Ever hear of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Believe it or not, it is real organization. It has been recognized as legitimate by various government agencies. For example, followers of this group sometimes wear a colander as a sign of allegiance to the church. So in numerous states they have demanded the right to have their driver’s license photos taken with a colander on their heads. A couple of years ago a man elected to local government in New York state took his oath of office while wearing a colander.
The “church” began in 2005 when a man named Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education. The Board was considering offering the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. In this satirical protest letter, Henderson mentioned the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). He parodied the beliefs of creationists and intelligent design theory by asserting that he believed in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a supernatural being that interferes with scientists every time they attempt to carbon date something. Supposedly the FSM is the actual creator of the universe, who was drunk when he made everything—which explains why everything is so messed up.
This religion of parody soon took off via the internet. Now there is an established set of beliefs as part of the church. There is an official holy book, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The FSM is pictured as a mass of noodles with two bulbous eyes on the end of pasta strands. There are also two large meatballs contained in the mass of noodles. The whole thing looks like something out of an H. P. Lovecraft nightmare. The followers of this church are called Pastafarians. They honor Pirates, who they believe were the official Pastafarians. They have their own beliefs about the afterlife. They picture heaven as having a volcano that spews beer and a factory that produces prostitutes and strippers. Hell is similar, except the beer is stale and the prostitutes have STD’s. They observe a holiday around Christmas time called “Holiday.” And they end their prayers with a reverent “R’amen.” Henderson states emphatically that the only dogma for a Pastafarian is that there is no dogma.
The church has faced a number of legal battles to prove its legitimacy. Citing first amendment rights of freedom of religion and free speech, they have consistently won their cases. As a result, they are able to ordain ministers, solemnize marriages, and present public “Holiday” displays alongside Christmas nativities and Hanukkah menorahs. The church has attracted skeptics, freethinkers, atheists and agnostics of every shade and hue. They have their own approach to apologetics: “You can’t prove the FSM doesn’t exist, just as you can’t prove your God doesn’t exist. So we are a legitimate expression of faith just as much as Christianity, or any other religion.” As part of their spoofing, they offer examples of miraculous “sightings” of the FSM appearing on grilled cheese sandwiches, masses of seaweed on beaches, undersea creatures, petroglyphs, and rock formations on Mars.
They are obviously mocking Christianity, indeed, any religion. Admirers say it is all in good fun. Members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster claim it is a genuine religion, and they should be taken seriously. So what are we to make of such a group?
While it cannot be denied that legally they have a right to freedom of speech and “religion” (if you want to call it that). However, a religion based on mockery and scorn is a rather serious matter. What does it say about our society when a group can denigrate the holy, mock the sacred, and blaspheme God Himself with no qualms or fear whatsoever? In fact, is not this church simply a reflection of a larger trend? You won’t have to watch TV very long or go to too many movies before you see religion mocked, the clergy presented either as buffoons or charlatans, and the Christian faith held up to ridicule. This is, sad to say, far too common in our country today. We have lost the fear of God!
We have also lost reverence for the holy. Blasphemy and sacrilege have become all too common. However, as disturbing as this is, I am not too sure we can put all on the blame on the world. Much culpability lies at our own door. Consider the speech of far too many believers today. I hear many Christians commonly say “Oh my God!” “Oh Lord!” or even “Dear Jesus” as though the name of God were nothing but an emotional exclamation. Whatever happened to not taking the Lord’s name in vain? This is certainly but one example. I know this will sound legalistic to many people—but we lost something in this country when Sunday became just another day. Our rejection of the concept of “Sabbath-keeping” is symptomatic of our rejection of the sacred in general. We tried to make every day holy, and so nothing is holy. I know some Christians who routinely tell “irreverent” jokes about sacred matters. (I put irreverent in quotation marks because for these people “irreverent” simply means “funny, offensive to some, but wholly acceptable to me.”) If we see such behavior within the ranks of the church, what can we expect from the world? Indeed, how can we fault the world? Sadly we who are supposed to be salt and light don’t seem to doing such a great job.
I guess we should have expected this. After all, the Apostle Peter did say, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (2 Peter 3:3 NIV). But as followers of Christ we cannot afford to be indifferent to the situation—even if it is a fulfillment of prophecy. We do well to remember that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10 ESV). The solution to this sacrilegious mess is to rediscover the holy and to renew our reverence for God. If there is any hope that a healthy fear of the Lord and a wholesome respect for the sacred could be revived in our culture, it is incumbent on the church to lead the way.