I'm going to do some thinking out loud about a question I presently have a divided mind on. (I'm in the middle of reading The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership by Steven Sample, in which the first chapter is about "thinking gray"--holding off on making snap judgments until one has processed all the relevant information.) For the handful of you that actually read this blog, I would appreciate your feedback!
A parishioner of mine forwarded an appeal someone had sent to her, and asked my opinion. It originates from Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association. Now, right away, my defenses went up just because of the source. Though I may share some of the core values of that organization, I have usually been put off by their tactics, and, as I will probably get around to explaining, I may have a basic problem with their entire paradigm.
Anyway, what they're all heated up about is the plan (and I have not corroborated this information) for NBC to air a Madonna special in November, during which she will stage a mock crucifixion of herself, complete with a fake crown of thorns. There's a UTube clip on their site that shows part of it. (Technical note: I have not yet mastered the learning curve of inserting hyperlinks in blog text, and don't have time to mess with it at the moment. In due course, I'm sure I will.) They're trying to gather a million protesters to lobby NBC not to air the program, or at least that portion of it.
The AFA considers Madonna's act an outrage, a slam against Christ, Christianity, and Christians. At one level--one might call it the visceral level, the level of the gut--I agree. I passionately agree, and I can feel my anger rising even now. My agreement gets even more intense when it is pointed out (as the AFA is not hesitant to do) that such a public parody of the central symbol of any other religion would not be countenanced. (Have you seen the story this week about the opera company in Berlin that canceled a production of Mozart's Idomeneo because it includes a scene featuring a headless prophet Mohammed, and was therefore considered a security risk?) Can you imagine the howl that would erupt if a performer wrapped himself in a rabbi's shawl and performed a stylized circumcision on stage? It does seem that western society is hyper-sensitive to the possibility of insulting even the most obscure sect as long as it has nothing to do with the religion that in fact constitutes the foundation of that society. (OK, South Park did poke some pretty pointed fun at Scientology recently--and yes, I really enjoyed it; what does that say?--but with all due respect, South Park is not Madonna.)
So, yes, I'm outraged. But then it gets murky. You see, I'm outraged because I am a Christian, and so it's easy for me to take it personally. But then I hear the words of Jesus in the gospels about persecution being a rather ubiquitous feature of the Church's experience. I remember how tradition records that all twelve of the apostles, save John, witnessed to the gospel with their shed blod, and John died in exile. I remember the historical example that a persecuted church is a thriving and faithful church, for which the blood of the martyrs it itself the seed. I remind myself that the book has pretty much been closed on Christendom, how this is really a post-Christian culture we're living in, and persecution is going to get more, not less, frequent and severe. And in the light of all that, what Madonna is doing just seems petty and inconsequential, and the AFA's campaign just looks like a petulant attempt to recapture the era of Christian cultural hegemony, which isn't going to happen, but which I'm not even sure would be a good thing anyway, since the Church seems to be leaner and healthier in the midst of persecution. (Moderate persecution, please; I'm not hankering to literally be thrown to the lions.)
So for now, at least, until somebody sets me straight, I'm not going to join the AFA protest. Rather than risk the Church being seen as a bully, I'd rather let social forces that are not overtly Christian be the source of the pressure. Surely there is still an interest in pure justice out there in the body politic. But I also have to admit that I do hope they get their million, and that NBC executives feel some genuine fear. I'm still cross with them.