Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Great moments in censorship

A school in Eastern Kentucky is forced to leave the Christmas Bible verses out of A Charlie Brown Christmas. 

So, do we have another thing to celebrate during Banned Books Week?

32 comments:

planks length said...

The secularists have shot themselves in the foot with this one. Those kids are likely well familiar with the TV special from DVDs, etc., and know very well what the original wording is. So all the school officials have done here is to highlight those words, and give cause for the children to ask, "Why were they taken out?" And to that question, the censors will have no flattering answer. The least damaging explanation they can offer is that they are cowards, and have preemptively responded to a "threat" that may have never been there in the first place.

"The wicked flee where no man pursueth." (Proverbs 28:1)

John Mitchell said...

That's certainly reasonable.
First some kids recite a few bible verses at school, the next day you wake up living in a theocracy.


I wonder what is more alarming: the fact that there is a large amount of people who instill this neurotic attitude into the general culture or the fact that there is an even larger amount of people who must know better but nevertheless always cave in to these freaks....

planks length said...

The latter (is more alarming).

Cal Metzger said...

In the Charlie Brown animated special, after going through the usual end-of-year rituals (based on the pagan rituals around a tree no less) Charlie Brown asks if anyone knows what Christmas is really all about, Linus speaks quote from the (King James) Bible:

Linus: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

I love the CBCS Special, but that religious non-sequitur Linus sits in the middle of the program like a dead mouse on the table. Why the religious proselytizing in the middle of an animated cartoon centered around comic characters, a cool dog that leads an imaginary life as a WWI pilot, and some of the greatest jazz arrangements of the last 50 years?

Imagine if in the movie Aladdin Robin Williams's genie character solemnized the marriage of the Aladdin and the princess with this verse from the Quran:

The Genie: "Among Allah's proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think. And that is why there is only one God, and he is Allah."

Then the couple goes on to be happily married, birds sing, etc.

Now imagine that play of Aladdin being performed at a school that your child attends, where the majority of the students are Muslims, and when the religious proselytizing scene is omitted, the Muslim students "step up" and recite the genie's speech above.

in that setting, wouldn't the religious proselytizing in the middle of an otherwise great story be off-putting to you as well?

planks length said...

Cal,

You're missing one major point, when it comes to A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is that it is (regardless of its quality) a literary work, by one Charles Schulz. And Mr. Schulz regarded Linus's speech as not only integral to the work, but as its climactic moment. To remove it would be like not having Rick say "We'll always have Paris" to Ilsa in Casablanca, or Dorothy not saying "There's no place like home" in The Wizard of Oz.

Ultimately, this is not even about religion, but about artistic integrity. Without the Biblical text, "there's no there there."

Cal Metzger said...

Planks, two things:

The speech isn't integral to the work. It's actually deeply incongruous with the rest of the half hour, which is basically a commentary about commercialism, some Peanuts humor (precociousness) amidst some Peanuts themes (meaning and purpose), alongside flat out whimsy (a dog who decorates his house and flies a Sopwith Camel). These are all common, human themes, none of which require a bible.

Why couldn't the makers of Aladdin have inserted the speech I imagined above and claimed that it was demanded by their artistic integrity?

planks length said...

Cal,

According to accounts of how the TV special actually came about, Shultz started with Linus' recitation of the passage from Luke, and built the story line around it. It was not some random "insertion", but the very foundation of the work. His collaborators were initially scared (their word, not mine) by the idea, but Schulz ultimately convinced them that without the scene, the special did not hang together. It was the glue that made the whole thing work. You can't get more integral than that.

Cal Metzger said...

Well, I disagree. The glue behind that special is largely the music of Vince Guaraldi, and the unique insight / humor of Schultz as revealed through his characters. Even as a child I thought Linus soliloquy came out of nowhere, and I've seen my kids have the same reaction as they watched it. (Only a religious bigot would insist that concern about modern pre-occupations and the desire for peace among men was invented by their religion.)

That being said, I also do enoy the soliloquy as its performed -- I find its sudden insertion kind of odd, but the child actor's pronunciation and careful delivery is one of my favorite parts of the special, and the fact is that I love the whole production too much to let the proselytizing bother me.

The fact remains, however, that we look the other way at this kind of inherited proselytizing because it's part of the furniture in which we grew up, and it seems that we're mostly bad at imagining how these little instances are inconsistent with the policies and procedures we'd use if the situation were different (per my Aladdin example).

This post and the commenters here seem to wonder how silly and thin-skinned those who'd object to the original soliloquy being played in a school. But it doesn't seem like anyone is willing to say they'd shrug their shoulders and not care the same way given my Aladdin example. Maybe we should wonder about that.

planks length said...

I don't wonder about it at all.

Christianity is a religion that worships Christ, God become Man and therefore one of us, down here in the trenches alongside His brothers. Islam is a religion of blind submission to a deity utterly divorced from Humanity, one so exalted there is no possible connection, no sense of "being in this together".

Christianity worships the Holy Trinity - a God who is Love by His very nature of being a Community of Loving Persons. Islam's deity is a solitary tyrant, unable to experience within himself any feeling other than mastery over inferiors.

Christianity was founded by generations of martyrs who bled and died not resisting their Roman tormentors but rather converting them by example. Islam was established by a bloody warlord who spread "the word" at the point of a sword - convert or die.

Christianity overturned the truly deplorable "morality" of the ancient world, with its casual acceptance of bloody gladiator fights, child abuse, sodomy, slavery, sexual orgies, and contempt for the poor with equality before God, monogamy, public decency, and the dignity of all. Islam established a system of subjugation of women, polygamy, child abuse, female genital mutilation, unending religious war (jihad), mandatory death for "apostates", and forcible creation of permanent underclasses.

No, I don't wonder about it for a second.

John Mitchell said...

"Islam established a system of ... female genital mutilation...."

Is it not true that female genital mutilation is a shared practice of both Christians and Muslims common in certain regions of Africa?

Is that something that originated in Islam and merely spread into Christianity ?

planks length said...

In answer to both of your questions, yes.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "I don't wonder about it at all.... No, I don't wonder about it for a second."

Spoken like a true theocrat.

planks length said...

Spoken like someone who actually thinks about things and comes to meaningful conclusions - unlike some people who never admit to knowing anything.

"The purpose of an open mind, like that of an open mouth, is to close it on something solid." G.K. Chesterton

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Spoken like someone who actually thinks about things and comes to meaningful conclusions..."

And the conclusion of your meaningful thought appears to be that hypocrisy and bigotry are okay when you've decided that your religion is the one true one. You don't seem to mind the fact that this places you in some ignominious company, pulling yourself down to the same level of those you describe.

Planks: ""The purpose of an open mind, like that of an open mouth, is to close it on something solid." G.K. Chesterton

Whlel not a real fan of Chesterton I'd largely agree with this. As Hitchens pointed out in an interview in which he discussed (that superior English thinker) Orwell, most of the time the role of an intellectual is to point out that things are more complex than they seem; but sometimes the role of an intellectual is to point out what's truly simple in what has been made to seem confusing.

Inconsistency and hypocrisy and bigotry are characteristics that should overwhelm any religious preferences; if you find your religion condones or allows these things, then a real intellectual would have to reconsider what he thinks he know about his religion.


planks length said...

Hmm, I've just re-read all my comments above, and can find not one word or clause in them that could fairly be labeled as inconsistent, hypocritical, or bigoted. You must have very different definitions of those words.

Dave Duffy said...

Good Grief, the season is about Christmas. God became us and died to redeem our pathetic human nature.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Hmm, I've just re-read all my comments above, and can find not one word or clause in them that could fairly be labeled as inconsistent, hypocritical, or bigoted. You must have very different definitions of those words."

It's inconsistent (and hypocritical) to support religious proselytizing in one production but oppose it in another (as I portrayed).

It's bigoted to deny the enjoyment of human attributes to those who don't share your views -- and as you have made clear above, those who don't share your faith can have "no possible connection, no sense of "being in this together"."



planks length said...

those who don't share your faith can have "no possible connection, no sense of "being in this together"."

First off, I never said (or meant, or implied) "those who don't share your faith". I said "Islam". Note, I didn't even say "Muslims" but "Islam". And as for "no possible connection, no sense of "being in this together", those aren't my words, they are the words of Islamic scholars themselves. Allah is utterly transcendent. He has no son, no equal, no one who can approach him in any manner other than total submission. And the will of Allah (their words, not mine) is not subject to reason, but independent of it. If Allah wills something, so be it. The commands of the Gospel ("Love one another", "care for the least amongst you", "love your enemies", "teach all nations", etc.) are all reasonable. In contrast, the Islamic commands (go to Mecca, pray 5 times daily, marry no more than 4 wives, two male witnesses are required to substantiate a charge of rape, etc.) are arbitrary. Why not 5 wives instead of 4? There is no rationality to the choice of one number over the other. It is simply "the will of Allah" and our part is to shut up and obey.

It is not bigotry to oppose falsehood. It is insanity to not do so. Islam is false, false, false. Mohammed never had any divine revelation (though I do not rule out in his case the possibility of demonic revelation). His life story is the very opposite of being a role model for one to follow. To imitate Christ is to be loving, charitable, a force for good, a healer, a teacher, a friend, and to live for others, putting their welfare ahead of one's own. To imitate Mohammed is to be a serial child abuser, a murderous warlord, an oppressor of those you rule by force of arms, a liar, and a tyrant. If opposition to such is to be labeled bigotry, then I would wear the label with pride. I guess that also means I'm "bigoted" against Stalinism, Nazism, Fascism, and the Mafia.

But you see, Cal. Such labeling is semantically incoherent. It's no different than labeling a scientist a bigot because he opposes falsification of research findings, or an archaeologist a bigot because he opposes the destruction of antiquities by ISIS.

As for inconsistency, is it inconsistent to praise the truthful witness yet condemn the perjurer? By your "logic" I ought to regard them equally. But no, I hold the two differing actions to the same consistent standard - that of honesty. In like manner, I regard Christianity and Islam (two fundamentally different entities) to an identical, consistent standard. And that consistent standard means I must praise one and oppose the other. To do otherwise would be hypocritical.

Which of course leads me to your final charge - that of hypocrisy. It seems obvious to me that you do not understand the meaning of the term. As I demonstrated in the last paragraph, it would be hypocritical of me to not speak out against and actively oppose the dissemination of falsehood. For me to pretend a veneer of "all religions are equal" when I believe No Such Thing would be the height of hypocrisy.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks, as I said previously, "It's inconsistent (and hypocritical) to support religious proselytizing in one production but oppose it in another (as I portrayed)."

You basically defend your position by saying that, well, you're right.

But you can't demonstrate that your religious beliefs are right -- you can only pick apart those of others (which could be applied to your religion just as easily). Because you can't demonstrate that your religious beliefs are right, but want us all to accept that they are, I consider your position to be as I described -- inconsistent, hypocritical, and bigoted.

Btw, I do agree with your basic criticisms of Islam. And I don't equate modern Christianity with the dominant strains of Islam today by any means. But on all accounts your religious beliefs are as susceptible to the same arbitrariness and lack of good evidence as all the others.



planks length said...

But you can't demonstrate that your religious beliefs are right"

Sure I can. I've done so multiple times in various conversations on this very website. So have several others.

You ... want us all to accept that they are"

Not necessarily. But I would like for you to acknowledge the rationality and reasonableness of Christianity, and to recognize the screamingly obvious differences between it and a demonstrably false religion such as Islam. I note you have done the latter in the final paragraph of your last comment. So I will now await your labeling yourself as "inconsistent, bigoted, and hypocritical".

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Sure I can. I've done so multiple times in various conversations on this very website. So have several others."

Sure you have.

Planks: "So I will now await your labeling yourself as "inconsistent, bigoted, and hypocritical"."

You don't understand my criticism, then. I don't believe in one religion that shares the same problems with all other religions; I believe in none of them.

I'll let you try and make your case how this should seem hypocritical, inconsistent, or bigoted. Good luck with that.

planks length said...

I'll let you try and make your case...

Well, for starters, both you and I claim to be applying a consistent standard to all religions. (Although we come to quite different conclusions, we appear to be both consistent in our methodology.) So either we're both hypocritical and bigoted, or neither of us is.

Cal Metzger said...

Um, your claim was that because I pointed out that Islam is demonstrably false I must be inconsistent, bigoted, and hypocritical."

Now you appear to be making the claim that you and I are both applying a consistent standard to all religions?

My standard is that I demand good evidence for claims. What is your consistent standard for your religious beliefs?

planks length said...

My standard is that I demand good evidence for claims. What is your consistent standard for your religious beliefs?

Apparently it's the same as yours. I demand good evidence for claims. I have over many, many years (I started seriously thinking about such matters in the mid to late 1960s) been exposed to mountains of solid, fact-based evidence, and have concluded that the purely historical evidence alone for Christianity, and specifically for Catholicism, is convincing beyond any reasonable doubt. It could pass muster in a court of law. The fact that you can't accept it is no more relevant than the O.J. Simpson jury not understanding the validity of DNA evidence.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "I have over many, many years (I started seriously thinking about such matters in the mid to late 1960s) been exposed to mountains of solid, fact-based evidence, and have concluded that the purely historical evidence alone for Christianity, and specifically for Catholicism, is convincing beyond any reasonable doubt."

And this is what religious believers do -- SAY they have great evidence, SAY they've done some super research, instead of, you know, putting forth their best evidence.

You say you're Catholic, and that must mean you have "mountains of solid, fact-based evidence" for the tenets of your belief -- the trinity, the virgin birth, and the resurrection.

And yet, when pressed, all you will be able to provide us with are.... stories.

And that is why you are inconsistent in your approach, which forces you into the other mistakes I've described.


planks length said...

Cal,

This is a blogpost, not a doctoral thesis. If you want to see the (very real) evidence, then read one of the thousands of books out there on the subject. They'll be far better written than anything anyone will post here. For starters, I'd recommend N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God.

planks length said...

Well, I am logging off until after Christmas. I'll have better things to do over the next few days than type away at the computer. Allow me close with the words censored by the Kentucky School Board:

And there were in the same country shepherds
abiding in the field, keeping watch over their
flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord
came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone
round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for,
behold, I bring you tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people. For unto you is
born this day in the city of David a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a
sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped
in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
and goodwill towards men.


Merry Christmas to all!

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "This is a blogpost, not a doctoral thesis. If you want to see the (very real) evidence, then read one of the thousands of books out there on the subject. They'll be far better written than anything anyone will post here. For starters, I'd recommend N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God."

Nice try. Hand waving and saying it's out there somewhere else, in some unspecified place in a book -- when all you have to do is mention what you're talking about -- is a sure sign that you're noticing you can't back up your prior assertions.

Planks, I will wait here for you to provide the best, single piece you have from the "mountains of solid, fact-based evidence" for the trinity. I don't know why that should be hard for you, based on what you've already claimed here.

Victor Reppert said...

Well look, Cal, do you really agree with the school district's decision to censor the program, presumably for legal reasons? Do you really think that including it would violate the Establishment Clause?

Are you really going to be persuaded by "someone might be offended" reasoning, while not afraid to offend whoever in making the case for atheism?

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Well look, Cal, do you really agree with the school district's decision to censor the program, presumably for legal reasons?"

Yes on censoring the program, for reasons I gave earlier -- they are the same that I think Christians (and myself) would object if the Aladdin scenario I outlined occurred. Why perform a play that resorts to overt religious proselytizing in a school at all when there are so many other great plays (e.g., It's a Wonderful Life) that celebrate human compassion in more inclusive ways?

VR: "Do you really think that including it would violate the Establishment Clause?"

Not if my Aladdin scenario was played next year. But more importantly, why resort to religious proselytizing in school plays at all?

VR: "Are you really going to be persuaded by "someone might be offended" reasoning, while not afraid to offend whoever in making the case for atheism?"

I am not making the "oh, but someone might be offended" argument. I am all for offending adults with silly ideas, for instance. But I am all for being consistent.

Are you going to say that you endorse the the next several years of school plays visiting overt proselytizing for a rotation of other religions? Or are you just comfortable with religious proselytizing in public school plays so long as its your religion that's being proselytized?

Victor Reppert said...

Is that really proselytizing? And no, I would have no problem with that being put in Aladdin if that was part of the original text. No problem.

Cal Metzger said...

Okay. Then if you don't have a problem with school plays making similar pronouncement from other religions describing their god as Lord, deserving of all glory, and the real reason for human compassion, then good for you for being consistent.

And yes, I don't approve of protecting everyone from offense at all times. Which is why I neither really mind the play being performed in its original form (and offending those who think it's religious proselytizing), and taking the soliloquy out (even though taking it out offends some Christians) -- "Oh my gosh, I'm so offended that the producers took some license in a play based on a television special created to sell commercials!"

At some point I wonder who is complaining about who is offending whom in all these discussions. :)