I remember a few well-meaning friends telling me that I was "overreacting" when I expressed outrage over Mel Gibson's sinister portrayal of Jews in his biblical blockbuster, "The Passion of the Christ." Thanks to Gibson's well oiled PR machine, even smart people were able to justify, as mere "coincidence," Gibson's full-cast of beady-eyed Jews with noses longer than Toucan Sam's. It was Gibson's other enduring passion, bountiful booze, that finally revealed the actor to be the hatemongering anti-Semite that I had suspected. Last week, he was arrested for drunk driving by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in Malibu. According to the report, in addition to threatening the arresting officer and trying to flee, Gibson said, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked the officer, James Mee, "Are you a Jew?"
In today's tightly scripted world, nothing is more entertaining than watching public relations give way to embarrassing public revelations. Sometimes, the expensive and controlled image campaign is no match for the out of control star who imbibed too much cheap Champagne.
Whether it's Tom Cruise's fanaticism, Michael Jackson's fetishism or Mel Gibson's fascism, it is a rare treat to see genuine personalities escape the guard of watchful publicists.
The ugly emergence of the true self is not relegated to Hollywood stars. For the past several years, ex-gay groups have worked diligently to appear as if they loved homosexuals. But, Alan Chambers, the leader of the ex-gay group Exodus International, told Focus on the Family's online magazine that gay people are inferior.
"I think their long-term goal is to portray themselves as equals, as people who are the same as heterosexuals, that their lifestyle is just as legitimate as heterosexuality," Chambers said last week.With one burst of unfiltered honesty, Chambers threw away years of work presenting his organization as compassionate and mainstream.
In an equally candid moment, President Bush recently gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unwanted massage, causing the flabbergasted fraulein to flinch. Earlier that week, his true nature came bumbling forth in a foreign policy conversation with Tony Blair. "You see," he told the British Prime Minister, "the thing is what they [The United Nations] need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over." While these incidents were inconsequential, they were a rare window into Bush-style diplomacy that offered a hint at why the globe is currently on fire.Fortunately, good can also occur when people escape their handlers to speak from the heart.
Former 'N Sync star Lance Bass decided that coming out is easier than hiding out in outer space. He revealed that he is gay on the cover of People Magazine and has so far been an eloquent spokesperson."The thing is, I'm not ashamed and that's the one thing I want to say," Bass says of his decision to come out.
"I don't think it's wrong, I'm not devastated going through this. I'm more liberated and happy than I've been my whole life. I'm just happy."
In another outburst of honesty, conservative Minnesota mega-church pastor Gregory Boyd has become America's most articulate advocate of separation of church and state. In a shocking series of sermons, he revealed that he thought right wing spin was overshadowing Scripture.
"America wasn't founded as a theocracy," he preached, according to The New York Times."America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn't bloody and barbaric. That's why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and State.
"When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses," he continued. "When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross."
In a similar manner, former football star and conservative preacher Reggie White started speaking the truth before his untimely death in 2004. White was upset about the way he was used by the far right to promote religion. In 1998, he even took part in a virulently anti-gay ad campaign that said gays could go straight through Scripture."Really, in many respects I was prostituted," White revealed to NFL Films.
On Saturday, White will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, one of his great achievements was not on the defensive line, but bucking the religious right's party line.
In the black hole of the human soul, some people, like Boyd and White, finally see the light. On other days, in a drunken haze, a floodlight reveals the darkness of one's true passions. Sometimes, even good PR can't hide who you truly are.
I like Greg Boyd. The church should never be used for political reasons or for "patriots" and should be for people for fellowship.
posted by Anonymous, at
8/01/2006 1:54 AM
In the bush-blair recording, I was grossed out, but not surprised to see bush chewing with his mouth open. What a big gavone he is! For him, the eagle on the presidential seal should be replaced with Krusty the Clown. Gary (NJ)
posted by Anonymous, at
8/01/2006 10:34 AM
I couldn't believe that anybody could NOT see the rampant anti-Semitism in "Passion." Maybe they were distracted by the buckets of gore thrown at the camera.
But you're right: the disconnect between public and private is truly frightening in some ways, validating in others, and almost always dripping with schadenfreude.
"I like Greg Boyd. The church should never be used for political reasons or for "patriots" and should be for people for fellowship."
I grew up in a very conservative religious family. My father was a Pentecostal minister when that meant opposition to make-up, movies, and just about everything else. There are many things I was taught as a child that I've now come to see as extreme.
Yet there is one thing that my father got right that many other preachers did not. My Dad viewed his ministry as to individuals, not as moral authority to change the politics of a nation. He cared about the spiritual and physical well being of his flock, not what he could get them to do.
He recognized early on that he could have a lot of influence over how some parishoners would vote and for that reason he never allowed them to know his party registration or how he voted. He refused to post "recommendations" from the Moral Majority or to discuss elections.
He consequently saved himself a lot of embarrasment when politicians went on to be the crooks that politians so often are. And that is what the religious right has forgotten: the mistakes of those you champion can reflect on you. When people come to see your political agenda as flawed - and they will - that may drive them away from religion altogether. It's not something that I would want to explain to God, "yeah I know I used your name to get votes and consequently drove people away from you, but...um...".
I'm glad to hear that Timothy. I grew up in a very liberal family. My parents are kind people.
posted by Anonymous, at
8/02/2006 8:30 PM
Until roughly two years ago, I belonged to a nondenominational Christian church. The church was sort of a "big tent," and encompassed people of different political leanings, although the overall thrust was definitely toward evangelical Christianity. When The Passion came out, our pastor and his staff jumped all over it... they rented out a theatre just so our congregation could see it, held a communion service in the theatre, had us donate money so men from the rescue mission could be "treated" to a showing, and so forth. For a while there, it was All Passion, All the Time.
Although I was initially turned off to this because of the gore in the film (I really can't handle gore), later on I came to feel that it was very unwise of my pastor to sort of "hitch his wagon" to something that had, after all, come out of Hollywood and which was tied to mortals and their own agendas and money-making ideas. I felt that it was not smart to tie spirituality to a fallible human (especially someone who was in the entertainment business) ... in the sense that all the claims you were making on the movie's behalf would ultimately rely on that person's character and integrity. I mean, people were going so far as to claim that God was speaking through Mel Gibson, and that made me very nervous.
My church's infatuation with The Passion was the beginning of the end for me (the final straw was the suggestion that I put my son into "reparative therapy," but that's another story). But what I am finding very interesting right now is the absolute silence on the part of so many in the religious community about the wisdom of the choice they made to align themselves so closely with Gibson and his movie. I can only hope that in the future, religious leaders will be more careful about who and what they endorse... but I suppose that's wishful thinking.