Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Open Letter to Bill Maher

Dear Bill,

I've never seen your show (in this respect we are kind of even, since I'm guessing you've never caught my gig either) but I did see you last night on the Daily Show. Your interview just made me so sad. I mean, I get that you're a comedian. So you are, of course, funny. And smart, so smart.

Again, I really dont know anything about you, but I'm a progressive, as you say you are, so we should be headed in the same direction. If by "the progressive European nation that a lot of us live in, or would like to live in," you mean universal health care, a strong commitment to education, openness about many expressions of sexuality, and a viable energy policy, I'm all for it. Here's the thing, though. I'm also a person of of faith, so instead of trying to build a coalition with me, or other people of progressive faith, you've effectively consigned us to the outer darkness, where all the other "stupid rednecks" live.

I guess in your new movie, you interviewed religious people, but it doesn't seem to have taught you anything about religion as practiced by the many generally good and sane people of my acquaintance. Instead, you dragged out some really tiresome cliches, including holding religion responsible for "like almost every war in history and suicide bombers and oppression of women and minorities." You must know, don't you, that that is not the whole story? You must know wars are caused by power and scarcity and fear and hate, and sometimes all or any of those get wrapped up in religion, but not all the time. You must know that religious communities and leaders have also been in the forefront of movements for justice and healing and peace throughout history. And you must know that those stories are not always told. Yes, religion can amplify people's worst impulses. But it can also draw out their very best. Religions have, of course made lots of mistakes and hurt lots of people, and they will continue to do so, I am sure. But religious communities also give people a context in which to explore the mystery and wonder of their lives.

You also used my other least favorite argument about about why we don't need religion. We don't need religion, you say, because we know so much now. You say, "When these books were written like the Bible, they were at a time when man did not understand where the sun went at night...or like what made their women pregnant or what a germ or an atom was, so it was forgivable to make up myths and stories but now it's 2008, okay? It's not that forgivable."

Of course, we know more than we once did, and I'm grateful for all that science and technology makes possible. Personally, my family has benefited enormously from scientific discovery. But even though we're pretty plugged in around here, that doesn't mean that there's no room for spirituality.

In thinking about it, I probably just have a more unlimited view of human capability than you. It's like for you, the human mind is a cup that will only hold a certain amount, and once that cup is full, something has to spill out in order for more to fit in. But I believe that in the same lifetime, and sometimes even in the same moment, we can experience both unlimited wonder and unlimited knowledge.

I guess it's because of your limited view of human potential that you said, "I dont know if Barack Obama is a very religious person. He of course has to SAY he is, because he's running for president in the United Stupid of America. But I hope he's lying." I hope YOU'RE lying, or at least going for a cheap laugh there. The kind of nation that you said you wanted at the very beginning of the interview, a progressive one, is going to have to be built on authenticity. The current administration has divided our nation by amping our fears and divisions. We know where cynicism and lies get us. It's time for a new way, a new way that you say you want.
All I can say is, Put your money where your mouth is.

With great hope,
Rev. Juniper

8 comments:

cheesehead said...

Amen, sister. That bit just made me sad.

She Rev said...

Thank you for your letter. I haven't been able to think of a mature way to respond, so immaturity has been bouncing around in my head. I don't get close-minded progressives. I just don't get 'em.

Katherine said...

Thank you SO much for writing this, and for sharing it. This is exactly what I was unable to articulate. I hope you send this to him... not that he strikes me as open to alternative perspectives, but whatever. Thank you.

Sarah S-D said...

well said, sister.

i am curious about the film... but the previews have made me nervous. and you've hit the nail on the head as to why.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ogre Sis, You stated something that is not only wrong with Mr. Maher, but also many people I have met in my travels. I condecending closed mind will get you no where.

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