Tuesday, August 14, 2012

All's NOT Fair in Love and War

As a general rule I don't criticize books, movies, television programs and other such things before I've seen, heard or read them.  But I need to make an exception when it comes to the new NBC reality show called Stars Earn Stripes. In case you've missed it, the format involves training non-military folks like Dean Cain, Laila Ali and Picabo Street in basic military skills and then engaging them in a contest utilizing those same skills.  To give it an air of respectability General Wesley Clark hosts the program, and real members of the military train with the cast.

The show has been criticized by a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners in a beautifully crafted letter that states "Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining."  The writers of the letter, including Desmond Tutu, express their concern that the show glorifies war and violence.  NBC, in a statement released in defense of the program, stated that the show isn't "a glorification of war, but a glorification of service."

Not having seen it, I don't know if it glorifies war or not.  But it's very existence does trivialize war.  It's very existence trivializes military service.  War is deadly.  Military service involves tremendous commitment and risk.  Unlike this program, warfare is not a game.  Losers can't come back for a finale show at the end.

(I have the same basic problem with other reality shows as well.  The Bachelor, for instance,  takes the enormously important rituals of courtship and love and turns them into a contest.  Yes, The Dating Game in earlier times did much the same thing--but nobody pretended it was reality!) 

They say all's fair in love and war--but this kind of trivialization is anything but fair.  It does a grave injustice to all those who've ever served in the military, all those who've ever lost their lives or limbs in the midst of bombings and battle, all those whose reality has truly been changed by war.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Too Important for Chicken Fights

Make no mistake, I like chicken sandwiches. And I think the pickle chip is a nifty touch! But I really think the current debate over same-sex marriage is too important for chicken fights. Really. I think both sides have turned what should be a considered and thoughtful debate into a real circus. Since when is my preference in fast food (probably a poor choice to begin with) indicative of my stand on such a significant issue? And a Kiss In? I’m sorry, it just doesn’t work for me!

If you want to have a day set aside to appreciate the poultry at Chick-fil-A, well then go for it! But people should be willing to be more straightforward (pardon the pun) about their views on same sex marriage than simply standing in line at the take out counter. And if you really oppose Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s views on the matter, then write him a letter, write the editor a letter, or, better yet, volunteer to work with and for any of the organizations working around the country to make sam-sex marriage legal.

I took time to actually look up the article about Cathy and his business that started the whole conflagration. It’s an interesting piece about a man who seeks to run his business based on his values. And some of what he says is really right on the money. “Jesus,” he told a Baptist Press reporter, “had a lot of things to say about people who work and live in the business community.” (Baptist Press, 7-16-12) And so he did! But none of it, as I remember, had anything to do with same-sex marriage. It had to do with treating workers fairly and reaching out to the poor, and a variety of other issues. The article also noted how Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays, that too is part of Cathy’s value-based approach. It’s a real way of honoring the sabbath. Sure, it’s a counter-cultural move, but I find it to be rather refreshing!

But when it comes to the same-sex marriage issue, I think Cathy’s got it wrong. He told that same reporter, "We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give thanks to God for that.” As they should—we should be willing to thank God for all the things we perceive to be blessings in our lives. But to assume there is just one model for marriage in the Bible is just poor exegesis. Even worse to imply there is only one way to be a family!  Better scholars than I have pointed out that there are a variety of models in scripture—including polygamy!

Cathy has invested a great deal of his own money in the movement to stop same-sex marriage. And he has strongly enunciated his views. Rather than wrangling about chicken, I think his supporters and his detractors, if they feel strongly about the issue, should be willing to do the same. I don’t agree with Dan Cathy. I don’t support his perspective on the matter. But he has a right to his opinion.  So do his opponents.

Let’s stop playing chicken. Let’s really work on the issue in a way that reflects the dignity and importance of marriage.  There's a lot more at stake here than where to go for lunch.