San Francisco Chronicle’s eccentric columnist Mark Morford decided to direct his ire toward megachurches in his column Huge crowds, rabid devotees and no Mick Jagger in sight. Are you afraid?.
I don’t mind someone taking shots at megachurches. They are numerous things about that gigantic congregations that I personally don’t like. But Morford attacks more strawmen and stereotypes than he does actual people and places.
Take this paragraph for instance:
Maybe the appeal is self-explanatory. Maybe you walk into one of these stadium-size God-huts and everyone is forcibly blissed out and everyone is just numbly patriotic and everyone is throwing hand-rolled tubes of nickels (most megachurch parishioners have very low median incomes and little more than a high school education, and the vast majority are as white as bleached teeth) into the giant golden donation vats and snatching up freshly published copies of “He Died for Your Lousy Little Sins So Put Down the Porn and Listen Up, Sicko.”
Wow, so this is what goes for new and fresh in San Francisco – attacking Christians as being too poor, too uneducated and too white. That’s never been done before. I could spend the time dismantling every strawman he assembles in this paragraph and the column as a whole, but I am struggling to find the point.
How about this paragraph:
These are the churches for whom BushCo tried to codify homophobia in the U.S. Constitution and for whom he appoints countless right- wing misogynist lower-court judges and nominates a neoconservative Supreme Court justice who is so white and so male and so gleamingly, blindingly conservative he might as well be Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia’s immaculate love child.
He may or may not believe what he has written, but countless numbers of people surrounded by liberal culture and academia have no use for simple things such as facts or real numbers. No, it is much better if we can write columns filled with sexual innuendos about Christians and Jesus (yes, I do understand this is Morford’s schtick), instead of actually having a dialogue with the evil right-wing Christians or discuss things with “them.”
It’s so much easier to attack Christians, to denigrate the obvious positives of the faith (as Morford does when he lables Christian social work as helping “a surprisingly large number of confused and deeply lost white American souls to discover some sort of sense of place in this Bush-stabbed world.”), to muddy everthing with politics, to dengrate our nation and to stand in smug self-righteousness while pointing out the self-righteousness of others.
That is one of the reasons I appreciate Sam and those from Insulted (and Louis, when he decides to participate): they understand that slinging insults from blue areas across to red areas is not going to help either side or the nation as a whole. We disagree on a whole host of issues, but at least we can have a dialogue and better understand each other.
I don’t really like megachurches. I think many of them are too self-serving, instead of Christ-serving. I think many of the congregations worship the pastor instead of God. I am ashamed at the political nature of the Church in America today. All of these are points that can be made and should be made, but Morford doesn’t make those points. He sharpens points dripping with satire and sex to rip into not just megachurches, but Christianity in general.
While I am sure he will get dozens, if not hundreds, of congratulatory emails from San Francisco readers, this column will continue to force the red, blue divide even farther apart (and away from reality). He is further cementing the idea in Midwesterners and Southerners that, “Nope, the liberals on the coasts, don’t know anything about me and don’t care about me. So why should I bother with them?”
He does understand that there are millions of people who live outside of San Francisco, LA and New York, who do have the internet to read his column, who vote and who influence this country. Conservative Christians are more than his stereotypical ignorant, poor, white rednecks who don’t know how to spell computer much less use one.
I would hope that in both our philosophical and political debates we can move past harmful (to the discussion) strawmen and silly stereotypes not grounded in fact. I would hope, but sometimes I read columns like this and I doubt it.