CHRISTIANITY doesn't get much more muscular than Manny Pacquiao,
a Filipino boxer who has won ten world championships at eight
different weights. He gave an interview that wonderfully bewildered
The Observer's Kevin Mitchell.
The standard US sportsman has a close relationship with God at
work, but a rather more open relationship when at play. Pacquiaio
does things the other way round.
"'I have a lot of dreams and visions,' the world welterweight
champion says in a voice as unthreatening as a mother's whisper. 'I
even heard the voice of God. When I heard the voice of God, I am
trembling and melting. I feel I have died. It was an amazing,
"'I'm happy because I found the right way, salvation, born
again. We are required to be born again, all of us. Christ said
unless we are born again we cannot enter the kingdom of God. So
it's very important to me. Jesus Christ said: "I am the way and the
truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
There is no other way. The only way is through Jesus.'"
According to his manager ("I'm not a religious man"), this is
deeply upsetting to the boxer's mother, since he was raised a Roman
Catholic: "She's always trying to press a rosary into his hands."
She also worries that it will harm his political career; for he is
a hugely popular figure in the Philippines.
But his wife is extremely happy: "He doesn't party any more,
doesn't drink any more. He's a clean liver, doesn't fuck around
with girls no more. And his wife is very happy about that. He's a
better family man. So there's a lot of good that goes with it."
He is due to batter a hapless American into submission at one of
the giant Macau casinos in November.
THE GUARDIAN also had an unsavoury story from Australia
about Frank Houston, the father of the founder of the Hillsong
churches, who had been prominent in the Assemblies of God.
When he confessed in 2000 to the past sexual abuse of a
prepubescent boy, his own son sacked him from the Assemblies of
God. Nine victims in all came forward, and one of them, known as
AHA, has just been testifying at an Australian government
"In 2000 AHA met Frank Houston and a third, unknown man at
Thornleigh McDonald's, he said.
"Frank Houston allegedly told him, 'I want your forgiveness for
this,' and offered him $10,000. The unnamed man then put a
food-stained napkin in front of him and told him to sign it for the
money, AHA told the commission. AHA signed the napkin and the
unnamed man said he would send AHA a cheque.
"Frank Houston said if there were any problems to call [his son,
the Hillsong founder] Brian Houston, which AHA did two months later
when nothing had arrived, the commission heard.
"AHA alleged that Brian Houston became angry and said: 'You know
it's your fault all of this happened - you tempted my father.'
"He said he had replied by asking Brian Houston if he was also
molested by his father. Brian Houston allegedly slammed the phone
"Two weeks later a cheque with no covering note arrived in the
mail, he said."
This is not what is normally meant by the prosperity gospel. It
is also interesting in its reversion to an entirely Anglo-Saxon (as
in pre-Norman) idea of justice: the crime is erased by a payment of
money to the victim.
THEN there was an unusual face-of-Jesus story. For once, this
one was quite probably meant as a depiction, since it was painted
on a Roman plate excavated in Spain. As the Daily Mail had
it: "Archaeologists in Spain claim they have found one of the
world's earliest known images of Jesus - and he doesn't have a
"The figure is engraved on a glass plate dating back to the 4th
Century AD, according to Spanish reports. He is flanked by two
apostles, believed to be Peter and Paul.
"The scene is striking because Jesus looks very different from
later depictions - he has no beard, short, curly hair and is
wearing what appears to be a philosopher's toga."
The Guardian preferred a more scholarly approach: "The
history of Christianity in Spain may have to be rewritten after the
discovery of a glass plate depicting Christ that dates to the
fourth century AD.
"Christian Spain is thought to have begun in the fifth century
with the arrival of the recently Christianised Visigoths from
central Europe and Byzantium."
I don't know by whom Christianity in Spain is supposed to have
started in the fifth century when the Arians arrived, but perhaps
The Guardian is pursuing a subtle theo-logical agenda in
which the orthodox are written out of history. This is obviously
more likely than that someone is copying what's in a press