Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hypocrites and Pharisees

Jesus had plenty to say about rich men, whom he usually grouped with his two favorite targets ... Pharisees (who were also usually rich, as the power elite of their day) and hypocrites. In fact, to Jesus "Pharisee" was almost always uttered in close proximity to "hypocrite" (check out the 23rd chapter of Matthew, for a running sermon where Jesus repeatedly conflated the two as one).

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity." (Matt. 23:25)

Speaking of rapacity, just consider the example of one rich man/Pharisee/hypocrite, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox network among other assets, whose Fox News has become the prime organ for keeping all the "values voters" in line. Murdoch's modus on Fox News is the incessant pushing of red state "moral values" on a gullible public while cashing in on the hated moral terpitude being attributed to Democrats.

"The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books like Jenna Jameson's 'How to Make Love Like a Porn Star' and the Vivid Girls' 'How to Have a XXX Sex Life,' which have both been synergistically, even joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Cosby and, needless to say, Mr. [Bill] O'Reilly...." Another Fox TV product, "Married by America," was recently fined by the F.C.C. ($1.2 million!) for indency: " episode in this heterosexual marriage-promoting reality show included scenes in which 'partygoers lick whipped cream from strippers' bodies,' and two female strippers 'playfully spank' a man on all fours in his underwear. 'Married by America' is gone now, but Fox remains the go-to network for Paris Hilton ('The Simple Life') and wife-swapping ('Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy')."

If the great Fox cheerleader for our uber-moral El Presidente can so blatantly violate decency in this way, not to mention community standards, with not a peep of dissent from the big fat Christian poohbahs of the Republican Party, do not Jesus's words on "hypocrites" apply here?

Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?," writes, "Values always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won."

Ah, money, the great god of Pharisees! "Under this perennial 'trick,' as [Frank] calls it, Republican politicians promise to stop abortion and force the culture industry 'to clean up its act' -- until the votes are counted. Then they return to their higher priorities, like cutting capital gains and estate taxes. Mr. Murdoch and his fellow cultural barons -- from Sumner Redstone, the Bush-endorsing C.E.O. of Viacom, to Richard Parsons, the Republican C.E.O. of Time Warner, to Jeffrey Immelt, the Bush-contributing C.E.O. of G.E. (NBC Universal) -- are about to be rewarded not just with more tax breaks but also with deregulatory goodies increasing their power to market salacious entertainment. It's they, not Susan Sarandon and Bruce Springsteen, who actually set the cultural agenda Gary Bauer and company say they despise."

The quotes above come from Frank Rich's column in today's NYTimes, and there's a good deal more in that column about hypocrisy that will be food for thought. Rich's main point is that the election just past was no more a triumph of "moral values" over a lack of values than a banker's religion is about faith in God.

"The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him [Jesus]. But he said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men in an abomination in the sight of God.' " (Luke 16:14-15)

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