26 July 2007

More imagery

Then again, if you really want to ponder political resemblances, there are these images to consider - more available here...

To the hottie belongs the spoils?

Ever since the Kennedy-Nixon debates, popular pundits have pontificated on the merits of a good-looking candidate. (Obviously, this was not much of a consideration for the country in the Lincoln-Douglas election.) But is this the ultimate example of style over substance? Or, is it simply a reflection of the realities of our current media era? Does the best-looking guy (or gal) always win? Do I sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw yet?

Seriously though, to what extent does appearance matter for the Leader of the Free World? If the most qualified, most compelling candidate happened to be ugly, would we vote for him (assuming it’s a “him”)? Does the omnipresence of the broadcast media compel us toward telegenic pols?

I pondered this question yesterday, as I attended a fundraiser for John Edwards. No, I’m not at the point of making an endorsement just yet, but I do like him enough to toss a few bucks his way. He spoke for about 15 minutes, and spent a considerable amount of time shaking hands and signing autographs thereafter. I think that Edwards is really finding his distinctively populist voice, and his stump speech was pretty solid. And I’m straight as can be, but damn, he is a good-looking guy.

What do you think? Is Mitt Romney more appealing because he looks so good in a ski jacket? Does Obama set your heart aflutter? Is John McCain too weary-looking, or Bill Richardson too dowdy? Would you consider Kucinich except for the fact that he reminds you of Dobby the House Elf?

To what extent does appearance matter? Have style and substance merged in our culture? Is that a bad thing? I’m thinking yes – I’m thinking that Lincoln would never get elected today, simply because of his ugly mug – and what a loss that would be for our nation. How do we get beyond this? How can we cajole the mass media into focusing more on substance and less on style? Maybe if we all read decent newspapers (e.g., the New York Times or LA Times) and listened to the radio (say, NPR) more often, and watched less TV (except for PBS, of course), we’d elevate ourselves? Who knows? Your suggestions are solicited.

21 July 2007

Or maybe the answer is "no religion"...

You'll recall from my last post (or if you don't recall, scroll down to read it first) that in response to the Vatican's recent machinations I challenged my readers to go out and prove that the antidote to bad religion is good religion, rather than no religion. Note that I didn't endorse that assertion; rather, I asked that others take up the challenge to prove it (admittedly, more by their actions than by argument).

However, the first cogent reply to this challenge was from someone arguing for the opposite antidote. My man KA, philosopher (and oenophile) at-large, has this reply to my prior post. I encourage you to go check it out and see what you think. Is all religion a poison, with rationality and philosophy the only antidotes? Is there no such thing as "good religion"? Read, ponder, and offer feedback.

19 July 2007

I’d hate to see the false churches…

I know that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have both riffed on these topics already, but I can’t resist adding my $0.02 worth. In an ironic coincidence of events that have to make one believe in divine intervention, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a monumental settlement of sexual abuse claims less than a week after the Roman Catholic Church reaffirmed its stance as the “one true church”.

The details, for those of you unfamiliar with these stories: On July 10, the Vatican’s office on orthodoxy known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed for two decades before becoming Pope Benedict XVI) issued a document reaffirming its belief that it is the only true church. This was a restatement of the Church’s 2000 document, Dominus Iesus. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the only “mediator” of salvation, and notes that other groups (e.g., all Protestant churches) are not real churches at all, but merely Christian “communities”, primarily because they do not have the apostolic succession claimed by the Catholic Church. Oh, and those Orthodox folks? They’re OK, mostly. At least they’re still “churches”, even though they "lack something in their condition as particular churches" because they are not in union with the Pope. The Protestants, however, are right out.

Meanwhile, down in the Bat Cave, the Los Angeles archdiocese recently announced a settlement of over 500 sexual abuse lawsuits, with a total payment of $660 million. The parties arrived at the settlement just prior to the beginning of the first trial, at which plaintiffs’ attorneys had planned to call Cardinal Roger Mahony to the stand to answer questions about his knowledge of the ongoing abuses and his role in the cover-up thereof. It certainly appears that there was a great deal of motivation to keep Cardinal Mahony off the stand.

So imagine yourself as a Catholic in the LA area. You’ve seen your church’s priests accused of heinous sexual abuse of minors in their pastoral care, and now the money you’ve put in the collection plate all these years is being paid out to settle a series of lawsuits so that the Cardinal doesn’t have to speak about these cases in the public scrutiny of being under oath in an open courtroom. Meanwhile, the Pope has recently reminded you that you’re part of the One True Church, and that you shouldn’t go check out any of those Protestant denominations because, after all, they don’t have the full means of grace and salvation available to them. Sounds to me like some Catholic Church folks somewhere are afraid of losing their grasp on the hearts and minds of their followers.

Is this the only instance of blatant religious hypocrisy of late? Of course not; it’s just the nice juicy one of the moment. And I would be doing you, dear reader, a disservice if I didn’t continue to remind you of the hypocrisy that is rampant in most all institutional religions. Maybe my blogging friends will explore more deeply the psychological and philosophical implications of all of these matters (yes, SI and KA, if you’re reading this, that’s an invitation). For my part, I’ll just challenge you to go out and prove that the best antidote to bad religion is not no religion, but is in fact good religion. Go therefore and do some good in the world today.