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You Cannot Serve God And Mammon

23/06/2016

The original title of this post was going to be A Parliament Of Whores but that would have been an insult to the sex workers of the world, most of whom have demonstrated consistently higher moral and ethical standards than the presumptive GOP nominee and his sycophants.

The good news is this: 
Not all of those attending the mass meeting with Trump fell for his finely honed line of bullshit.  While it’s safe to say there are no Clinton fans in that crowd, it would be unfair to say they are all falling in lockstep with Trump.

The bad news is this: 
There are enough rubes among the mass attendees who are buying into Trump’s finely honed bullshit to explain the rapid collapse of Christianity in this country.  As South Park’s Eric Cartman so eloquently explained it:

TrumpEvan Cartman quote

American Christianity, in particular white conservative Protestant evangelical Christianity, is infested with a virulent strain of power-hungry Mammon-worshipers who would sell their own mothers to a donkey show in order to further their own ambitions.

While 960 evangelicals cooled their heels awaiting Trump’s presence, he held a private meeting with 40 movers & shakers in the evangelical movement.

These instruments of Satan — ‘scuse me, Mammon; to paraphrase The Big Leibowski, say what you will about Satan, he at least has an ethos — are eager to push Trump onto the rest of the world.

Some of these turds are fueled by racial hatred, others merely by the reward of catering to bigots and white supremacists.  Others still are misogynists, more than a few are child rapists who abuse their pastoral authority to cover their crimes.  There are LGBT-haters so closeted they might as well be Ikea shelving units.  Prosperity gospel preachers who tell the most desperate members of their flock that God won’t love them until they give everything they have to their pastor.

And they all taint the teachings of Christ by perverting it into the most vile, hate-them / fill-my-pockets evil imaginable.

And we, the body of Christ on this
earth, have allowed it to happen.

Here’s how: 
When I was growing up in the South back during the cusp of the civil rights era, the thing that held African-Americans back was not the most evil, most violent, most racist members of white society but the vast majority who recognized African-Americans were being sadly short changed on the scales of justice, yet were unwilling to speak out against it because it would mean being critical of friends and neighbors and family members who were racist anusoids of the lowest order.

Rather that offend that minority of gibbering hate filled baboons, the majority of Southern whites kept their mouths shut and averted their eyes at African-American suffering.

…until the day came when their TV sets just wouldn’t let them look away anymore, and they saw what it cost to maintain a segregated society, and they finally — finally! – said, “Hold!  Enough!  If this is the cost of segregation then we are unwilling to pay it.”

Christian America has not yet had their moment when they have said, “Hold!  Enough!” to the thieves and liars and cutthroats who denigrate the faith, who demean being a follower of Christ for their own power and profit and glory, who wipe their asses with the Bible.

And every day — every minute! – that we remain silent, more and more people look at the Christian faith and echo Eric Cartman.

As

Well

They

Should

We have failed them by not purging our ranks of the most egregious charlatans, profiteers, hate-mongers, and know-nothings.

We have failed them by not freezing these bozologists out, by not roundly condemning them for their visibly harmful actions, by not exposing again and again and again how everything they preach is in direct contradiction to the words of love and mercy and compassion and justice from our Lord and savior.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

The world at large looks at these shitheels in their thousand dollar suits and says, “If they are the representatives of Christ in this world, then I want no part of him.”

Now, some reading this are going to say, “Aren’t you being harsh and vindictive?  Are you indulging in the exact same sin you accuse them of?  Shouldn’t this be better handled quietly, among the Church itself, without going public?”

To which I say: 
Screw that noise.

The time for private, quiet counseling is long gone; the snakes have taken over the garden of Eden and are re-writing the gospels to satisfy their self-centered needs.  The Christian faith is imploding in America, and it is imploding because for the first time people can compare notes outside their immediate congregation and they can see others calling the same shenanigans they see and for the first time they know they are not alone much less wrong in turning their back on what passes for organized Christianity in this country.

As

Well

They

Should

You are a damn fool idiot to disregard the evidence of your own senses and follow self-serving greedy bastards as they lick the ass shoes of an even bigger damn fool idiot who knows nothing except how to lie cleverly enough to con people out of their money.

I grasp not liking Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party or progressive ideas, and to those who say they would feel a bit more comfortable with the evangelicals issuing a statement along the lines of “considering our options, we think this is the lesser of two evils”, I understand.

I don’t agree, because based on his lifetime behavior there is more than ample evidence Trump is lying to you and doesn’t give a flying fuck at a donut hole what you think or want, but I understand.

And to those who opt to vote Libertarian or Green or Peace & Freedom or some other protest vote this year, hey, go for it.

But in the sweet and holy name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, don’t further denigrate the faith by having anything to do with this ruthless conman.

Yeah, I know God can wrought miracles, I know even the hardest of hearts can change should they desire to, but Donald Trump is a 70 year old narcissist who has spent his life lying and cheating and stealing from others to line his own pocket and make himself famous.

Hoping — no, strike that — wishfully thinking that somehow he is going to become introspective enough to realize he needs to change his behavior is just going to drive more people from the faith.

“Hold!  Enough!”

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Who’s Leaving Christian Churches And Why

23/05/2016

The number of Americans identifying as Christians on their census reports and attending churches has been dropping steadily over the last few decades.  Here’s my wholly unscientific / totally anecdotal look at what’s been happening.

Those leaving Christian churches tend to fall into these four broad categories:

Those who were never really in it in the first place – We’re talking about the cultural Christians here, the ones who went because it was socially expected of them by friends or family.  In many cases these people never actually participated in any religious functions, they just checked off the “Christian” box whenever asked because once upon a time somebody in their family had gone to church.  Others attended only sporadically (typically Easter and Christmas services) but shockingly a few were regular attendees and often even high ranking members of their local churches.  Their faith and knowledge was as deep as a Dixie cup and the moment there was no longer a social penalty for not belonging, they walked away.

Those who were hurt by Christians – This includes all those who were raped, beaten, sexually / emotionally / spiritually /  financially abused by clergy, lay members, and their own families driven by the dictates of their local congregation.  It can be the direct hands on approach of a bestial father who takes “spare the rod” too literally and beats their children and spouse so badly that hospitalization is required, the sexual abuse of a predatory minister who preys on emotionally fragile congregants then gaslights them if they object, a person demonized by their denomination for being outside their comfort zone, or guilted into commitments by the threat of shunning or humiliation if they aren’t compliant.  This group often overlaps with…

Those who see only the bullshit – Despite claims to the contrary, most denominations and local churches do indeed say they have the answer to everything:  Faith in Jesus, which really means sit down and shut up.  When they do give Biblical answers it’s typically a word salad of theological gobbledygook that can and does mean anything anybody wants it to mean to justify their position.  This group tends to be people with a genuine longing for some sort of spiritual connectivity, only to find their spiritual nature is routinely brushed aside as they are told to replace their often unanswerable questions with empty words and phrases; as well as those with questions about their pastor’s showy lifestyle or denomination’s stand on social issues.  In the end they decide that because their local church or denomination has no answer on some things that Christianity as a whole has no answer on anything, and they leave.

Those who see through the bullshit – This group includes many of the sincerest, most genuinely faithful followers of Christ.  They know what is expected of them as true followers of Christ and they don’t see their local church or denomination doing enough to help those on that journey, and so they leave, not out of bitterness, not even disappointment, but in the knowledge that whatever it is they are supposed to be doing, following the agenda of a local church or earthly denomination ain’t it.

In light of the above, perhaps it’s time to reframe the question re why the number of Christians is shrinking.

Maybe it isn’t.

Maybe the real Christians have always been the same small number, not easy to pigeonhole but identifiable through their actions.

Maybe what has been identified as the body of believers is a misnomer, and that instead of obsessing over increasing the number of believers, the Christian church as a whole should concentrate on improving the Christ-like qualities of those who are truly disciples.

Better a single warm heart
than a hundred warm bodies.

 

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Review: MARY WEPT OVER THE FEET OF JESUS

22/04/2016

MW Cover

A graphic novel by Chester Brown
Subtitle: “Prostitution And Religious Obedience In The Bible”

I recommend this book with reservations.

Some of you who are Christians shouldn’t read it; not because it has naughty pictures in it, but because you aren’t spiritually capable of processing Brown’s interpretation of the Bible.

You will rant and rave and condemn his book
and his ideas but gain no benefit from them.

And by “benefit” I don’t mean you will change your mind and accept what he says, but that you won’t take his perspective to look at the source material with fresh eyes.

Because frankly, that’s the most important thing about this book: Its ability to get us to step out of our traditional mindsets and look at the text anew.

We may opt to say, “Hmm, interesting, but I’m not convinced” and return to our original point of view, but we will at least now have the ability to evaluate that belief in comparison with another, far more different interpretation.

And that can only strengthen our belief in the long run.

Conversely, some of you who are skeptics shouldn’t read it either because you lack the perspective and context to grasp the points Brown makes.

You’ll gleefully shout, “Aha! Mary was a hooker! I knew it!”
and decide there is no reason to look any further into
the teachings of Christ because it’s all bogus.

That’s not what Brown is saying.

So after the jump I’ll analyze what Brown’s point is.

I will say here that Brown’s style is aptly suited for this book, just cartoony enough to make the stories and characters accessible to all readers, realistic enough to forestall unintentional comedy. Brown has chosen to approach his versions of the stories mostly from a plain text reading (i.e., what does a story itself tell, not “Is this story factual?”) although he does look at some stories in the context of extra-Biblical knowledge of the cultures involved.

As Brown has chosen a plain text approach, I will offer my critique of his book based on a plain text reading as well. If you’re not capable of reading what follows with an open mind, here is a hopefully amusing post to keep you entertained.

Read the rest of this article »

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Thinkage

18/04/2016

“The American Empire, especially states in the ‘bible belt,’ love vengeance and a blood-for-blood way of living. As Jesus people, we must contend with living our lives under the umbrella of a violent empire who wants nothing to do with the peaceful way of Jesus– just as Jesus too had to contend with life in a violent empire.

“Like Jesus, we must have the courage to stand amidst this empire and speak up to say, “you have heard it said that it’s okay to take an eye for an eye, but we tell you that you should love instead!”

“Like Jesus, we must continue to speak into culture and remind them that only the person without sin is able to administer the lethal injection.

“Like Jesus, we must lovingly speak into the lives around us and say, “go and learn what this means: God desires mercy.”

“Like Jesus, we must have the courage to tell those around us, ‘put away your sword!’

“And, like Jesus, we must be willing to endure persecution at the hands of the religious elite for teaching his message of love and mercy.” — Benjamin L. Corey, “Georgia Execution Proves We Love Vengeance Over Restoration

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Shut Your God Damned Mouth

15/04/2016

I am using the term “God damned” in it’s proper Christian theological context: Jesus of Nazareth, whom we Christians recognize as God incarnate, very specifically condemned judging other people. Further, in the Old Testament when God Himself offered the covenant from Mt. Sinai, He admonished against bearing false witness against your neighbor.

So let’s proclaim
a digging implement
a digging implement
and proceed apace,
hmm?

Recently political hacks, in an effort to appeal to the ever decreasing white and/or Christianist bigot vote, have passed or introduced a number of bills designed (among other things) to keep the icky transgender people out of public restrooms.

anti LGBT bill never about bathrooms

And make no doubt about it, this part of these bills is a blatant attempt to drive transgender people out of the public sphere: A bearded masculine looking transgender man would be required to use restrooms and facilities reserved for females, a feminine looking transgender woman could be required to use facilities reserved for males, in both cases regardless of their current sexual identity.

she has penis he has vagina 2

The reason for this is a completely groundless fear that a transgender male in a ladies room will suddenly snap at the sight and smell of females defecating and urinating and revert back to a presumed heterosexual male starting point, attempting to rape any “true” woman within reach.

Go read that highlighted text again. Keep reading it until you realize just how damned stupid and bigoted and hateful it is…

…to heterosexual males.

Seriously.

The rationale behind the bathroom ban is that heterosexual males are rapacious sub-human filth who are unfit for polite company, that they are incapable of self-control, that no force on earth short of the full weight of the law can keep them from raping and murdering.

Penn Jillette on morality w o God

Now, truth be told,
there is an argument
to be made in that case.

We have plenty of heterosexual males who have committed heinous crimes such as sexual assault.

For the most part, however, they don’t commit sexual assaults in areas where they might be discovered and interrupted by witnesses and/or law enforcement.[1]

No, when heterosexual males rape and murder, they either like to have privacy or else operate in a pack large enough to prevent / thwart / intimidate any witnesses or rescuers.

So this law as crafted does absolutely nothing to protect people from sexual predators as those sexual predators will be attacking victims regardless of what the law says about who can / cannot use a particular public restroom.

For example, we have conservative moralist politicians who have been arrested soliciting sex from other males in public restrooms, we have high school wrestling coaches who seduce their charges in locker rooms, we have purported Christian ministers raping children in their care.

NC longest term speaker

Do we need a law that specifically forbids conservative politicians from using public restrooms? Wrestling coaches? Preachers?

No, of course not; no moral or ethical person will sexually assault another; those capable of sexual assault will not be deterred by laws.

We don’t need laws to define the crime,
we need laws to define the punishment.

We have to be able to say, “Because you did X, you will now have your freedom limited for Y period of time” in order to insure the criminal does not victimize more people during that period.[2]

So there is nothing — nothing – these bigoted bills will provide in added security to potential victims.

Rape and sexual assault remain punishable crimes regardless of the location of the crime or what the rapist and victim are / are not wearing.

All the bills do is let smug anusoids demand other people show them their plumbing so they can decide if they get to sit in the front of the bus use that particular restroom or not.

Sound familiar?

NC rest rooms

Now, several turd mongers have been quick to rush and report violations of a citizen’s right to privacy in a public restroom.

They cite a couple of recent cases in which voyeurs violated the right of privacy of other people by sneaking cameras into restrooms; one such voyeur disguised himself as a female to do so.

Folks, they’ve been doing this for decades.

Peeping Toms

Voyeurs, by and large, are not transgender people seeking to feel comfortable in their identity but low grade sex offenders who are aroused by spying on other people.[3] They are morally and emotionally sick people who regardless of their personal predilections, do not respect interpersonal boundaries.[4]

Banning transgender persons from certain restrooms will not protect victims from voyeurs.

Imprisoning voyeurs will protect victims of voyeurism by denying the voyeurs the opportunity to sneak photos.

But again, none of this has anything to do with the actual issue of the role of transgender people in this society.

It has everything to do with bullies and bigots desperately trying to find one last thing they can gloat over before they are flushed down the toilet of history.

NC look away

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.

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[1] And those that do are mentally deranged to some point or another, such as the maniac who followed a little boy into a public restroom and slit his throat even though the child’s aunt was standing outside, or the President of the United States who had sex with an intern in the Oval Office. Those offenders are either too insane to recognize the risk of exposure they are facing, or else they get off on the thrill of possible discovery. In the latter case, passing laws against doing something will only increase their desire to do it!

[2] One of the Manson family “girls” (now in her seventies) is up for parole. From the Tate-LaBianca murders all the way to the various crimes and murders committed by other members after Manson himself was thrown in jail, the Manson family has demonstrated themselves to be singularly psychotic, remorseless, and exceedingly dangerous. Any Manson family member serving a life sentence needs to stay behind bars for the rest of their life: The family as a group has repeatedly demonstrated they are capable of causing great harm up to and including murder, and if that means a genuinely repentant family member has to stay incarcerated even though they are no longer part of the madness, so be it; they have proven they cannot be trusted.

[3] Whenever one discusses what arouses any human being, questions to be asked have to include consent. Anybody who gets aroused taking pictures of people in what should be rightfully private settings is perfectly free to hire a model to pose for them under simulated condition, or to obtain permission from a partner to spy on them, or read fictional stories or watch commercial porn which, despite claims to be genuine voyeurism, is almost always professional models posing for money after signing a release form. Professional pornographers, as opposed to the creeps who run the revenge photo sites, do not have a viable business model that sees them getting thrown in jail and still turning a profit; the creeps are not motivated by money and are willing to face legal repercussions in order to inflict harm on others.

[4] To some degree we are all voyeurs insofar as we are curious what goes on behind closed doors: This is why tabloid news remains so popular, this is why we are amused by candid photos that capture people unawares doing amusing things. There are lines that can be drawn, however, and while snapping a photo of a cosplayer at a convention using a cell phone in an out of character manner can be considered harmless and charming, stalking that cosplayer to catch them in an embarrassing or revealing moment is not. Regarding the University of Toronto incident, the circumstances are clear: All human beings have a reasonable right to privacy in their domiciles, be they private homes or dormitories, and sneaking a photo of a person in a locker room is no different from creeping up on their home’s bathroom window to snap a shot. If a person is streaking in broad daylight across the university commons, they have no reasonable right to privacy and can feign no outrage if their photo is taken. It’s not that difficult a concept to master, folks.

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My Christian Scientist Joke

12/04/2016

Christian Scientist joke

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If You Want To See The Hand Of God

5/04/2016

NGC 2174 Stars Versus MountainsIf God is not the creator of this universe there is no point in believing in Him, much less worshipping Him.

If God is not a transcendent being, outside of the limitations of time and space, there is no point in believing in Him, much less worshipping him.

If God can be fooled / bamboozled / cheated, if He can change His mind, He is not a God worthy of worship.

If God does not know all, He cannot see all, He cannot forgive all.  He would be in no position to do so as He would be operating out of ignorance.

We are moral creatures only because we can choose between good and evil.  If we were compelled to do evil it would not be our fault because we could not choose to be good; if we were compelled to do good, it would not be to our credit because we could not choose to do evil.  Only by being able to choose are we moral actors.

If God does not compel us to do either good or evil, He must want us to be moral creatures.  He has assigned us free will.

If free will does not exist, then our entire existence is futile.  Without an ability to choose, we are incapable of being either good or evil.

If free will exists, then only by choosing to serve God can we be good.

Since God created everything and is greater than this universe, there is nothing we can do for God that He cannot do for Himself except to chose to love one another.

If the only way to love God is to obey Him,
then God wants us to choose
to love our fellow human beings.

God can provide Himself
with anything else He wants.
Our offerings are pointless.

Since God cannot force human behavior without robbing us of our free will and moral choice, He can only act when He is asked to act, and only in a way that affects the person asking for help.

Since God will not force human behavior, He desires all to choose to behave in a way that helps His creation.

God helps humanity through the voluntary actions of those humans who choose to do good.

If the objective was merely to put food in bellies, to heal physical infirmities, then God could do that with a snap of His fingers (metaphorically speaking).

But that’s not the objective –
or at least not the sole objective.

The main objective seems to be to get human beings to voluntarily change their hearts and minds, to put aside selfish behaviors and thoughts and to be more loving and accepting and caring of one another.

This life is short and filled with suffering.
It is gone in the blink of an eye.

Nothing we do here matters in the long run.

Eventually this universe and everything in it will unravel and turn into something else and it will be as if we never existed.

We don’t want to be here when that happens.  We want to be part of something else, something much bigger, much better.

And the only way to be part of that is to love one another as God loves us.

If you want to see the hand of God, look at the end of your wrist;
if you want to stare down the devil, look in a mirror.

Religion is a metaphor for the ineffable.

 

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A Coffin For God

28/03/2016

The worst piece of art in the history of the world hangs under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo_-_Creation_of_Adam

It is not, in and of itself, a technical or aesthetic failure.

Quite the contrary.

Indeed, if it were called

“Zeus Tricks Prometheus Into Pulling His Finger”
or
“Jor-El Sends Kal-El To Earth”

it would be great.

But as it is, it’s proven to be a destructive and divisive instrument to the Good News, a tribute to humanity’s vainglorious lust for ambition and power and not to the spiritual truths that bind us all.

It is — and without the least sense of irony by either artist or patron — in direct violation to one of the revered Ten Commandments:  “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

There’s a reason for that, folks;
it’s not just a petty tribal taboo.

Creating an image of the Divine basically puts God in a box.

A box of human making.

A box that serves human purposes.

A box to keep God confined.

A box in which God is dead and buried.

The Sistine Chapel exists very specifically to put a human face on the Divine[1], to change the Divine, in fact, into God, and to depict God as part of humanity’s authoritarian power hierarchy.[2]

That’s nonsense, of course.

Human power hierarchies are meaningless to the Divine.

It’s like trying to confine the vast reality of the oceans into the tiny word “sea” written on an index card and then claiming that because you are holding that card, you are the chosen representative of that “sea” and invested with the power and authority to decide who gets wet.[3]

Putting the Divine into God|box|coffin only benefits the makers of the box.

This is an old, old problem.

It first cropped up immediately after the Divine offered the Covenant from Mt. Sinai to the collected nation of Israel.

The collected nation of Israel freaked, and turned to a substitute God of their own making.

No, not the golden calf:

Moses.

They wanted Moses to be their intercessor, because they could not conceive of the Divine as anything other than a ruthless, merciless, violent tyrant.

Because ruthless, merciless, violent tyrants were the only authority they understood, and authority was the only social structure they could comprehend after having been subjugated to tyrants for centuries.

So Moses obliged.[4]

Moses did not so much interpret the Covenant so much as create loopholes.

“Thou shalt not kill” — unless you violated this, that, or the other tribal taboo.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” — unless you’re a guy wanting to trade up to a newer, hotter model.

“Thou shalt not covet” — unless you’re part of Moses’ own tribe, and in that case you don’t have to actually own anything ‘cuz you can just tell people you’ll turn off the God spigot unless they give you their best stuff.

He crafted laws that — outside the context of building a unique national identity among people without one — are at times insane excursions into pointless minutia.

What you eat?  How you cut your hair?  The type of clothes you wear?  The number of brass rings on the curtain rods in the Tabernacle?

Who cares?

The Divine certainly doesn’t.[5]

But we as the Church in the 21st century are stuck with the finely crafted coffin our predecessors have made for the Divine.

A coffin that imposes human concepts of gender and human concepts of emotion and human concepts of form and even human concepts of physicality onto the Divine.

As was said in only a slightly different context:

“Why seek ye the living among the dead? 
He is not here, but is risen.”

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[1]  The Divine already did that a millennium and a half early, and with much better results.

[2]  And very explicitly to link God’s authority to that of Pope Julius II (Michelangelo’s patron) so he could justify laying the smack-down on anyone who rejected him as Head Honcho Of Everything On Earth.

[3]  It could be argued that water is a much better metaphor of the Divine than God the Father:  Water permeates every living thing, is comprised of basic, simple, easy to grasp characteristics, yet moves in its own way without regard to the desires of humans; indeed, humans who attempt to defy water invariably come to a bad end, while those who learn to move with and accommodate water find it a limitless bounty.  And while Jesus used many metaphors for the Divine, he was certainly fond of the water one.

[4]  No, we’re not trashing Moses; he had a tough job re transforming a mob of slaves into a nation of believers.  But the Bible is pretty clear he was a hot tempered, impetuous, judgmental, violent, murderous man and the laws he felt inspired to write often reflect those prejudices and peccadillos.  That he was even able to articulate “an eye for an eye” as a proportional limit to justice marks a significant positive growth and change in his worldview and probably one of the few genuine Divinely inspired laws he laid down.

[5]  Just ask Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, or Zechariah.

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Mr. Brunelle Has Jesus Explain It All

25/03/2016

Mr Brunelle has Jesus explain it all

from Robert Waldo Brunelle’s delightful webcomic

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Fictoid: Salome’s Ventriloquist Act

23/03/2016

Mataro da Vergato - Salomé ventriloquist CAP

“Salome” by Mataro de Vergato
text © Buzz Dixon

“It’s always nice being back
here at Herod’s Palace. 
John, did you get a haircut?”

“I just had ‘em take a little off the top.”

“Are you going to sing a song for us?”

“Yeah – ‘I Ain’t Got No Body’.”

“Hey, my eyes are up here!”

“Well, mine are down here.”

“Thenk hew! 
Ya binna wunnaful
audience!  Don’t
forget to tip your
waitress!”

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