AS it is wont to do, Saturday Night Live created a satirical video. If you’ve seen an appreciable sampling of films by Quentin Tarantino, “D’Jesus Uncrossed” will certainly tickle your funny bone a little. The gratuitous violence and language, explicit parodies of iconic Tarantino sequences, and outlandish historical re-writing all suggest one thing to the culturally literate: Tarantino is the butt of this joke.
In choosing to use Jesus Christ as the vehicle for its satire, SNL has incited the indignation of many Christians. The problem, of course, is that “Christian Tarantino fans” are a very small demographic. This means that many Christians who see the sketch assume that SNL is simply using a superficial reference to the recent release, “Django Unchained” as a nefarious excuse to demean Christianity.
For this reason, Michael Farris, the Chancellor of my alma mater, wrote a Facebook note calling for a Christian response, including potential boycotts of SNL’s corporate sponsors. On the discussion thread below the note, many Christians have commented. A significant number of these comments are patently ridiculous. For instance, one comment condemned the video’s violent portrayal of Jesus while, in the same sentence, expressing anticipation of Christ’s return “to judge the earth in fire.”
Seeing this, one of my acquaintances catalogued some of the more hilarious quotes and posted them in a separate thread. Many of my younger friends had a mirthful discussion here, noting the absurd expressions of outrage that resulted from people’s unfamiliarity with Tarantino and their general inability to make logical arguments.
This wasn’t all the thread did, however. While I can’t speak to the motives of the original post, the general tone of the participants suggested that all Christians who were offended by the video and think that speaking out against it is appropriate are just as misguided as the ones who made bone-headed comments. They seemed to think that the idiocy of some who take umbrage at the sketch may be imputed to all who do so. Generally speaking, those who find the video inappropriate were lumped together with the group of fun-sucking fundamentalists with no sense of humor.
I should not have to point out the irony of a discussion whose purpose is to ridicule unreasonable arguments but which proceeds by means of an implicit red herring (specifically, guilt by association). The entire purpose of Farris’s original post—a debate about the moral quality of the video—was overshadowed by a self-congratulatory demolition of obviously weak assertions.
What no one did was ask the right question: is it okay to use Jesus Christ as a vehicle for satirizing a popular artist, especially if the satire proceeds by depicting the Son of God as a blasphemer and sadist? I have seen (and enjoyed) many of Tarantino’s releases, and I concede the cleverness of SNL’s sketch. As far as I know, however, God’s command that I fear Him is not contingent upon the cleverness of my irreverence. Thinking Christians should not allow their desire to skirt the ridicule of secular culture to persuade them to condone blasphemy. Certainly, many of our brothers and sisters condemn this video for the wrong reasons. Our reaction, however, should be to provide well-reasoned correction to their error while still affirming their refusal to smirk at the ridicule of our Lord.
A FRIEND of mine posted this picture on Facebook. Like most arguments by analogy which only take up the size of a photo, there’s a fallacy here. (A picture does indeed say a thousand words. The trouble is, one can never quite arrange them into a syllogism.) Interestingly, though, the fallacy of this argument also gets to the heart of the issue surrounding our nation’s discussion of gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook.
The fallacy here, of course, is false analogy. Schools aren’t similar to the White House, a bank, or a jewelry store such that armed guards are presumptively appropriate. So, we aren’t “defending” our children with a “gun free zone” sign instead of a guard. Instead, we demur to post armed guards at school and also post signs that says students ought not be armed either. The wisdom of this choice is debatable of course, but that’s not the subject of this post.
The picture illustrates a deeper truth, though. Why is it that we guard the President, the Supreme Court, or even some office buildings with guns? Because it is “reasonable” to suspect that someone with a gun will go to those places to murder and steal. All evil acts are, in one way or another, unreasonable. However, we typically recognize that a safe full of gold is likely going to attract a few criminals, and we see no way of fixing this other than to guard the gold with appropriate force.
That it should seem reasonable to compare an elementary school to other places which reasonably attract armed aggressors should give us pause. It’s one thing to live in a society where we recognize that there are those of low moral character who will stoop to rob banks. It’s quite another to live in a land where average children are recognized as similar targets. We can at least see the reasonableness of trying to get rich through theft, while still condemning the choice and guarding against it. But we have to call child-killings for what they are: the expression of complete, pathological depravity.
These events are not the result of a failure to post armed guards in schools, they are not the result of the general availability of firearms. They are the result of a single fact: there are enough psychopaths in our midst that school shootings have become a trend while the rest of us have so-tightly shut our eyes to the notion of human depravity that we believe that we’ll be fine in the madhouse so long as the pathologists don’t have assault rifles with thirty round clips. Perhaps our calling the child-killers insane is calling the kettle black.