Beliefnet
Idol Chatter

Since the invention of blog technology–which made instant publishing accessible to the masses–we have taken for granted the immediacy of the form. For people who grapple with issues of faith, our instant access to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others begs a question: what would Jesus–not to mention L. Ron Hubbard–blog?

Now, thanks to writer Paul Davidson’s new book, The Lost Blogs: From Jesus to Jim Morrison,” we have some of the answers. Davidson gives us the access we’ve been waiting for, escorting us into the blogpages of famous historical figures, including several prominent religious leaders.

In Davidson’s world, Jesus runs a Carpentry Blog, in which he provides hints about creating a “water or wine rack,” the perfect place to “store both satisfying thirst quenchers in one place and never find yourself deficient of either…” “The Lost Blogs” also grants us access to Moses’s personal account of the parting of the Red Sea, in which he urges readers to “check out Pharaoh’s blog, which will, I’m quite sure, contain some fairly amusing observations about yesterday’s incident involving me and the chosen people of Israel.” In another post, Brigham Young bemoans his impossible task of shopping for Mothers’ Day (apostrophe after the ‘s’ is intentional–he’s a polygamist, get it?).

There are also entries from a house-harried Muhammad (“These freakin’ kids are driving me crazy”) and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard notes an amusing conversation with a friend: “We talked about how hilarious it might have been had people modeled a religion… based on the theme of strange alien creatures that must be eradicated or else humans would suffer! A religion based on getting rid of aliens! Hah!”

On Davidson’s site, thelostblogs.com, you are informed that you have reached the homepage of WOMP, the World Organization for Manuscript Preservation. WOMP positions “The Lost Blogs” as the book that will “finally put to rest the debate over whether or not well-known historical icons actually did take advantage of ancient blogging technologies.”

For those interested in acquiring fake historical memorabilia, the WOMP store also “sells” items like the “John Wilkes Booth Authentic Theatre Head Shot,” “William Shakespeare’s Lost Transcripts Of His Unreleased Play, ‘Duke, Where’s My Carriage!?,’ and a series of selected photos from “Helen Keller’s photoblog.” Initial investigation indicates that the aforementioned items have not been carbon-dated to determine authenticity, because that would take all the fun out of it.

I have to disagree with Michael, my fellow Idol Chatterer, who fails to see the importance of Joe Public getting a glimpse of little Suri Cruise. Since the beginning of this so-called love affair (I mean relationship) between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, the couple has been so kind to let us in on every detail. We’ve seen him jump on the couch on “Oprah,” wildly gush about how much he loves his woman-child (after mere weeks of courting), and proudly display his affection for her on many occasions and continents.

So why be shy now?

After the visual assault that was laid on America, TomKat dares to shy away from the paparazzi photo gallery of their first born, and even worse, allegedly keeps family and friends from actually seeing her. Sure, the birth of a couple’s first child is sacred, but once you become a celebrity you give up all rights to sacredness. It should be no surprise that the paparazzi are beating down the door at all three of TomKat’s homes and that speculation is abounding day by day.

Of course there is going to be backlash among the masses because so much of our regularly scheduled lives were interrupted by the walking blog otherwise known as TomKat. A monster has been created amongst the people of America, who feel it is what is owed to us after months of having front row seats to the show.

TomKat, ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what can you do for your country–and the millions of us who you’ve entangled in your web will answer, “Show us the baby!” And don’t wait until your next movie to come out for the Suri Showcase.

If a rose by any other name is still a rose, then is Mr. T without his miles of gold chains still Mr. T?

The AP reports that Mr. T, star of “The A-team,” Rocky movies and his own eponymously named Saturday morning cartoon, is saying bye-bye to the bling after experiencing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

“As a spiritual man, I felt it would be a sin against my God for me to wear all that gold again because I spent a lot of time with the less fortunate,” the AP quotes the actor as saying at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting.

“I saw some, I call it ‘sorry celebrities.’ They’ll go down there [New Orleans] and hook up with the people to take a photo-op. I said, ‘How disgusting.’ If you’re not going to go down there with a check and a hammer and a nail to help the people, don’t go down there.”

And that’s the kind of unvarnished opinion that the former Lawrence Tero will bestow upon viewers of his new advice show “I Pity the Fool,” premiering on TV Land in October.

If you’re the kind who likes to hit the beach armed not with literary fluff but with serious reading, surf’s up: two of the year’s most important and engaging books with a religious twist have been published just in time for summer vacation. From Nextbook/Schocken Books comes “Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity,” by Rebecca Goldstein. Goldstein meditates on the thought and image of Baruch Spinoza, the 17th-century philosopher, who was excommunicated by his Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam at the age of 23, but who remains a hero to Jews even today as one who fashioned a Jewish identity outside strict orthodoxy.

As this review in The Forward points out, Goldstein, a novelist as well as a philosophy prof, is at her best when she introduces moments from her own life to elucidate the Jewish community’s complicated relationship with a thinker whose philosophy often swerves closer to Buddhism, according to this interview with Goldstein, than traditional Judaism.

If Spinoza draws his fascination from being an outcast from his faith, Henry Ward Beecher was the ultimate insider. A son of the monolithic Calvinist preacher Lyman Beecher and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry took as his birthright the mantle of public intellectual, turning his pulpit at Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church into a forum for debating slavery, women’s rights, temperance, and other controversies of the age, and turning himself into “the most important person in America,” in the words of his contemporary, Abraham Lincoln. Debby Applegate’s new biography captures why we’re not taught much about Beecher in high school: Not only was Beecher’s life marred by scandal—he was put on trial for adultery in 1875—but he helped invent the particular swirl of money, politics, celebrity, and religion that invigorates American life but also marks its most contentious and turbulent times.