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steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
More Crow's Nests here
The ministry of lunacy
April 2005

It's hard to spot loonies at marathons. Father Cornelius Horan makes it as easy as he can by going to work in regulation bizarro outfit – red kilt and emerald green waistcoat, tie and beret. But when those around you are dressed as hippos, clowns and male nuns, what's a religious eccentric to do?

You may remember Father Cornelius. He wrecked the Athens Olympic marathon last year by jumping on the Brazilian frontrunner, holding a piece of paper saying, "The second coming is near". The previous year, he turned up on the 200mph Hangar Straight of the Silverstone Grand Prix, waving a piece of paper publicising the Bible, though not leaping on the leader this time.

Less spectacularly, in 1985, he published A Glorious New World, which demonstrated that the Bible contains remarkably accurate predictions of world events up until 1985, and remarkably inaccurate predictions of events from then on.

Now it seems his ministry is in decline – good news for sport, bad news for the Bible. He was defrocked in January for being "an embarrassment", and now an antisocial behaviour order bans him from any of the London boroughs where the marathon will take place.

Horan began his disciplinary hearing by dancing a jig for reporters, and ended it by announcing that he would appeal to "the court of Jesus Christ". We'll keep you posted.

What other news is there from our wackier brethren? There is the 61-year-old Roger Clark Baxter of Arizona, who has been led to change his name officially to Christian Glory Hallelu Yah! A non-profitmaking freelance evangelist, Mr Yah! originally went for Christian Glory Hallelujah, but then decided that Hallelu Yah! would be more biblically accurate. Just think how foolish you'd look with a biblically inaccurate surname.

More name-change news from Utah, where the Mormon prophet Immanuel David Isaiah and his wife Hephzibah Eladah Isaiah (aka Brian and Wanda Mitchell) are being tried for the abduction of 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart. While in their custody, Immanuel/Brian made her his second wife and renamed her Remnant Who Will Return. He has been ejected from the court four times so far for chanting and hymn-singing, leaving the court to decide whether he is a religious crackpot in the sense that gets you out of jail sentences, or just the regular kind.

No such hope for Queen Shahmia (aka Richelle Denise Bradshaw). Calling herself the daughter of God, she led a small but successful "nomadic ministry group" in Florida, until she got put away for 25 years. There were only 14 of them, and that includes her, her husband (an uncanny Jesus lookalike), and their six children. Nevertheless, she managed to drape herself with gold jewellery and African robes, and live in luxury hotels.

This divine blessing was poured forth unto them through the medium of robbery. She sent her "menservants" out to hold up local businesses and "plunder the earth". If this sounds a little alarming, please bear in mind the heartwarmingly Christian principle that guided them: they agreed never to use weapons or violence, but that "it was okay to push people, if necessary".

The Australian Pentecostal Gregory Eric White had no such inhibitions. He was, he told a court in Victoria, called by God to fight the Beast of Revelation (which he associated with global capitalism). He did this, witnesses told the court, by going into banks with a shotgun and shouting, "Just give me the money or I'll blow your fucking head off."

A friendlier kind of story from Nigeria, where a pastor in Ondo, Rev. Olusegen Mayaki, says that he saw one of his parishioners give birth to a tortoise. He says that Tawa Ahme had been pregnant for five years, so he led a two-week prayer vigil to help her. Hence the tortoise. Mother and baby are both well, but father has been getting into fights with the local tortoise population.

And finally, delightful news from our friends in the world religions, who have been hearing Hebrew prophecy from a 20lb carp. Two Hasidic fishmongers in New York were about to kill the fish, when it told them to pray and study the scriptures because the end of the world is coming. Before they could question it further, it slipped from their grasp into a pile of carp, and they couldn't tell which it was.

Some say the fish was a manifestation of God himself, but the majority verdict is that it was a reincarnation of a Canadian rabbi. Me, I say that after the sad decline of Father Cornelius Horan, who could take on his work but a talking carp?
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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