We were silent too long last week, but we experienced some technical difficulties with our news gathering system and my recovery is not yet to a point where I can chase this stuff down rapidly.
“South Park” Hates Religion
I know that the cartoon “South Park” can be outrageously funny, but I never could watch it on a routine basis, I was uncomfortable that it made so much fun of people’s misfortune and when it discussed religion it just made me angry. I speak in the past tense because while the show is still in production, I have paid no attention in a very long time. But it hit the news this past week for the first time in a long time.
It caught my eye when our friend Peggy Fletcher Stack pointed out that the creators of South Park are crafting a Broadway musical based on the Book of Mormon. But then Comedy Central decided to edit (censor?) an episode based on its depictions of Mohammed and apparent threats from Islamic sources. Here is the story from:
I’ve never thought religion was a good place for humor, other than perhaps self-deprecating humor. People who take their faith seriously think to make fun of it is sacrilegious. I am not sure that being even-handedly sacrilegious helps much either, it just insults more people. While I would never deny Jon Stewart the right to do the “comedy” he profiles in Lowell’s post, I did not find it funny. Note that Lowell had to warn you about it.
Years ago there was a televangelist by the name of Earnest Angley. He was almost the definition of “self-parody.” (Sadly I cannot find him on YouTube.) I would watch that show and laugh until I cried. Then one day he came to South Bend, Indiana where I was living. A Catholic priest friend of mine and I decided to “take in the show.” (Imagine that, a Catholic priest in the same town as Notre Dame University, but I digress) Earnest Angely ceased being funny when we were sitting in that audience. Not because his shtick was different – it wasn’t – but because of how seriously those sitting around us took it. It was not shtick from their perspective and had I sat there and laughed, I would have accomplished nothing but to hurt them. Not to mention that even though I disagreed pretty extensively with ‘ol Earnest’s take on Christianity, to squelch, through laughter, what faith these people did have – I would have made enemies when I needed to make friends.
Death, physical violence, and other threats are an inappropriate response to sacrilege. While it may be a matter of free speech to allow sacrilege – legally – such sacrilege is nonetheless highly inappropriate. There are other ways to be funny. That being the case, the old Jewish tradition of “shunning” makes a lot of sense. Of course, threats of violence should be responded to with appropriate physical safeguards for the objects of the threats, but beyond that, silence should be the response. When we verbally respond to the prevarications of those that threaten we act as if they matter, when we should be shunning then from the community of the reasonable.
Speaking of which, would coverage like that wanted by GetReligion here make rifts wider or smaller? I am wondering if it does not give voice to those that should be shunned.
The National Day Of Prayer
I have to part with my friend Hugh Hewitt who this week denounced on-air the court decision declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. Hugh, of course, defended the non-sectarian practice of the day – but the problem is its practice has grown increasingly sectarian in recent years. To his credit, President Obama is attempting to defend the day in court.
But Obama should do more. He needs to “fire” (he does not have direct power to do so, but needless to say he can bring an inordinate amount of pressure to bear on those that can) Shirley Dobson, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, and bring in someone that can bring a far less sectarian feel to the enterprise. The first action by that person should be to put institutional controls in place that will prevent the kinds of abuses seen under Shirley Dobson from occurring again.
If those events occur, then perhaps in deed, and not simply legal argument, the National Day of Prayer will have a leg to stand on as the appeals move forward. Otherwise, I don’t think the defenders of the day have a leg to stand on
Do we care about the religious make-up of the Supreme Court? I care about judicial philosophy and credentials, but religion? This is supposed to be our first “post-racial” administration, a term defined by many to mean that race simply does not matters, politics alone does. If we accept that definition, I’m ready for “post-religious” too.
That’s going to bring a lot of howls from a lot of my friends, but I’d much rather have a judge that votes to overturn Roe v Wade based on sound legal reason regardless of the religion, than one that votes to overturn based simply on religious conviction. The first vote is defensible in the American system, the second reduces such a critical issue to simple sectarian adherence.
That Kennedy Speech
Archbishop Chaput continues to discuss it. (HT: First Thoughts) At some point, I think this argument gets too far into the long grass. The difference lies in dogmatism and reason, not religious influence. When we elect someone, I think we expect them to be true to themselves, and religion is an enormous part of the formation of an individuals character. but we do not enact national policy on the basis of religious dogma – we enact it on the basis of reason and truth.
Now, most of us believe our religion to be the source of truth, and that is fine, but truth is evident on its own, and we can argue based on that fact, but to simply dogmatically dictate policy is a problem.
Kennedy, I believe, overstated. He wanted to make sure people understood that Rome could not use him to dictate American policy and in so overstating he did move things a a wrong and secularist direction, but I also believe that direction was inevitable.
Which brings us to…
This little NYTimes book review by Mark Halperin:
Romney deals not a whit with either his well-earned reputation for moving right on critical issues or the unique political challenges his Mormon faith represents. If he runs again, he will have to address both matters. It is striking that he chose not to do so here.
Boy, talk about an attempt to force an issue. But then Halperin’s partisan leanings have long been evident. But it is interesting to note how, even in 2008, Romney has stopped short of the overstatement that Kennedy made in the ’60′s and how pilloried he was for that after the “Faith in America” speech.
You know, Romney is loathe to “toot his own horn” character wise, which is in itself a mark of character, but I wonder if the key to this thing in ’12 is to shift the discussion to character versus dogma as I outlined above? Thinking out loud here – comments?