13 September 2007

Timeless Moments

I've never understood why people feel the need under trying circumstances to promote their particular brand of dogma. Some guy is pulled out of a river half-dead by a well-trained emergency crew operating from a helicopter and then revived by another bunch of trained medical workers--and asked about the "miracle" rescue, replies something like "I owe it all to Jesus"--or to Allah or to the Hidden Hand of the Free Marketplace or whatever his particular belief-system may be. If he forgets--well, on at least one occasion I actually saw a news interviewer remind the interviewee with words like "and of course God" when that person didn't mention a deity.

I personally find this at best tiresome, and at worst absolutely obnoxious. If people want to use their fifteen minutes of fame to put in a plug for something, what about some other kind of product? "Only the thought of once again enjoying sharp Tillamook cheese on Ritz crackers gave me the strength to go on." "I'm just glad I was wearing my Burlington Coat Factory jacket--that made all the difference." "I want to thank the good people at Hershey for making that wonderful candy bar that kept me going through the long cold night." It's no less ridiculous. And when it comes to thanking the deity for aid in a sports victory or an award, we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Which is why I got a kick out of reading about Kathy Griffin's reported acceptance speech on receiving an Emmy: "A lot of people get up here and thank Jesus for helping them win this award, but I have to say nobody has been less helpful in getting me to this moment than Jesus. I don't know what I ever did to him, I just think he doesn't like me that much, and if he had his way, Caesar Milan would be holding this statue right now, but he's not and I am! So I guess all I can really say is, 'Suck it, Jesus! This statue is my God now!'" (Kathy Griffin: loving her Emmy, hating the VMAs | My Life on the D-List | The Q&A | TV | Entertainment Weekly)

This well-deserved rebuke to those who tastelessly parade their religious notions at inappropriate moments was right to the point. It's high time somebody poked fun at this senseless (and annoying) custom. Of course not everybody sees it that way. William Donohue of the KKKatholic League, for example, rather predictably blew his top in feigned outrage over this "hate speech." As Aaron Kinney (Kill The Afterlife) aptly observed, "Donohue thinks that is hate speech? Oh man, he wouldn't know hate speech if it spoke to him!"

In response (apparently) to Donohue's intimidation E! has promised to censor Kathy Griffin's remarks from the broadcast version. As Dave (No God Blog) notes:
But now, the Emmys are bigoted. Say what you want about God and Jesus, as long as it's positive and thankful. If it's positive and thankful, it doesn't matter who gets offended or left out.

BUT... disavow Jesus, and you might as well be swearing, and you'll get bleeped.

Folks, this is discrimination, pure and simple. Theistic talk is welcome, Atheistic talk is not. Truly an uneven playing field, from the good folks who gave us the most boring television in the world.
But wait a moment! This is not discrimination. You see, Kathy Griffin is simply flat-out wrong, according to a concert pianist and former Miss Minnesota who covers religion for Fox News. "Jesus had everything to do with her winning that award. And here's the reasoning," writes Lauren Green. You're going to have to follow along closely to get this, so hang on tight.
Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years ago. His dying words were, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." He died and they buried him in a rock cut tomb. Three days later, as the Bible says, he rose from the dead. That day is what Christians celebrate as Easter.

After the resurrection, Christianity began to take off like wildfire, spreading from the Middle East northward to Europe and westward into Ethiopia. In 300 A.D. Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity and it beccame [sic] the religion of Europe. Rome soon became the seat of the faith. After several years of human failings, the church went through conflicts and quite a few unbiblical years — the crusades and the inquisition to name just two. Out of that came the Reformation — the reforming of the Church, sort of a back-to-basics Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of the Reformation emerged a vision of law by Samuel Rutherford, called Lex is Rex, Law is King. From that, others devised a secular version that is used to help lay the foundation of government for a new land called America. Ninety-four percent of America's founding era documents mention the Bible; 34 percent quote the Bible directly. The idea of bringing unity to the universal is a particularly Biblical concept.

The freedoms we enjoy in this country to speak freely and to live freely are directly related to that man who died on a cross 2,000 years ago.

So, you see, Kathy Griffin, Jesus has everything to do with you winning that award.
Words fail me. This is unbelievably silly. Meaningless verbiage like "The idea of bringing unity to the universal is a particularly Biblical concept" aside, her point seems to be that our first amendment freedoms are somehow derived from the Bible, which in turn goes back to the Roman church, which in turn goes back to Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified two thousand years ago. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing Jesus said, or is alleged to have said for that matter, has any bearing on the concept of freedom of expression. Nor did that freedom have anything to do (as far as I can tell) with Kathy Griffin's winning of that award--unless the idea is that thanks to our laws discouraging censorship, nobody stopped her from using her talent for comedy as she saw fit. The statement that "Ninety-four percent of America's founding era documents mention the Bible; 34 percent quote the Bible directly" is a lie. (The correct information is that 34% quote from, allude to, or mention the Bible, and that three fourths of these references come from printed sermons, which one would expect to at least make some reference to the Bible. The 94% figure is simply made up of cobwebs and moonshine, as far as I can tell. It doesn't come from any peer-reviewed survey, anyway, and contradicts the 34% figure, which does.) And her simplistic account of the Reformation is beneath contempt.

All right, so maybe I've wandered from the point a bit, but fake history tends to irritate me.

So where does this leave us? William Donohue, it seems, would enforce "the right of Catholics--lay and clergy alike--to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination" no matter how tasteless or offensive their remarks, while denying that same right to atheists. And presumably to anybody else whose observations run counter to his notions. A rational nation would ignore him and his bizarre little pressure group. Kowtowing to these extremists only encourages them.

Greg Laden, who apparently finds tasteless flaunting of random deities at inappropriate moments as irritating as I do, has a couple of practical suggestions here and here. For my part I don't expect to see Kathy Griffin apologize any time soon--she's got nothing to apologize for anyway. As for William Donohue, who ought to get down on his knees and beg her abjectly for forgiveness--well, I don't expect to see that either. At least not until pigs fly over the frozen pit of hell.

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