Friday, April 8, 2016

Winners and Losers in Politics and Religion

The winner of the Wisconsin primary earlier this week was … the media!

Forget Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. They might have corralled the most votes in the Badger State, but the real victor was the supposed-to-be-impartial media, you know, those telegenic talking heads who care about ratings more than substance, the sizzle more than the steak. With Cruz and Sanders gaining momentum, the airwaves are guaranteed to be filled with paid commercials for the candidates in the biggest media markets of all (New York and California) and, most crucially, the national conventions of both parties this summer probably will command “huuuge” ratings and corresponding ad time rates.

Far from being neutral, the media have fanned the rhetorical fires by focusing on provocative statements from the candidates and their surrogates rather than on the substantive differences between the contenders. Earlier this week, for example, one broadcast network’s evening news program showed Sanders about to describe the policy divides between him and Hillary Clinton. But just as he was about to give specifics, the network cut away to air catfight comments from each candidate. 

Soundbites rule our national conversation. The media have been complicit in the dumbing down of our political system. And there’s nothing we can do about it. While the rest of us cringe at the spectacle unfolding before our eyes, media moguls are padding their bank accounts. 

Here’s what Leslie Moonves, chairman, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, had to say about Donald Trump and the media’s fascination with him during a presentation at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco in February, according to The Hollywood Reporter: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” 

“Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? ... The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” he said. (

Whose Side Is God on, Anyway? It’s quite common in sports for teams and players to invoke the help of God. It’s a quaint custom, making God an interested observer to, nay a participant in, the play by play transpiring around Him (or Her).

Darker are pronouncements by some clerics that natural and man-made disasters are unleashed by God as punishment for perceived sins, such as past illicit behaviors that have become accepted, or at least tolerated, acts between consenting adults in many localities. 

Which brings me to wonder, was God sending a message to North Carolinians Monday night when He/She guided Villanova University’s last second three-point shot through the basket, thus giving the Wildcats the NCAA basketball championship and sending the Tar Heels team back to a state that recently chose to deny equal rights to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) community? 

On the other hand, did Villanova, a Catholic school, benefit from a favorable Pope Francis bounce? Of course, the game was played before the pope offered little if any substantive comfort to the LGBT congregation in his 260-page treatise “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), released Friday.

Are trailer parks disproportionally populated by sinful people, or is God just having fun feeding them and their belongings to twisters? 

These are not glib queries. Keep in mind America is a fairly religious country compared to other Western nations. Earlier this week I received a media pitch to review a new book, Righting America at the Creation Museum, by William and Susan Trollinger. 

For those who have not heard of the Creation Museum, it’s in Petersburg, Ky. Since opening in May 2007, the museum is said to have attracted millions of visitors to its displays intended to scientifically demonstrate the universe was created less than 10,000 years ago by a Judeo-Christian god. The museum is said to be “an extended brief for the Bible as the literally true and errorless word of God, and a powerful and unflinching argument on behalf of the Christian right.”

There’s even a “Culture in Crisis Room, where videos depict sinful characters watching pornography or considering abortion,” which brings us back to the modern day inquisition states are mounting against the LGBT community. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states have passed laws that allow businesses to refuse service to people that offend a business owner’s religious beliefs. Yes, many of the states are in the Bible Belt, but Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as Illinois, are on the list (  

Mississippi is said to have gone further than any other state in defense of religion. Its recently signed law denies LGBT people marriage, adoption and foster care services from those religiously offended by their lifestyle. They can also be fired or refused employment, while property owners may decline to rent or sell to them. 

It’s all very disconcerting. The Bible is being used to discriminate at the same time it is being used to proclaim tolerance and love. Both sides draw inspiration from it. 

A recent CBS News poll, however, found a less than overwhelming number of people familiar with all that is contained in the Bible. Just 23% said they have read all of the Good Book, 21% have read most but not all, 16% have read about half and 9% have read none of it. Unreported was the status of the remaining 31%.


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