A poem I wrote in 2015 to celebrate Easter. . .
Written Easter 2014
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The following video is commentary on the Charlie Hebdo shootings by John Ficarra, editor of Mad Magazine. To me, the most important thing that he said is that whenever Mad Magazine criticized Jerry Falwell or the Roman Catholic Church it assumed a shared set of values: that the worst that would happen is a stern letter from a lawyer (which they love getting). He never feared violent retribution.
I think that’s very important. We don’t critique or satirize things that we hate. We critique them because we want them to be better, because we believe that they should be better than they are — that the people who are the objects of our critique are one of us, so we expect that they should act like it.
Yes, the Pope is right, people get irrationally angry when you criticize their wives or their mothers or their religion. That comparison is interesting to me, as it seems to assume the immediate emotional reaction is deeply personal and so somewhat unthinking. But all but the criminally insane manage their anger enough to restrain from even wanting to kill anyone over such criticisms, much less actually carrying out a murder.
I think it’s fair to say that most Charlie Hebdo images are satire in poor taste at best, and simply pointless and in poor taste at worst. Freedom of expression means that we have the right to say so. But freedom of expression also means that writers and illustrators have the right to be tasteless if they so choose without fear of violent retribution. Violence as a response is off the table even while we debate the social value of such humor.
Anyway, thank you, John Ficarra, for a thoughtful response to a horrible situation, and my condolences and sympathy go out to the friends and families of those so unjustly killed in France.
A website called The Patriot Report (subtitled Supplies for the Conservative Revolution) is currently advertising a 1599 Geneva Bible, buy one get one free for $49.99. It looks like an attractive enough product, and if it’s an exact reproduction of the 1599 Geneva Bible it’s worth having. There’s no disputing the historical significance of this specific English edition of the Bible. I don’t think I would pay the full price of $69.99 for any bonded leather Bible, or even the regular sale price of $49.99, because bonded leather is very cheap and falls apart in pieces over time, but around $25.00 isn’t too bad a deal.
What interests me is how this website is marketing this product. Consider this language from the final paragraph of the ad page:
For nearly half a century these notes helped the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland understand the Bible and true liberty. King James despised the Geneva Bible because he considered the notes on key political texts to be seditious and a threat to his authority. Unlike the King James Version, the Geneva Bible was not authorized by the government. It was truly a Bible by the people and for the people.
The final and strongest selling points for this Bible reside in the political circumstances of its production: it’s not enough that it is, presumably, the Word of God. The Geneva Bible is a better Word of God than that Other Word of God, the King James Bible (which used to be the fetish of far-right Christians who insisted that if “the King James Bible was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me”), because the Geneva Bible is an anti-monarchical and anti-government Bible. It’s a better Bible because it
1. Threatened the authority of King James, and
2. Was not authorized by the government — so presumably the King James Bible is actually now a socialist, big government, left wing Bible.
There really isn’t a better illustration of how even the Bible itself is subordinate to correct politics within American right wing Christianity — particularly the far right — which leads me to think that American right wing Christianity has essentially become an anti-Christian cult in which Christ is a marginalized figure upon which right wing ideology is hung, and the Bible is only useful to the extent that it can support this state of affairs. I think we should rename this new religion Americananity. . .
Father Andrew Greeley — whose novels and essays I’ve read for years — and who helped me come to terms with my ideas about Christianity – died today. I never made it to Chicago to meet him, one of the few authors I’ve ever really wanted to meet. More than any minister or preacher I’ve ever listened to or read, Father Greeley made me believe in the humanity of Christ and the paternal love of a creator, and he made faith real, human, accepting of all, and yes — erotic. The world is a sadder place without this author and priest.