Tag Archives: political correctness

Blazing Saddles at 45: It Couldn’t be Made Today, but it Needs to be Seen by Everyone

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last Thursday, the 7th of February, was the 45th anniversary of an iconic film that even today challenges Americans about the evils of racism and prejudice. Since I was pretty much out of it following my surgery I didn’t write about Blazing Saddles was shocking in its humor which exposed the racism, sexism, and even the anti-gay prejudices that were common in the era. The use of racial invective and slurs by various characters is so shocking now that people who didn’t live during those times cannot understand the real intent of the film.

Mel Brooks used the parody of the classic America  Western Film to confront very real prejudices that ran rampant at the time, and still do, though most people are a bit more careful to disguise their public language and camouflage their prejudices without ever really given them up. In fact the language and terms used by Brooks and his co-writer, the late Richard Pryor are off limits in much of film. I remember showing the DVD to our younger enslisted personnel in Iraq and they were shocked. I had to explain how prevalent open racism was back when the film was released, and what Brooks’s intentions were. He used the humor of the film to bring to the surface the prejudices of many people, including many who later became his fans.

What is really hard for me to believe is that this masterpiece is unknown to many people. The fact that I lied about my age to get a ticket to see the movie when it came out, it was rated R and I had not yet turned 14, and that it remains one of my favorite films of all time, and not just mine, the film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards and is ranked number 6 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs list.

The fact is that Blazing Saddles probably couldn’t be made today because of hyper-politcially correct era. Anyone who knows me knows that I am exceptionally wary of ever using racial stereotypes or slurs and have enough empathy and concern for the sensibilities of people who have suffered through racial, ethnic, or religious persecution and prejudice not to want to see them used for cheap laughs. That being said, in certain times where racial prejudice is being driven from the top down, where the President of the United States can get elected by eliciting racism, sometimes it is appropriate to stick a finger in their eye through the use of comedy. Brook’s used that to drive home to people who otherwise wouldn’t recognize just how deeply racism and racist tropes are past f our society even today.

I think for me one of the most poingent moments in Blazing Saddles is in a scene where Chinese, African American, and Irish Railroad workers come to help the Balck Sheriff Bart, played by Cleavon Little and the self-described White God Fearing Citizens Of Rock Ridge save the town. All that was asked was that they would be able to live there. The late great actor David Huddleston, who played one of the town council members said:

“All right… we’ll give some land to the niggers and the chinks. But we don’t want the Irish!” 

When they all threaten to leave he changes his toon and says:

“Aw, prairie shit… Everybody!” 

The thing is that in those days the Irish were still a despised minority, even though they were white. I am about half Irish by my DNA, and I remember how upset my mom got when she heard that line. It offended her, but I think that such comedic barbs are helpful to all of us if they make us more sensitive to others and aware of our own racial, ethnic, religious, or social prejudices.

Besides the camp fire fart scene my friends, that is the continuing value of Blazing Saddles.

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under culture, film, History, movies, Political Commentary

Embarrassed to Call Myself a Christian

  
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have to get something off of my chest. I saw something on a fellow clergyman’s political comments that were so ignorant and over the top in the hatred that seethed from them that I chastised him and told him that I was embarrassed by his comments. Honestly I do not care who someone votes for or against, what political party they belong to, what ideology they affirm, so long as they remain civil, and if they are a member of the clergy to at least not stoop to personal assaults on their opponents that would turn the stomach of Jesus while at the same time turning a blind eye to the faults and anti-Christian behavior and policies of the political leaders that they support. 

A few days ago I read a very provocative article by Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. In the article Dr. Moore wrote that he could no longer call himself an Evangelical Christian because the term in in the United States no longer has any real meaning. In fact he went out of his way to blast the crass manner in which leading so called  “evangelical” leaders have perverted the Gospel, especially in their politization of it. I was in his Amen corner  throughout the article. 

In the past I have written a number of articles about being afraid of Christians, well at least the kind of people who call themselves by the name of Christ that Dr. Moore referred to in his article. But I am more than afraid, I am terrified of them. I have n doubt that if they were given the chance that they would ruthlessly exterminate every political enemy that they have in the name of God. 

So I will do Dr. Moore one better. I am embarrassed to call myself a Christian, because that term has been so maligned by these people that it is meaningless. Dr. Moore said that he now refers to himself as a Gospel Christian. I can understand that and even on issues where I fail to see eye to eye with him I can respect him. But I cannot even call myself that, the term Gospel itself has been perverted by many of the people that Dr. Land rightly criticizes into an insipid morass of bad ahistorical theology, the blessing of greed, avarice, and violence to get the blessing of God and gain earthly power without any sacrifice, humility, repentance, not to mention the forgiveness of sin that the term Gospel has lost its power. 

Though I have been a Christian for most of my life, and have been an ordained minister an priest for over twenty-five years, I have a hard time calling myself a Christian. I struggle with faith, with belief, and the actions of so many Christians, including people that I once thought of as friends has been so corrosive that I have a hard time believing. A well meaning person asked me a couple of weeks ago if I believed. I told them that about half the time I do, about forty percent of the time I don’t know, and about ten percent of the time that I don’t. At least I am honest. There are times that I sense the wonder, grace, mystery and love of God, and there are many times that I don’t. 

But when I corresponded with my friend I realized that my issue with what he wrote had far less to do with his politics than what he said about people, especially in regards to words that they had not spoken and speeches they have not given. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “In judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace that others are just entitled to as we are.” Is it any wonder that more and more people are fleeing Christ and the Church and that the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States is the Nones, or people who have no specific religious faith? I don’t find it surprising at all, and when I see people who call themselves Christians make hateful, ill-informed comments and then say that they are tired of being politically correct I shake my head in bewilderment. That is the same kind of “Christian Faith”  that Bonhoeffer fought against in the Nazi era. But then Bonhoeffer noted that “if you board the wrong train, it is no use in running down the corridor in the other direction.”  Far too many people who call themselves by the name of Christ have boarded that train, and it has left the station. 

So I guess that I will call myself a follower of Jesus like the man who told Christ, “I believe, help me in my unbelief.” 

Until the next time,

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under christian life, ethics, faith, Political Commentary

Right Wing Christian Political Correctness

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“religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

There is an epidemic of political correctness in the United States today.

Of course if you listen to Fox News, most Evangelical preachers, or conservative pundits that is always blamed on secularists or liberals who are almost universally defamed by such critics. They are accused of being communists, fascists, atheists and even worse for simply positing that they don’t believe, that they might have doubts, or that like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison or the early Virginia Baptist leader and friend of both Madison and Jefferson, John Leland argued that no religion should have the franchise on or control of the government.

For this they are accused of being politically correct, or enforcing political correctness, when in fact they are actually politically incorrect, because they dare question the minority of people who have the real political and economic power in this country, Conservative Christians.

I have run into this political correctness, that of Christian political correctness. Dare come to the defense of the civil rights of Gays or Lesbians and see what happens. Defend someone who questions the faith, see what happens. Defend the rights of non-Christian minorities and see what happens. If you do you will be attacked, condemned, and defamed. You will be called all matters of things, and if you are a member of such a church you will be expelled. I know, because I was.

You see for me I am an American and I will defend the rights of all Americans to their beliefs so long as they do not try to use the police power of the government to shove those beliefs down my throat. Equity is for all. I have served for over 33 years in the military alongside Americans of every race, creed, political belief and ideology, and yes even sexual preference. I have seen people excel, I have seen people promote the rights of others, and I have seen witch hunts done not in the name of the law, or any real American principle, but on the basis of conservative Christian religious beliefs being sold as the only true American beliefs.

That my friends is the ultimate political correctness. It is the political correctness that has to defend itself by invoking the wrath of the Almighty against unbelievers. It is that of the Inquisitors, the Crusaders, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Calvin’s Geneva, Zwingli’s Zurich, Cromwell’s England, Orthodox Russia and a host of other theologically based “government.”

That kind of government is called “theocracy.” It is what many of those who came to this country sought to flee, except that some like the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided to use their new freedom away from the Church of England to persecute Baptists, Quakers and others, especially women who they accused of witchcraft. It as as Robert Heinlein said: “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

I have seen the results of such religious hatred in the Balkans and the Middle East. I will fight to make sure that it doesn’t happen here, even if that means that fellow Christians condemn me and dare to say that I am not a Christian. I will be politically incorrect, the real kind of political incorrectness that is the most unsettling to “true believers,” that of the questioning believer who defends unbelievers.

Like Eric Hoffer, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and so many others I recognize the danger posed by those who believe that they are God’s chosen people destined to carry out their understanding of God’s will on earth.

As Jefferson said:

“I know it will give great offense to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them.” 

I expect neither, and I will advice for all, inspire of the Right Wing Christian Political Correctness that dominates in this country. The people that Eric Hoffer called “true Believers.” people who are likely to see themselves  “as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

Just read the people who write and espouse Dominionist or Seven Mountains theology. They are the ones running the asylum of the Christian Right today. Look it up, or look at any of the articles that I have written about them. They are not the fringe anymore, they run the Republican Party and almost every one of the potential Republican Presidential Candidates espouse those views, or are afraid to stand up to them. Likewise most of the mainstream media gives them a pass, because they too are afraid of them, they are afraid of being called “politically correct.”

Barry Goldwater, the progenitor of the modern conservative movement warned us about them: He said in 1994:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

I am no longer afraid, because I have nothing to lose besides my soul, at least that’s what I am told. Frankly I would rather be [part of the inferior “out group” than any part of this supposedly superior “in group.” 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion