Editing a faith-focused website like Beliefnet, it’s hard not to dream of the star writers I wish we could get to write for us. And who is bigger than Jesus Christ himself? Alas, he hasn’t been on the freelance market for a while–or so I thought. Somehow the humor magazine The Onion got him to contribute an opinion piece in the current issue.
In “No Way I’m Saving That Guy,” the Man From Nazareth tells us he’s finally reached the limit of his heretofore-unlimited forgiving nature. Acknowledging that he is “supposed to be all-merciful, universally loving, the Light and the Way and everything,” Mr. Christ goes on to blast the owner of a local automative shop (though he refrains from saying what locality that is), listing his many faults. He continues:
Don’t get Me wrong. I’m extremely forgiving–to a fault, maybe. I’ve absolved some of the worst people you can imagine. We’ve got thieves, adulterers, murderers, even Romans sent to persecute my followers out the wazoo up here. In fact, if you ask Biblical scholars or learned clergy, they’ll go so far as to tell you My capacity for forgiveness is infinite. Well, that’s usually true. But not with this a—-e.
A word to Jesus: It’s true that The Onion has some of the most biting religious satire out there and can always be counted on for some laugh-out-loud reading. But, please. Beliefnet is the biggest spiritual website around, and I’m sure we can fit you into our roster of columnists. Gimme a call, and we can discuss terms.
Earlier this week, Oprah held a Dr. Phil-like parental advice-giving session, yet not with Dr. Phil himself–her show about on-camera counseling for families in crisis was hosted by none other than the ubiquitous Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of many popular books, including his most recent, “10 Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children.” Rabbi Shmuley is no stranger to television, either–he hosts his own show, called “Shalom in the Home,” airs on TLC, Monday nights at 10 p.m.
His appearance on Oprah’s show included no shortage of “Shmuleyisms“–bits of wisdom that this celebrity rabbi offers to parents and kids unhappy at home, quite like the popular TV nannies that many of my friends with children watch religiously every week. “Shmuleyisms” are generally straightforward and certainly not earth-shattering, and include simple views like the following:
“Many parents believe they can take a hammer and chisel and sculpt their children into an image of what they want them to be. Instead, it’s much more effective to get [your children] to hear their own inner voice of what they want to be.”
“Parenting is done with two hands–the right hand is unconditional love, and the left hand is establishing boundaries amidst that unconditional love. That is the role of a parent–love and discipline.”
On Oprah, Rabbi Shmuley packed the salvation of four families into one hour, departing from his regular “Shalom in the Home” formula, which focuses just on one family per hour-long episode. Each family story arc on Oprah included the requisite embarassing camera-in-the-home footage of parental incompetence and bratty childish behavior, followed by a Rabbi Shmuley miracle advice session, followed (in most cases) by happy-ending footage of a family excursion orchestrated by the rabbi himself, talking them through success all the way.
As I am one of those people who watches reality TV with my hands over my face, not able to suffer through the public humiliation of others, I can’t say that after Rabbi Shmuley’s Oprah debut I’ll be canceling my Monday night plans to make it home in time for “Shalom in the Home,” but it was interesting to see a “male nanny” taking control of the reality-parenting market for once–and a rabbi at that.
John Holland is the perfect psychic for the History Channel. He eschews the usual gimmicks of media mediums, the schmaltziness of John Edward or the histrionics of “Most Haunted” and “Ghost Town”‘s Derek Acorah, and even goes so far as to say, with a slight roll of the eyes, that although he’s able to take on personality traits of people who’ve passed, he’s “not being possessed.”
Holland, a Boston born-and-bred psychic medium, is apparently well-known on the lecture and book circuits, but is looking to break into the lucrative world that is cable television with “Psychic History.“
In the pilot episode John is taken to Waco, Texas, to the former site of the Branch Davidian compound, Mount Carmel. Currently, nothing occupies the site other than a small non-descript church. All signs and identifying markers were either removed or covered. Holland is not told where he’s going and arrives blindfolded. He is able to relive the events and answer some of the mysteries surrounding the 1993 siege: Yes, the Branch Davidians shot first, and yes, some of the Davidians were being held against their will. What may be most remarkable is that Holland is able to get readings off of a house in L.A. that once housed weapons used in the siege. Apparently, this information was only known by police. (The pilot episode is being re-aired July 8 at 5 p.m.)
My only quibble with the show is an incredible credulity-stretching moment when John is taken to the garage where Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated, as a sort of warm-up to Waco. In this very non-descript parking garage, accompanied by the law enforcement officer handcuffed to Oswald that day, Holland is able to determine that they are at the site of the shooting, but then seems to say that Oswald was a generous person. While the former officer completely disagrees with this assessment, the narrator chimes in with a line about how “John may have been right after all,” as his assassin Jack Ruby was known to be a very giving man. If that isn’t trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, then what is?
The show is typical History Channel treatment, featuring one-on-ones with experts and participants, for the most part properly couching language so as to not present Holland’s readings as absolute fact and leaving room for differing viewpoints. Plus, an investigative reporter from the Dallas Morning News accompanies Holland in order to verify what he’s saying.
Whether you believe in psychic abilities or not, “Psychic History” is an interesting, remarkably balanced show for the genre.
The devil I await is the one wearing Prada, of course.
Though the idea of embodying the devil in female form is not terribly original, I tore through Lauren Weisberger’s payback of a novel, “The Devil Wears Prada“–a thinly veiled “fictionalized” account of Weisberger’s stint as the tortured assistant of none other than the Queen of Fashion herself: Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue. The story is a deliciously hellish portrayal of the underside of the glitter and glamour of the runway and its fashionista critics and connoisseurs. I am excited to see it portrayed on the big screen when the movie version of “The Devil Wears Prada” opens tomorrow, and despite the fact that the famously fashionable are bemoaning the film’s “lack of chic” according to Ruth La Ferla’s article in today’s New York Times, “The Duds of ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’“
Though the film’s director, David Frankel, apparently aimed to create a “magical kingdom of fashion” for movie-goers, he missed the mark, La Ferla reports. Rather, the film portrays “a caricature of what people who don’t work in fashion think fashion people look like.”
Regardless of the pan–at least from the runway angle–I’m excited to see Meryl Streep’s stint as the devil in couture clothing as she plays the role of Miranda Priestly, the Anna Wintour-like character.