11-Year-Old Boy Leads Church as an Ordained Minister

Is there anything kids nowadays can’t do? Well, there may be a few, but becoming an ordained minister and leading a church isn’t one of them. 11-year-old Ezekiel Stoddard recently made headlines after he was ordained a minister at the Fullness of Time Church in Maryland.

We’ve featured a few prodigies on Oddity Central, like the world’s youngest computer wiz, the 9-year-old Monet, a 10-year-old sake expert, but we’ve never had a child minister. That changes today, as we introduce Ezekiel Stoddard, an 11-year-old ordained minister who has apparently been writing his own sermons since he was seven. “It doesn’t matter the age that you can be licensed. It just matters … how much word do you have and how much God has called you,” the enthusiastic child of God told the Washington Post. Still, he admits sometimes adults don’t take him seriously and “look at me like I’m a joke and I need to sit down.”

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Fight Church – When Evangelical Christianity Meets Mixed Martial Arts

What do you do when your love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is just as strong as your passion for religion? That’s the big question Fight Church is trying to answer.

Fight Church is an interesting documentary directed by Oscar-winning director Daniel Junge that tries to explore the rocky relationship between Evangelical Christianity and fighting in a cage. It mainly focuses on Senior Pastor Paul Burress, his Trinity Church and its offshoot MMA school, Trinity Training. The controversial film was given the green light after attracting $30,000 through Kickstarter, and although it’s still in production, the debut trailer posted online has already caused quite a stir. And that comes as no surprise, considering it features people asking questions like “Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?”

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Los Santos Malandros – The Thug Saints of Venezuela

An idol of a man dressed in blue jeans, orange shirt, green baseball cap and a gun stuck in his belt is hardly something you’d expect to see at a place of worship. But it’s pretty common in Venezuela, the country with the highest murder rates in the world. Religious cults worship thugs and criminals who are long dead and gone. Even though the most widespread religion in Venezuela is Christianity, the worship of local thugs is so strong that it cannot be overlooked. The people who participate in such cult worship are more often than not, from the poorest sections of society.

With an average murder rate of about 14,000 a year, Venezuela isn’t exactly the safest place in the world. In such a scenario, I suppose it would be easiest for the people to relate to a God with whom they can connect, as compared to the Christian saints. And that is what makes the Maria Lionza cult so popular. According to this alternate religion, the dead co-exist with the living and they can be accessed through a few people who act as a medium.

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The Creation Museum – A Controversial Attraction in Kentucky

The Creation Museum, located in Portland, Kentucky, is a $27million museum dedicated to the Creationist theory. Creationism, which opposes the concept of evolution, is based on the Christian Genesis story that God created heaven and earth. Spectacular multimedia displays that use Hollywood technology depict the story of Genesis at the Creation Museum. Tens of thousands of people from all over the US pay regular visits to the place dedicated to God and how he created our world. One visitor proclaims, “I finally realized today that God made time. He made the dates, He made the 24 hours, He gave this to us.”

According to the Creationist theory, the world has not been evolving for millions of years (as stated by the theory of evolution), but was created only 6,000 years ago. Calling scientific experiments and proofs as ‘based on a ton of assumptions’, the videos played at the museum’s auditorium state that it is better to “start with the word of someone who has seen everything from the beginning and told us exactly what happened.” That someone, they say, is God. Some of the other attractions at the museum include life-size models of Noah and his Ark, Adam, Eve, and other characters from the Bible. Also on display are a few fragments of Torah scrolls that were supposedly saved from the clutches of Saddam, in Iraq.

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Thousands Flock to See Miraculous Frescoes of Macedonian Church

The phenomenon is being hailed as a modern day miracle. But there are some who are just not buying into it. Whatever the reason may be, what’s happening at the St Demetrius church in Skopje, Macedonia is very interesting. The gold halos around the paintings of saints on the walls of the five-century old church have miraculously turned brighter, overnight. The paint is reported to be noticeably sharper than it used to be before. Some reports suggest that the soot gathered over all these centuries is simply falling off, to reveal the original colors of the paintings beneath. The phenomenon first began with the image of the Virgin Mary and soon spread to the other works of art.

The miracle of the Macedonian Church paintings is turning out to be quite a popular one. Several hundreds have gathered in long lines outside the church, hoping to get a glance. Even Archbishop Stefan of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski paid their visits. Father Dragi Trpeski says, “I’ve worked as a priest for 26 years but I have never witnessed a miracle like this.” Several theories have been put forth, attempting to explain the event. According to local clergy, the famous warrior St Demetrius is unhappy about the recent drop in visits to the church. Apparently, the presence of nearby construction sites has blocked main entrances and resulted in fewer visitors. Head of the Commission for Religious Communities, Valentina Bozinovska, suggests, “This is a message that we must immediately return to moral values, family and children, to preserve ourselves from the decadence we are facing.”

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Man Single Handedly Carves Orthodox Churches in the Side of Mountain

It’s the stuff that ancient legends are made of, but I guess you could call the story of Aba Defar a modern-day miracle. How else would you explain an old man carving four churches on a mountain side of the Ethiopian highlands, all on his own?

Aba Defar is a man driven by his faith in religion. At one point in life he was a family man and a weaver by profession. But all that changed with a simple dream he had in 1959. The Holy Spirit appeared in his dream, showing him a mountain church carved out of sheer rock. The dream kept repeating itself over the next 30 years, but he never knew what to make of it. It was when he had a vision that he finally understood that his life’s mission was awaiting him.

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The God Squad – Russia’s Parachuting Priests

Until now, only angels were able to drop in from the skies, but not anymore. Russian priests will be joining in pretty soon, complete with church and everything. No, they won’t be sprouting wings, they will be using parachutes to do their flying. Confused? I’m talking about an elite unit of priests that are currently being trained as a part of the Russian Army. Once the training is complete, they will be able to drop in along with their mobile churches, to hold services for Russian troops posted around the world. Their code name – The God Squad (of course).

More interesting than the parachuting priests themselves, are the mini hi-tech churches they are to carry with them. The self-assembled Russian orthodox churches will come with crucifixes, replica icons, bells and chalices. In short, everything that’s needed for the rituals performed as a part of their religion. An air conditioning unit, generator, refrigerator and mini-theatre will also accompany the priests. The chapel will be placed on the ground using an airborne platform, generally meant for carrying heavy military equipment. Once on the ground, the priests would get to work in assembling the entire church unit, before holding a service.

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Dudeism – The Religion Based on The Big Lebowski

When Jeff Bridges starred as ‘The Dude’ in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, I bet he didn’t know that his character would one day inspire a whole new religion. Seven years after the film’s release, Oliver Benjamin was watching it with a large group of people in Thailand, when he says he was ‘transformed’. Soon, the Church of the Latter-Day Dude was born in the hip resort town of Pai; a modern-day hippie-style religion, where it’s okay to do pretty much as you please. Today, Dudeism has over 100,000 ordained Dudeist priests all over the world, and Benjamin is the Dudely Lama. It’s interesting to note that over 75 percent of the followers are male.

One look at the religion’s official website, and you’re bound to think it’s a joke. But it isn’t, the Dudeists are actually pretty serious about being ‘cool’. Dudeism also borrows some of its philosophy from Chinese Taoism, and their idea is pretty simple: Just take it easy, man. Life is short and complicated, they say, and nobody knows what to do about it. So, don’t. Sounds pretty good, but I do wonder if it’s really that easy to be chilled out all the time. I suppose it’s for people like me that they even have a ‘Take it Easy Manifesto’ written by Arch Dudeship Rev. Dwayne Eutsey.

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World’s First Park and Pray Chapel to Open in Austria

With the launch of the new Park and Pray Worldwide Chapel Network, it is now possible for you to pray anywhere in the world, by simply stopping your car wherever you see  the Park+Pray sign.

The new concept is revolutionary in terms of making places of prayer available to all Christians, regardless of their confession. At places where the Park+Pray sign is displayed, one can find a chapel or church, a devotion or prayer room that all believers are welcome to make use of. Prayers will be provided with anonymity and privacy so you can comfortably make contact with God. The first chapel of the Park and Pray Network will open its doors to the public in August this year.

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Reverend Opens Tattoo Parlor inside Church to Attract Parishioners

If this doesn’t bring people to Church, what will? A Church in Michigan has opened a built-in tattoo parlor, and the Reverend himself sports two tattoos.

Rev. Steve Bentley opened a small place called “Serenity Tattoo” in “The Bridge”, a church located inside a shopping center in Flint Township. The move was made in an effort to reach out to people who are uncomfortable with traditional places of worship. According to Bentley, mainstream religion is now irrelevant to most people and has actually become ineffective. So he came up with this unique solution to reach out to a few people who would otherwise never step into  a church.

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File Sharing Becomes Official Religion in Sweden

Kopimism – a belief in the sacred right to share files – has been recognized as an official religion in Sweden, at the end of last year.

“Information is holy and copying is a sacrament. Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organisation and its members.” This is how Kopimism is described on the official website of the Missionary Church of Kopimism. Apparently, ever since 2010, a groups of self-confessed file-sharing pirates have been trying to get file sharing recognized as an official religion. After having their claim denied several times, they’ve finally seen their dream fulfilled in late December 2011, when Kompimism was officially acknowledged as a legal religion. The Church hopes its new sacred status will remove the legal stigma  associated with file sharing.

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Ancient Documents Claim Jesus Lived to Be 106 and Died in Japan

There have been bizarre claims before that Jesus Christ lived and died in India, with his tomb located in the state of Kashmir. In what can only be a testament to his omnipresence, another claim has been made to Christ’s whereabouts before his death, this time by the Japanese.

So the story goes like this – Christ visited Japan between the ages of 21 and 33. Of course, this is conveniently supported by the fact that the Bible skips over large periods of Christ’s early life. He spent this time studying the native language and culture, before returning to Jerusalem. What about the Crucifixion, you ask? Well, it wasn’t Christ that was crucified at all. According to this theory, it was his younger brother Isukiri, who took his place on the cross. In the meantime, Christ fled to Siberia. After a few years, he traveled via Alaska and arrived at the port of Hachinohe, 40km from the village of Shingo. He lived the rest of his life in the village, where he married, had three children and died at the age of 106.

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Twitter User Gives Modern Twist to the Nativity Story, Gains Massive Following

A Twitter user has taken on the identity of Joseph of Nazareth, to give us a perspective of what he might have been going through during the birth of Jesus Christ.

The work of an anonymous tweeter from Germany has attracted thousands of followers on social networking site Twitter. He goes by the pseudonym Joseph Von Nazareth. His profile page, joseph_von_naza, is aimed at re-inventing the nativity. He writes “We have heard the story a thousand times, but nobody has ever thought about how Joseph felt about the whole thing.” The tweets began on Dec 1 and are written in German. The tweeter intends to continue until Christmas, narrating the nativity in 140-character messages right until then. For now, his tweets are focused on his girlfriend Mary and her pregnancy. He has been in a state of turmoil ever since he found out about it.

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Swedish Church Uses Techno Music to Attract the Young

Last Friday, a church in Stockholm, Sweden turned into a 90s disco, during a techno Mass priests hope will draw young people closer to religion.

Instead of listening to the sermon and praying silently, the congregation inside the All Saints Church, in Stockholm were throwing their hands in the air, busting dance moves and singing to the lyrics of music, during the second ever techno Mass organized by the Swedish church. Special lighting installations, the techno sounds and raving crowd made the place look more like a dance club than a place of worship, but priests of the Lutheran church say this was just a successful attempt of making religion and attending church interesting for young people.

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Malaysians Sleep in Coffins for Good Luck

Most people would prefer to stay out of a coffin for as long as possible, but for devotees at the Looi Im Si temple, in Penang, Malaysia, sleeping in a coffin is the best thing that could happen to them.

The Taoist temple located in Jelutong worships deities linked to the afterlife, like Xiao Xian Bo, one of the two guards responsible for bringing the dead to the other side. Chu Soon Lock, the temple’s secretary, claims his grandmother founded the temple after receiving instructions in a dream, from hell deity Di Fu Bao Zhang. As the years went by the temple started worshiping various other deities like Ji Gong, Si Da Jin Gang and Mile Buddha. The weirdest part of the story of Looi Im Si temple started in 2007, when the spirit of Xiao Xian Bo arrived at the holy place and began addressing his devotees through the body of Chu Soon Lock’s brother.

Chu Soon Chye says he doesn’t know a word of Teochew, yet he speaks the dialect fluently each time he is possessed by Xiao Xian Bo. Back in 2008, when he was in a trance, Soon Chye instructed temple devotees to place five coffins within the temple, and only allow people with serious problems caused by bad luck to sleep in them. Only one of the five coffins is used, because the other four are apparently too small to fit into.

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