Saturday, August 16, 2008

Info-Tainment Meets Inspir-Mation

Tonight’s show was predictable and a bit creepy.

Fox, CNN and most other news stations carried the dialogue as Reverend Rick Warren quizzed senators McCain and Obama on national TV. Warren wanted to know how Christianity played out in their personal lives. He wanted to make sure neither believed in gay marriage. He pushed them on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Pastor Rick wanted to know how they would address religious persecution around the world. And he invited them to confess their biggest moral blunder in front of the cameras.

The mega-church pastor didn’t talk much about the poor, except to boast that he personally had sold 25 million copies of his guide to living a more purposeful life, and to quip that an annual income of $150,000 a year, which Obama defined as middle-class, was a poverty wage in his southern California neighborhood. Funny, I remember Jesus had a lot to say about the poor and not so much about stem cell research. Me and Rick must have gone to different seminaries.

One of his last questions to both candidates: “What would you say to folks who think it’s inappropriate for you to be talking with me here tonight?” Rev. Warren said that while it was important to keep church and state distinct, there was nothing wrong with mingling faith and politics. “Faith” was just another name for a world view, he explained, and everyone had one of those, whether Baptist or Buddhist or Bahai. Both Obama and McCain enthused about how delighted they were chatting with such a prominent religious leader.

But I had a different reaction. I thought it was another example of America’s growing problem with boundary issues. Specifically, our nation seems to be losing sight of the appropriate lines between news and entertainment, between entertainment and religion, and between religion and politics.

Tonight’s show tried to somehow be all of those things, set in a church that looked like a TV studio on steroids. Info-tainment meets Inspir-mation.

Not a pretty sight.

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