Saturday, January 22, 2005

Christians in the Media

Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

This is the "Tolerance Pledge" from the new SpongeBob music video, which has attracted a great deal of attention in light of Dr. Dobson's outspoken disagreement with the show's underlying beliefs and motives.

Michael Ventre calls Christians of a certain variety "CRACKPOTS" - "creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous" (oh, how clever). Of course, his decidedly intolerant adjectives for these sorts of Christians come only after his statement, "Since I am a compassionate and tolerant person, I hate to generalize about any particular group. Because people are so wonderfully diverse, proudly independent and gloriously unique, any racial, ethnic or religious pigeonholing would be deeply insulting, not to mention inaccurate." Right.

Hugh Hewitt points out the irony, too: "the critics of Dobson are hardly extending him even a chance to state his views much less tolerance for his right to hold them or to even speak on the subject."

The type of journalism displayed by Ventre is so absurd that it can hardly be called journalism at all. Jeff Jarvis offers his opinions, too, based on an LA Times editorial; he calls Dr. Dobson a "religious nutjob." (Come on, guys, since when do we believe or trust the LA Times?)

All these attacks that I've been reading share a common thread - in addition to the fact that the reporting of the facts leaves a lot to be desired. That common thread is this: rather than create a reasonable position supported by clear evidence, these folks are all just slamming Christians, employing enormous overdoses of sarcasm.

Dr. Reynolds offers his own ideas on the situation here and here.

For some other ideas and opinions, check out The Evangelical Outpost. "I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Dobson but conservatives – and Christian conservatives in particular – need to stop attacking fictional characters. Fictional characters don’t exist and so cannot truly be representative of any particular point of view. Strawmen arguments are bad enough when they are made of straw; they are even worse when they are made of sponge." While this last sentence is clever, I'm afraid I might just have to humbly disagree with TEO. It seems to me that fictional characters can be perhaps far more powerful than real people. After all, how many children do you know who take Linda Ronstadt, Rosie O'Donnell, or Jane Fonda very seriously? On the other hand, most children's minds are filled with and highly influenced by Tom Sawyer, The Little Princess, and Winnie the Pooh. For better or for worse, Sponge Bob has the opportunity to infiltrate the mindsets of thousands of children, most of whom haven't developed the ability to view simple TV shows with a critical mindset, testing for veracity, moral values, and other things implicit in the program. Is it possible that the very things that many parents consider the most harmless could, in the end, prove dangerous? (What do you all think about this? Comment!)

I have actually never seen Sponge Bob at all, much less this new music video, so I cannot offer my own point of view on the show itself. But the issue of how Christians are represented in the media should be of interest to us all, and I think this whole issue is worth some reading. I hope the links I've put in here are helpful or of interest.

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