No joke

This morning MSN posted an article on its web site by AP television writer David Bauder. The title of the article is “Rape joke on Fox cartoons draws attention.” Drawing attention would be entirely understandable, in my opinion, since there is, in my humble opinion, no such thing as a “rape joke.” The two terms are mutually exclusive. It simply is not possible to joke about rape.

The article explains that there is a much-anticipated crossover episode of “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” scheduled to be broadcast on Fox this Sunday. In the episode, Bart Simpson is attempting to teach Stewie Griffin how to make a prank phone call. Such childish behavior has long been a staple of Bart Simpson’s schtick and the local tavern is usually his chosen target–as it is in the upcoming episode. As is often the case, Bart’s prank call results in the bar keeper calling out to the crowd in the bar what he thinks is a first and last name but is actually, in this case, a bit of bathroom humor. This is childish, immature and disgusting, but the same could be said of much of what alleges to be “comedy” on television today.

But this is where the line gets crossed. Bauder explains that Stewie is quite impressed by Bart’s prowess and wants to make a prank call of his own. So, he calls the same bar Bart just did and, when Moe the bar owner answers the call, Stewie says, “Hello, Moe? Your sister’s being raped.” defines “prank” as “a trick of an amusing, playful, or sometimes malicious nature.” Stewie’s statement, however, is neither amusing nor playful and it goes beyond malicious. It is insensitive and abhorrent. There is no excuse for such idiocy and for a major television network to think that such a line is acceptable on a television show marketed at families and aired during family viewing time is likewise inexcusable. If a student at any school in the country were to use the same line at school he or she would, I certainly hope, be disciplined. I know that if a student at the school where I serve were to utter such a “prank” he would receive a swift and significant consequence.

Amazingly, Fox does not see the line as inappropriate in any way. In fact, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy,” said in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly that he predicted getting some heat for the line, but, “in context,” he said, “it’s pretty funny.” Really? I find that statement unconscionable. I cannot fathom any context in which it would be funny to “joke around” about someone’s sister getting raped. Not only does MacFarlane find it funny, though, apparently programming directors at Fox do too, because the line is included in the commercial trailers for the upcoming episode! According to Bauder, Fox’s entertainment division said, through a spokesperson, that it would not comment on the line.

If what I have written above is not dumbfounding enough for you, it actually does get even more dumbfounding. Bauder also writes that Katherine Hull Fliflet, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), “said she did not find the line offensive” (emphasis mine). Bauder quotes Fliflet saying that she thinks the show makes “it clear that rape is not funny by how they are positioning the joke.” Really? That does not even make sense. The only two ways the show could make clear that rape is not funny would be to (1) not joke about it in the first place, or (2) have Stewie be immediately and sternly lectured on the seriousness of rape and promptly disciplined for his ridiculous behavior. (I have to confess that I have never watched “Family Guy,” but my guess is that the idea of the parents on the show disciplining the children would be a foreign concept….)

RAINN’s web site touts that the group is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. It operates a National Sexual Assault Hotline. Actress Christina Ricci is affiliated with the group and is pictured on the RAINN web site homepage in front of a graffiti-style banner that says “Join the fight against sexual violence.” The site’s statistics page includes numerous statistics about sexual assault, including rape specifically, in an effort to ensure that the public is well informed about what sexual assault is and what can be done about it. How such an organization could not be repulsed by the “joke” about rape is far beyond my comprehension.

When Bauder quotes Fliflet saying that she thinks the show makes clear that rape is not funny she ends with, “It’s my hope that would be the viewers’ ‘take-away.'” Forget the take-away, here’s a better idea: stay away.

Reason for Living

It seems a fitting follow up to yesterday’s post to highlight the fact that those who do have the inheritance made possible by accepting Christ as Savior not only should have and exhibit an inexpressible joy, but have a reason for living that goes far beyond any temporal emotion, excitement or circumstance this life may have to offer. Just as it is difficult for me to imagine facing the trials and tribulations of life without a relationship with Jesus Christ it is difficult for me to imagine what might keep me going in life when those things around which I had based my happiness or hopes had failed me.

There was an excellent example of the futility of placing one’s hopes in worldly circumstances in the reaction of the fans of Brazil’s soccer team following the team’s loss to Germany in semifinal round of the World Cup (being held in Brazil). The story released by the AP, and posted on Yahoo among other places, provided this overview of the situation in the story’s second paragraph: “The national team wasn’t just defeated by a powerful German team. It was routed in front of the entire world, humiliated at its own party. Young and old, Brazilians shared in the anguish of what many called a national calamity — the worst loss in their team’s storied World Cup history.”

Yes, it was an incredibly lopsided loss for Brazil, who lost the game 7-1. Yes, it was no doubt frustrating and disheartening to lose and those emotions were surely compounded by the fact that Brazil was the host nation. But a “national calamity”? Perhaps there is a problem if a team’s loss in a soccer match rises to that level. Unfortunately, it gets worse.

A 67-year old retired teacher watching the match commented, “I’m feeling disappointed, sad, but more than anything I’m feeling embarrassed. It was embarrassing to watch.” I could probably understand and even relate to those emotions. That seems fairly reasonable. But fan Pablo Ramoz said, “you are going to have the most depressed country ever” after Brazil was defeated. Really? Ever? I suspect perhaps several European nations rolled over by Hitler’s blitzkrieg, Japan following the bombs following on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the United States following the attacks on 9/11 would be just three examples among many of countries that would have been more “depressed” than Brazil following a soccer loss.

It gets worse yet, though. The AP story also stated that Samir Kelvin “clung to a street pole and loudly cried: ‘I have nothing left! I am Brazilian and humiliated I want to kill myself!'”

For anyone to have nothing more to live for than the success of a national soccer team is a poignant–and incredibly sad– commentary on the ways in which we humans seek to find fulfillment and meaning in this world. Of course nothing can provide that fulfillment and meaning other than a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is why we can find ample evidence of the complete devastation of individuals who seemingly have everything man could want and yet still lack meaning and fulfillment and contentment in their lives.

Joy Elms penned the lyrics to a song that addresses the inability of anything other than Christ to provide meaning in life–and the incredible ability of Christ to provide that meaning. The first verse goes like this:

I’ve been blessed with so many things, God’s been good to me
I have family and friends who share in all I do
But if I lose it all and I am left with nothing
If I have the Lord I know I’ll make it through

Surely the loss of family and friends and “so many things” would be worse than the 7-1 defeat of the national soccer team, no? Yet Elms makes it clear that there is still reason to live despite those overwhelming losses. And what is that reason? Here is the chorus of her song…

He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
There’s nothing in this world worth living for
It only leaves you empty and longing for more
Oh, He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason

The second verse of the song goes like this…

Now you may have tried a lot of things to find real happiness
But if you’ve looked very long, then you know it can’t be found
Until you find the Lord, in the power of His Spirit
Jesus will be your reason to live and He’ll never let you down

Therein we see exactly what I am getting at here. Whether it is the success of a soccer team, the attainment of a position or title, the house, car, clothes, boat, income or whatever that one desires, celebrity status or anything else, none of it will bring “real happiness.” Jesus will never let us down. Soccer teams will lose, positions can be lost, houses can be destroyed, cars can crash, clothes can go out of style, boats can sink and celebrity status is incredibly temporary–but Jesus will “never let you down.”

Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” Nothing about the Lord is temporal; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His love endures forever. And He will fulfill His purpose in the lives of those who accept Him and yield to Him. May that be our source of fulfillment, our reason for living…and nothing else.