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December 20, 2002

Miracles of commerce
Posted by Teresa at 08:16 PM *

Ship of Fools’ brilliant Gadgets for Godalready known to regular readers of this weblog as one of my all-time favorite websites—has put together their annual Top Twelve roundup of religious kitsch, 2002.

On the twelfth day of Kitschmas, my pastor sent to me:

twelve Evangecube Witnessing Tools,
eleven “Our Pastor” Figurines,
ten Nativity Black Bears,
nine floating-sacrament Last Supper Pens,
eight glow-in-the-dark “Jesus” Teething Rings,
seven Adam and Eve Salt and Pepper Shakers,
six Holy Trinity Lego 3-Pak Sets,
five Ten Commandments Throw Blankets,
four Musical Weeping Santas,
three pairs of Holy Cross Boxer Shorts,
two Inflatable Churches,
and a Bobble-Head Jesus Doll.

In their regular “Christmas” department, they have Santa Worshipping the Christ Child, the Moses Nutcracker, and a Jesus Snowstorm. As their writeup has it, that last item is:
One for total immersionists everywhere 96 John baptises Jesus, both of them completely, and permanently, submerged in a blue-tinted Jordan River. Witness a miracle, too. A shake of the plastic dome and an underwater snowstorm erupts (as they so often do in the Jordan). Seconds later, JC brings calm. As a special bonus, the wind-up music box base plays “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” All for just $19.99 (down from $29.99) from Armchair Shopper.

Tacky? Almost tasteful compared with another water miracle soon to be unveiled. A long, invisible platform is under construction on Galilee, a centimeter or two below the surface of the lake. It will allow Holy Land visitors to experience the thrill of walking on water (at a small cost). Be patient. As ever, full details first on Ship of Fools…

That’s just alarming.

Throughout the year, Gadgets for God features such diverse wonders as a Light-Up Musical Jesus, a Mother Teresa Doll that sings “You Light Up My Life”, a Pet-Baptizing Kit, a pair of Giant Praying Hands, videotapes of the adventures of Bibleman, a bronze statuette of Boy Jesus and his Dog, the LDS “REPENT: Tough On Sins” Wristwatch, the Baby Jesus Paddleball Toy, a waterproof Prayer to Saint Gertrude to hang in your shower, the inexplicably horrible Praying Teddy Bear, a Christian Workout Video (“a unique combination of lycra and liturgy”), the petal-opening Hallelujah Jesus Clock, photoshopped Heavenly Images, the Optical Illusion Jesus, the Water Into Wine Doll, Sacred Sneakers, a set of Holy Odor Eater Insoles for your Sacred Sneakers, a Last Supper Wall Clock (check out the spindle placement), a Personal-Alarm-in-a-Crucifix, and the Express Delivery “Return to Sender” Casket; plus, in the food and housewares department, Testamints, Bible-Shaped Chocolate Bars, KJV Chewing Gum, Pope Cake, and a set of refrigerator magnets showing five different Elevations of the Host.

Mosque. Clock.

One of the things I like about Gadgets for God is that they link to some excellently strange sites, like the Religious Experience hot sauce company, makers of sauces called “The Wrath” and “Apocalypse”.

Even better is “Home of the mosque-shaped alarm clock; please remove your shoes before entering this site.” This is a find.

Said alarm clock comes in three varieties: travel, classic, and deluxe (only right now everything’s sold out but the travel models), in colors like aqua green, sandal green, camel racing green, dishy ivory, duck egg blue, mosque blue, and rose pink. Basically, it’s a clock in the shape of mosque with brightly gilded minarets, and at the proper five times a day it plays the Azan, the call to prayer, very loudly. For a recreation of the effect this produces, catch their short film, Sandals at Seven, which they have filed under “Fun”.

Hie to Kolob for all your Christmas shopping!

Now, as it happens, I was over at the Gadgets for God website to see whether someone else had beaten me to a recommendation. I’d found a live one: The Lightmindedness and Laughter site, purveyors of fine incendiary tat for ex-Mormons.

Products and inclues:

((Note: “Incluing” is Jo Walton’s extremely useful word for the process and task of working in all the expository material the readers will have to upload in order to read a work of genre fiction. I figure that inclues are discrete elements used in that process. Thank you.)

1. The site’s name comes from a line in one of the temple rituals, wherein Mormons are given “a charge to avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice.”

2. The License Plate Frames: “Mo” is a stem word signifying “Mormon”. It’s used in innumerable permutations; thus, “EX-MO-BILE: Hot Rod to Hell”. “Because I will not be assimilated” is a reference to many ex-Mormons’ habit of collectively referring to the church and its members as The Morg.

3. The Beggar T-shirt: Ten percent of gross is what devout Mormons are expected to pay in tithing.

4. The Jesus T-shirt: “I don’t know that we teach that” is a reference to an interview five years ago in which Church President Gordon B. Hinckley waffled on that basic and long-established tenet of Mormon doctrine, “As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man may become.” This provoked a vast amount of distress and cynicism. The church has a habit of quietly rewriting its scriptures and doctrines, then claiming they’ve always been that way; but this was a blatant repudiation of core doctrine.

5. The Apostate Smiley, Apostate Neener, and Symbolic T-shirts: The backwards L and the V are two of the sacred marks stitched into temple garments, the Mormons’ holy underwear.

6. “Pay Lay Ale” is supposedly a phrase in the original Adamic Language. It’s chanted at one point in the temple Endowment Ceremony. The phrase is also appropriated by apostate Mormons (like that famous Son of Perdition, Bill Shunn) who drink or brew beer.

7. The Adam-God Doctrine, which states that Adam was God the Father, the father of Jesus in the literal flesh, and also that Adam “…stands at the gate and holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or who ever will come upon the Earth” is one of Mormonism’s weirder pieces of old doctrine. Brigham Young came up with that one, and preached it for twenty years. The church would very much like to sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. (The King Follett Discourse is another one. It was preached by Joseph Smith in 1844, and theologically it’s a real lollapalooza.)

8. I can’t fully explain about the shirts with the Temple ID Badges, but take my word for it: If you’re a Mormon, they’re gratifyingly transgressive.

The Truth T-shirt, Greeting Cards, and Clock speak for themselves.

Between running into Lightmindedness and Laughter, and finding out that Joseph Fielding Smith had a history of homosexual behavior, my week was made.

Comments on Miracles of commerce:
#1 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 02:30 AM:

>... the Religious Experience hot sauce company, makers of sauces called "The Wrath" and "Apocalypse".

I assume you can sprinkle the latter on your meal and have Apocalypse Chow.

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 02:41 AM:

And . . . could it be? Yes, the model for "Our Pastor" is none other than Elmer Gantry!

#3 ::: Anita Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 07:12 AM:

I actually saw a billboard for Huggy Jesus while driving on the West Seattle bridge!

#4 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 10:25 AM:

It's a breath mint! It's a candy mint! It's a Sacramint! (Yes, try new Holy Trinity mints! It's three mints in one!) [Ancient cartoon someone posted on their dorm room in my college days--yes it's that ancient. But sooner or later reality catches up with us all.]

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 10:51 AM:


Richard, in one of the booths at the annual Christmas crafts fair in Union Square, the one with the stuffies in the likeness of Freud, Woolfe, Marx, Einstein, and asst'd other intellectual icons, they also sell little tins of post-therapy mints. I think this is a fine idea, but they should be called Pentimentos.

Anita, a full-size billboard version of that thing has got to be weird when you're just trying to get through your morning commute. Huggy Jesus looks like a Braveheart Beanie Baby, or maybe the soft-sculpture version of a tennis-playing Scot. I have sent e-mail to Gadgets for God apprising them of Huggy Jesus' existence.

Just to let everyone know: This morning, the spirit moved me to rewrite the south end of this post.

#6 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 11:37 AM:

and a Bobble-Head Jesus Doll.

I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my plastic Jesus

#7 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 12:03 PM:

Amazingly, there's more.

Over on the Malibulist website, at I make reference to Religious Health Food from the House of David and the wonderfully named

And I haven't even mentioned the View Askew and Archie McPhee folks.

#8 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 01:39 PM:

You guys are just messing with my head, right?

#9 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 01:44 PM:

And Theresa, I just went and read some of the King Follett Discourse...and you ARE messing with my head!

#10 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 02:35 PM:

Glenn (et al) House of David has their very own online superstore at

After you open all those cool Christmas presents, you can have a Biblical feast with your family.


#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 03:49 PM:

Archie MacPhee occasionally carries weird-ass religio-kitsch from other cultures.

But not weird enough for me. I want a little statue of Ganesh helping a little brahmin kid learn how to ride a two-wheeler. Or of a mounstrous many-mouthed skull-necklaced Krishna helping kids learn to play Cricket.

That would utterly rock.

#12 ::: Madeleine Reardon Dimond ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 04:32 PM:

These beat out the Jesus Christ action figure I saw last week in Woodstock (next to the Sigmund Freud action figures). Too bad they didn't come with accessories.

To approximately quote Anne Lamott out of context, it's enough to make Jesus fall to his knees and drink gin out of the cat dish.

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 04:37 PM:

Bobble-head dolls are topped with spherical stasis fields, right?

#14 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2002, 11:26 PM:

Stefan, they do have Hindu kitsch...go to Flushing Queens. That's wear I got the three-inch Ganesh-ji in (I kid you not) lavender metal-finish plastic that sits atop my monitor at work.

While there, I also saw a picture of Kali-ji that turns into a picture of Shiv-ji depending on how you hold it. Also some kitchen thingie (I think it was a ceramic trivet) with the Sanskrit word "OM" and, in small Roman characters, the notation "Om, om on the range."

I swear I'm not making this up.

#15 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2002, 02:09 AM:

>the wonderfully named

Jesus Christ
Shop with the Lord and you'll save much more.

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
He's got it all at the lowest price.

The only store where you can Save and Be Saved at the Same Time!

[Can't claim that's new; it's run through my head every time I hear the song from JC Superstar for *years*. Never thought anyone would have the nerve to actually call themselves JC Superstore...]


#16 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2002, 08:36 AM:

>These beat out the Jesus Christ action figure I
>saw last week in Woodstock

Newbury Comics stores (Mass., NH) have the Job action figure. Sackcloth, ashes, bleeding boils. Just what your five-year-old needs.

#17 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2002, 09:18 AM:

Hey, I have a question about Mormons that I probably can't ask "a regular Mormon."

My cousin Heidi lives in San Diego, and we got
together when I was out at Smofcon.
Her boss's family is Mormon, and we
all know how pro-family Mormons are supposed to be.
However, she said that her boss (and two of his sons) were not allowed to attend the actual marriage service of his daughter because he had some sort of falling out with the church. He wasn't excommunicated or anything, just not allowed in the sanctuary (tabernacle?).

I don't really understand this. My in-laws are
Catholic, yet we non-believers have always been
welcome to weddings, funerals, et.c. It seems to me that a religion that claims to promote the
family would encourage families to attend important
events like weddings.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2002, 05:13 PM:

Laurie, you could ask any Mormon about that; but if what you want is an irregular Mormon, I'm your girl.

Basically, Mormonism is a church with two levels of initiation, and rumors of a third. Profession of faith, baptism, and confirmation (which are rituals anyone can attend) just gets you into the first level. After that you can attend or participate in rituals that take place in the temple if you have a temple recommend, which you can get from your bishop (trans.: your pastor) after an interview in which you swear that you've been behaving yourself like a good Mormon and paying a full tithe. Temple recommends have to be renewed at least once a year.

Temple rituals include full-scale Mormon weddings, sealings, baptism for the dead, and the Endowment ceremony, which last marks the second level of initiation. In a canonical Mormon life, a man would go through the Endowment ceremony before going on his mission, and a woman would do it before getting married. After you've been through the ceremony, you're supposed to wear temple longjohns for the rest of your life, unless you're bathing, swimming, or participating in a sporting event. There's some disagreement as to whether you and your spouse should take them off in one other set of circumstances.

But I digress. Back to the question of weddings. Bottom line: no temple recommend, no admission, no matter what. I was the Maid of Honor at my sister's wedding, but since I was already in dubious standing with the church, I wasn't allowed to attend the ceremony. I was less upset about that than I might have been.

If you've followed me so far, but are thinking that can't be right, since by that logic it would follow that someone who:

has been a devout Mormon all his life,

but has recently suffered financial reversals,

and consequently has failed to give the church its full 10% off the top this year,

and who doesn't have enough weasel-nature to lie to the bishop about it,

(and who definitely doesn't have enough weasel-nature to print out one of the facsimile temple recommends certain godless websites have mischievously made available to the public)

could therefore wind up being excluded from his own daughter's wedding--

Congratulations and full points, because that is indeed what happens.

Perhaps you're now wondering about that episode where Christ drove the money-changers from the temple. Don't worry; it'll never happen in a Mormon temple. With that beard and haircut, He'd never get past the front door.

#19 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2002, 07:35 PM:

Wow, thanks for the education.

Liberal Protestants have things like baptism and
confirmation, but you can always attend any church

About ths only similar thing I can think of in
mainstream Christian sects is you can't take
Communion in certain instances. In most Christian churches, you can't take Communion until you've
been confirmed (Protestant) or had First Communion
(Catholic). Also in Catholicism, if you haven't been to confession or if you've been divorced, you're not supposed to take Communion. But you can still go to mass.

You can even still attend church if you aren't dontating money. They might try to make you feel guilty, but they don't forbid you from attending.

#20 ::: Myke ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2002, 06:28 AM:

In church yesterday, they handed out tiny plastic baby Jesuses (Jesi?).

Each one of was small enough to occupy the central role in your own dashboard nativity scene, and had "MADE IN CHINA" stamped on its back.


#21 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2002, 09:42 AM:

Should have actually read: "Made in China by Exploited Children."

Jesus wept.

And the above coming to you from a Jewish Quaker.
(Who knows the second verses to most Christmas carols. AND the descants. Go figure.)


#22 ::: lj ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 12:48 PM:

how do i purchase the water into wine doll?

#24 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 06:58 PM:

There's something similar here.

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