Neil Postman warned against the 24-hour news cycle, which makes current events into a form of entertainment. Walker Percy surmised that most cultural battles in the public square do not adequately address life’s most important questions (never answering them rightly and rarely even asking them). Yesterday’s CBS Sunday Morning tempts me to accept this position as true.
It seems CBS wanted to investigate the same-sex marriage issue…again. This time, our good news service provider decided to focus on the generally progressive state of Washington. The Democrat-controlled state legislature approved same-sex marriage, only to meet immediate opposition and legal difficulties. Sadly, I may have been able to outline the news feature with my eyes closed and ears plugged.
First, portray a loving lesbian family on the playground and interview the couple. Next comes the old Catholic activist couple trying to keep the traditional definition of matrimony the law of the land. Now switch to the protests. The LGBT crowd channels the spirit of MLK by singing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” For the other side, that most reliable of media standbys–Westboro Baptist Church–represents the heterosexual marriage cause. Emphasize the much-ballyhooed “polarization” of American politics between the two dominant parties. Now it’s time to look at a grassroots advocacy organization. Be sure to color traditionalists as given to realpolitik machinations, covering walls with various districts and figures (as if their opposition did not). Also try to misrepresent traditional natural law arguments if possible. Switch back to loving same-sex family to provide a winsome rebuttal using evolutionary morality. Bring in a religious voice to elaborate on the moral dimensions of the situation. Generally this is someone for traditional marriage, but CBS decided to throw in United Methodist minister Monica Corsaro, an outspoken leader in the Reconciling Ministries Network. Of course, “other” (actually: a great majority) of pious Americans disagree. Conclude with a preacher Bible-thumping at the pulpit, yet another happy gay family, and an analysis/reflection on the debate.
My friend Shane Ayers and I have talked about the dehumanizing effects of our current public discourse before. The bias of our social innovators demands a high toll: the impoverishment of rhetoric. The same two-dimensional sound-bites return on an almost-periodic basis. The vain cycle of man’s opinion should serve as a lesson for the wise. Ye who fight the culture wars be warned. Unfortunately, I too often see progressives of both “Right” and “Left” persuasions ignore this way of the world. They expect utopia to somehow spring from the chaos as Athena from the head of Zeus. Pardon me if I’m not overly impressed with such a prospect.
CBS may continue to poo-poo American voters for their decisions. After all, same-sex marriage is the darling of both news-entertainment and entertainment-entertainment these days. The mainstream outlets may even feature a UMC pastor from the fast-declining Pacific Northwest Conference, even though the United Methodist Church officially forbids same-sex marriage in its Book of Discipline. I for one can’t help sympathizing a little with Charles Peguy: “Homer is new this morning, and perhaps nothing is as old as today’s newspaper.”