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For Bucks and Ducks: The Brilliant Cynicism of A&E Network Regarding Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson

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Less than two weeks ago the A&E Network put Phil Robertson, the 67 year old “Patriarch” of the Robertson Clan of Duck Dynasty and Duck Commander on an indefinite suspension. When it occurred I waited to comment because I had suspicions that things were not entirely as they seemed.

The controversy was born in reaction to an interview in GQ magazine where Robertson made comments which equated homosexuality with bestiality. The interview was much more far ranging than that and if you want you can check it out here http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson?currentPage=1

Unlike Sarah Palin I actually decided to read it before making any comments and you should too. The fact is whether you agree or disagree with Robertson you owe it to him and more importantly your principles whatever they may be, to read it.  To be fair Robertson’s beliefs are not out of the Evangelical mainstream, especially the traditional Fundamentalist, the activist culture warrior and Christian Dominion crowd. Honestly I don’t think that Phil Robertson meant any harm to anyone in making those comments, it is just a big part of what he believes and he is not ashamed about what he believes. That is his right. From what I read about Robertson and his family they are generous and contribute much to an otherwise poor community.  As far as Robertson’s comments I don’t agree with them, in fact I strongly disagree with them from a theological and social standpoint as a Christian.

That being said Robertson has the right to his beliefs including the right to speak about them publicly in whatever forum he desires. Everyone has that right. However employers can restrict those rights. All of us if we work for someone else have constraints on our free speech rights in the workplace, either implicitly by contract or even the unwritten expectations of our employers. Likewise people have the right to watch or not to watch his show or buy or not to buy his company’s products. That is the free market. So if A&E wanted to suspend Robertson or to cancel the show based on his actions that would be their right and not be a violation of his rights. If the government did it that would be another matter.

When the controversy erupted and LGBT and other progressive and liberal advocacy groups protested the comments, A&E quickly announced Robertson’s suspension. That was on December 18th. In fact the suspension came so quickly that it surprised me. There was none of the usual hand-wringing that often accompanies media controversy around the star of a hit program and that puzzled me.

The first thing that triggered my suspicion was that Duck Dynasty had already finished filming for the season. Thus any suspension, unless it was a permanent cancellation of the show was only until the next season began. In other words it was a suspension of the off season. So in other words Robertson was not harmed in any way by the suspension. A&E did not fine him or take any money from him. The suspension appeared to me to be a ruse.

However, within moments of the announcement Evangelical Christian pastors, pundits and preachers went into action. Robertson was the “victim” of demonically inspired homosexuals, liberals and secularists. Even those that never read what Robertson said like “Governor half-term” Sarah Palin came to his defense.

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The outcry was amazing. Facebook and Twitter groups rallied to Robertson’s defense threatening A&E with boycotts and calling for his restoration. Likewise politicians introduced legislation to anoint him an “American hero.” Pundits and cable television commentators covered the story more heavily than they would actual issues dealing with the economy, unemployment, national security or events overseas that could harm the country. Preachers rallied their flocks to the cause and many used the controversy to condemn those who were the real victims of Robertson’s actual remarks.

The cry that Robertson’s Constitutional “free speech rights” were being violated and that he was being “persecuted” for his beliefs were oft repeated. The fact of the matter was that A&E never  penalized Robertson, never took any money from him and still allowed him to continue to speak, and even double down on what he said even after the suspension without penalty. In fact A&E aired a Duck Dynasty Christmas marathon on Christmas Day in which Robertson was in every show. How that qualifies as persecution or restricted Robertson’s free speech rights is beyond me.

Conservative media, especially Fox News jumped to Robertson’s defense, proving what Susan Jacoby said in her book The Age of American Unreason: 

“If enough money is involved and enough people believe that two plus two equals five the media will report the story with a straight face always adding a qualifying paragraph noting that mathematicians however say that two plus two still equals four.”

The nine days of unremitting media hysteria came to an end today when A&E announced that Robertson would return for the next season, without penalty and without missing a show.

I was not surprised by today’s announcement. What it showed me was that A&E which had dealt with a similar situation with “Dog the Bounty Hunter” a couple of years ago used the controversy for its own benefit and bottom line. It quickly acted to “suspend” Robertson ensuring that during the so called “War on Christmas” that conservative media that media coverage would provide more free publicity than they could ever spend  on a reality television show. They used the suspension to work up Evangelicals who reacted to fully support Robertson ensuring renewed interest in the Duck Dynasty series and product lines offered by many major retailers.

All in all the controversy and suspension was a successful enterprise for the A&E network and the Robertson clan. There was massive free publicity for the show and no penalties for Robertson. Even better the suspension was cloaked behind the veneer of a network acting like it was doing something to penalize a man for saying things that offended a minority that the viewers of the show despise and then after a carefully scripted “apology” reinstating him. In the statement announcing Robertson’s reinstatement A&E promised to “launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people…” It was cynical as hell but brilliant from a business standpoint. You see for A&E it really isn’t about ideology it is about profit. If Duck Dynasty was a failing show they would have cancelled it without questions and tossed show’s Evangelical viewers in the ditch. But there is too much money to be made. In the first 9 months of 2013 the show made $80 million in advertising revenues and merchandise sales have added another $400 million, about half of which went to Wal-Mart. It would be hard for a niche cable network to make up those kind of losses.

I resisted writing anything about this when the controversy erupted because I sensed something fishy. It seemed that given the circumstances that this was a carefully orchestrated event on the part of A&E. When they announced that he would return so soon after suspending him after milking the controversy for all it was worth I realized that my initial gut reaction was right. 

Liberals and the LGBT community who protested actually fell into the A&E trap. Their protest was used as fodder for the network and for the Right Wing media for two different purposes that became a perfect storm: First the controversy fulfilled A&E’s need to bolster the show going into the next season by providing free publicity and reenergizing the viewers. Second it gave the Right Wing media and politically minded preachers the chance to demonize gays and their supporters as being intolerant and hateful, for simply reacting to words that can only from an LGBT point of view be seen as prejudicial, unfair and harmful.

It also gave A&E and the right wing media the chance to avoid Robertson’s other equally repugnant comments about pre-civil rights era black share-croppers which he had made previously.

All in all it was a cynical and brilliant scheme that worked all too well. Machiavelli and Goebbels would have been proud of the PR folks at A&E and Fox News who used Robertson’s unfortunate comments to create a controversy that enriched them and inflamed their supporters.

Progressives, liberals, activists and political moderates like me as well as the LGBT community have to learn to step back from our immediate emotional response to situations like this in the future. We have to be smarter at strategy and look at the big picture. Things like this do not happen in a vacuum. A&E probably assumed that at some point one of the Robertson’s would say something like this and that there would be a backlash. That is why they were able to react so quickly and carefully scripted their response culminating in today’s announcement. Likewise the right wing media sees this kind of controversy as grist for their political and ideological mill.

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Tony Perkins the KKK supporting head of the American Family Association demonstrated this in his press release tonight:

“The attacks on Phil Robertson revealed to the American people that the push to redefine marriage is less about the marriage altar than it is fundamentally altering America’s moral, political and cultural landscape. A&E Network’s reversal in the face of backlash is quite telling to the American people who are growing tired of GLAAD and cultural elites who want to silence people and remove God and His word from every aspect of public life….”

When a situation like this occurs we need to be suspicious and ask “why this? why me? why now?” If we ask those question we can keep from being suckered into no-win situations that those who want to take away our rights to dissent use to set us up and demonize us. In the cyber age of instantaneous communication this is hard to do and we do have to get better at doing it.

If you don’t believe me just look at Perkins. He took this as a way to propagandize his prejudice and hatred of the LGBT community and progressives, for that matter all who disagree with his theocrat machinations including other Christians.

The A&E network and people like Perkins have different goals. For A&E it is profit, for Perkins it is the use of religion and the state to persecute and discriminate against easily demonized minority groups, appealing to the worst aspects of human nature. In this case those often conflicting goals coalesced into the perfect storm.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Halloween Horror

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“Without me, Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest… on a Monday night.” Count Dracula (George Hamilton) on being banished from his castle by Romanian Communists in Love at First Bite

Yes it is Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve and time for me to share my favorite Halloween horror films with you. Horror movies can be scary, but they can also be funny and even kind of klitschy. I think that is why they have such an enduring fascination to so many people, including me. I love horror, suspense, science fiction and the paranormal. They tend to be less scary than driving to work on the local interstate highways in the Hampton Roads area or going to a Mall or Wal-Mart.

Horror films have always fascinated me, especially the ones that are not simply built around a bunch of slashing and mindless killing and brutality.

Some of the films I like are more dramatic and suspenseful while others are more on the funny side of the horror genre. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are hundreds of not thousands of horror films out there and many are variations on a theme and many are so bad I will not watch them. That being said there are some that I cannot miss.

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I love the whole vampire and Dracula genre. The Bela Lugosi Dracula was interesting but the klitchshy Hammer Dracula films with Christopher Lee were always my favorites. It was always fun for me to watch how some idiot managed to find a way to spill some blood on Dracula’s ashes and re-animate the Prince of Darkness. Of course the fact that Lee’s Dracula was always going after some really good looking girl made the series predicable and enjoyable.

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The female versions of the Dracula films produced by Hammer Productions were even more enjoyable for a teen age boy. Ingrid Pitt played a great Carmilla Karnstein, a seductive female vampire who preyed on great looking women in The Vampire Lovers.  In the vampire genre Quentin Tarintino’s Dusk ‘Til Dawn was pretty good and Wesley Snipes Blade series was enjoyable too.

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I think that the horror film that still gives me the creeps is another vampire film, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I saw it the first time while visiting my wife’s cousin who lived in the Netherlands back in 1985. It was on Dutch television in English and subtitled in Dutch.

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Now I admit these are not the best Dracula movies, but they are entertaining. I liked Interview with a Vampire, Dracula (1979) starring Frank Langella, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Donald Pleasance, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) starring Gary Oldham and Winona Ryder were all actually better films.  Other films in the vampire genre that I like included Fright Night and The Lost Boys.

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There were parodies as well, my favorites being Love at First Bite starring George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Dick Shawn and Arte Johnson, Mel Brooks’ Dracula Dead and Loving it starring Leslie Nielsen and Blackula, a blacksploitation parody starring William Marshall.

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Frankenstein was okay but I love Mel Brooks’ parody Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Peter Boyle.

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Then there are the Satanic or Demonic possession and oppression films based on actual events. There is the classic The Exorcist and more recently The Conjuring. Both kept me on the edge of my seat and were scarier at home than they were in the theater. Another film which I like but which might better fit into the Science Fiction or loosely based on real events category is The Mothman Prophecies. 

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Zombie films have never been that interesting to me but the original Night of the Living Dead is a classic that I will watch and I did enjoy the parody Shaun of the Dead starring Simon Pegg.

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In a different class is the cult classic Army of Darkness a sequel to the Evil Dead films.  In this Bruce Campbell plays a hardware store employee who gets transported through time to a medieval castle being attacked by a ghoulish army. It really is a classic full of great one liners and action. I think one of my favorite lines is where Campbell’s character “Ash” answers the leader of the dead army when he is asked who he is: “Well hello Mister Fancypants. Well, I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things, right now: Jack and shit… and Jack left town.”

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When I was in junior high school, high school and college a lot of different horror films came out which became cult classics which spawned sequel after sequel. There was the original Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I never got into the sequels because none of them were as good as the originals.

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Another film that I found positively frightening was Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland. It was a remake of an earlier film but the whole concept of falling asleep and being replaced with a pod person freaked me out.

Like I said at the beginning of the article, there are thousands of horror films out there. I could go on and mention more but to do so would be to repeat variations on similar themes or to stretch the genre to include various murder mysteries with horror or demonic elements such as Silence of the Lambs or films which are more appropriately classed as Science Fiction such as Alien.

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In a totally different category are the Ghostbusters comedies and Scrooged. Both comedies with classic horror twists. I love those movies.

So as Halloween winds down and the trick or treaters go home, while you are snuggled in your bed with your love, turn on the television and find something scary to watch. After all, tomorrow is Friday.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Things that We Do: Killer Angels and Hew-Mons : The Part of Humanity we Don’t Like to Talk About

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“Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.” Quark to Nog Deep Space Nine- The Siege of AR-558 

We human beings, regardless of our race, religion or political ideology are a complex lot.

On one hand we can exhibit the utmost kindness, compassion, care and charity and on the other hand we can bless, endorse, encourage. condone and execute the most cruel,  hateful, violent and “inhuman” acts against our fellow human beings. We are quite a contradictory lot if you ask me.

It really is a most interesting and at times contradictory phenomena when you look at it. Of course, I like to believe, as to most of us I am quite sure like to think that we have either been created by God or evolved into a species that rises above the baser parts of life, the things that we like to say were done in years past but are no longer a part of who we are as human beings.

The same can be said for those of us that consider ourselves to be Christians. We look back on nearly 2000 years of Christendom and well, it is not a pretty sight. But like every other generation of Christians we like to think that we are better, perhaps more spiritual, better educated, better interpreters of the Bible or even perhaps better in tune with the Holy Spirit of God than were those before us.

Of course those of us that think that we are so advanced that we have evolved past violence, cruelty, hatred and avarice, be we Christians or not tend to gloss over the fact that we are human, or as Quark calls us “Hew-mons.” As such we are capable of the most extreme acts of kindness, love and benevolence as well as the utmost in cruelty.

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Of course when I say “we” I do include “me” because I am like about everyone else, I have my good days and bad and as much as I would like to think that I am better than my baser instincts something happens and I find that I am not. That much is evident any time I get out into traffic or go to Wal-Mart. It is a good thing that I do not display any Christian symbols on either of my cars, I don’t want God getting blamed for my lack of Christian behavior, and frankly I wish more Christians would do the same. I have lost count of the number of vehicles adorned with Christian symbols, bumper stickers and personalized plates that have ignored all the basic courtesies, rules of the road and polite behavior and who are frankly rude assholes that probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive that make me wish that they would keep their faith in Jesus to themselves, it makes Jesus look bad. But I digress… but just a moment, why do so many of these people drive mini-vans? At least I seem to end up behind them or get cut off by them. Maybe the mini-van is an invention of the Devil? You won’t get me behind the wheel of one.

No wonder that Paul the Apostle laments in the 7th Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”  Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation commented on this passage “This tension lasts in us as long as we live; though in one person it is greater, in another less, according as the spirit or the flesh, and he fights with himself until he becomes wholly spiritual.” It is one of the most honest commentaries on scripture even written no wonder we don’t like it.

I don’t know about you but this does make me think, take inventory of my own strengths, weaknesses, virtues and vices. The fact is that in any given situation Quark’s description of Hew-mons in general is very applicable to me.

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In Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels and the film Gettysburg there is a remarkable exchange between Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, Colonel of he 20th Maine and Professor of Natural and Revealed Religions at Bowdin College and Sergeant Buster Kilrain, an exile from Ireland fighting for the Union.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [quoting Hamlet] “What a piece of work is man, in form and movement how express and admirable. In action how like an angel.”

Sergeant ‘Buster’ Kilrain: “Well, if he’s an angel, all right then. But he damn well must be a killer angel.” 

In light of all that we see every day as human beings we must find it in our hearts to agree with Kilrain. We are such a contradictory species. As Spock would say “fascinating.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve Defends Mitt Romney against Extremism Talk

Mitt Romney has had a rough time as of late and I have decided that I will not pile on. Mitt Romney used to be a moderate like me and for that I have a soft spot for him in my heart. As a patriotic American and moderate I know that Governor Romney has a one in two chance of becoming the next Commander-in-Chief and I will not stand for anyone diminishing Mitt’s potential Commander-in-Chiefyness. I want him to be the most Chiefy Commander-in-Chief of all time if he is elected President.

Too many extremists have attacked this fine American over the past few weeks and months. I know that I have criticized Mitt but I won’t take it anymore because I was for Mitt before I was against him and I won’t have anyone call me a flip-flopper because when I wear open toed shoes I wear Birkenstocks.

To start with I won’t be like former Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum who called Governor Romney “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” I object to Senator Santorum doing this because there are other Republicans who have to be worse than Mitt and Santorum’s criticism is obviously that of a sore loser and Romney is a winner.

General George Smith Patton, bless his holy name, said in the movie Patton:“America loves a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” I’ll tell you what, Mitt Romney is not a loser, except for the time that he lost to Teddy Kennedy when he ran against that Commie for the Massachusetts Senate seat, and when he lost to the man that lost to President Obama for the GOP nomination in 2008, Senator John McCain. But apart from that Mitt has never known defeat.

I am tired of pundits like American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer who gloated “If Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, co-opted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me? I don’t think Romney is realizing the doubts that this begins to raise about his leadership.”

I think that Fischer’s comments are below the belt. Mitt Romney will not be pushed around by anyone and he has proved that at an early age. When a non-conformist classmate in his obscure elitist prep-school disrespected that school and grew his hair long Mitt took action. He demonstrated the greatness of American organization and toughness by rallying a number of other classmates to help him chase this hooligan down and hold him down while Mitt cut the screaming baby’s hair to the regulation length. That’s how he will stand up to the Chinese. Do you think that Gang-Bang-Wang of China or Kim-Long-Dong of North Korea want Mitt to rally America to hold them down and cut their obviously badly cut and cheaply dyed hair? I know that they don’t.

When some of Mitt’s competitors in the 2012 GOP primaries threatened him, Mitt did not take it lying down. No he carpet bombed their sorry asses, destroyed their candidacies and won the nomination. He Nagaski’d them like he will do Iran. That is the mark of a decisive leader.

I’m tired of those that criticize Mitt’s business ethics and compared him to a vulture like Texas Governor Rick Perry who complained to Sean Hannity in January: “There’s a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism. Venture capitalism we like. Vulture capitalism, no. And the fact of the matter is that he’s going to have to face up to this at some time or another, and South Carolina is as good a place to draw that line in the sand as any. That’s not what we’re looking for in a president of the United States. We’re looking for someone that knows how to build jobs, create jobs. And that’s what I’ve done in the state of Texas. So there’s no use trying to paper this over. That is a problem for Mitt, and he’s going to have to face it.”

I’m sorry Governor Perry, Mitt has met that challenge. He looks nothing like a vulture. Look at that hair. It is amazing. I wish I had hair like that. Did you ever see a vulture with hair like that? I think not. Check your facts governor because they don’t matter to us anyway.

Then there are those like former Governor of Arkansas and Fox New commentator Mike Huckabee who criticize Mitt’s conservative credentials. Huckabee had the nerve to write in his book saying that Mitt “spent more time on the road to Damascus than a Syrian camel driver. And we thought nobody could fill John Kerry’s flip-flops! … [Romney’s record was] “anything but conservative until he changed all the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for President.”

That was not fair and Huckabee should be ashamed. A man who buys his outsourced made in China chandelier from Wal-Mart should not criticize a man who financed the company that manufactured it and who would never stoop to changing a light bulb that his janitor should have done before it got dark. Mitt would fire that janitor and hire someone else to change those bulbs. Shame on you Mike Huckabee.

Rick Santorum joined in that criticism saying that Romney “is the ultimate flip-flopper….” That dear reader is not fair. Governor Romney has had to defend himself against many scurrilous charges. I mean Mitt has had to defend himself because President Obama had the nerve to steal his Massachusetts health care plan and name it after himself. Can you believe that? It is horrendous and a scandal and Governor Romney should deny any responsibility for President Obama’s shameful swiping of his idea.

I cannot imagine Mitt being a “flip-flopper.” There is no proof that Mitt wears outsourced flip-flops made in China or Pakistan. No, it is sure that Romney wears Sperry Top-siders when he is on his luxury yacht because everyone knows that open toed shoes are dangerous to wear about ships. Mitt understands that you need to protect your toes, because a nation without leaders is like a foot without a big toe.

I am also tired of those that have criticized Romney for speaking French like Newt Gingrich did during the GOP primaries. Gingrich was trying to equate Mitt with Senator John  Kerry, who was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart for killing Commies in Vietnam before he was against killing them. Mitt speaks French as does Kerry, but Mitt is different. Unlike Kerry who went to Vietnam and then shamefully protested against the war, Mitt was for the war. He was a patriot and protested for the right of the government to draft others to go fight and kill the Commies like every good American should have done. Romney then sacrificed several years of college hijinks and venture to France to convert the heathen French and eat Fois Gras and Escargot for three years as a missionary while avoiding the wine and beer. That is a sacrifice. When I went to France I only ate in Italian restaurants and only drank wine and beer. Besides, speaking French is like speaking the language of the enemy. When some pinko-socialist French atheist writer mocks America in French, Mitt will understand those words and bomb Paris in retaliation.

And finally in defense of Mitt, I condemn those like former Reagan speech writer and conservative Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan and call Mitt’s management of his campaign “incompetent” and “in need of an intervention” or Bill Kristol who called Mitt “stupid and arrogant.”

I am sorry, those comments are below the waistline of Mitt’s magic underwear, which he evidently doesn’t wear to bed according to what he told Kelly Ripa. I won’t stand for it anymore. I refuse to take part in the heresy hunt of these extremists. This is the United States of America and Mitt Romney just might be our next Commander-in-Chief and I don’t want to diminish his Chiefyness.

That’s just my take, I want to stay classy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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2012: A New Year Same Old Stuff

I really am glad that my Near Year resolution was simply to try to do better and not screw things up too badly.  If I had set the bar higher I would have already blown it after a quick trip to Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of things that Judy will need when I go back to North Carolina tomorrow.  I am not a fan of the place but buying the items that I needed there did same me at least 10 dollars on a $50 trip so I am willing to put up with a certain amount of pain and frustration but sometimes, no let’s say often I end up feeling like Doctor Jeckyll on a Mr Hyde day or like I would driving down route Michigan in Ramadi.  Judy says that my eyes flash when I am pissed so I’m sure that they were flashing daggers or maybe looking like those of a rabid wolf as the short trip unfolded.

It began in the parking lot when a lady cut me off for a parking space that I was waiting on with my signal even flashing to indicate that indeed the spot was mine. Unfortunately the idiots in the mini-van leaving the space managed to botch their exit blocking me and allowing this asshole to come across from another aisle to steal the spot as she talked on her cell phone. I exploded in a torrent of profanity questing not only her character but her parentage and sexual proclivities.  I then had to find another spot which I did while weaving in and out of people with death wishes blundering around the parking lot.  I would have loved to have an up-armored HUMMV with a turret gunner to clear the lot but Santa didn’t give me one this year.  The good humor continued inside the store as try as I might I couldn’t avoid the people that stood by as their kids screamed bloody murder, the noise from the big screen HDTVs and the ass that decided to take almost 40 items through the 20 item limit express checkout. He must have figured that I was glaring daggers at him because he gave me a dirty look and turned around in shame as his teenage son stood in front of the cashier. I personally think that fines should be assessed based on the decibel level of the kids and for the number of items that a person goes over the limit in an express line.

So if I had set too high of bar on my resolution I would have totally destroyed the resolution before sunset.  Thankfully the day was more like going hitless and having an argument with an umpire without getting tossed from the game.

So that being said the new year doesn’t seem a whole lot different than the old. The same problems that beset us in 2011 are still with us now as are the same sorry lot of world leaders and wannabe world leaders and the same teams that were expected to get to the playoffs are flailing and failing, not that I really care but the point is that things don’t change much just because the world’s chronometer clicks over.

There are people that interpret the ancient Mayan calendar in such a way that the world as we know it will end on December 21st, but a friend of mine who is kind of into that stuff says that they are wrong and that it was supposed to be like October a year ago.  I don’t believe it because I believe that this can only happen if the Chicago Cubs win the World Series and the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl in the same year. I used to believe that only the Cubs would need to win the World Series for Jesus to return, but although that would be cataclysmic it would not be the end. Like any good end times teacher I have revised my prediction. I now believe that the Browns would have to win the Super Bowl in the same year that the Cubs win the Series for the world as we know it to come to an end.  So even if the Cubs win the World Series this year the Mayans are wrong because the Browns can’t win the Super Bowl this year.  My critique of the Mayans is that they should have paid more attention and used a bigger rock to accommodate the Cubs and the Browns predilection to lose.

They also should have accounted for the unending election cycle in the United States, the current cycle which began in November 2008 has under a year left until the next cycle begins when the next President is elected. Boy won’t that be exciting?

Speaking of exciting we saw in the New Year in a quiet but nice way. We had dinner with some of our friends at Gordon Biersch Virginia Beach before going home to watch the classic comedy It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  It used to be shown on the broadcast networks every New Year’s Eve when I was a kid so in a way it was part of growing up. As far as laughs are concerned there are few films that can match this classic directed by Stanley Kramer and featuring almost every major comedian of the

Anyway, the new year is off to an inauspicious start and Lord knows what tomorrow will bring. All I can hope to do is not screw up my part too badly and that I don’t have to make any Wal-Mart runs soon.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Advent of Early Onset Holiday Commercialization Syndrome 2011

I hate to sound like a Grinch or Scrooge type of killjoy but here on November 20th I am bothered by an attack of Early Onset Holiday Commercialization Syndrome (EOHCS). EOHCS is not yet recognized as a Disorder in the DSM IV I have to wing it here but I think that the average person probably realizes that this condition is epidemic in our society.  Since I tend to avoid malls and the big retail outlets in general I can usually avoid attacks of EOHCS mostly by ignoring the incessant “Christmas” or holiday commercials of which car commercials seem to be the most offensive this year.  However I do  have to go out in public sometimes and on those occasions must do all that I can to stay sane as EOHCS seems to come earlier than it ever did.

I had to go get groceries this afternoon and went to a “Wal-Mart Super Center” in Morehead City because they carry a particular brand of pita bread that I cannot get at any of the grocery stores in my local area.  Now I expect that when I go to any retailer after Labor Day to find Christmas specials and an encroachment of Christmas paraphernalia and gifts with each passing week.  That is a given in our consumer driven society and whether I like it or not it is a fact of life and I am not going to change it.  However I just wanted groceries and not the full on Christmas press.  Now to be sure I only go to Wal-Mart when necessary because frankly the place sets off almost every alarm in my post PTSD mind and body.  When I go my goal is to get in and out as soon as possible and avoid any crowds, congested areas and noise.  Thus I will usually go late at night as if I were a stealth commando, but today I needed to go early to get it done.

Of course the store was littered with pre-Black Friday specials and had aisles of candies, cakes, toys, and trimmings. I felt like the Grinch walking through Whoville without the sweet ambiance of that cartoon town.  As I went made my foray into the store, knowing exactly what I needed and where to find it I was assaulted by and overwhelmed with the sound of Christmas music which was louder and more obnoxious than usual. I think the most annoying of the songs I heard today was “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” sung by Brenda Lee which seems to repeated about every 15 minutes during the holiday season.  I find her voice particularly grating and about as soothing as Pee Wee Herman scratching his nails scratching on a chalkboard when I am out shopping.  Now this song is simply annoying but when I hear songs that are meant for worship of the Lord being used as a means to condition us to buy things I get offended.  Thus when I hear “Silent Night” sandwiched between advertisements on November 20th in a store I want to scream, not that there is anything wrong with that; the screaming that is.

Now I like Christmas music, so long as it is actually somewhat close to Christmas even even the non-religious songs of which Grandma Got Run over By a Reindeer is my all time favorite, but I digress.  Since liturgically speaking it isn’t even Advent yet I find such a bombardment of secular and sacred Christmas songs while grocery shopping to be offensive to my somewhat liturgically correct sensibilities.  That may seem harsh but the musical assault at Wal-Mart only increased my desire to finish shopping and get the hell out of the store as fast as my cart would carry my food.  It did not induce me to hang around to see if I wanted to spend extra money on stuff that I probably don’t need.

And we wonder while there is little sense of the Holy in our society.  The fact is that somehow we have allowed our culture to devolve to the point that we utilize actions and holidays meant to point us in the direction of the Holy and use them to satisfy our most base desires. The Holy is subordinated to the profit margins of retailers who make their money satiating our desires for the newest and greatest stuff that we can get our hands on.

I am not against people getting nice things at all or giving gifts in abundance to their loved ones or even for themselves.  I like nice stuff too and I love the celebration of Christmas in its spiritual as well as cultural derivatives.  I like Christmas trees and decorations and the festiveness of Christmas especially with friends enjoying each other and a good glass of hot Gluhwein.

I guess I think that when we turn Christmas into a months long pursuit of profits and stuff that it really cheapens and degrades the holiday, even for people that are not Christians. Really, Black Friday is the real holy day in our consumer society and what gets more push back, a store being open briefly on Christmas or Black Friday sales encroaching on Thanksgiving?

Even allegedly “Christian” retailers take advantage of the holiday even selling trinkets that say “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” or “What Would Jesus Do?” at a healthy profit.  Again I am not against people making a profit from their labors people should be compensated well for work well done. But the fact that most Jesus junk like almost everything else is now made in China or Third World countries by workers that are all but slaves doesn’t seem to enter into the equation for jesus is the reason for the season“Christian” retailers and even ministries; just as it doesn’t for everyone else seeking to make a profit off the baby born in the manger.

How sad that as a culture we have reduced the celebration of God humbly entering into the human experience to a celebration of crass economic Darwinism much more in tune with Ayn Rand than Jesus.  Paul writes in Philippians though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness….” Somehow that concept seems lost in our culture.

Oh well, what can I say?  Maybe I am a Grinch after all or maybe I can get counseling for Early Onset Holiday Commercialization Syndrome.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Some Very Deep Thoughts of Padre Steve

Today Padre Steve moved into his latest hermitage after being a bit of a mendicant since October trying to find something affordable while stationed away from home. He has been blessed with good people who have put him up until he could find something. Now he has his island hermitage where among other things he can muse upon the deep mysteries of the world. Actually this means that tonight Padre Steve is tired and doesn’t want to do any real critical thinking.

While driving today he noticed one of those diamond shaped warning signs that said “Blind Dive.” Now since the good padre is a bit of a warped theologian and Biblical scholar he wondered if “Blind Drive” was something like the biblical “Lame Walk.”

A bit later he saw another one of those warning signs that said “Slow Children” and he thought “that’s just sad.”

While looking for a kitchen garbage can at Wally World he noticed that while they had a full up store on almost everything there were no 13 gallon size kitchen trash cans. They had plenty of small assed cans that three Kleenex and a wad of bubble gum would fill up. He mused that it reminded him of his 1986 trip to East Berlin and waiting in line hoping what he wanted would be there when he got the front of the line. He was lucky in East Berlin, he got his Zeiss Binoculars, however he did not get his 13 gallon kitchen trash can.

Why is it in Eastern North Carolina that any mini-van that one gets behind will always drive well under the posted speed limit especially in no passing zones?

Padre Steve heard on the news that Congress has passed a temporary spending bill that will keep the government running for the next two weeks. However why is it if there is a government shutdown that these idiots will still get paid?

Why is it that the same brand and same grade of gasoline will cost 20 cents less per gallon less in one town than it does in another town just 5 miles away?

While in Wally World Padre Steve noticed a sign that said “Piso Mojado,” He wondered if they had that sign at the Red Sea when Moses crossed it with the People of Israel. He also wondered if sometime back in history if someone had met their doom while crossing the Piso Mojado.

Padre Steve wonders what geography genius in the NCAA has Charlotte North Carolina host a game in the Western Regional or Tuscan Arizona host a games in the Southeast regional.  Isn’t like Charlotte in the East and Tuscan in the Southwest? And for crying out loud when did Washington DC get to the West Coast…but then maybe its part of the budget deal.

Why is it that every time a brutal repressive dictator for life has his people turn on him that somehow it is the fault of the United States?

How can Stockton California be the most miserable city in the United States when they do not host the Browns, Cavaliers or Congress?

Why is it when you see a commercial for some new wonder drug that it shows happy people dancing or doing fun things while the announcer reads off a list of terrible side effects….”side effects include heart lung and liver failure, depression, genital warts, halitosis and death….if you experience any of these please stop taking Gulibilify and call your doctor, lawyer and mortician.

Anyway, my brain is full.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Let’s Celebrate the Reason for the Season: Materialistic Consumerism

I love Christmas and after a week of relatively serious writing I felt the need to celebrate the reason for the season. That’s right, materialistic consumerism the religion with the most followers of any in the United States. Just look around and you will see that even before Halloween that Christmas paraphernalia is already filling the store shelves and if you go to one of those craft stores you might even see a manger scene complete with Freddy Krueger and the Pilgrims kneeling at the crèche surrounded by the Wise Men, shepherds, vampires and turkeys. I tell you it is a miracle to behold disparate holidays blended together as only marketing professionals can do.

I just find the holiday spirit something to behold don’t you?  I just love the solemnity of Black Friday where countless consumers spend like drunken sailors and fight like them too when they find out that Wal-Mart has run out of everything that was in the Black Friday special advertisement.  It is inspiriting I tell you to excitement and mayhem of the season.  I just love the soothing sounds of non-stop advertisements on television with happy people spending money on lavish gifts to the tune of popular holiday music celebrating Santa the Savior who has come from the North Pole to bring joy to the people showering them with gifts paid for by those little plastic cards that everyone carries in their wallet. Yes my friends it is a wondrous season where for a month following Thanksgiving we exhaust ourselves and spend ourselves into oblivion as the miracle that began on 34th Street gives us all a wonderful life.

Now of course as you might guess, Padre Steve is a Christian and like all Christians he knows that Jesus is the “reason for the season” because all the Christian stores that sell Jesus junk tell him so. Meanwhile hundreds, no verily thousands of Churches endeavor to fill the pews with new and exciting versions of the Christmas story, complete with Angel choirs made up of heavy metal bands, hip hop artists and digitally enhanced manger scenes in Dolby Surround sound and 3-D graphics complete with interactive menus. It is amazing and wondrous to behold especially when the offering plate comes round, joy to the world and pray that the church breaks even, if not take a second offering after all it’s better to receive than go broke.

You see it seems that even in matters of faith rampant consumerism and materialism has distorted the very simple message of the Gospel that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” (Gal, 4:4-5)

It is in that fullness of time in a humble stable that most of us would shy away from because of the stench that Jesus was born, born of a virgin. In that humble stable away from their home in Galilee a young couple found themselves with child while obeying the edict of Caesar to register in a census. In the fullness of time a child was born in an era of oppressive paranoid local leaders such as Herod as well as the ever wary and security conscious Romans.   He was born in an era of religious fervor where ordinary people hoped and prayed for a deliverer but where many religious leaders were more interested in keeping their power than in welcoming a Messiah, where religious leaders made money on the gifts and offerings of devout people and where a profit could be made by selling off less than perfect animals for the offering while keeping the best for the religious leaders.

Yes my friends it was a time not very different from our own.  Somehow I think that Jesus would scratch his head in bewilderment in he were to walk the mall, watch a little television and visit a church or two and see just how he is marketed but allegedly Christian people. It’s funny how little things change in 2000 years.  I wonder if Jesus would get one of those WWJD bracelets or perhaps a few copies of The Prayer of Jabez? I wonder if he would turn over the tables in the Jesus junk stores and foyers of churches. I wonder if he would shed tears over the constant bombardment of advertisements telling people who are losing their homes to spend more money and of the rich passing the poor by on the streets.  I wonder if he would bless the practice of usury that undergirds our economy while impoverishing debtors that so many of his people support as being good for the economy.  I wonder about so much more including if Jesus would support the way that we celebrate him.  Somehow I think that he would be more upset about the way that his people treat him than those that are of other religious faiths or those that have left churches because of any number of abuses by both clergy and lay people.

Maybe I just wonder too much, but don’t you?

Padre Steve+

 

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