The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus

The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus January 14, 2008

Reposting this review; the book, just released, is a really funny read (especially for Net Surfers with a goodly dollop of theoknowledgey).

Dispatches from the Intersection of Christianity and Pop Culture
Tom Breen, author
Fr Joseph Huneycutt, only the reviewer

It’s high time that someone finally wrote this book, but it should have been me. I’m a bit put off that there was not a more sufficient waiting period. Scout’s honour, I’m writing just as fast as I can. Please, in the future dear publishers, be patient. In this changing world of electronic gizmos (e.g., transistor radios, electric football, night-lights, and hot air popcorn), it’s difficult to stay ahead of the curve. Now comes word that there’s such a thing as an “Internet Theologian.” Who knew? Or, to use the hip e-parlance of the day: It. Should. Have. Been. Who? That’s right. Me. (For those of you above the age of 50, try diagramming the above phrase. Weird, huh?)

Well if you’re just now grasping weird, you’ll find no better primer than this little book – especially if you like things a bit on the churchy side. But, be warned: If you believe laughing to be a sin, you may, at this very moment, be on the threshold of grave danger. Do not. I repeat. Do not read this book. Unless, of course, you’re some sort of radical that believes sin is good for the soul.1

[NB: Scroll down for footnotes.]

As I have already mentioned – or, in case you just joined us – this book was not written by me. It was written by millions and millions of tiny words invented by Tom Breen.2 Calling himself the Internet Theologian, he writes:

First, there will be times in the course of this book when you will scratch your head and say, “I never knew that before. I’d better double-check it.” However, your fact-checking efforts will come to naught, because many of the statements I use to make points in this book are “pre-facts”: that is, they are statements that sound plausible, but for which there is yet no conclusive evidence to establish their accuracy.

What a goof. Please, bear with me as I pilfer a few more of his words:

In summary, what you hold in you hands is an impassioned attempt to explain, for the confused and bewildered, the places where religion intersects with popular culture and what this means for Christianity, America, and the future of movies marketed to audiences who don’t think there should be any swearing in war films.

Seeking here to prove my original point, I not only could have written those words – I just did!3

This work is not only cutting edge, entertaining, and life-changing, it’s also downright necessary. Religion is at the forefront of public debate in America in a way it hasn’t been since the great Civil Rights Era, when the Rev. Martin “Junior” Luther issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of Faneuil Hall, with its immortal opening phrase: “Fourscore and seven years ago, I come not to praise Caesar, but to bury him.”

As an aside, those of you who know where or what a Faneuil is, please inform me at NoFunkyWords@hadIwrittenthebook.con.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Hey! If I’d wanted to read something really witty, something on the cutting edge combining technology, theology, chronology, and [insert favorite ology word here, like, for example, blog] I would have really gotten wiki with it and read Tom Breen’s new book, The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus – Dispatches from the Intersection of Christianity and Pop Culture. Alas, I’m afraid to say, you would be wrong.4

As an Orthodox Christian, I was pleasantly surprised that the author used the word Orthodox (not, mind you, the more common dinky-o “orthodox”) at least seven million times in the book.5 For instance,

Orthodox Christians: Until recently, most scholars agreed that Orthodox Christians didn’t really exist. Like werewolves, fairies, and Romanians, they were simply a charming Old World fable designed to delight children with outlandish details regarding the rich, luxurious beards and interminable arguments about the proper interpretation of Greek words. Upon further reflection, some scholars now cautiously hazard the guess that there are roughly 250 million Orthodox Christians in the world, with a lineage stretching back to the earliest days of the Church. As for what these strange, chanting, hirsute folk actually believe, though, no one is yet confident enough to hazard a guess.6

Oh, don’t fret. The author makes fun of – which means explains – your particular brand of Christianity as well. What, you think I have all day? You’ll have to write your own review! Though, trust me, there’s big words to be learnt here:

Apokatastasis: This extremely long Greek word (meaning, literally, “Dukakis-like furlough program”) basically means “everyone gets off scot-free.” It’s sort of like what would happen if God were a Democrat. Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the awesomely-named Gregory Thaumaturge are the key early proponents of this theory. However, it fell into disfavor when Origen (or, possibly, just his backup singers, known as the Origen-ettes) suggested that even the Devil would be saved. Running into him in Heaven would be even more surprising than meeting Judas there, and marginally more of a shock than bumping into your Uncle Al.

Adult Converts to Orthodoxy are aware of the healing effects of just saying the word Apokatastasis. Oh sure, it’s a heresy all right. But only liars will say that it ain’t fun to say.7 Let me just add another footnote here.8

As I am getting fairly close to plagiarismcopyright infringement – the end of this book review, I must skip ahead through a good chunk of the Internet Theologian’s attempt at writing my book to steal the following two paragraphs:

Grown-Up Hippie Christians are important for our purposes because they have such a close and familiar relationship with popular culture. Since childhood, when TV was invented by Milton Berle, these people have thought of their lives in terms of popular culture, from the Beatles to the satisfying documentaries of the Sundance Channel.

And just as no one is better suited to explain Christianity than the Internet Theologian, no group is more skilled than the Grown-Up Hippie Christians at translating the confusing world of theology to the argot of pop culture. So why don’t they get more attention?9

Ah yes, here we are at the end of this review. But I shall not leave you hanging, dear reader. Closure is needed. First, a question: Do you have an Uncle Al? Me neither. So that part about not seeing him in heaven meant zippo to me. Now for the spoiler, since I was not allowed to write the book, though the blame is yet to jell in this regard, I shall leave you with – honest to goodness – the final paragraph of The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus taken, I believe, from the book of Ezekiel:

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary not to praise Caesar, but to bury him, two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by. We hold these truths to be self-evident: I think, therefore I am. Do unto others. I can call you Betty and Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.”10

______________________________________

1 – Obviously, this should read: “Unless you believe that laughter is good for the soul” – but you know what I meant!

2 – For the record: Ever since I was young, I have used the word million, millions of times, to refer to “a whole lot” (i.e., way more than fourteen).

3 – The Internet Theologian’s book lies beside me on the couch, but I solemnly promise that I have typed every single word you have just read into my very own keyboard. (He merely wrote them first. And you know what the Bible says about those who are first, right? But I digress.)

4 – Facetious is a fun word, though often mispaled.

5 – Fourteen is also a big number.

6 – I hazard to say, mind you, that I would never have used hazard twice in the same paragraph. And, thinking back to the fourth grade, I seem to recall that hirsute means “close friend of Scooby-Doo.”

7 – Note: The word must be said with emphasis – at the very least – fourteen times.

8 – But don’t be fooled! Heresy may lead to icky bad things like what happened to the man Santa Claus slapped: “Arius eventually died in a bizarre bathroom incident, and really, the matter should have ended there. Who’d want to be a member of the party of the guy who exploded outside an outhouse” (p.117).

9 – That was the first time I’d ever typed the word argot and it was much easier than I would have thunk.

10 – Remember that music video with Paul Simon and Chevy Chase? Me neither. But this book is way, way too funny to miss! So, since you didn’t write it, you might as well read it. Granted, there will be some who’ll claim that I stole the writing style of the author in fashioning this book review. I say, “Prove it!” I mean, how do they know I didn’t write the review first?

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