It is no secret to readers of The God Article that I am not a Glenn Beck fan
. Up until his rally in DC, I mostly just found him annoying, manipulative, and an intellectual wanna-be. At his rally, he started treading on grounds that for me are not far from hallowed (both figuratively and literally). He tried to position himself not only as a religious leader (despite the fact that some of his personal beliefs are very different from the majority of Christians in the US) but he tried to do so by pitching himself as a modern day Martin Luther King, Jr. (one of my few personal heroes).
At that point Beck was more than annoying to me; he was dangerous. Before that, I just disagreed with his politics, but I didn't find him particularly dangerous (maybe a little) but when he started co-opting religion to push his less than godly positions, I was done and haven't hesitated to speak out every time his self-promoting, manipulative, over-privileged, pseudo-intellectual talk veers toward the realm of religion. Wrapping Christianity in the assumption of what American exceptionalism has become is not only antithetical to the humility God requires of us, but it is also dangerous for a country that was founded, in part, because of a lack of religious freedom.
So, when I read a blog post on alternet.org
about how Beck's show has lost a million viewers
(that's a third of his viewership) in just one year, I have to admit, it really made me happy. I'm glad to see that the work of those opposing Beck is making a difference. This is the kind of peaceful, non-violent resistance we are supposed to practice when faced with hurtful forces. Because of the work of many, many people and organizations, advertisers are stepping away from Beck's programs. New York and Philadelphia radio stations have dropped his show. All of this happened on the heals of massive exposure for Beck last year. It's pretty impressive work.
I honestly feel a bit bad about feeling good about his fall from grace in the eyes of his viewers. I wonder if Jesus felt bad about the money changers being kicked out of the temple? Probably not. At any rate, I'll have to work this guilt out with God... but in the mean time, I am glad, I am thankful, that the hurtfulness of Glenn Beck seems to be winding down.
Games. I'm tired of all the politically divisive games. I used to be able to point primarily at Republican when it came to political and anti-intellectual games but now Democrats are increasingly getting enticed by the thrill of the game. It's perfectly understandable. The inverse of the game is very heady, reflective and well (let's face it) a bit nerdy. When you play the game your emotions get ramped up, you are energized and you have people who give your frustration a face. You are no longer fighting the nameless, faceless battle of quagmired government, you are fighting the Republicans (or Democrats, or Tea Party).
I can already hear liberals (of which I am one) shouting “false equivalency” at their screens and firing up their post blog rebuttal. I've already observed this new favorite line of my progressive friends popping up all over progressive blogs and Facebook pages, particularly anytime that it is suggested that Fox News and MSNBC are to some degree in the same business. “Foul!” “False equivalency!” The whole matter worries me.
I am worried because we are becoming more of a reflection of the Fox Newsers everyday. (I know, I know “false equivalency!”). Just in shouting “False equivalency,” we are proving it. Much like the Beck-heads ingest and then regurgitate Beck's talking points (I am intentionally saying Beck's and not Republican's, because the tide has reversed course a bit in that relationship) with little to no thought and manage to do it with the kind of convicted dedication that you usually only see in suicide bombers, we are slowly beginning to do the same.
As you can see in the video below, the phrase “false equivalency” is one that Obermann, and others at MSNBC, are using to reorient the argument in a way that makes them a clear winner (and quite frankly a bit of a victim as well). So, not only are we buying into it and using their terminology to defend it (like Beck watchers are prone to do), but we are buying into a false argument that has been artfully crafted in much the same way that Fox News has done so many times.
Here's why it is a false argument. Those of us who say Fox News and MSNBC are practicing similar 'news' styles and by doing so are hurting the country are not making the argument that the two are the same; we are making the argument that they are similar. Much like Almond Joy and Mounds are similar – one has nuts and the other doesn't.
That does not mean we believe they are equal, just similarly inserting divisive perspectives on national issues in a way that negatively impact our overarching ability to engage with the other side in reasoned dialog. Let's face it, they both are businesses and gain monetarily by putting a negative face on the other side. While MSNBC clearly bases their commentary more on facts in comparison to Fox's fear based commentary, the demonetization, name calling and false urgency that both sides practice are only serving to further divide this nation and that divide helps halt progress... so, which side of the debate do you think our current approach helps the most?
I'm not saying it is easy to have dialog with the other side (see my xtranormal video
). I'm not even saying they want to engage in dialog (not engaging plays to their desired outcomes
). I am saying that relationships are always at least two-sided. You do not get to simply point to the other side and say it is their fault. Like it or not, it is a relationship and not only are we in it, but we are partly (not necessary equally) responsible for the tenor of our debates.
It is all a matter of degrees not a matter of equivalency. You don't have to be exactly the same distance from “sanity” to be too far away from it to be helpful. MAD, mutually assured destruction, doesn't require both sides to have the same weapons or an equal number of them. It only requires for both sides to be far enough away from peace that the other side will be too frightened to make a move. “Would you like to play a game?” (shameless reference to one of my favorite childhood movies, “WarGames
Christians are offered a third way out of the false dichotomy that humanity always tries to place on itself. Theologian Walter Wink calls it, Jesus' Third Way
. I wrote a sermon based on it that you can find here
. This response begins with loving your enemy not villainizing them. It looks like nonviolent resistance. It stands over and against any type of violent response.
It doesn't have to be physical violence. Bullying is violent. And while we on the Left are great at standing up and demanding that the world stop bullying teens who are gay, we tend to do it in a Facebook post that is followed by a grown up version of bullying as we call Beck and idiot or paint a Joker face on Bush in response to the one that was done on Obama. I'm just as guilty as anyone. The xtranormal video I made doesn't exactly play fare in the false dichotomy it paints between the mental facilities of the Tea Partier and the member of The Christian Left
. Just because you try to intellectualize the content of your bullying, it doesn't make it any less bullying.
I'm tired of these games we play. What scares me is the way we on the Left are slowly falling pray to joyfully playing these games, that stand over and against what Jesus taught, just so we can hold on tightly to what want to believe. If you are on The Christian Left, God calls you to a better path. For that matter, if you are a Christian, period.
I'm tired of the games - tired of the mutually insured destruction to which these games lead. It is not what God wants. God want for us, plans for us, hope...and a future. The current path is not the path that leads us there.
I have never really cared for Fox News. It is even difficult for me to type their name without either cringing or laughing. I much prefer the more descriptive Faux News because, let's face it, that pretty much nails what they do - by their own admission
Recently, a convicted criminal has identified one of Faux News' show hosts, Glenn Beck (for whom I admittedly have a distaste)
, as the inspiration and motivation for his attempt at murder
. With the ramped up hate-speech and fear-mongering that can be heard almost hourly on Faux News, some of which borders on apocalyptic language, it is almost surprising that something like this hasn't already happened.
What is both surprising and totally expected, at the same time, is The Christian Right's resounding silence on the topic. For example, when violence and death are connected to Heavy Metal even in a cursory way, you can count on them to show up at concerts with hate filled signs (even at Christian Heavy Metal shows), voice their disdain news and talk shows to sound their objections and write articles in every medium that will publish them to pronounce the Devil inspired evils of Heavy Metal.
When the same connections are made in their sibling arm of the Republican party, all you hear from them is deafening silence or maybe the random cricket "chirp." To The Religious Right I say, unless you care to reinforce the growing public opinion that your movement is full of hypocrites, it is time for you to step up and demand that the hate filled, apocalyptic talk of Faux News be brought to an end in the name of the Prince of Peace.
I do have to say, much like I felt when they were attacking Heavy Metal (of which I'm not particularly a fan), I think it is short-sighted and unfair to heap all the blame on Faux News. There are multiple influences (or lack their of) which move a person to that kind of violence, but for the sake of consistency of message (I know, I know, "big fat chance of that"), I am calling out the Christian Right to voice its disdain of institutions that lead people to such deplorably violent actions, in this case Faux News.
From a Christian perspective, inciting violence is antithetical to living the life Jesus taught us to live. Faux News and Glenn Beck make a mockery of Christianity as they continue to imply that they are a Christian network
and inspire violence at the same time. For that matter, The Christian Right make a mockery of their own doctrine when they hold their friends to different moral standards than their enemies.
This is just one of hundreds of examples of why we all should stop taking either group very seriously (many of us already have). Their own actions smack of hypocrisy and biases. It is time to call them out on the ever-shifting and loose moral standards they practice. It is time for them to stop playing dress-up by putting on airs of Christianity. It is time for them to stop pretending. We don't live in Never Never Land.
I wish Glenn Beck wasn't worth the energy it takes to type this blog post...but he is. Not because what he says makes any sense, not because he gives a fair critique of Progressive Christianity, but because despite the fact that he acts like he is a few fries short of a Happy Meal...people are listening to him! That alone makes him worth the energy...but not a lot of energy.
Here's the thing folks. He is the king of hyperbole, manipulation and divisiveness. What makes him worth a post on a Progressive Christian blog, is that as Boehlet of Media Matters says, he's starting to sound like a store front preacher. It is one thing when a politician co-opts God
, but when a “journalist”\political wanna-be does it (and poorly at that), it is even more of a problem.
Mind you it shouldn't be. At this point, it should be easy to see that he has lost contact with reality, but for almost half the nation he's more than OK, for them he's a visionary! And that should worry us. On top of it, unlike the politicians, he has their ears for an hour a day.
That's the problem. He has now claimed (not earned) some prophetic crown and is acting like he is ordained by God, so much so that he even tried to stand in the shoes of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and found that he really couldn't even stand in his shadow...but that alone isn't really dangerous. What is dangerous is the way he ties his celebrity, air-time and hyperbole into some kind of godforsaken pulpit.
If the far right does not see that this self described clown is ruining their circus, well that's their problem. But as one of the thousands of voices for Progressive Christianity (and I'm Presbyterian, so boy-o-boy did I earn my ordination), I loudly renounce Beck's assumption as the Priest of FoxNews and ask him to show some small amount of respect to God and drop the pretend prophetic talk.