Irreconcilable Differences

Sometimes I think that American culture is sorely lacking in integrity. According to Webster, integrity is “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic value.” A person with integrity has a high degree of consistency between the values he/she claims to embrace and the actions or behaviors in which he/she engages.

Values — whether moral or artistic — are expressed in a whole variety of ways. One of these is the way we choose to spend our time and our money. Take entertainment, for instance — especially the kind that requires a little cash. The books we buy, the music we purchase, the big-screen movies we watch — in some way these are all expressions of our individual and collective values. If that’s the case, then what are we to make of the fact that this past weekend, the biggest box-office hit was a movie (“Saw III”) whose director was thrilled that the gratuitous violence and bloodsheed actually caused one viewer to vomit?

I ask this question particularly in light of the claim of those “on the right” (especially the “religous right) that Americans en masse embrace “family values,” want to “protect children,” and that our’s is a “Christian culture”?

I wonder how many American families first went to church yesterday morning and then headed to the theaters in the afternoon? Given the price of admission these days, they probably doled out more for the blood and gore of “Saw III” than they put in the collection basket. For many churches, yesterday’s main scripture reading was the story of Jesus’ healing Bartimaeus, the “man born blind.” I suppose many among us would prefer to see people being violently blinded or otherwise bloodied, maimed and tortured instead of listening to and taking to heart the call of Jesus to serve others and be a healing presence in a world already terribly bloodied, blind and broken.

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