Saturday, June 13, 2009

Letterman vs. Palin

As I start this piece, I must first say that I am not a big Sarah Palin fan. I admire her for what she has done and the public service that she has engaged in all these years. I admire her for her outspoken thoughts in telling us just exactly what it is she believes. I admire her for her family life. It isn't a perfect family by any means, but, clearly, she loves them warts and all and she is not afraid to say so. As for her politics, well, let's just say that she and I don't see eye to eye on several different levels.

Recently, late night comedian David Letterman, an unabashed liberal, cracked a so-called joke about a New York Yankee player and Sarah Palin's daughter who happened to be in attendance at the game that day. During the seventh inning stretch quipped the funny man, a certain Yankee player "knocked up Sarah Palin's daughter." The audience roared its approval of the "joke" by laughing nearly uncontrollable. Letterman basked in the response, obviously thinking nothing of what he had just said was either offensive or embarrassing.

The media (even the liberal media) could not ignore this type of comment. Conservatives protested vehemently with due reason. What Letterman said was in the worst of taste. It is inexcusable. It is also a sad commentary on what he has come to think of as humor. His audience, however, certainly saw it as humor based upon the way they reacted to his statement.

Both sides of the philosophical spectrum lined up and opened fire on each other. Sarah Palin gave several interviews to vent her outrage at the performer's behavior. Common among the comments were that if something in like manner had been asserted about one of the president's daughters, the liberal media would have had a field day with it, demanding the resignation of the "comedian" who uttered such an obscenity. Remember Don Imus? Instead, the liberal media spent the week defending Letterman claiming the remark was "just a joke" as if to say, "get over it! After all, she's a conservative and does not believe in abortion. She and her family deserve such treatment."

On the conservative side of things, we have heard commentators attack Letterman. We have witnessed them bashing him at every opportunity for saying such a thing. They call for blood. Precious air-time minutes are spent debating Letterman's "joke" when such serious issues as Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and, of course, the ever-present economic tragedy receive little attention. It had the feeling of ancient Rome in the Colosseum, the crowd chanting and jeering the combatants on to draw more blood.

I must say that I think Letterman's comment was one of the most vile, disgusting, and filthy statements made by a late night entertainer. Letterman needs to apologize to Palin. Whether it is delivered in public or private matters not. Palin needs to put the subject on the back burner, allowing it to fade into the past where it belongs rather than trying to find ways to use it as political fodder. She admirably defended the honor of her daughter and family on nationally televised interviews and that should be the final word on the whole incident.

This whole event should be troubling to many who try to live decent, moral lives. Our Christian faith calls upon us to live out the message of Jesus, that is to love one another, to look past the sin and embrace the sinner. This is not bleeding heart liberal pablum. This is the message the Savior brought to us. Should we be angry at the remark Letterman made? Yes! Do we have the right to register our anger? You bet! Some would even say that it is our duty to do so. But our anger must stop there. We cannot and must not then turn on David Letterman himself.

St. Paul, writing in his letter to the Ephesians, put it simply. "Be angry but do not sin." (Eph 4:26) He backs this notion up in a verse later in the letter. "Let no evil talk come from your mouths." (Eph 4:29) Clearly, Mr. Letterman has either never heard of this verse or he has chosen to ignore it. However, we must also apply this very same verse to our own lives. We are not exempt from it even though our anger may be perfectly justified. Once again, St. Paul is there to remind us of this very fact. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph 4:31-32)

These are difficult concepts to live out. Challenge yourself to attempt to follow them for just four hours one day. Be honest with yourself. How many times during those four hours do you say something negative about another person in a mean-spirited way? How often to you roll your eyes at a comment made by someone, feeling that somehow your views are superior to theirs? Does cynicism and sarcasm slip into your speech more often than you realized?

No matter how tempting it is to fire back at our opponents, we must be cautious in our behavior as Christians. People are watching and some are waiting for us to do or say something stupid that they can pounce on as proof that Christianity and Christians are nothing more than moral hypocrites, all too anxious to point out the faults of others while ignoring their own. "Do not be conformed to this world," Paul tells us. "Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2) When we feel that we have the moral high ground, it is very tempting for us to feel very good about ourselves. But, Paul warns us, "I bid everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." (Rom 12:3)

The David Letterman/Sarah Palin war of words and morality will soon pass into the recesses of public consciousness and something else will take its place. But I fully believe that this most unfortunate episode should give us pause to look at our own lives and see if we are actually any better than Mr. Letterman. In order for the acrid atmosphere that now seems to exist in society to be tempered and reduced, we must start with ourselves and those around us. Just because the trend may be towards "getting" the person who may have offended us, we cannot fall into that category of living if we are to lay claim to the title of Christian, follower of Jesus Christ. As Paul so succinctly advises, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil." (Rom 12:21)