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steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
More Crow's Nests here
 
And God created... vuvuzelas
June 2010

What's the most annoying sound ever to come out of a church? "Lord you're so cool you make me drool" played 17 times in a row on clarinet and electric guitar by the St Hilda's Instrumental Team? A 40-minute sermon on the importance of not just talking about Christianity but really going out and doing it? The pet service where all the sprogs of the church get to bring their countless uncontrollable dogs, cats, gerbils and pigeons, and still manage to behave worse than them?

The competition is fierce, but a top new contender has emerged. According to our South Africa correspondent, the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe) in KwaZulu-Natal is claiming to have invented the vuvuzela. It was vouchsafed unto the world by their Zulu prophet Isaiah Shembe in 1910, they say, for use in prayer, and started to be used by local soccer fans in the 1980s.

Like other churches, Nazareth Baptists – who have 7,000 temples and 4.5m members – are very proud of their most annoying contribution to the world, believe it was given them by God, and still claim the right to make all the money they can out of it. Enoch Mthembu, the church's PR man, threatened to go to court to stop the droning idiot-pipes being used at matches if the church wasn't recognized and compensated for its invention.

Mthembu, you will remember, was in the news in 2006 when he reported that the present Shembe used his powers to win him a $8m contract for forklift trucks. More often, Shembe offers his followers healing, through holy water and – more originally – holy tubs of Vaseline. Believers go on annual pilgrimages to the holy land of Judea for prayer and blessing, but that's Judea in KwaZulu-Natal.

What else do you want to know? In Ohio, the 62-foot "Touchdown Jesus" statue built by the evangelical Solid Rock Church was hit by lightning and – being made from wood and styrofoam – burnt to the ground on 16 June.

What do we learn from this? Its has to be definite final proof that God can't stand images/evangelicals/Jesus. As so often, it's clear that's God's saying something to us, but what is anyone's guess. The pastors, Lawrence and Darlene Bishop, have responded with good humour and pledged to rebuild the statue. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have offered to pay for it, with the stipulation that the new statue bear the motto, "Blessed are the merciful. Go vegan."

The pastors of the church, who are cattle ranchers, politely declined. "You've got to have a sense of humor when you build a 62-foot Jesus on Interstate 75," they say, the strict accuracy of which statement one doubts, but it has to help.

In the UK, the Lord and the Devil are fighting for the souls of local councils. In the medieval Britain of 2010, when most still start meetings with Christian prayers, Enfield council in London have caused controversy by replacing them with poems. In Wellington, Shropshire, one councillor has done the same thing single-handedly by listening to Bob Dylan on his iPod while the prayers were read – equally controversially. Good choice, but we want to know what song. Presumably not "Property of Jesus". From my experience of such meetings, I'd like to think it was, "I Was Young When I Left Home", but we may never know.

Staying with medieval England, the vicar of Collingbourne Ducis in Wiltshire, Rev Mary Edwards, has invoked an unrepealed medieval law giving her the power to summon all the men of the village to archery practice. "Mary's always wanted to do it ever since she found out she could," explained the church warden.

The church put on a bar, barbecue and band as well as archery, and found the perfect occasion for the exercise of ancient arbitrary power: "We are celebrating the building of a new loo in the church," said the vicar. You really do have to love the Church of England. The more it changes the more it stays insane.

Finally, to Canada, where Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of Montreal University has been trying to study the effects of hardcore pornography on men in their 20s. The idea was to interview 20 who watched porn and 20 who never had, but he had to abandon the project when he failed to find a single person in the latter category. O Internet, what have you done to us?
 
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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