Monday, September 24, 2007

Gareth Higgins' view on Kathy Griffin


Here's part of what Gareth Higgins said on a Jim Wallis blog:

The suggestion that a comedian should be punished for religious mockery is disturbing and bears echoes of Christian imperialism. The point is sharpened by the fact that Griffin was making a commentary that many thinking Christians would agree with: a critique of the superficial celebrity spirituality that claims divine sanction for entertainment awards victories. It is, of course, entirely legitimate to be thankful to God for the blessings of a lifetime; this column is unlikely to win any awards, but if one came my way I'm sure I'd aim my gratitude in the same direction. But to suggest that Jesus is invested in who wins the Emmys is another indicator of a kind of spiritual decadence, akin to when boxers or football teams bow the knee mid-match, suggesting that they think God prefers them over their opponent.

It's striking also that the outcry over Mel Gibson, Don Imus, and Isaiah Washington's dehumanising and bigoted comments was not led by the church, but Griffin's remark at an awards ceremony has been met with the full opprobrium of some religious leaders. I think this indicates something troubling about the priorities of much public discourse by Christians -- and also the hamstrung picture of Jesus offered by much of the church. It seems that we believe in a Jesus who both needs us to defend him, and who couldn't handle a joke at his own expense. It is disturbing also that Mel Gibson's anti-semitic comments, made while drunk, did not really spark a debate about how to reconcile people from different religious traditions. Instead, the church was largely silent about (ostensibly) one of its own.

Griffin's comments were a veiled criticism of a culture of superficiality, in which God is constructed as a wealth-affirming, competition-endorsing elitist who likes to go to the Oscars. It was also a joke. We don't have to like it, but we should be able to take it.

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