A nostalgic trip back to the Heavy Metal Wars

Ah, how people need to be offended. Anyway, I found this while looking up a reference to the time Ozzy pissed on the Alamo. One Terry Watkins apparently penned this screed during Sharon Osbourne’s battle with cancer (ca. 2002-03):

One of the hottest celebrities today is the vulgar, violent and demonic Ozzy Osbourne. MTV recently launched the profanity-soaked The Osbournes family show. The Osbournes is simply filmed during Oz and family’s normal (if you could possibly call it that) daily life. No acting. . . No pretense. . . Just simply being their abnormal self. It’s just “family time with The Osbournes“. I stomached one nauseating viewing of The Osbournes (and believe me – that was one too many!). I counted 51 occurrences of the “F-word” in a little over 15 minutes (episode “Dinner with Ozzy”). Profanity and perversion is spewed by all the Oz kin – Oz, wife, teenage daughter and son. Of course, MTV “bleeps” the worse profanity out, but the actual words are easily understood. In between the onslaught of f-words, and depravity, a drug-cooked-burnt-out Ozzy staggers, mumbles, shakes and screams in a state of spaced-out, confusion. Much of the subject matter and perverse acts can not and will not be repeated in this article – but believe me – it’s sicko, sicko and sicko. . . And sicko. . .

MTV’s vulgar and vile The Osbournes is the most successful show in MTV history! It received the highest ratings of any other entertainment program on any other cable station this season. Over 8 million viewers tune in to The Osbournes. MTV’s contract to extend The Osbournes profanity-program another two years was the most expensive in MTV’s history! Over $20 million!

    “. . . men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. . .”
    John 3:19

Knowing MTV’s usual subject matter and tweenie audience the huge success of the disgusting The Osbournes is no real shocker. The more vile. . . The more vulgar. . . The more offensive. . . The more teenagers. . . will watch MTV.

Let’s just start with, Wow.

It’s really quite simple. So, it’s what, six or seven years later? The thing is that even I forget most of what I’ve posted to the web. As that comprises, literally, millions of words over the last ten or so years, I don’t think that lapse is particularly unusual. But every once in a while something pops up and I think, Did I really write that?

Here’s the problem, though: When I was a teenager, Tipper Gore and the PMRC, as well as other censors—including the consummately dishonest Bob Larson, who needed to rewrite the lyrics in order to communicate the perceived offense—demonstrated only that they hadn’t a clue what they were dealing with or talking about. And so it is with the unfortunate Mr. (Reverend? Pastor?) Watkins and the Dial-the-Truth Ministries.

Just a little hint: When your underlying premise is that teenagers are too stupid to understand things like rock and roll music, or cheap reality television, the only thing you’re going to accomplish is raising a generation of idiots.

I mean, sure, I’m occasionally embarrassed by a naîve argument about gun control, or a misconstrued argument resulting from having read a source incorrectly, but, by Christ, I can’t imagine making such a stellar fool of myself as Terry Watkins has managed.

While he even trolled Hit Parader and Circus magazine for quotes, he somehow managed to miss the one about Ozzy and Randy and Geezer watching an amazing porno featuring a well-hung man and a really exhausted-looking chicken. I mean, come on. The bane of your life hands you a gift, and you miss it? Of course, that’s part of what Watkins doesn’t get, anyway. Put something like that in front of a teenager, and he might laugh his ass off, but few and far between are those who would actually go out and fuck a chicken.

But, perhaps that’s part of the point. Watkins’ form of Christian righteousness has nothing to do with Jesus, compassion, or Christianity. Rather, it has to do with satiation of the ego. He looks at an addict and sees the Devil. Anything to denounce. Anything to vent that fury, that hatred. But, of course, he wants to seem like a good Christian, so he asks us all to pray for Sharon and the family:

IMPORTANT: Please pray for Ozzy’s wife Sharon. She has colon cancer. Pray that God would open her eyes, at this critical time, to the serious consequences of dying without the Lord Jesus Christ. What a blessing if she got saved! And what if the whole Osbourne family got wonderfully saved?

Anyone else would be embarrassed. Perhaps Mr. Watkins is. Then again, he bothered in the first place, so who am I to presume he has anything remotely resembling a sense of shame? All I know is that if I put that much effort into missing the point, I would probably be horribly embarrassed. We can only hope Mr. Watkins is so fortunate.

In the meantime, I’ll thank him for the chuckle. It’s exactly what I needed, as the clock pushes half past four or so in the morning, to put a smile on my face. Ah, nostalgia! It’s almost enough to make me pine for the Heavy Metal Wars with the PMRC.

A call for theological justification

Someone, please, help me out: If … if, if, if …. If someone makes a claim based on a religious principle, what is the obligation to reconcile the claim with the religion?

Okay, let’s try a working example. Tom Searles reports, for The Charleston Gazette:

A handful of people who believe digitized photos on state driver’s licenses could be the beginning of the biblical “mark of the beast” will receive special licenses from the Division of Motor Vehicles today.

Phil Hudok, a Randolph County teacher who previously refused to enforce school rules requiring students to wear bar-coded identification badges because it violated his religious beliefs, will be one of the first.

“We’re a Christian, nondenominational scripture-believing group,” Hudok said.

Hudok, pastor Butch Paugh and 12 others met with DMV Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo in 2006 about the perceived problem. At the time, state officials were getting ready to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which would have forced states to share information about licensed drivers with other states.

Under the plan Cicchirillo established, Hudok and other followers of Paugh will be allowed to have their license photos taken at the Capitol DMV office and then removed from the computer system. DMV will maintain a hard copy of the pictures at the main office.

“What these people objected to was the digital image,” Cicchirillo said.

The federal act also requires personal information, such as birth dates and driving records, in the system. “All the other information stays there,” the commissioner said.

He said there has been no outpouring of people objecting to the digital photos.

“Right now, I have three or four people who have requested it for religious reasons,” he said. “I think what they told me was it had to do with the mark of the beast.”

Continue reading

A dubious season

‘Tis the season to make the point, I suppose. Harold Meyerson brought us this little gem in Wednesday’s Washington Post:

As Christians across the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, it’s a fitting moment to contemplate the mountain of moral, and mortal, hypocrisy that is our Christianized Republican Party ….

…. My concern isn’t the rift that has opened between Republican political practice and the vision of the nation’s Founders, who made very clear in the Constitution that there would be no religious test for officeholders in their enlightened new republic. Rather, it’s the gap between the teachings of the Gospels and the preachings of the Gospel’s Own Party that has widened past the point of absurdity, even as the ostensible Christianization of the party proceeds apace.

There is a spectre haunting American Christianity, and in the grand American tradition it is a Devil of their own making. Satan himself might rise and declare, “I accuse”; the faithful, for all their dependence on this ancient symbol given by their belief the power of flesh and blood, would be deaf to the call.

Meyerson concerns himself with national politics, which is indeed a fitting object for examination. He targets the White House, the House GOP, the Republican presidential candidates. The indictment, on the surface, seems to describe just another day in American politics. Contrasted against the religious faith alleged at the core of GOP support, though, and juxtaposed to the rhetoric of so many Republican politicians, it is a damning accusation, and if the Devil of Christian lore has nothing to say about the course of things, it is because he is so very pleased by what he sees. Any pro athlete will tell you: don’t mess with a winning streak.

The idea of a group so dedicated to Christian expression as to childishly reiterate supremacist ideology a few years ago when the court considered the Pledge of Allegiance seemed odd enough at the time. Treading at the edge of absurdity is the idea that such a Christian expression should reject what Jesus said in order to take up, in a twist nearly infinitely ironic, a superficial jihad: the last thing these “Christians” will do is turn the other cheek. Rather, they would pretend America blameless, assert that no hostility toward our nation and its people could ever be justified, and proceed to fight back until aggression ceases. It’s like the bully who grabs your face and slams the back of your skull against a locker at school. When someone finally hauls off and punches him, he pretends innocence. “I never hit him,” says the bully. And it’s true. Instead, he merely extorted, pushed around, tripped, harassed, threatened, insulted, kicked, vandalized, and stole. None of those actually describe the closing of a fist and throwing of a punch. And in a way, I am brought to recall any number of schoolyard fights where the  aggressor would shove his target, and the intended victim would not have it. “I’m gonna kick your ass,” the bully would sneer. “So go on. Throw the first punch.”

In retrospect it seems almost perverse, but bullies are human too, and will presume themselves innocent and oppressed. After all, psychologists will tell you that few bullies are actually psychopaths; the vast majority of bullies are simply redirecting other conflicts, many of which originate at home.

To a degree, then, we do owe the bullies a measure of sympathy. But how far should that sympathy extend?

It is a valid question because one thing terrifies Americans more than death itself. (And why should death be terrifying, since a majority of Americans, by their Christian faith, look forward to the end of the world?) Generally, Americans are frightened senseless at the notion of being called bigots. Even the bigots don’t want to be seen as bigots. They recognize that their hatred is foul, so they pretend to be holy warriors, righteously xenophobic victims beset by hordes of evil outsiders. Among Americans, everyone, including obvious aggressors, fights defensively. It is tactically wise and politically effective, even and especially when that defensive stance is counterintuitive. One might look at laments coming from various Christian quarters of late and wonder, How can you be oppressed when you’re in charge?

Although the situation seems blatant, the players clearly identifiable in the age of modern media, understanding the factors can be a bit challenging. Ideological currents running back to the early twentieth century, or into the nineteenth, make for discussions unto themselves; speak nothing, then, of those enduring nearly two millennia. Indeed, grasping the logic exercised by modern profiteers prophets can be a tricky issue, as the faith of personal prosperity appeals to contemporary American greed, borrowing as it does from the Calvinism so closely tied to the roots of the nation’s history.

What we must remember, at the outset, is that redemptive monotheism is an appeal to greed. In declaring an abstract concept that cannot be demonstrated true—e.g., the immortal soul—the most important, most valuable, most cherished thing in the whole of existence, redemptive monotheism essentially bribes (at best) the faithful with unverifiable promises. This idea, alternately described as a bribe, extortion, or a gift, is commonly known as Pascal’s Wager. It is not entirely irrelevant to consider that in the hands of twelfth-century theologian Peter Abelard this wager, then called the Slave’s Wager, was considered the weaker argument since it was offered by a theoretical devout Jew.

We should not be surprised, then, that greed is a recurring theme throughout the history of one of the greatest wild-eyed promises ever made. There is in history a coherent story of how we came from rumors of Christ to the present condition, but it is neither easy, friendly, nor definitive. And almost any rational consideration of such a tale would describe it as a tragedy. I say almost because we simply cannot know everything, and someday we might discover or recognize something that changes this measurement of the outcome.

Stay tuned.

They … will … believe … anything!

You know, I once actually heard a Catholic priest debunk a sighting of the Virgin Mary by pointing to a lamp. An unlikely combination of factors apparently caused the light reflected off the lamp to cast a distorted image on the wall that looked much like the Virgin.

And, yes, that was a long time ago. Probably about the time devout pilgrims were gathering to see the Virgin in the iridescence on the back of a road sign near Yakima.

Then there was the time that some of the Medjugorje witnesses came to speak at my Jesuit high school; the one thing I can remember from that day is that they were quite sincere. They really believe what they’re telling people.

And that’s well and fine. I still remember that one priest who tried to stay rational.

But this?

Flaming Pope

Nick Pisa reports for the Daily Mail:

The image, said by believers to show the Holy Father with his right hand raised in blessing, was spotted during a ceremony in Poland to mark the second anniversary of his death ….

…. Gregorz Lukasik, the Polish man who took the photographs, said: “It was only afterwards when I got home and looked at the pictures that I realised I had something.

“I showed them to my brother and sister and they, like me, were convinced the flames had formed the image of Pope John Paul II.

“I was so happy with the picture that I showed it to our local bishop who said that Pope John Paul had made many pilgrimages during his life and he was still making them in death.”

You know, I think when I was a kid, there was an episode of That’s Incredible! or Real People that featured a picture of a house burning down; the family took comfort, though, when one of the children spotted Jesus Christ standing in the doorway. It was sort of the same kind of thing you see here.

And at least this is cooler than the road sign outside Yakima.