The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

RELIGION AND POPULARITY: These days you can learn a lot from television game shows, a lot more than you used to. For example, not too long ago the producers of Family Feud asked a studio audience what religious figure—other than Jesus—would you like to ride in a car with on a cross-country trip? This is a question, I must admit, that had never occurred to me before, and with any degree of luck will never occur to me again. I must admit that I am not a very imaginative person, so the concept of having a religious leader in my car is simply something that would never occur to me, and, to be honest, the idea of driving across the vast length and breadth of the United States with such a person is not all that congenial. Don't misunderstand me; I am all for religion and religious people doing what makes them and the Lord happy. Religious leaders, whether you agree with their theology or not, are trying to do the Lord’s work and, to my mind, are best seen doing just that. But going cross country with someone who spent all their time communing with the Almighty and then tried to deny that the big blob of ketchup you noticed dangling from the (or maybe her; religious leaders come in all sizes, shapes, and genders nowadays) back end of the Big Mac you bought him (or her) at the truck stop McDonald's on Interstate 70 just outside Topeka, Kansas had just plopped down on your best new pair of light colored trousers after you warned the dumb bastard to use his paper napkin to wipe the ketchup away not once but twice in as many minutes would be enough to put me off religion for life.

But in the here and now, the two most popular answers to this question were, respectively, Moses and God. This Mosaic supremacy over the Deity seems a little peculiar to me, given that Moses could not split the Red Sea, make manna fall from heaven, or visit plagues on a hapless Yul Brynner and the Cecil B. DeMille stock company without the Lord’s say so in the matter. Indeed, Holy Scripture tell us that Moses lacked the verbal facility that we usually associate with high office, President Bush being the exception that proves the rule; his brother Aaron did Moses’ bloviating for him. This probably made electioneering a bit difficult for Moses; most voters are apt to be more than a bit suspicious of a candidate who doesn’t like to talk about himself or his platform; such modesty does not appear natural to voters and makes them wonder what the candidate is hiding. After all, if the candidate’s brother is doing all the talking and all the politicking, why not vote for him and not the man actually running? Such a politician is and will always be, as Mr. Brynner said in another context, a puzzlement to the electorate.

I also wonder what the religious inclinations of that studio audience were. As the United States is a largely Christian country, my assumption was that these people believe that Jesus is God and therefore God could not be an answer to this question, unless they were a group of Unitarians. It’s possible; stranger things have happened, you know. The Pope did not make it to the list, for example, while the Dalai Lama did, and this is a country where Roman Catholics outnumber Tibetan Buddhists by, what, millions to one? So you never know where these things can go.

After going over all the various choices, I am still not sure why Moses beat out God in this survey, although simple charity seems the likeliest reason: a man who wanders in the desert for forty years looking for the Promised Land obviously needs a lift to get where he’s going, whereas the Almighty, being ubiquitous as well as omnipotent and omniscient, is already at His destination and presumably does not need our help to get there.



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