We all have the opportunity to say “no” to God. He doesn’t punish us like, say, a vindictive Antifa mob – but he does allow us to suffer the consequences of our “no”.

#3 – Rejection of God. Sprankle’s tweets are a powerful, and ominous, illustration of the principle that our freedom even allows us to ultimately reject God.  Many theologians have taught that the further we move from God the more heaven seems like hell, and hell like heaven. Consider Mr. Sprankle as Exhibit A.  The Nativity Story is one of the most tender and beloved moments in salvation history.  To Mr. Sprankle, it’s just another sign of oppression and brutality.  It matters not if his tweet was meant to be mischievous – it reveals his true feelings about God.  It is this type of hard heartedness (when even something like the nativity is worthy of mockery) that the theologians are speaking of, and taken to an extreme would lead a person, when faced with their final choice, to choose hell over heaven. Other examples abound – check out this from Salon (10 Ways Heaven is More Like Hell) as Exhibit B: https://www.salon.com/2015/03/23/10_ways_christian_heaven_is_more_like_hell_partner/

To be sure, only God knows who actually makes the choice to banish themselves to hell, and why they make that choice, but this is nothing to be taken lightly.

And this gets to the point of it. Some may consider Mr. Sprankle’s tweet puckish, pluckish or pithy – but the p-word that best describes the underlying mindset is “perilous.”  We must pray and sacrifice for the Sprankle’s of the world that are moving so far from God that even the concept of Him has become distasteful.  And we have to do our best to be points of light to help others from getting drawn into the darkness of Mr. Sprankle’s world.  Christmastime is as good as any to renew that inner fervor for Christ to be born anew in heart upon heart.

 

“Throw Away” Society

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about the well-worn maxim that ours is a “throw away” society. Unfortunately, ours is a society that also elevates innovation to a virtue. And we’ve brought that innovation to the “throw away” lifestyle.

Oh let us count the ways:

  • $699, 18-month-old iPhone, is already two generations behind the times? Replace it.
  • Appliance not working well? Junk it.
  • Don’t like your car? Just trade it in for a new model.
  • Don’t like your wife or husband? Ditto.
  • And the coup de grace (literally) – Don’t like your life? Those fun-loving progressives have a solution for that too. Physician Assisted Suicide. What could possibly go wrong with this idea?

So how did we get to where we are now? Let’s take a little stroll through history.

The 20th century was an era of endless enlightenment. One of the things we realized we didn’t need was clothes. Ever seen those old family pictures with Aunt Edna wearing a bathing suit that looked not unlike a potato sack, but not as well tailored? Then came the two piece bathing suits, which were actually less revealing than what many young girls wear to school and even Church these days. This evolved (which has apparently become a synonym for devolved in most cases these days, which is only confusing if you’re not used to thinking like a progressive) into the modern day bikini. We can all agree that three triangles with a combined area of a yarmulke is a barbarically unsustainable waste of material. Thank heavens someone was inspired with the thong. Great ideas spread quickly, like lice, and the same common-sense evolution of beach wear found its way into the gym, malls, schools, work places, Churches; really anywhere that people are, you know, clothed. And with that, and in less than 50 years, we were able to stick a fork in that oppressive M-word – modesty.

We’ve also evolved and thrown away oppressive societal mores in the way we speak. Who could forget George Carlin’s “Seven dirty words you can’t say on TV”? The oppression! The small-mindedness! The stifling of self-expression! It makes us want to scream from the roof-tops – WHAT THE FUDGE? But those endlessly fudging ingenious progressives came up with work-arounds. First there came cable TV without FCC oversight. Then there were distinctions for late night broadcast TV. Then there was desensitization through rap music and video games. In about 50 years’ time, we’ve moved from profanity as the eschewed discourse to the commonplace, tolerated and even preferred language of some groups. Yes, they fudged it up nice and good and now you can say just about anything, anywhere at any time.

But really, where’s the fun in being all naked and cursing like a sailor if you can’t do it while hopped up on drugs? In the old days we had alcohol and tobacco. For the adventurous few, “wacky tabacky” and for the really adventurous few, cocaine and opiates. Nowadays the world is your oyster. Feeling run down? There’s a pill for that. Feeling keyed up? There’s a pill for that. Not feeling amorous? There’s a pill for that. Need free syringes and a place to shoot up? We’ve got that too! Need pot without the legal hassle? We’ll legalize it. In short – just about any mood, any feeling, any situation, any personality type – whatever trait, condition or situation you want to do away with or change; there’s a pill or illegal (or now, legal) drug for that.

We’ve also been able to cast away decorum. In a world where sustainability is another cardinal virtue, and where a godless reality makes scarcity a presumption and abundance a pipe dream, there’s no room for niceties. We need efficiency and sound bites! There’s no time for manners or hearing people out. We have to get right down to it and bludgeon our opponent into submission with howling and shrieking. Why? WHY you ask??? Well …. so we can get back to being all naked and spitting out delightful profanity to one another.

And this brings us back to the penultimate end of the throw-away society. Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) — currently legal in only six states and the District of Columbia — has been branded as a compassionate way for terminally ill patients to choose when and how they die. Legislation is being pushed in about thirty statehouses by a national group from Colorado called Compassion & Choices. Right now PAS is in its infancy, but we foresee the progressives bringing to bear the same kind of innovation by which they have blessed the rest of the culture.

The most important step to keeping a camel out of your tent is to keep it from getting its nose under your tent flap. This is one case where we can’t even let the camel get its nose under the edge of the tent. Or else, be prepared for the slippery slope that will surely follow. Here’s how we expect it will progress, if legalized.

First, they’ll push on the definition of “Physician.” Then they’ll push on the language of “terminally ill.” Before you know it, we’ll see it advertised. Imagine the TV commercial: Don’t like how life’s treating you? Boss is a jerk? In debt up to your eyeballs? Ask your doctor about Enditol (generic drug name: taHELLwithitol). Side effects include loss of consciousness, bloating, cold hands, rigor mortis, forfeiture of life insurance benefits, eternal damnation in hell. If symptoms last longer than an eternity, consult with the devil himself.

But wait! There’s more! Once suicide is a commonplace lunch discussion topic, people will be free to ask whether you’ve considered suicide. “I have, er, had a friend who did it– you should try it!”

Imagine Designer Suicides. Are you an adrenalin junky? How about parachuteless sky diving? Imagine the traffic reports – “Bob, the left lane is closed for mop-up on the soundbound 405”. For the art aficionado – there’s the Pollock. You’re placed in a room with a giant canvas behind you and IED in front.

Although this is a darker article than our usual offerings, we didn’t want to avoid the topic because PAS is a real movement with dark forces trying to infect our nation state by state. Please resist. Contact your state level representative to preserve the sanctity of life. All life from conception to natural death is valuable. To not speak against PAS is an indirect endorsement of PAS.

This is the information for Maryland’s Stop PAS group. Search for a similar group in your state.

www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org

www.facebook.com/MarylandagainstPAS

www.twitter.com/StopPASmaryland

 

Pastoral Automation

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking of the current Parish struggles brought on by the shortage of religious vocations. Labor imbalances are nothing new in this country. Sometimes labor shortages occur from too much demand and too few skilled workers. Sometimes labor surpluses are brought about by minimum wage hikes that lead employers to seek ways to reduce costs. Whatever the source, when workers become scarce or too expensive, organizations look for ways to drive costs back down through automation and innovation. Does anyone remember a bowling alley with human pinsetters? Does anybody want to give up the 24/7 ubiquity of the ATM? Automation can free up labor resources to perform new activities.

In our case the labor shortage is a shortage of priests. As engineers, we asked ourselves, “What solutions have been left untapped?” People always seek “pastoral”, “well-considered”, “achievable” solutions. This is where we stand out by bringing a contrarian approach. Read on to see our vision of the priest shortage future.

Let’s take a look at the sacrament of reconciliation. IBM’s Watson technology can be brought to bear to greatly simplify this process. Picture this:

Penitent: “Bless me Watson for I have sinned. It’s been 3 months since my last confession.”

Watson: “No, it has been 198 days, 3 hours, 14 minutes and 16 seconds.”

Penitent: “I confess cheating on my spouse.”

Watson: “That will be 12,483 Hail Mary’s and 986.3 Our Fathers.”

You don’t want to mess with Watson– he’s a scary pairing of government databases, surveillance cameras and social media postings that would make George Orwell proud. If you forget to confess a sin, he can start drawing your transgressions in the sand.1

On the way out, the priest offers the absolution to confer grace. Think of the increased throughput! Like going to the doctor, the PA does most of the work and then the doctor comes and checks in on you.

Marriage becomes a similarly efficient affair. You gather the wedding party and guests. Since the husband and wife-to-be are the actual officiators of the sacrament, they get the ceremony started. At the right time they Skype a priest.

“Thank you for your call. We are currently experiencing high call volumes. Please wait for the next available priest. Your wait time is an estimated 98 minutes. For faster service press 2 to provide your credit card information to sponsor a seminarian.”

One of the greatest pastoral services of our priests are visiting the sick. This requires a multitude of technologies and efficiencies. First, hospitals are very spread out – a priest can easily walk the equivalent of a couple of miles to visit and bless everyone. The first tier of technology you should envision is a priest on a Segway Personal Transporter2 equipped with a Holy Water-filled super soaker. Let’s just let our vision of “The Holy Roller” (also known as “Spray and Pray”) soak in for a while before we move on to the startling concepts of the 2nd and 3rd tiers of innovation. We don’t want to send you, dear reader, into a state of future shock.

Nothing saps a Pastor’s time like running the day-to-day operations of the Parish. The future is here with the pairing of robotics and artificial intelligence. We offer you The Pastorbot! A humanoid robot with an exoskeleton that is creepily reminiscent of your pastor. Pastorbot thinks nothing of spending 30 minutes after Masses schmoozing the flock. Furthermore, the Pastorbot gives real-life answers through advanced neural-network based artificial intelligence. Actually, it turns out that artificial intelligence is really expensive and even less intelligent than what passes for old-fashioned intelligence. We have a better approach. The Pastorbot is programmed to give a highly optimized answer to every question. In fact, it turns out that the most optimized answer is actually the same for all questions. Consider the following hypothetical scenarios:

Head of Finance Committee: “Father, we need a sustainable funding source. The Committee recommends turning the narthex into a casino.”

Pastorbot: “That sounds reasonable. We’ll run it by the Parish Council.”

Concerned Parishioner: “I think my elderly mother is on her way out and she’d like it if you’d celebrate daily Mass at her bedside.”

Pastorbot: “That sounds reasonable. We’ll run it by the Parish Council.”

We’re pretty sure the robot folks can make Pastorbot’s voice sound just like HAL from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This brings us to the Parish Council. Let’s be honest – it’s way too time consuming and doesn’t accomplish anything (which is part of the brilliance of the optimized Pastorbot response). Our efficiency plan hinges on dissolving the Council. Don’t get us wrong, there will still be a “parish council” but it won’t be compromised of actual, you know, “people”. We’re very confident the same results can be achieved by employing a Magic Eight Ball. The Pastorbot compiles the list of weekly proposals, requests and considerations. Then you Pastor brings these things to the magic eight ball and gets down to making decisions. And just like that – poof! – next week’s bulletin includes the notification that the narthex will soon be turned into a casino.

The same minds that bring us the Pastorbot also market the Eulogizer 2000. After responding to a short survey (hobbies, next of kin, etc) the Eulogizer 2000 spits out a custom eulogy, ready-to-go and with an 89-to-13 probability of bringing tears to the eyes of loved ones. If parish demographics predict an uptick in funerals, you definitely want to give serious thought to this feature-packed option.

There are 17,651 local Catholic parishes and approximately 37,000 priests in the United States. We’re going out on a limb here: There are at least 17,651 unique homilies based on the same set of readings. We call that a massive duplication of effort. Wouldn’t it be better to pool resources and have 500-1000 gifted homolists target all languages, ethnic groups, and regional issues? We propose the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) host a YouTube type of homily service. Best of all, this service (The Homily Homogenizer™) can be paired with the ever-popular Sermoney™ expansion pack to deliver high-return donation appeals.

If you don’t share our enthusiasm for this brave new vision of the Church, but rather find it more disturbing and shocking, get to your knees and pray for our priests and religious vocations! Do your part to encourage and support religious vocations. Otherwise, prepare yourself to someday be Homilized by your Pastorbot.

3Past performance does not guarantee future results. If use of the Eulogizer 2000 results in itching, blistering, intestinal discomfort or swelling of the brain, consult with your physician.

Capital Project Funding

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about how we fund large capital projects in our parishes. You know – new sanctuaries, new parish centers, new schools, new sports fields, new elevator to heaven1. These are the things that force our unfortunate pastors to give the “Sermon on the Amount” speeches at the end of Mass. There’s got to be a better way to develop a sustainable revenue stream. And that’s what this article addresses.

In the spirit that “grace builds on nature” and Catholicism’s particular genius for adopting and transforming aspects of pagan culture, we’ve decided to look to successful areas of commerce for inspiration.

Toll Roads. Who hasn’t experienced the joy and liberation of EZPass? While other poor schlepps are stranded in 80-car deep lines at the cash-only toll booth lanes, you glide by at an effortless 60 mph in the EZPass lane. Who wouldn’t welcome that same feeling of freedom when exiting the Church parking lot? We propose introducing the EZMass. For a small fee, you get to bypass the parking lot chaos. For a slightly less-small fee, you get priority parking adjacent to the EZMass lane.

Then there’s the airline model. First let’s face the facts that big sanctuaries cost big money. More space means more interior finishes (more carpet, more paint, etc) and higher utility costs for heating and cooling. If we go with the airline seating model we can easily pack the same number of parishioners into half the space. The back half of the church would have pews so close together, you’d wish you were in coach row 42. Of course, ample leg room is available up front for a small upgrade fee. And if you want the first class experience, you should check out the Lay-Z-Boy recliners in the front row.

When it comes to draining customer’s bank accounts by feeding their every desire, the sports and entertainment industries stands proud. There are so many things we can learn from their bloodthirsty take-no-prisoners approach to fleecing their target audience. Where to start? Let’s face it, stained glass windows are so middle-ages. All of that annoying colored glass severely cuts into the passive solar heating benefits. And all of that carcinogenic lead – it’s as if Marlboro and Lucky Strike got together and said “what’s the best way to make windows?” Lastly, and most importantly, they only show one image – the same thing all the time. Boooorrrrr-ing! One of the sports industry’s innovations stands out – the JumboTron — a huge Sony Trinitron video display. We propose a huge display we’ll call the “Trinity-tron.” Replace those stained glass windows with Trinity-trons. The possibilities are endless. Those ads at the back of the bulletin – the ones that no one reads? Ta da!!! Now they’re bigger than life and won’t be a bit distracting from the homily. Think of the premium advertisers will be willing to pay! Speaking of homilies – an advertiser could sponsor (for a modest fee) a homily count-down clock. And imagine Matthew 24:362 with a glowing ad for your local funeral home. Now there’s impact!

This brings us to the PBS fundraising approach as a sustainable source of high-net revenue: Homily Extortion. Oops, that was a typo. We meant, Homily Shakedown. Oops again – that darn auto-correct. The Homily Thon – that’s it. A funding goal is posted on the Trinity-trons. The homily continues until the funding goal is reached or exceeded.

We can look to retail to show us the way to streamline revenue collection. We can build in credit card terminals to take micro payments (including crypto currency, of course!). Even old-school basket collections can be modernized with drones. If equipped with proper artificial intelligence the drones will have the capacity to shakedown (there goes the auto-correct again) well-healed parishioners.

Fleece the sinners. This approach charges fees for unholy activities. Plan to leave Mass between communion and the final blessing? Remember, Judas was the first to leave mass early3. Don’t forget your Mastercard for the “Judas” turnstile. And what about reconciliation? There’s gold in that booth. Venial sins are “on the house” but mortal sins will cost you dearly. After receiving your absolution and penance, you swipe your credit card to unlock the door to exit. [Note: Father needs to resist the urge to say “Thank you, come again.”]

Lastly there’s that other well-oiled cash cow to look to – the federal government. “Well oiled”, you scoff? What other organization is as effective at picking our pockets? And how do they do it? With the promise of services and protection backed up with a heavy hand of fear and intimidation. Remember “never let a crisis go to waste”? The folks inside the DC beltway are masters of keeping us always needing more of, well, whatever they want to spend our money on. Mother Church protects us from the biggest threat of all – eternal damnation. She just needs better marketing.

Seriously now, sometimes a mechanical system in the church basement goes kaput. As a regular parishioner, you’ve probably never seen it, but you’re part of the community at the hour of need. Sure, the church could put your name on a plaque, but maybe recognition shouldn’t be a factor in your decision to support your corner of God’s kingdom. And of course, we apologize in advance if your next parish capital campaign has a line-item for a Trinity-tron.

 

1 ADA replacement for the 1970’s Stairway to Heaven.

2 “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

Life and Stuff

Bob and Steve, here. With Stephen Hawking’s passing there have been no small amount of press about his theories of the creation of the universe. So we’ve been thinking about the universe, and life. What is it? Where did it come from? Where is it going? Are its best days behind us, or does it show promise for the future?

Where did it all come from? The book of Genesis tells us that life, the universe and everything (we’re not sure about sporks) was created by God. So, that settles that. “Not so fast!” the New Atheists say! What about the whole 7-day business? And isn’t most of the world feeling pretty good and satisfied with evolution?

Let’s start with the 7 days of creation vs the scientific estimate of a 15 billion year-old Earth. First of all, 7 days and 15 billion years really aren’t that far apart – cosmologically speaking. We think a lot of the confusion may just be a matter of units and conversion factors. Recall the NASA Mars probe that went poof! Why? Unit conversions – imperial and metric. Gets ‘em every time. Probably the same thing with the Bible. Who’s to say what units the ancients were working with when they were laying down Genesis on the old papyrus? More likely than not the conversion to days would have involved fortnights and cubic light years or something like that. Then there’s the issue of experiential time versus actual time. Seven days can feel like 15 billion years if you spend them watching Ishtar or CSPAN.

Second, the Church never claimed that Genesis is a historical accounting of things, let alone a scientific accounting of things. It’s a theological accounting of things. God created everything (again, the spork caveat), and man is at the top of the heap.

Well, what about the evolution of life? The New Atheists love this one. “What about the fossil record1?” they howl. “What does that do to your superstitious mumbo jumbo about men from dirt and women from ribs?” they chortle! “There goes all that business about original sin” they hoot! Well, not so fast. The Church has no problem with evolution of the body. If God wanted to try out a few alpha and beta test versions before fusing precious souls to physical bodies, so be it. Frankly, we’re not convinced that the current version is “fully baked.” It does shed light on whether God is an engineer or a realist. An engineer would never have shipped products like us with all of our bugs. A realist certainly would with the confidence that they’ll fix it in the next release (aka Heaven).

It got us thinking to call Heaven’s tech support and get their take on all of this. So call we did.

HTS: Thank you for your call. Your call is very important to us. Luckily we’re infinite and can answer all calls simultaneously in all languages. We’ll be with you in a fraction of a jiffy.

US: Very cool.

HTS: Hello, how can we help you?

US: We’re trying to get straightened out on the source of life, where it’s headed, whether there are franchise opportunities, that sort of thing.

HTS: (silence)

US: Hellooooo? Anyone there?

HTS: (silence)

US: Hellooooo? Can you hear us? Did we get disconnected? It’s all silent??

HTS: Of course it’s silent. We’re very big on silence. You know … Elijah? First Kings?

US: Oh, come on! Silence? That’s all? If we wanted silence we could have called Microsoft.

Back to evolution, if you want to send a New Atheist into paroxysms, ask him where the first life came from. Even the simplest cells are mind-bogglingly complex. How many molecules have to be in just the right combination, in just the right place, doing just the right thing to cause cellular respiration? Don’t even get us started about the replication of DNA! How did that incomprehensibly well-tuned organization of thousands of bits of space-stuff just “happen”? If the New Atheist doesn’t believe God ordained it then they’re left with two options: (1) they cling hopelessly to a theory so astronomically improbable that it’s akin to a volcano erupting and forming an exact replica of the Eifel Tower, rivets and all – it’s so absurd you might as well say a Giant Spaghetti Monster flew down from the sky and created life. We actually can’t recall what the second option is, but it probably has something to do with sporks.

1 For our younger readers, the fossil record does not refer to the long-playing “LP” 33 ⅓ record. It refers to the much older 78 rpm record.

St. Patrick’s Day

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about St. Patrick’s Day.

Ahhh, St. Patty’s Day. A day known for many things, such as: green beer; shamrocks; leprechauns; corn beef and cabbage; snakes and funny sticks (otherwise known as Shillelaghs); and, even more green beer.

 
As we all know, St. Patrick was born to a pious and wealthy British family about the year 385. When he was fourteen or so, he was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland and forced to tend sheep. Ireland at that time was predominantly populated by pagans (think Hollywood, but more civilized), and Druids (think Ivy League elite, but less agnostic). During this time of captivity, Patrick turned to God and was blessed with a deep and abiding faith. After his escape from Ireland, he entered the priesthood, ultimately returning to Ireland to spend the rest of his life converting souls, ultimately as bishop.

 
St. Patrick’s Day also brings with it the welcome inevitability of Spring. The vibrant Kelly green reminds us of new growth, in stark contrast to the cold greys and browns of winter. Green is such a happy color – what better way to celebrate it than to put beer in it.

 

And about those snakes- certainly they are ideally suited for St. Patrick’s Day in that they’re already on the ground even without being inebriated. We’ve done quite a bit of research on the topic of St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland. Some naturalists claim that Ireland never had snakes to begin with. They base this on “biogeography” and comparisons with “similar ecosystems”. That’s all well and good, but we’ve adopted our preferred method of intrinsic hyperbolistic factification. Employing this method, we determined that the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day itself crowded the snakes out of Ireland; there wasn’t enough room on the ground for both inebriated Irishmen and snakes. So the snakes left to find greener pastures and more suitable environs to form the ABA¹.

 
One thing’s for sure, St. Patrick became beloved for ridding Ireland of pests. This got us to thinking, “if only we could get St. Patrick to wield his pest-ridding powers in modern times…” Stink bugs – gone! Reality TV – poof! Planned Parenthood – shuttered! Terrorist – converted! Hollywood – same! Email spammers – transformed into sporks (useful as neither spoon nor fork.) Speed cameras – instantly vaporized! Relativism – destroyed, absolutely! Sporks – banished to the 3rd circle of hell where their handle-snapping pointlessness can never again terrorize 2nd graders the world around.

 
As for Shamrocks, some of you might have the misunderstanding that these are pretend rocks. Not so. Nor are they distant relatives of the ShamWow! product as seen only on TV. Shamrocks are the ubiquitous three-leafed plant used by St. Patrick to teach the dogma of the blessed Trinity.

 
Shillelagh is a word we’ve heard but never spelled in our lives, and probably never will again. For those not familiar with this word, it rhymes with ukulele and is derived from an ancient Irish word meaning “I’m so inebriated I can’t speak clearly”. If we find a sober Irishmen, we’ll ask him for a better translation. Nowadays, Shillelagh refers to walking sticks and is closely associated with all things Irish. Shillelaghs are also known to have been used as a gentlemanly way to settle disagreements. We think they should be distributed to all members of Congress.

 
And lastly, we come to corned beef and cabbage. Despite its strong connection with St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage is not a specifically Irish dish. In fact, we haven’t found anyone who will stand up and take credit for it, other than the Scots who are looking for anything to substitute for Haggis. Acting on our mission to probe the great mysteries of life and leave our readers better educated before starting than after finishing our articles, we set about investigating what, in fact, is corned beef? Certainly it’s not corn. Is it beef? That remains unknown. What we have established is that corned beef actually traces its heritage to the French. Following the Renaissance, French epicures scoured the continent and appropriated all of the foods that were palatable. Whatever was left was divided primarily among the British Isles. Thus corned beef was relegated to the Irish, Haggis to the Scots, and everything else boiled to the Brits. We don’t know how to explain the German preparation of floating bits of meat in aspic, but it does shed light in their habit of waging war on their neighbors.

 
There you have it. Two engineer’s analysis of St. Patrick’s Day. If we took a wee bit too much liberty with the stereotypes of our Irish brethren, it’s with a nod to the well-known trait of those from the Green Isle to have a fine sense of humor. And whatever else the malt beverage marketing departments might have us believe, St. Patrick’s Day serves to remind us that all good things come from God. In this case, it’s the celebration of a great saint without whose heroic efforts we wouldn’t have the beautiful contributions of a Christian Ireland. And green beer isn’t bad either.

 

  1. American Bar Association