January 08, 2006

Beware Rhetoric with Absolutes

In the latest outburst Jerry Falwell sent to his supporters, he takes on one of his favorite targets-Hollywood. He started out stating his opposition to the new NBC program, "The Book of Daniel," then goes into a condemnation of Hollywood in general.

One of the important lessons I learned as a young man was to be sceptical of anyone who spoke or wrote in absolutes. By this, I mean that when someone uses the terms "always" or "never" or any of their derrivates, they are likely exaggerating their point. If you take a moment and think about that objectively, how many things can you accurately use those phrases to describe when discussing human behavior? Very, very few I believe.

There is only one absolute in the lives of my wife and myself, and that is the love of God. He is ALWAYS there for us and he will NEVER stop loving us. Everything else on earth is pretty much up for grabs.

That's why it aggravates me to see a religious leader like Dr. Falwell speak in absolute terms when condemning his latest target. In the quotes I refer to here, he does not use the acutal words always and never, but he clearly implies their meaning.

For example, Falwell states, "I guess since the networks long ago deemed that morality is an ever-changing mood, it was determined that Christian characters would also need to reflect a sense of moral imbalance and fundamental corruption. So if Christians aren’t portrayed as complete lunatics, they are shown as being just as confused about life as network executives. These depictions of 'Christians' are wholly dishonest."

Wholly dishonest? Christians are human beings, Dr. Falwell, and some of them do terrible things. No portrayal of Christians can be "wholly dishonest" because there's some element of truth in the most and least favorable ones. Of course, the good doctor only wants positive portrayals. I suspect that, like any other pastor of a large church, Dr. Falwell can look out from his putpit toward his congregation and see drug users, adulterers, and yes even homosexuals safely tucked away in their closets.

It also seems to me there HAVE been some good views of christians on television in recent memory. How about "Seventh Heaven", "Touched By an Angel", and "Highway to Heaven" as three examples. I'm sure there are others, but I don't watch a lot of television where there is not a sporting event involved.

I'm sure Dr. Falwell was uncomfortable watching parts of "The Book of Daniel." Brenda and I watched the entire two-hour episode since I knew it would be a topic of discussion and I wanted to be informed. I think the best way to sumarize the program would be calling it a soap opera with Jesus. There are some twisted characters on this program. The Episcopalian priest has a very dark side, although he showed a good side as well. It seemed the most well adjusted person on the show was the homosexual son, which I'm sure really ticked off fundamentalits.

Dr. Falwell referred to the portrayal of Jesus in this show as a "kind of inane wise guy." I don't believe that is totally inaccurate, but is conveniently taken out of context. Jesus speaks to us in ways we can understand it. Sometimes the messages He sends me would fall under the category of wise guy, but that's where I am too.

If we seek Him out, He will come to us and meet us where we are to share His message in a manner that we can process it and use it in our lives. I believe that is how Jesus was communicating with the lead character in "The Book of Daniel." To acknowledge that, however, would give more validation to the program than would serve Dr. Falwell's purposes.

This is another clear example of the danger people run into when they try to view the world as only black or white. There are an infinite variety of shades of gray that we might miss and learn something from, which would conflict with the absolute message of "leaders" like Dr. Falwell. Instead of "toeing the line" like his ilk of fundamentalists would have us do, we can greatly enrich our lives and, more importantly our faith, by opening our minds and hearts.


  1. I think what you're doing is awesome. I've got a forum for Christian GLBT teens: comingoutreach.10.forumer.com I'd appreciate it if you added it to your links.

    God bless,

  2. As the rector of my seminary used to say, "Gentlemen, never say never." Perhaps another version: Always avoid saying always.

  3. I thought the first episode of Damiel was better than I expected from the promos. It was aweful busy flying from one situation to another, but then, it had to try to introduce all the characters and situations at one time.

    I got to thinking that the Jesus character was more the Jesus as Daniel has come to know Him through study and prayer, his conscience. He's not actually Jesus, if that makes any sense.

    I thought the best line was when Daniel asked Him "Do you speak to others like this?" and He replied, "I speak to everyone, but few hear me." Right on!