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Website-creator turned author Janice Taylor brings her food-obsessed, playful, confessional ourladyofweightloss.com to the printed page, with a new book titled the same: “Our Lady of Weight Loss: Miraculous and Motivational Musings From the Patron Saint of Permanent Fat Removal” (Viking Studio).

As someone who grew up in a house filled with saintly paraphernalia and an all-too-pervasive knowledge of the, count-em, 6000 or so saints that make the Catholic holier-than-thou grade, I’m all for coming up with new saints for such difficult wordly tasks as weight loss. And Taylor–a weight-loss coach by profession–more or less masquerades as the Lady herself. NY Times book reviewer Liesl Schillinger explains that Taylor’s weekly e-letter includes “confessions” of dietary transgressions sent in by the weight-struggling–which Our Lady of Weight Loss promptly and kindly forgives: “For instance,” writes Schillinger about one e-letter. “When a woman admits that she wolfed down an egg biscuit and hash browns at McDonald’s–‘I sullied myself for the sake of convenience’–Our Lady is merciful: ‘All is forgiven. Move on.'”

Truth be told, Our Lady of Weight Loss seems a bit more New Age than Catholic as far as spiritual persuasions go, and certainly not without humor, as evident in Taylor’s site describtion of this saint of fat removal: “Our Lady of Weight Loss is dedicated to those who are drawn to The Art of Weight Loss. Our Lady encourages all to lighten up in every way. Have fun, laugh at yourself, enjoy a healthful lifestyle, and redirect those ‘feeding’ energies into something creative and more fulfilling than any bowl of ice cream could ever be.”

Taylor’s inspiration that started it all?

Janice’s [Taylor] epiphany came one day in 2001 when she dragged herself to a weight loss center “where people obsess about weight and food,” she recalled. “I weighed in and nearly keeled over. The scales of injustice were heavy indeed. It was all so dreary and depressing. I thought, ‘I’m never going to make it.'” Then she heard The Voice (who later revealed herself to be Our Lady of Weight Loss), “If you think you’re never going to make it, you never will. You’re an artist. Make weight loss an art project.” And she did, becoming America’s first weight loss artist.

Well, at least “The Voice” part sounds very Catholic!

With the TV season back in gear, how about a tribute to American’s favorite television Christian?

Past Billy Graham television specials have focused on issues such as divorce or on cities in ruin, such as hurricane-ravaged New Orleans. But the latest evangelistic crusade, broadcast from Baltimore, asks the question, “Do you know where your children are?” Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, continues to take the helm of the behemoth evangelical ministry, while the ministry increasingly is focusing on reaching out to teens, in this case by addressing the staggering and bleak statistics surrounding teenage runaways.

The special follows the usual Crusade format of testimonies of dramatic conversions–in this case from teens who used to live on the streets–mixed with coverage of Franklin Graham preaching and contemporary Christian musical guests singing their latest hits. While I have never been a huge supporter of this type of old-fashioned revival-style formula for evangelizing, a thought struck me as I was watching the special. With pseudo-celebs like Stephen Baldwin trying to make Jesus “rad” by developing gospel skateboarding comic books while Christian bookstores sell the latest “Gospel According To…” book, maybe it’s time to go a little retro in the way the gospel is preached after all .

Jesus didn’t try to follow pop culture trends to make his message fashionable, He told the truth in simple terms. So while Graham’s method of ministry may seem old-fashioned, it is perhaps ever-so-slightly more effective than the latest Christian slogan or marketing trend.

Baylor University’s Institute on Studies of Religion is pitching their new report, “American Piety in the 21st Century,” as a testament to how diverse and complex religious feelings in our country really are. The report does show that many religiously unaffiliated people pray, and that “The Passion,” produced by a conservative Catholic and championed by white evangelicals, was most popular among African-American Protestants. The subtext of the data, however, is to show how culturally divided we are.

It’s right there in the charts relating church attendance to consumption of the controversial thriller “The Da Vinci Code.” Quite simply, Baylor found, the less you attend church, the more likely you are to have read the book. Only 16 percent of evangelical Protestants read Dan Brown’s novel; those who gave their affiliation as “None” were twice as likely to have read it, and “Other” were more than three times as likely.

On the other hand, “VeggieTales,” Rick Warren, and the “Left Behind” series all appeal to 20-25 percent of the population—a number close enough to the percentage of evangelicals in the national body to suggest that as popular as those products have become, they are still confined mostly to their home communities.

Since St. Paul, Christians have asked the question, What influences you most: Christ or culture? Judging from Baylor’s report, the answer might be that what influences us most is neither Christ nor culture, but which Christian culture we come from.