Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, September 22, 2005

LAT Passionate About Passion Play

Oh, this is just too easy.

Put a bunch of dumb Christians in a hick Arkansas town to see a passion play -- talk about low-hanging fruit!

LAT reporter Stephanie Simon takes full advantage of the opportunity to look down her well educated, cynical nose and snicker in a quiet way that hides between lines. And her editors got in on the fun, headlining the story, "Acting on Faith."

You can see them with their friends over latte laughing up that one. "It's about a play, so no one's going to get uppity about the headline -- but it's saying that faith is all an act. Clever, no?"

You might think I'm being hyper-sensitive, but Simon focuses almost entirely on the negative:
"The Great Passion Play" was created by the late Gerald L.K. Smith, a mesmerizing and virulently anti-Semitic orator who traveled the nation in the 1930s and '40s, trying to rally support for "saving" white Christian America by deporting blacks and Jews.
She later admits that Smith did not script the current play, but even so, she struggles to breathe fire into the anti-Semitic story line Liberals tried, and failed, to put on The Passion of the Christ:
The current version still portrays the Jewish high priests as greedy, power-hungry connivers who force a reluctant Pontius Pilate to order the Crucifixion. But publicity director Mardell Bland says she has heard no complaints about anti-Semitism for years.
Perhaps before she reports on religion, she ought to read the source material and study the history of the time. Just a thought.

She also works to poke fun at belief in Genesis and creation:
The new Museum of Earth History uses murals and dinosaur sculptures to present the Book of Genesis as science. ("If you hurry, we can get you in on the first four days of creation," a tour guide says, urging a dawdler along.)
And shame on people of faith who become emotional:
The play ends with a dramatic Ascension: Radiant under a white spotlight, Jesus rises to the treetops with the promise "I am with you always."

The wires that hoist the actor 65 feet are clearly visible. That hardly seems to matter. Every night, the crowd erupts in cathartic applause.
I understand how hard it is to write about faith without offending. Simon was probablyworried about offending friends in the newsroom by being too sympathetic, just as she probably struggled to make her prose inoffensive to believers. It's impossible to do both, and of course she failed.

As their circulation falls, papers like the LAT seem willing to risk great offense to substantial portions of their readers. But they soldier on, trekking to the Arkansas woods to report again on this mysterious Chrisitanity thing.