Well, I went to a Bulgarian Orthodox church today. It was only a matter of time, right?

Basically, I was dragged into it by a Spiritually Seeking Friend (TM). She says she’s using her “emotions” to “guide” her to the right denomination, which is completely foreign to me, but OK to each their own.

The first thing that struck me when walking into the little one-room church was the utter solemnity. Like, I didn’t even want to rustle (hello Reform temple). I tried to decide whether that was just because it was my first time, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, and let me tell you why.

Everyone was standing, ladies on the left and men on the right, all the ladies had their hair covered and were wearing long skirts and bad shoes. There aren’t any “pews” in Eastern Orthodox, I learned. Every once in a while they would start singing “Lord have mercy” etc. and I must admit they had a nicer communal singing voice than I ever heard in shul or anything. It was like they were the freakin hired choir or something. Sometimes people would come in (slowly and tentatively, of course), and take candles out of this “candle bin” attached to the wall, and cross themselves like a hundred times and one lady kissed three icons (on the feet, naturally). I couldn’t really see the men, but the women were standing with their hands politely folded in front or behind them, and obviously I was standing there in the very back with my friend with my arms folded looking like a nervous wreck in that place but whatever.

The priest looked like he motorcycled in his spare time, and I think one of his assistants (beacon? deacon? wtf) went to my high school. Notwithstanding that, they read a lot of stuff. And when they did it was in this annoying churchy monotone. It only ceased when the priest gave his sermon, which was totally weird and seemed out of place given the supposed ethereal ideal that place was supposed to have (there was incense).

There were icons literally covering all the walls…and of course I was standing right in front of the scariest Jesus in the whole church…freakin no-chin Jesus staring me down with his beady eyes in that scary picture.

So yeah, we’re standing in the foyer/hallway facing the main room, and I look up and suddenly see this looking back at me:

"I'm here to save you."

“I’m here to save you.”

I’m not sleeping tonight.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is this: I don’t get this about Christianity, culturally speaking. The whole “be serious in church,” “church is somber” thing. My friend said she liked it (it gave her a “good feeling”), but I thought it didn’t make any sense because it seems like that just serves to keep religion contained inside the church. Like, I get trying to make it like the altar or whatever with the incense and stuff, but once you get outside, what do you do? Go to Country Cookin’?

I mean, I know for Eastern Orthodox those ladies were wearing their long skirts and stuff, and I guess that stays with them, and I’m guessing they, like, say their Christian version of daily tehillim or whatever, but still. It’s kind of like saying “God is mostly in here, and in everyday life just minimally.”

I like that in Judaism for better or worse, it’s not like it’s “everyday life” outside and then “SUPER SERIOUS GOD TIME” inside. Like, I hated it at the time that no one was paying attention, but when I was at that shul in Flatbush ladies would be setting up tables like right next to me and people would be in and out and kids would be walking around and you stand when you want and you sit when you want and so on and so forth. And it doesn’t end as soon as you walk outside, indeed it improves when you leave because you get to go to someone’s house and eat free cholent, which if you don’t know already is basically the food of the heavens as far as I’m concerned. And, here’s my favorite part, that’s just as important as shul.

A letter I wrote to the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast people

Hey guys,

I’ve been listening to Catholic Stuff You Should Know for a couple weeks now, because I’m interested in different religions and the way people think. I usually try to be pretty objective about things, but the [Four Approaches to] Politics podcast made me mad.

I’m sure you get emails like this every day, but bear with me.

Help me understand how someone can believe in Separation of Church and State, and Religious Liberty, and still feel that their own religion should set the rules for an entire country not explicitly governed by that religion. It seems contradictory. I know that you believe there are universal truths, and so do I. Still, the idea that one religion’s rules can dictate an entire country is foreign to me. I’m Jewish, and in Judaism there is a pretty extensive set of rules. No Jew would expect a non-Jew to follow all these rules…even the seemingly innocuous “moral” ones! That doesn’t make the rules any less universal or true. After all, how could Jews expect someone to, say, keep the sabbath, if they don’t understand why or how? That doesn’t make keeping the sabbath any less important. It’s not the Jew’s job to impose either his ideas or religious rules on anyone else.

That being said, I know you believe in universal truths. So do I. But you’re Catholic, and I’m Jewish, and these don’t exactly look the same.

For instance, you mentioned abortion. For Catholics, abortion is never an option, am I correct? In Judaism, abortion is an option if the mother’s life is in danger. This is our law. I completely understand prohibiting abortion for Catholics, or even in Christian hospitals…but on the other hand, trying to prohibit abortion throughout the entire country would violate my religion.

You also mentioned same-sex marriage. (I would be interested to know the Catholic view on homosexuality, by the way.) Same-sex marriage is also antithetical to Jewish law. But I don’t find it contradictory to say that it’s prohibited for Jews under Jewish law, but to have secular marriages legal. A gay couple could be married civilly, and still not be recognized under Jewish law. Judaism has basically the same conception of marriage as does Catholicism, but we also know that it makes no sense to try to govern non-Jews under Jewish law! Why can’t it be the same in Catholicism? To use one example, the fact that divorce is legal in the US doesn’t make divorce any less “wrong” in Catholicism. (And outlawing divorce in the US would violate my religion, because divorce isn’t prohibited in Judaism!)

Isn’t it our job to help people see why we disagree with abortion or divorce, rather than imposing our will on them with hardly an explanation?

There’s a saying in Judaism: “Worry about your friend’s physical well-being, and your own spirituality.”

Thanks for your time,


Dec. 24, 2012: Response!

Hi Laura

Thanks for your email and my apologies on the delay.  I appreciate that you listen to the podcast and are from a Jewish perspective.
Let’s set “faith” aside for a second.  There are a set of philosophical principles that unlay any just society, that help human beings flourish according to the common good.  These principles can be known by the light of human reason.  My arguments for the podcast are that to hold that a respect for life, freedom for religious liberty, and the preservation of marriage as it actually is (one man, one woman) need not have anything to do with faith.  To lose these principles would be destructive to society.
Maybe another example would be helpful.  Let’s say politicians want to legalize rape – that men can rape women whenever they want.  But because rape is against my faith, I can’t impose my belief on the society I live in and say that is wrong?  According to your logic, I cannot speak up against this without “imposing my faith on others.”
Just because God reinforces by Revelation the truths we can know by nature to form a just society (cf. Aristotle, Politics), does not justify the absolute lose of credibility and objective content to my natural moral claims as a man of faith.
Thanks again for listening.

A Politically Incorrect Guide to Christians

I’ve learned to become wary of Christians. I was pretty positive regarding them at first, and I thought that “well, although their religion seems pretty off, I suppose they are quite kind anyway and I guess if it’s done good for them, they’ve done some good charity work and stuff so Christianity can’t be that bad, consequentially speaking.” But that was then, and this is now (see above links). I used to think you could be pro-Christian and pro-Jewish, but you can’t. (Because you can’t be pro-Jewish and want to convert all the Jews.) You can “tolerate,” but that’s about it.

So, I found this picture, which is really representative of two things I basically suspect about Christianity. I know, I know, you have nice Christian friends who aren’t like that etc. but this isn’t about your friends, get it? I only know what I’ve experienced. That goes without saying.

Obviously, this picture is for gay rights, but it came from a website advocating the timely idea that “misunderstanding religion leads to homophobic attitudes.” That can be true more often than not, but I noticed that one popular way of showing that Christianity isn’t so homophobic after all is to show that just like shellfish and mixed materials are impertinent and outdated, so too is Leviticus 18:22. I’ve seen this many times. That’s annoying, but I get that they don’t get it. It’s not their job to know that that’s still an actual religion.

The thing that I don’t like is that Christians still want to take what they like out of Judaism and call them their own. My friend recently said “There’s a difference between Torah scholars and Old Testament scholars,” but the problem is when Old Testament scholars try to present themselves as knowledgeable Torah scholars, as if the Torah is theirs for the taking. They learn a couple words in Hebrew and call themselves experts (I recall a professor wishing us a “tova shana”). They try to separate the “cult” from the “ethics,” Judaism is “tribalistic,” it’s “unenlightened” etc. They don’t especially like the Torah the way it is. But they want it the way they want it.

Same for other things: the Catholic group on campus wants to co-host our seder. I have a Jewish friend whose group consists entirely of Christians, and she told me they “jokingly” say anti-semitic things to her like “Oh, do you have a lot of money?” And she is picking up their ideas of how “unethical” Judaism is, by exclaiming how unfair it was to kill the Egyptians etc. We shouldn’t fight in defense. Turn the other cheek! Where’d you hear that, again?

And the Christian groups love setting up debates and panels. They want to discuss our “shared heritage”…but, once we’re all sitting down…hey, have you heard that there is neither Jew nor Greek? Come be one of us! And Christians want to wear the Star of David. Christians want to compare Joseph and David (and basically everyone else) to Jesus. They like having license plates with things like 6 7DEUT on them. They like the idea of Jesus being a “rabbi.” They like the idea of Judaism. They just want it their way, without the Jews.

Out of this comes another similar thing I’ve noticed. There’s a sentiment underlying the text of this picture. It’s like when Christians (or anyone trying to use the Old v. New Testament to argue their point) say things like “the jealous, vengeful god of the Old Testament” or “the god of punishment of the Old Testament versus the god of love of the New Testament.” They are positive about the delineation between the Old and New Testaments, but what is the irony? These statements imply that there are two gods, the one of the Old Testament and the one of the New Testament. If God doesn’t change, how could it be any other way?

Christians have no problem looking at the “god of the Old Testament” with an objective eye, judging, and criticizing, and being glad they’ve got a new one now. They’re not going to say this or anything, but being in that Biblical criticism class with thirty freshmen and a professor who says things like “tova shana” made me realize how nonchalant they all were about it. They talked about stuff the ancient Israelites “used to do,” weird stupid things like tzitzit and tefillin. They tried to pronounce the Name of God with reckless abandon. (Encouraged, of course, by the fact the professor said it approximately twice per class, despite my cringing. Actually, maybe because of my cringing. He was jerky like that.)

And so I started getting the sense that it was all just as well to them, because all that existed in the past, “that god” existed in the past, “that covenant” existed in the past, “those Israelites” don’t exist anymore, and now they have Jesus etc. I don’t think they’d be talking about Jesus with such flagrant apathy and even scorn at times. Even if such a class started out jovial, they’d probably notice eventually what they were doing. But with the Old Testament, it’s OK. Never when I heard a Christian say “Yahweh” did I suppose they were thinking “This is my God I’m talking about.” This insistence on the demarcation between the “old god/old styles/old tricks” and the “new one” seems very dualistic, if not idolatrous. So does praying directly to Jesus or reading the Bible “in Jesus’ name” or doing things “in Jesus’ name.”

So there you have it. And that’s why I don’t do interfaith relations anymore.

Interview Series: Father John David Ramsey, W&M Catholic Chaplain

Is it important for the Bible to be historically accurate?

The Catholic perspective on the Bible is that there are intrinsic to the nature of a holy text, multiple layers of meaning. If you think about it this is true of many forms of literature—for example, you can read a play of Sophocles or Shakespeare and you can read it for its historical interest. You can learn a lot about Elizabethan or Greek society by reading those plays, and that’s interesting and helpful and positive knowing all of that for fully engaging the play. But people still perform Shakespeare’s plays or the Greek tragedies because there’s more to it than that, that there’s something in those texts that speak to us as human beings. If you apply that the the Bible, texts understood to be given to us by God through human hands, and through the inspiration of those texts, they provide the guideline for Christian living.

What that means is that the historical aspect is very important. From a religious standpoint, what matters as well is the fact that God continues to speak through these texts. So when the gospel writers were writing their gospels, they were certainly aware of historical facts, but they were more interested in drawing out the deeper meaning of Jesus’ life. There were layers of meaning, and the writers weren’t trying to write a modern biography. They were trying to elucidate what happened in Jesus’ life as they understand it after his resurrection.

Is the Old Testament essential?

It’s absolutely essential. For Christians, it’s not just the first 3/4ths of the Bible that you get through to get to the good stuff. Everything about Christianity is completely rooted and participates in the Old Testament story. When we speak of an old and new covenant it doesn’t mean “old” as in “we can forget that.” It means that the old covenant has been taken up in Christ and made new. And the parameters have been expanded, and there’s this new universality to it. Christians understand that Christ is the fulfillment of everything that has come before. The New Testament attests to that fulfillment in Christ. But it’s not new in the sense of leaving the old behind.

So would you say the New Testament is showing how the Old Testament was fulfilled?

Exactly. It’s an interpretation and understanding of the Old Testament in light of Jesus.

Is it important for the Old Testament to be historically accurate, like the Exodus or Genesis?

Sure, but in almost the same way as the New Testament’s historicity. it’s important to remember that the New Testament was written over a period of 50-60 years. the Old Testament was written over a period of probably six to seven hundred years. So what happens is that there is a process of editing and amending the documents of the Old Testament over time so they continue to expand in meaning, like someone gives you a text and says “This is what happened,” and as they keep experiencing the presence of God in their midst, they can add more layers of understanding. It’s simply harder to investigate the historicity because of lack of historical evidence after more than two millennia. The historical quality is very important, but Catholics do not believe that it must be absolutely accurate in a modern, historical sense.

It’s like treating a poem like a physics textbook. The creation accounts in Genesis are poetic expressions of the true way that God created the world. You know, the Big Bang theory and all of that is a scientific explanation of the same thing. I find them complementary. Some of our Protestant brothers and sisters say that you should read Genesis like a science textbook. For Catholics, it was never meant to be read that way. It’s true, because it’s revealing true things about who God is and how He loves human beings. But the point of those stories is not a scientific account of creation. The point of those stories is that God created out of love, and that He created unique human beings as an object of His love.

What challenges are facing Catholicism?

That’s a good question. I think you can sort of see it in two sets of things. One is an internal challenge, growing in holiness and growing in faithfulness. The Catholic Church on every level is made of human beings, quite capable of failing and sinning and doing the wrong thing. And in the last few years with the sex abuse scandal—it was proportionally a small number of priests, but that’s still completely unacceptable—the fact that some figures in the Church hid it, it was hidden by some people, caused great damage; a great sin that caused great damage to the Church. But Christ is larger than that. And it’s a challenge that we need to face and do continue to face. Not just that issue, but any time there’s something in the Church that isn’t Christlike, that needs to be brought to light. If you read the Scriptures, the Church has always been a mess, but its a mess that Christ has chosen to be with, to work through, to draw to himself. So the holiness of the Church has to do with Christ being there, helping us to be holy, not because we’re always the best of people. But there’s that, the ongoing struggle internally.

The other thing that the Church is facing is that we’re in a time of growing secularism—and secularism doesn’t just mean non-Christian; it means unreligious in any way. That means that many, many people think that science and what’s here now is all we need, “I can figure it out for myself, I don’t need any notion of God” and they think that if there is—if there were—no God, it would be fine. I think it would be depressing, you know, but you could do that. But what we find and what a lot of religious people see is that the world is becoming more and more materialistic, more disinterested in transcendent good, transcendental notions of truth and beauty and love. So we’re becoming very turned in on ourselves, very here and now, and very uninterested in anything beyond ourselves in terms of the transcendental realm. And that’s destroying our humanity, because we’re more than that, we’re more than just materialist consumers. And this is not just a Christian view: in world culture, this is one of the rare times when there’s been a decreasing interest in any religious impulse at all.

So the Catholic Church, which believes that knowing God and loving God and being loved by God is essential for a beautiful human life, the challenge for us as Catholics is to live out on every level a witness that says God is loving, God is good, and He has beautiful things for you, and He has true freedom for you.

The Catholic Church, especially among people who don’t care for the Church, they say it’s restricting; you have to check your mind at the door; that you are not allowed to think; and A. that’s absolutely untrue, and B. when I was a college professor I used to tell my students, “Go be a Zoroastrian, go be anything, but don’t be a secular humanist because its so boring.” And it really is! It’s terribly constricting in terms of imagination in a way that Catholicism or Judaism or Islam is not. When you accept a transcendental realm everything takes on a transcendental beauty, a meaning beyond something just sitting there.

Science and the Catholic Church. People say, “What about Galileo?” Well, that was a bad moment. The Catholic Church has always been pro-science, but pro-science with God.

I’ve always thought of it as ‘Science tells you what, but religion tells you why.’

Exactly. That’s exactly the traditional distinction.

I guess we should talk about CCM [Catholic Campus Ministry]. Is it hard to engage students?

It’s really not. We probably have about six to seven hundred people involved in some level or another. There’s no demand—nobody’s forcing the students to go to Mass; to be involved in things. CCM has so many different aspects, from outreach to missions trips to the liturgy to fellowship meals and all that sort of thing, that it reaches far more people than is obvious. Many people come because they were involved in their church as Catholics growing up and its just a natural step to be involved. And it’s student-run, so students know they have a role here. Other students come after a year or two years, and do the typical college thing and don’t become involved…but then they realize something’s missing. Many of our students are also involved in service or campus life, but they find something here that is essential. So we don’t have to work to get students’ interest. We always try to do things that will draw people in…

But you don’t have to program to get people in.

No. Obviously our programming is oriented toward students, but we’re not sitting around wondering how to get people involved in the sense that it’s a problem. We want more people involved because we want more people to experience this joy, but not because we’re starving for new members.

What’s a day like for you?

Half the time I’m at CCM, and half the time I’m the associate at St. Bede. So I split my time. But a typical day here: there’s Mass every day that I’m here, and confessions most days that I’m here. And we have staff meetings for the CCM staff…but the great majority of what I do is meet with students, students who want to come by once or on a regular basis, who want to talk about their faith or grow in faith. Or who need somebody to talk to, and outside of Mass that’s the thing that I most love.

I so respect college-aged people because you’re living in a world that’s a little overwhelming, especially W&M students. I admire their openness, their tenacity, their willingness to ask questions and ask hard questions. So I have so much respect for the students in general. I feel very privileged to be able to do that.

Is it what you expected it to be?

Yes, because I’ve been involved in ministry with young people for many years. I just became a priest two years ago, but I was involved as a college professor and other things before that. But there are no surprises in that way. But when there were surprises, they were pleasant ones, like how really seriously young people take the questions of life, and how honest they are, and that sort of thing.

When did you know that you wanted to become a priest?

That’s a long and complicated story. I’m actually a convert. I became Catholic in 2000; I had been United Methodist before that. I was very active, and my parents were very active in the church. I still love the Methodist church, but I ultimately found there was a sort of freedom and fullness in the Catholic faith that really drew me in; that was richer than what I had experienced before that. I became Catholic when I was teaching at Hampden-Sydney College. And not very long after that, I realized God was saying you can be a priest if you want to. And I did want to. Being a priest allows me, since I’m called to that as a priest, to meet and be with people and bring the fullness of what Christ offers the Church to people in a very direct way, and that’s very compelling to me.

Were you especially interested in working with students?

Oh yes. I have a very academic background. I was a classics major in Davidson College. And then I did a Master’s of Divinity and PhD in Theology at Duke, and it was through that that I became interested in the Catholic Church. And I have another Church degree called a License in Sacred Theology. So my whole life has been sort of academic; I’ve always loved being in environments that are about the life of the mind and asking questions and seeking answers. So I love everything I do—I love being at St. Bede and working with people of all ages, but I think my background and interests have suited me for this kind of environment. which is why I was put here by the bishop. And I really love it.

How has your worldview changed since this whole experience?

Becoming Catholic and all of that? I think it’s both opened my eyes to the real brokenness of the world, and the yearning that people have for something more. The yearning people have for peace and love and beauty. Therefore also, and this is the even bigger thing that has changed, I’ve come to see much more clearly and much more richly, and how intimately God is present in our lives and how passionately He loves each one of us and He wants to draw us into the freedom of our humanity.

No seriously, what’s with Jews for Jesus?

I think I talked about this before, and I remember because some guy commented saying “Messianic is perfectly legitimate” etc. so let’s just open that can of worms again.

This post is inspired by the fact that on iTunes, there are approximately three Messianic talk radio stations, and one Jewish one. The Jewish one is French, though, and it’s some sort of rock station. We also have a Messianic ‘synagogue’ here on the peninsula, and a couple more in Richmond.

I have to tell you, it’s a little distressing to me. We are discerning people, who know that anyone can use any text to predict the messianic qualities of anyone else. In Rambam’s time, apparently, that person was Mohammed. But the question really is how they wrangle people up with their tactics, and what do they do with them afterwards? Messianic ‘synagogues,’ I should think, aren’t long-term solutions. But when I think of different pragmatic problems associated with this, I hit a roadblock.

I could suggest that they probably become uncomfortable when they realize that most synagogues aren’t messianic, but then I suppose I could say the same for those messianic hasidic sects. And we don’t bother them.

I could suggest that their ideologies bar them from any synagogues other than their own, but then I just think of how the denominational divides are doing the very same.

Speaking of hasidic sects, I’m not really sure how that works, either. I don’t suppose they go around trying to find prooftexts for their rebbe’s resurrection, but something’s going on that might not be so different.

And if you want to talk about beliefs, what about all the atheist Jews out there? I feel like that’s, like, the majority, a statistic I don’t love but I always knew this. I’m just saying I wonder why Jews for Jesus “absolutely aren’t Jewish” wherein Jews with other unusual beliefs absolutely are (save for conversion differences, obviously Jews for Jesus converts aren’t Jewish converts—however we also know that all the controversy isn’t just about conversion validity).

Could be the proselytizing. I am more against proselytizing a Jew towards idolatry than you could ever know. But even beyond that, I certainly have qualms with Jews for Jesus. I just don’t know what they are, exactly. It’s similar to my qualms against non-Jews co-opting Jewish symbols like Kabbalah and the Shema (we saw a car today with a Jesus fish and 6 7DEUT on their license plate; that was just odd). I just don’t know what to say. But I still want to throw up. You know the feeling, I’m sure.

The next question is how people actually get into that sort of thing. If you love Judaism so much, just be a Noahide. If you love Jesus so much, just be a Christian. You’ll find a large and accepting community as a Christian. It’s not hard to find a Christian community, you know. Just come to the South if you can’t find one.

And really, if you’re looking for a rebbe, how boring is Jesus? You can do way better, if that’s what you’re after. Then you can be Hasidic and that’s way more interesting than spending your life scavenging for a Messianic ‘synagogue,’ always on the fringes. Maybe you enjoy that sort of thing. And I hope you’re also aware that spending your life with other Christians who just really like Judaism isn’t really an authentic Jewish cultural experience, if that’s what you want.

Christians who are too interested in Judaism just weird me out in general a little, just because I know that there’s always underlying stuff under their interest. Interested in Israel? Maybe because you want to do missionary work (i.e. “Convert all the Jews”), or maybe because you want the second coming, which will only happen if all the Jews are in Israel?

Still like Catholics though.

I like other Christians, too, so long as they stay on their side of the fence.


I took philosophy. I know that cultural relativism is really popular with the kids. But when you’re stuck in a car with someone who says that “Jews for Jesus morally should proselytize, if that’s their belief,” or when you’ve got a friend who claims to be into both Judaism and Hinduism (and doesn’t seem worried that Hinduism is polytheistic)—it’s harder to argue with than a highly theoretical philosophy class.

It’s one thing to accept other people’s religions. I go out of my way not to offend Christians by fighting back when they ask “why I can’t just believe in Jesus”, and I tend to think it’s important that Christianity continues to exist, because some people just do better having someone to pray to that they can actually see, for instance. But it’s quite another thing to accept—nay, “tolerate“—a belief system that is internally incoherent! Therefore, one can be Christian; one can be Jewish; but it’s logically inconsistent to be both. You can’t be both—same with Judaism and Hinduism. I don’t care how open Judaism is to syncretism or how our religion is “our personal business” or whatever. You have the right to your opinion; you don’t have the right to be wrong in facts.

Not to mention the fact that Messianic “Judaism” is not very internally consistent in general. Some questions:

1.) Jesus died. Great. So, what did he actually do? Unlike mainstream Christians, you can’t say he superceded the Torah.
2.) Do you follow Talmud? Why or why not? It’s the writings of the Pharisees; your mortal enemies. Where does it stop—Mishnah; Gemara; Tosafot; something else? What do you have to say about what Talmud says about Christianity and like sects?
3.) What siddur do you use, anyway?
4.) What is the difference between you and Christianity, theologically?
5.) When the Torah and New Testament clash, which do you follow?

It’s not popular to argue against other religions, I think; we’re supposed to say “well, that’s OK for you; I don’t like it, but then again I’m not Messianic!” But these people are real (I have friends who have Messianic friends), and even if they’re not proselytizing, their existence is perpetuating a lie. And they’re treading on my territory. So yes, my politically correct generation, I do care. Christians are going to keep asking me “why I can’t believe in Jesus”, but I don’t want it to be because they “have another Jewish friend who does.”

I’ve got to talk about Tony.


I went to the Catholic church again with a friend. I don’t know why I keep going, except for the fact that it seems like it’s the only way I get to see her (she’s not Catholic, in case you were wondering). The priest we’ve seen there twice is very interesting but rather plain compared to the new guy…..


He walked up the aisle to the tune of the organ, stopping once to pet some crying baby. When he got to the front, he said something Catholic and everyone was like “Amen” all decorous-like and he was like, “Now that’s no way to express your enthusiasm! I want to hear it louder!” or something like that, and everyone was like AMEN!

It was like that the whole time. Later on, he was like “Who in here’s a Christian?” and people were like, “Yeah, me,” and he was like “Whoa, there are only SIX CHRISTIANS IN HERE? LET ME HEAR YOU, WHO in here is a CHRISTIAN?” He also make a joke about pizza. Twice. He called out this guy in the front row by name. “John? Are you the one who wrote all those books?” He was making flailing hand gestures, going “I’m Italian, don’t mind me!” and shouting stuff and all like he was at a football game or something. Man he got those people revved up, too.

Then somehow he started making this impassioned speech about freaking Haiti, and it was great because even I felt a little guilty. Luckily, I absolutely hate when people tell me what I need to donate my money to, so I didn’t feel that guilty. “Look in your seats; you’ll see an envelope. I don’t want anyone leaving here without an envelope!” He called out some teenage girl, going “Now if you lived in Haiti as a teenage girl, you wouldn’t be texting all over the place, you’d be getting water out of the well!”

So that went on for a good half hour, and I was like “Tony, good gracious. You’re way too intense. And how did you get into priest school like this anyway?” You wouldn’t believe it, but when he was done, he got this big wave of applause.

Applause! At Catholic mass! Tony!

Then it was time for communion and he was totally intense about that too. He was like “YOU DIED FOR US AND TOLD US TO BREAK THIS BREAD” or whatever they say during that part, and he was gesticulating violently at the matzah and wine like he was trying to get Jesus to REALLY GET IN THAT WINE! And when he lifted the stuff up, apparently that’s when it gets transubstantiated because that seems about right, he stared intensely at it for like five seconds.

(I wonder what priests are thinking while they’re transubstantiating…)

Anyway, he was intense. Later on, he called out to some lady. “Sister Catherine. Where is she? GO GET HER!!! This lady has done SO MUCH at this church, give her a hand!”

And he got applause. For the second time! Tony!

But now that I’ve experienced Tony, I don’t think I really want to go back to Catholic mass for a while. I mean, they’re all the time talking about those evil Pharisees and how Jesus coined the Shema and all those other things Christians think. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the people sitting near us can totally hear me every time I whisper “This sounds better in Hebrew” every ten seconds.