Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Notes from the Culture Wars -3

I'm going to be an equal opportunity offender. Christians should be duking it out with Rush Limbaugh for telling this joke:

One of the things that is totally erroneous about me -- and I just want to get this up front -- is that I'm pompous. And that I am arrogant. Neither of these things are remotely true. I can tell you a joke to illustrate this. Larry King passed away, goes to heaven. He's greeted by Saint Peter at the gates. Saint Peter says, "Welcome, Mr. King, it's great to have you here. I want to show you around, give you an idea of what's here, maybe you can pick a place that you'd like to reside." King says, "I just have one question: Is Rush Limbaugh here?" "No, he's got a lot of time yet, Mr. King." So Saint Peter begins the tour. Larry King sees the various places and it's beyond anything we can imagine in terms of beauty. Finally, he gets to the biggest room of all, with this giant throne. And over the throne is a flashing beautiful angelic neon sign that says "Rush Limbaugh."

And Larry King looks at Saint Peter and says: "I thought you said he wasn't here." "He said, he's not, he's not. This is God's room. He just thinks he's Rush Limbaugh."

So you see I'm not pompous.



Sadly the joke meets nothing but thunderous applause which should be appalling to all of us.

I'm all for humor. I'm all for poking a little fun at oneself--even drawing attention to your own greatest flaws. This works best when the humor is truly self-deprecating. This is the best kind of humor, particularly when you can take the wind out of your critics' biggest objections. The problem is this joke really does neither. Is there serious anything funny about saying "I'm not pompous, even God wants to be like me". Obviously it is ironic to say one is prideful and then make a joke that exalts oneself. The problem is that in this case it is blasphemous. There are some jokes, that if you have any sensibility and reverence, you just wouldn't make.

I'm also not about playing the 'tolerance' game with its counterplays of 'you offended me' or 'you hurt me'. This isn't an issue primarily of a sensitive pansy, you can't man up and take a good joke. This is deeper: this is about laughing at blasphemy, not laughing in derision mind you--laughing in acceptance.

How is this not the grossest violation of the third commandment?
Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Making God the butt of a joke is the flippant use of God's name that is utter wickedness. I would say this joke properly breaks the first commandment, although it may very well since Limbaugh joking compares God to Himself. But his very demeanor of irreverence and impiety along with his flippant use cannot be anything less than taking the idea of God and His very name in vain. Reflect on the Westminster Larger Catechism questions and then go back and answer my question:

Q. 112. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word,and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.

Q. 113. What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy, perjury; all sinful cursings, oaths, vows, and lots; violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; murmuring and quarrelling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God’s decrees and providences; misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it; to profane jests, curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, or sinful lusts and practices; the maligning, scorning, reviling, or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; being ashamed of it, or a shame to it, by unconformable, unwise, unfruitful, and offensive walking, or backsliding from it.
Don't you think the joke does more than a little of this?

The sad thing is: I think some Christians are so wrapped up in conservative politics they don't even see how ungodly this is. A quick google search of the web and google blogs didn't, in my estimation, reveal any significant conservatives picking this apart. The sad thing is that somebody like Ann Coultier would have been all over the liberals as Godless if they had made such a joke. Now why does Limbaugh get a free pass from Christians on the Right? Is our allegiance to the Right more important that our allegiance to God and Christ? We are not consumed by God's glory and a wonder and holy fear of His person and character. True respect for any authority, not to mention the Almighty God, does not jokingly mock His position and Lordship.

We have a serious problem when one's hate of the left far outweighs our desire to glorify God and display the fear of the Lord in all our speech and conduct. I cannot stress enough to make God's desire to be like me the punch line of the joke is the worst of all sins. It mocks idolatry. It goes beyond Genesis 3 archtype of all sin. At least there, Adam wanted to be like God--Rush Limbaugh will do one better: God wants to be like Him.

Why aren't any Christians calling for a boycott of Limbaugh? Why isn't Liberty University or Focus on the Family decry such an immoral joke as contributing to (or at least reflecting) the corruption and moral decadence of our society.

It's not like they didn't know about the joke:
While CPAC was a secular event, it was an event sponsored, supported and attended by Christian Right organizations and leaders. The CPAC program listed as co-sponsors: Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council and Liberty University's law school. Exhibitors included the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Council and Regent University's Robertson School of Government. Focus on the Family held a reception for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. (source)
When Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus," Bible-belt Christians roared with anger. They burned Beatles records, banned Beatles songs on the radio and boycotted Beatles concerts. They tolerated no rival claims to the messiah. When Limbaugh uttered a parallel claim, those who see Christianity under attack offered no response. No cry of cultural hostility toward religion was heard. No demand for an apology boomed from pulpits. No boycott was launched...
Given the thunderous silence of Christian Right leaders about Limbaugh's worldview, one wonders if talk radio's man of excessive individualism and political extremism has replaced the biblical witness as a moral compass.

All I can say is: enough is enough. What a shame we are when we stand up for politics and "conservative values" over and above Biblical values. Are we so blinded that we cannot see irreverence and blasphemy or worse, when we see it and we are so hard-hearted it doesn't bother us.

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