Monday, April 9, 2007

The Inconvenient Truth of 24

I have recently become aware of the power of television and movies by listening to people on the internet and by listening to people with the strangest of bedfellows, politics and religion. It is with the blending of these two, often taboo subjects, that I have found an agenda that is often times hidden, and one weaved from the fabric of intentional lies or at the very least, misguided ignorance. This mistaken identity comes not just from a misguided understanding and agenda from the marriage of these two groups, but from the outer fringes of both groups that will seemingly stop at nothing to promote their agendas. This is seen no place better than what I will call; The Inconvenient Truth of 24.

Let me regress a little and tell you what I have observed regarding two recent media controversies, one being the Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth, and the other being the television show starring Kiefer Sutherland, 24.

Let's first look at An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary presented by Al Gore has many within the Religious Right, and Right Wing of the Republican party up in arms. It has them up in arms because of their perspective of the falsehoods presented by Gore in the documentary. There is after all a great deal of doubt from these groups regarding the concept of "Global Warming."

The film is basically a presentation that former presidential candidate and Vice President Al Gore does on Global Warning. In this movie, Gore, presents as scientific proof, events which he believes is leading to the destruction of the earth. The facts are that many of the worlds leading scientists agree with much of the presentation of Gore. The movie does a wonderful job at describing current climate trends in a language the average viewer can understand. While the film has garnished some debate, it has largely been from the religious and political right. I will not debate the science of the film, as I am not a scientist, but it is alarming at those who are debating the legitimacy of the film based not on what they know of science or religion, but based on what others are saying.

One of the alarming facts that one will soon discover if doing any research on this topic is that often those most critical of the film, have their own political and religious slants they want to persuade others of. In fact, it is alarming at the many, especially within the religious community who are critical of the film that hasn't even seen the film. They often use arguments centered on creation, the heresy of any scientific evidences in contrast to scripture, and more. What one quickly finds out in these types of discussions is that those perspectives are often perpetuated and pushed by a political agenda that has at its heart, more of a desire for power than it does truth. Unfortunately in this process, the religious right will sleep with strange bedfellows when gathering their information.

While this is not intended to attack any particular individual, certain names will be mentioned to help illustrate my point. Much of what is driven on the talk radio shows across the nation is driven by Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, an entertainer and political pundit who has gone through many areas of controversy in his own life. From numerous divorces to his own issues with prescription drug abuse, this individual has become for many, the spokesperson for the political and often times, "religious right." Now let me be clear on something, I like Rush Limbaugh, I see him as a great entertainer, I do not always support the things he says, and I certainly don't see him as a moral compass. That said, there is a real danger in the types of things he often says and does, for example, his constant attacks in the past on Algore, a play on the old horror character, Igor, as well as his constant misspeak of current political leaders where he confuses their names. An example would be Obama, Osama, where there is an obvious attempt to connect the person of Osama Bin Laden with Barak Obama.

In the presentation of views, often not based on science but, political agenda, it can be a dangerous thing when groups of people start listening to a source that at worse is filled with lies, and at best an attempt at political satire. Again, let me make clear, I like Limbaugh for what he is, a political satirist and radio entertainer. I do see terrific danger though in groups that use him as a major source of opinion. At that point, the fault lies not just with people like Limbaugh, Michael Savage, or Sean Hannity, but with those taking what they say for granted. Rest assured, this political promotion does not just exist within the conservative movement. There is enough vile and lies to go around for Air America and any other host of liberal commentators.

Another provider of "truth" for many within these particular groups is the Newspaper, The Washington Times. This especially drives the conservative political leaders out of Washington DC. Think about this, there are the Washington Post, which is more liberal in their political slant, and the Washington Times, which is more conservative in their political slant. It makes perfect sense that political leaders in Washington DC, from members of Congress including the House and Senate, up to the President, and supporting staff read the paper which most fits their own political agenda. While I could easily point out a number of issues with the Washington Post, I am addressing the conservatives at this point so will mainly address the issues related to The Washington Times.

There is no doubt as to the influence of the religious right on the political process. This influence, while being supportive of various candidates on both sides of the aisle at times, has largely, and primarily been supportive of the Republican Party. It has been said, that without the support of the Religious Right, the Republican Party has no chance of winning a national election. Most have a belief that this is primarily Christian, certainly Christians have this belief. Yet, when looking deeply at the issue, it is easy to see this is not always the case.

The truth is, many within the religious right, specifically within the Christian religious right have often had strange bedfellows. From Jerry Falwell, to Pat Robertson, and from Ted Haggard to James Dobson, these groups have joined in, in close association with others who many Christians have severe issues with. No better example of this exists than the association with the Washington Times, a major news publication having a tremendous political impact on legislators, specifically Republican. It is interesting because for many Christians, there are issues with cults, specifically those who are against the message of Jesus Christ. It should be understood here, the Washington Times, and many publications put out by the times is in fact owned and operated by one of the worlds largest cult leaders, Rev. Sun Myung Moon. In 2002 Moon said about this newspaper that it was, "the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world." The question I ask, is whose truth? This newspaper has had a major influence on political leaders, many Christians have blindly accepted as speaking their truth. Many have allowed those same political leaders to influence their views on things such as Global Warming, and what is often presented as "Liberal Theology." It is sad most of these groups, don't understand, or accept the reality that much of what has been interpreted as political and religious truth, in fact comes from those who don't adhere to the same truths about their God.

How much of an impact has these groups, the religious, and political right had in recent through the influence of the Washington Times? One has to look no further than the last few weeks and the stories started about Barack Obama. From internet mass emails, to presentations on talk radio, and Fox television news, lies have been spread about Obama and his associations and the schools he attended. Insight Magazine, a magazine owned by, guess who, The Washington Times, recently ran a story stating that, "Barack attended a madrassah, or Muslim religious school, in Indonesia" For those that don’t know a madrassah is a school that promotes extreme Islamic behavior including Jihad. What occurred in the context of the article, later picked up on and promoted by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and numerous mass emails, from guess who, Christians, was that Obama had close associations with Islam, and in fact was Muslim and had in the past supported numerous anti American agendas and practices, when in fact, none of this was the case.

I could dwell on that subject, but the intent of this article is not to be specific about this issue, but to more importantly address the base of knowledge for the populist, including Christians, and where they obtain their source of truth. With that being said, hopefully at this point, there is a point in fact that at least many on the side of the Political Right and Conservative Christian Thought, need to be more careful about their source of information.

I could go on and pick apart much of the perspectives held by these two groups. I suspect that if I did there would be a mass support of liberal thought that would come up and say things like, "Yea Mike, keep it up, way to go, you're exactly right." That would be nice in some ways, but I don't know if that would be the full basis of what my attempt here is. You see, the problem don't just exist with the Conservative, Religious Right Wing Political pundits. It exists on the left as well.

Recent news and opinion has come out attacking the television series 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland as nothing more than Right Wing Propaganda attempting to provide support for the War on Terror while at the same time dehumanizing the Muslim population and portraying the Democratic party as weak. As is evidenced by these reports I decided to do some research.

I have to admit, I have been a fan of 24 for some time. I love the intensity of the show and have always liked Kiefer Sutherland. I didn't see the show as anything promoting a political agenda and when the recent reports of the show started coming out I had to step back, pay attention, and give a close watch. I heard people like Limbaugh stepping back and supporting the show with what I thought was excellent analysis. I also saw, and heard, many within the more liberal leaning facets of religion and politics stepping back and attacking the show for its agenda, stating things like, "After all we can know it is a ploy by Murdock and his right wing Fox Television to support the war because after all, Limbaugh likes the show, so it must be a Republican Right Wing ploy." The mud started flying and the accusations about the show were as far fetched as one could think.

While being a fan of the show, I had always watched the show on DVD almost a year after presentation on television because I enjoyed the no commercials and shorter time. I also believe that much of today's television lends itself to be more enjoyable in a DVD format. This is especially true with the continuation stories much like 24. With that said, I decided to go to and watch the episodes from this year so far on their on line free web casts of the television shows. What I had heard, and what I actually saw made no sense to me.

Many have been critical in this season's episode because there is a terror attack on America that eventually leads to a nuclear explosion and the threat of more. Suddenly, as if the television show could prevent this from happening, perspectives were being given that seemed to imply, that the president in the show was a African American Democrat who had little power and was in fact gutless. Now understand, this is what many liberal Christians and politicians were saying that the show was implying. It was as if we suddenly had a personal attack against politicians, against the Democratic party, and specifically, as some believed, towards Barack Obama.

I have to be honest; I don't know where this criticism comes from. From what I have seen in the shows so far, all as of today's date is that the president while black is the brother of another former president. I don't know or it certainly hasn't been mentioned in the show so far as to what his political affiliation is. Therefore, the association that he is a weak Democrat comes from I don't know where. I also don't see the president or his administration as weak. I personally see them as facing a tragedy no one has had to deal with before. I am confident that this show being used as an attack on the Republican Party in unjust criticism. I continue to be amazed at how both ends of the political spectum turns little things like this into major news stories and thus ends up getting political mileage out of it.

Liberal approaches, hypocrisy, and tactics weren't just invented though. I have to wonder why this type of complaint, about a television show supposedly tearing down a political view wasn't addressed during shows like The West Wing, and others that seemed to support a liberal political perspective. I am confident these things didn't occur because it wasn't in their best political interest to address these types of shows.

Here is my concern for today and my admonition if you will. Am I the only one that takes offense that both ends of the political and religious spectrum seem to think that I and the rest of the populace are idiots? I realize some puppets will believe whatever they are told without close investigation. I believe there are exceptions though, I for one, and I believe many others, are intelligent enough to search for facts and discover truth. Now I realize this is getting much more difficult in the world we live in, but I refuse to become a puppet on a string, controlled and manipulated by someone who thinks they are all that, up above me, and able to control my every move. While I have come to expect this type of behavior from some who are the great manipulators, I take offense at those who do these things in the "Name of Jesus."

For those of us who are Christian, we are called to be better, and do better than this. From a Biblical mandate in Genesis, we are commanded to take care of the earth God has given us, not make excuses. We get so caught up in the political end of things that we fail to see the destruction of the very planet, in all capacities, that God gave us to care for. We don't care about the hunger in Somalia, we don't care about the vanishing ocean life so critical to our planets ecological system, and we don't seem to care about the destruction of the worlds forests, so critical to the production of appropriate oxygen sources. Why don't we care? Because they don't seem to fit into a political agenda driven by those who in reality have nothing in common with the God we pretend to worship. Don't take me wrong here, I am aware there needs to be truth on both sides of the spectrum, but we need to test the spirits, test the truth as we are instructed to do in Scripture. We need to do this regarding our environment; we need to do this regarding political truths and untruths. The book of James is very clear on issues like this, as is the entirety of scripture. We read, don't take the name of the Lord in vain, yet, we don't see that James says our word is everything about our integrity, and thus we end up speaking lies before discovering truth. The sad thing is, often times we do not even attempt to find truth.

I am unapologetically Anabaptist in my theology. My faith system has a great deal to say about the mixing of political and Christian concepts. I wish more people saw the political system for what it is. While it has the potential to do good, it also has the potential to do evil. One thing for certain, I am confident we are called as Christians to support our governments when they do something good, and speak out when they do something evil. Unfortunately many see the political system and the political parties as, "Of God." or "Not of God." I believe the truth of it is that the political system has the inability of being "Christian" because it doesn't have a soul. It simply is, which we are to respect, but we need to realize that as Christians our primary citizenship is not with the particular country we live in, our primary citizenship is a "Heavenly" citizenship centered on the person of Jesus Christ. Our obligation to truth is greater, God don't play word games, and he doesn’t make inappropriate comparisons based on things he has heard and not seen. Our faith is in Christ whom we have not seen, but our actions and words are to be based on knowledge, and from testing. When going on faith, we need to make sure that the thing we put our faith in is deserving. For me, that certainly isn't a political system that has shown a history of being inconsistent.

There is another danger though, one I didn't touch on and one that could be the most critical. That danger is those presenting their far fetched ideas and views without searching for truth, whether by watching the movies, the television shows, the research and proofs that they argue so strongly against. This presents a danger ultimately destructive to both the political and religious concepts. Those arguing their particular points, without the research, are in essence saying, I am right on these issues and you are wrong. Not only are they saying this, without knowledge, they in fact discourage knowledge because they are encouraging people to take what they say for granted. This becomes a serious attack on free thought, and ultimately something in America that should be held dear, free speech.

It is amazing at the Religious, and Political swayed individuals that focus more on a point of debate, than they do on the ultimate truth or intent to seek truth. For the religious person, it is no different than the aspect of free thought sought out by many reformers during the reformation. For the politically minded, it is no different than the aspect of freedom sought out by free thinkers like Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and so many others. Hopefully, some day, people will have their eyes opened, not by what others have said, but by what they have experienced from the study of political systems, and for Christians by the study of the Bible. If God was capable of giving the words to a fisherman to write down, he is certainly capable enough to give you a mind that can understand what you are reading. Read the Bible in its context, at get this, without the assistance of the commentaries. Nothing wrong with them in their place, but, nothing wrong with seeing what God will do in helping you understand the Bible on your own either.

I am calling on all Christians, and all citizens, to quit basing their political, and religious agendas on the things you hear, base them instead, on the things you have seen, and come to know as fact. Don't let the extreme right or left wing be your puppet master, instead let God be your master, realizing that he gives you liberty and freedom to use the brain he gave you to discover truth. Don't fall for the lies many would have you believe, but get caught up instead in the web of truth God provides in the ability to use your brain and your intellect.

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