Saturday, September 15, 2007

Kathy Griffin's Emmy jokes and Lauren Green's historical revisionism

There has been an all-too-predictable Christian uproar about Kathy Griffin's Emmy acceptance speech, in which she said that Jesus had nothing to do with her win, the award was now her god, and "Suck it, Jesus!" These remarks are apparently being edited from the broadcast to protect Christian sensitivities.

Lauren Green, former Miss America turned religion correspondent for Fox News, wrote an article claiming that Griffin's remarks and her winning of the award were only possible because of Jesus. Some bloggers are jumping to agree with her, without recognizing how off-base her historical argument is.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars points out the historical inaccuracies in Green's article, such as this one:
Ninety-four percent of America's founding era documents mention the Bible; 34 percent quote the Bible directly.

Ah yes, that old canard, which has been debunked time and time again. The phrase "founding era documents" is quite slippery; she doesn't bother to say, doubtless because she has never read Lutz' study and hasn't a clue what it actually says, is that most of the documents in his study had nothing at all to do with the founding of the country and were in fact reprinted sermons. Small wonder that sermons contained Biblical references.

In fact, Lutz' study notes that at the time of the drafting and ratification of the constitution, 1787 and 1788, there were precious few references to the Bible or to Christianity and none at all in the public writings of any of the Federalists who were explaining and defending the Constitution to the citizens. Lutz wrote of this period in his study:

The Bible's prominence disappears, which is not surprising since the debate centered upon specific institutions about which the Bible has little to say. The Anti-Federalists do drag it in with respect to basic principles of government, but the Federalists' inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant.

Lutz' study clearly argues against the notion that the Bible influenced the Constitution, not for it. If Green had bothered to actually read the study, she would know that. But instead, she credulously repeats religious right talking points. Then again, she does work for Fox News, so this is hardly a surprise.

The See for Yourself blog responds to Green by taking her argument a step further:
If Jesus really did have everything to do with Kathy Griffin's award, and think Lauren Green has undoubtedly shown that to be true, then that means Jesus had everything to do with Kathy Griffin saying "Suck it Jesus! This award is my God now!" And since Lauren Green makes it clear that she finds self-effacing humor to be amusing, why is it that Lauren Green is unamused by Kathy Griffin's remarks, which is essentially Jesus' own self-effacement? Jesus is Lord of Comedy, but Lauren Green is won't scarf down his tasty communion wafer.
Now, I very much believe that Lauren Green and Bill Donahue and Fox News would never have said anything if Kathy Griffin had only disavowed the involvement of a 2,000 year old fictional Jewish zombie. They would have gladly ignored that, and nobody would have censored remarks on the broadcast, and Lauren Green never would have written her well-reasoned column.

But why turn the other cheek if you won't accept the inevitable re-slap? Why doesn't Lauren Green have a sense of humor when Jesus uses an irreverent comedian to make a little fun of himself?
Ed Brayton concludes his piece with the point that Christians should be offended when people make claims to the media that God or Jesus was responsible for their winning a sports event or prize--as if God plays favorites in such events--and that this is what Griffin was making fun of.

UPDATE (September 27, 2007): Bob McCarty has been claiming that the Founding Fathers made the U.S. a Christian nation at his blog in the comments, and has not approved my comments responding to some of his bogus claims. Here's the text of my second attempts to post a rejoinder:
Bob: You didn't approve/publish my previous comment responding to your Sep. 15 comment. I'll try again.

Your citation of "In God We Trust" and "One Nation Under God" as evidence of the U.S. being founded on Christian principles shows your lack of research--the former did not appear on coins until 1854 and on currency until 1957. The phrase "under God" wasn't added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.

I also suggested you read more of the writings of Thomas Jefferson, including his letter to his nephew Peter Carr on August 10, 1787, in which he wrote "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."
and, in a separate comment, after I remembered that I had also made this point in my first attempt:
Oh, and I also recommended that you check out the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, which was ratified by the Congress and signed by President John Adams, which contains the statement that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Tripoli violated the treaty and a new treaty was negotiated in 1805 without that language, but it is significant that both the Senate and President approved that language.


Rose Marie Wolf, Author said...

I understand completely what she was joking about. Thanks for the post.

Much Love Always,
Rose Marie Wolf

Andrew & Carrie said...

I believe this comment does not harm Christians in the least bit. I do believe that this comment causes great harm to Kathy Griffin. We serve a loving God, who is slow anger and abounding in love. But He is also passionate about His name. He has commanded us not to use His name in vain, that includes comedy. The Hebrew people would not even write the entire name God, because they felt they were unworthy. As a follower of Jesus we believe that at the name of Jesus the sick are healed and the lame walk and the blind see. And at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord. I have no hate in my heart for Kathy Griffin, but I do hope that she realizes the consequences of her actions before she stands before God at the day of judgement.

Einzige said...

If I end up standing before Jesus on the day of judgment I'll make sure to hawk a big loogie on his face.

There couldn't be a bigger asshole.

Respect, anyone? said...

einzige, why would you call Jesus an asshole? Even atheists call him a teacher of his day. I could see you calling him blashemous, as did his doubters, but asshole? He showed nothing but kindness to people, regardless of who we believe him to be. I can't seem to find the sense in that description of him.

Also, I was pondering what would happen if Kathy Griffin entered Iraq and aimed her "suck" comment at Allah or if she entered India and aimed her "suck" comment at Buddha. Fact is, she probably wouldn't. I couldn't even get myself to type that comment to those gods (out of respect for readers of those religions). What if einzige used the asshole description for those two gods in those countries? Fact is, he probably wouldn't. So why the disrespect shown for the God worshipped or the religion claimed by the majority of Americans? The trait of respect is floundering in this country. Just look around (or read more blogs like this one).

Einzige said...

I freely admit I lack respect for religious belief.

My characterization of Jesus as an asshole is based on two things:

1. He said that if you don't believe that he is King of kings and Lord of lords then you'll be cast out into outer darkness for all eternity.

This, in spite of how you led your life. If you're a mass murdering necrophiliac pedophile you'll still get into heaven as long as you repent your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Use your brain (the one that, presumably, Jesus gave you), on the other hand, and question things that don't make any sense? Doomed to an eternity of unimaginable tortures. Nuff said! Jesus is an asshole.

But, there's more...

2. Assuming Jesus's claim that he and Yahweh are the same being, then there's the whole Old Testament to contend with. Yahweh was a supreme dick. The Old Testament is filled to the brim with stories of just how awful Jehovah is. If Jesus = Jehovah and Jehovah really sent bears to tear apart children for making fun of Elijah's bald head (for one tiny little example among many), then Jesus = asshole.

Jim Lippard said...

respect, anyone?: I was also somewhat taken aback by Einzige's comment, and he offered a similar explanation. (I specifically asked him if he also hated Santa Claus.)

Einzige's not responding to the historical Jesus, he's responding to the mythical Christian Jesus.

I'm sure he'd similarly respond to the mythical Allah. Buddha, however, doesn't have quite the reputation for condemning people to eternal torture. (BTW, there are a lot more Hindus than Buddhists...)

Einzige said...

In response to Jim's question about Santa I had this to say:

I don't hate Santa, but I do hate Lord Voldemort.

Jim Lippard said...

Here's an angry atheist.

Respect, anyone? said...

Einzige, if you are a parent, you know that all children at some point think of their fathers as "supreme dicks." Children don't understand discipline at times, but good parents have good motives in raising their children. They use discpline. That's what God of the Old Testament did a lot. Yes, some of his discipline was remarkably large-scale, and we won't ever get it because we weren't raised in that culture in that day (much more violent situations than the good ole' USA in every culture of that time).

Back to your "Jesus is asshole" opinion - Jesus had compassion in this whole heavy-handed discpline thing, and that's when he entered the picture. Re-read the New Testament. There is an extremely lopsided bent toward love and good deeds from Jesus, not the hateful condemnation you are referring to. The hateful condemnation came from the religious leaders. Jesus despised their religious "holier than thou" mentality. He just loved on people. He got into trouble hanging out with society's rejects. He pointed a convicting finger at those who claimed religion but lived like judgmental idiots and haters. It's not Jesus who condemns man to eternal damnation - man does that to himself. Thankfully, God doesn't hogtie and force his followers into submission. That's an act of choice, of will. I think your angst is more directed at religious bigots, but that was not Jesus. Quite the contrary. Close your ears and eyes to the people making noise around you and read the New Testament with an open mind about the person of Jesus Christ.

Einzige said...


Your parent analogy alludes to a huge subject--the problem of evil, about which a great deal has been written. I can't really add much to what has already been said, but if you're curious, here is a page with a number of thought-provoking essays on the topic. Suffice to say that I am of the opinion that Jehovah would be considered an unfit parent by CPS.

Regarding Jesus, I prefer that we refer to his own words as a guide to his single-minded obsession (BTW, it's amazing how many times he felt compelled to remind us he was telling the truth)...

JN 5:24
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

JN 3:3
In reply Jesus declared, I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

JN 3:18
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

JN 6:29
Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.

JN 6:38-40
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

JN 6:44
No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

JN 6:47
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

JN 6:51
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

JN 6:53
Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

JN 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

JN 8:24
I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.

JN 8:51
I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

JN 10:27-28
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand.

JN 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

JN 11:40
Then Jesus said, Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

JN 12:25-26
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

JN 12:44-46
Then Jesus cried out, When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

JN 12:48
There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

JN 14:6
Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.

JN 15:6
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Jim Lippard said...

respect, anyone: "Children don't understand discipline at times, but good parents have good motives in raising their children. They use discpline. That's what God of the Old Testament did a lot. Yes, some of his discipline was remarkably large-scale, and we won't ever get it because we weren't raised in that culture in that day (much more violent situations than the good ole' USA in every culture of that time)."

Do you realize that you are advocating not just moral relativism, but a moral relativism that supports the moral goodness of genocide and slavery? Sorry, I'm not buying what you're selling.