GOOD art takes you places you wouldn't otherwise go, and last night that was Roy taking me to this Kathryn Jean Lopez routine in The National Catholic Register.
No quick synopsis is possible (that doesn't mean I recommend you reading it); there's Mel Gibson (remember him?), there's Kathryn Jean, there's the two of 'em together, on Google, where--and I do not say this just for some cheap K-Lo, the Antidote for Sex bit--her excitement at the virtual overlap is virtually palpable. There's the Holy Mother, and The Real Feminism™, and the angry emails she received for Defending the Faith.
And there's the standard O tempora O mores denunciation of a culture so coarse and heartless that its understandable conditioned salivary response to the beau ideal of Celebrity is mated with the razor in the boot toe, the shark's--make that the hyena's--nose for blood, and the unseemly glee at the crash of idols, which has all but swept away the promise of The Passion II: 3-D. And sullied the beautiful dream that is An Eternity of Blissful Google Contiguity as the quasi-Bride of Christ who was once an Item with a handsome Christian filmmaker.
I've admitted a practically limitless fascination with pointless theological argument. It might be attributable to my own religious upbringing, which occurred back in the early 1960s, back when some Protestants, at least, thought that what distinguished Protestantism from Orthodoxy, and thus filled the seats, was worth pointing out. I was a pre-teen. I took this at face value, like Columbus discovering America, or the International Communist Conspiracy, or the comic genius of Milton Berle. It certainly never occurred to me that this sort of thing was subject to fashion. (And note, by the way, the sort of Slothropian bass-ackwardness of it all: at the time the beatific ecumenicalist John XXIII was Pope; now, when all American Protestants take offense at imaginary slights to the Holy Mother, or the Sacred Advent, and would prefer to see the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments on their courthouse lawns rather than suffer the tyrannies of governmental neutrality, it's Benito Adolphus I.)
At any rate, if I became a sucker for tap-dancing angels on infinitely small pins, it carried the price of its opposite: there is little in the intellectual world I find more contemptible than pandering to a religious audience pre-approved for agreeing with you.
Mel Gibson. Mel Fucking Gibson. Public Christianist of a sort who was already repugnant before he made That Movie, or received his first DUI, or had a mistress with voice mail (and, again--anybody hear a V-2?--much admired on the Catholic Right for the schismatic rejection of the Slightly Evil Except We Can't Say It Vatican II. Somebody owes the Hugenots an apology). "Breaking news: Mel Gibson is a sinner." says coy K-Lo.
Yeah. We get it, already. You apologize for your own, then congratulate yourself on Living Your Faith. Funny how that never applies to the heathen. Funny how it doesn't apply to Feisal Abdul Rauf when somebody brings up things he said--sober, presumably--you don't agree with. Funny how it doesn't apply to the President's embrace of his Muslim heritage. Funny how it only applies to you; how you can virtually confess unnamed sins (which, for the Christian, is like confessing a need for food), and so get right back to asserting the divine superiority of your tiniest metaphysical inclination.
And funny, really, how it always stops right there. "Mel Gibson is a sinner" never concludes with "so he oughta shut his drunken, racist maw and start behaving like he knows the difference".
And one more thing: let's us stop pretending this Ugly Downside of Our Celebrity-Gawking Culture is a) something new or b) something the culture warriors at The Corner, or the Right to Life movement, just to name two, don't engage in at every friggin' opportunity. Ninety years ago Fatty Arbuckle (Libertine!) was pilloried in the press for an imaginary sex act he didn't commit. Seventy years ago Charlie Chaplin (Commie Libertine! Draft Dodger! Secret Jew!) was pilloried in the press for an illegitimate child he didn't father. Sixty years ago the Congress of the United States of America hauled half of Hollywood (Secret Commies!) in and threatened to destroy careers and jail the survivors unless it coughed up the names of the other half, and details of the secret plot to overthrown the Roosevelt administration. We chased Ingrid Bergman out of the country because she had sex. Not to mention the effect a mere rumor of homosexuality had on a career from Edison's first flicker to the death of Rock Hudson. So now being a Big Fucking Public Religious Hypocrite and Woman Basher is added to the list. The only thing that says about The Culture is it's now more of an equal opportunity disposer. And a touch more accurate in its choice of targets, at least for once.