THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 17, 1995 Contents: United States - DIVISIONS GROW AMONG CHRISTIAN CON
THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 17, 1995
United States--DIVISIONS GROW AMONG CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES
Illinois--HOUSECLEANING FOR THE LORD?
World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Moderator's Note: This mailing of TheistWatch was delayed
because of mechanical problems.
DIVISIONS GROW AMONG CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES
by Conrad Goeringer
There are growing splits within the ranks of American
Christian conservatives, at least judging from last week's
meeting in Philadelphia of the Republican National
Committee. Still high from the resounding November 1995
elections which gave the GOP control of the U.S. Senate
and House, Republicans are nevertheless starting to hear
the feared A-word during their informational meetings --
and that "A" stands for abortion. Media also reports
grumbling within some party circles about the growing
influence of the religious right.
One GOP strategist told the Philadelphia Inquirer
that GOP Chairman Haley Barbour "is trying to put a mask
on a growing headache" and that "you're going to have a
fight in this party on (abortion) choice." Analyst Kevin
Phillips said that both the GOP and the Democrats are
victims of complex social changes and that "the system is
becoming undone in ways that affect them, too." Phillips,
who predicted the conservative landslides of the Reagan
and Bush, pointed to disenchantment with the major parties
and the popularity of third-party candidates like Ross
Perot. He also noted the threat of Pat Buchanan, the
conservative commentator who is perhaps the most right-
wing of those vying for the GOP presidential nod. Even
William Bennett, former secretary of education and "Kultur
guru" of the religious conservatives, accused Buchanan of
"flirting with fascism," adding "This 'fortress America'
stuff, this 'you the people' stuff -- I think it's
Phillips also had tough words for Senate Majority
Leader Robert Dole, who has taken up the "family values"
baton from former Vice President Dan "Can't Spell"
Quayle. "Bob Dole is in the process of marrying Pat
Robertson and Ralph Reed," he said, referring to the
dynamic duo of the Christian Coalition. "Clinton is going
to portray Bob Dole as a doddering old man in the thrall
of these preachers," said Phillips.
Meanwhile, there is background worry at this meeting
over the insistence of far-right religious Christians who
control many state GOP organizations that the party run a
"family values"-style campaign opposing abortion.
Strategists worry that many Americans, while enthused
about economic policies on taxation and free trade, will
nevertheless vote for Clinton because of the president's
pro-choice stand. They also blame the Christian right for
the defeat of President George Bush in 1992. Although Bush
enjoyed popularity following Operation Desert Storm, women
left the party ranks to cross over to the Democrats --
mostly due to the abortion question.
HOUSECLEANING FOR THE LORD?
The Name "ServiceMaster" Has a Double Meaning for This
Growing Christian Business
By Conrad Goeringer
Read the financial section of the daily paper, or
watch the business report on television, and you quickly
realize that corporate names frequently seem to have
little or no connection with what the corporation actually
does. Ok, there are exceptions like "Tandem Computers"
and "Phillips Petroleum." But what about "Unisys"? Or
"Chemical Banking" (do they stockpile toxic waste?). And
what about some company with a name like ServiceMaster
Co.? What do they do?
Trying to find out exactly what ServiceMaster does is
a bit of a problem, even if you're the Chicago Times. The
paper recently had one its business-beat reporters drop in
to the company's annual stockholders meeting in Downer's
Grove, Ill, and found that this is a "firm with a
distinctly different sort of business attitude." The
1,200 or so stockholders first listened to a choir singing
the national anthem, then "America the Beautiful,"
followed by a corporate vice president reading from the
Bible, and all of this followed by a prayer. Check out
the corporate headquarters, and there is a stone carving
stating the company's four goal -- "To honor God in all we
do; to help people develop; to pursue excellent; to grow
And, reports the Tribune, "Even the company name has
a double meaning: One of them is service to the Master."
While this is all well and good for some of the
stockholders, others are apparently concerned with the
focus on religion. During the meeting, one stockholder
asked "Why does ServiceMaster Co. have such a strong
penchant for bringing God and religion into the company's
regular business?" But the corporate president and CEO
insists "We are not a religion."
And just what does ServiceMaster do to "service the
Master"? "In fairness", notes the Tribune, "it is
difficult to describe briefly what ServiceMaster does,
except to say it does what others are unable or unwilling
to do themselves -- including housecleaning,
groundskeeping, laundry and plant operations, and
maintenance of hospitals, schools and businesses."
Whatever that entails, it seems to be paying off;
corporate net for ServiceMaster was $140 million, up 21
percent from the previous year. It boasts 5.6 million
customers in 28 countries, has 36,000 employees and
200,000 "service partners" set up in franchises.
Oddly, ServiceMaster stock has remained relatively
static since the third-quarter of 1993, hovering around
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
by Conrad Goeringer
This service recently told subscribers about a church
in the former Yugoslavia which is the center of interest
for those claiming regular visits or apparitions by the
Christian earth-goddess, the Virgin Mary. Being close to
the ever-changing battlelines in the Bosnian war, the area
has been hit by bombs and mortar rounds, one of which
landed near the church. This fact, along with the tales
of Mary sightings, is often "proof" that the area is
enchanted -- the church still stands.
But Mary, Jesus, Jehovah -- somebody -- seems remiss
about the fate of St. Peter's Roman Catholic church in
Florosa, Florida. The U.S. Air Force has now acknowledged
its responsibility for damage done to the church's rectory
caused by bomb shrapnel which exploded last month during
an ordinance disposal drill. THEISTWATCH is still seeking
details in this case, but incidents like this one reflect
an important principle, namely, that reality does not
always conform to the perceptions and eager ideological
agendas of believers. For every ill-documented or
anecdotal "miracle," there are far more numerous events
which suggest that either the cosmos is essentially
disinterested in human beings, or the god(s) are lazy and
haphazard in bestowing their favors upon our species.
It appears that a museum exhibit of medieval,
inquisitional torture implements is the big draw in Mexico
City this year. At the Old School of Medicine, people are
queuing up to see displays of racks, tongue slicers,
skull crushers, thumbscrews, and other excrescences of
human faith and bigotry, all part of a touring exhibition
which has visited thirty-three countries. There's also an
executioner's sword, metal balls (which were stuffed into
the mouths of heretics), and the notorious "iron maiden,"
a sarcophagus lined with spikes.
All of these instruments were popular with religious
enthusiasts (shall we call them "people of faith," in
keeping with the modern argot?), when the Christian
religion -- in consort with ambitious political officials
-- held back human progress and murdered thousands, if not
hundreds-of-thousands, of "heretics" during the "Holy
Inquisition." And what more appropriate venue in Mexico
City? The Old School there was the headquarters of the
professional psychos and clerical sadists who "brought the
word of Christ to the New World."
Incidentally, the exhibition has been a rousing
success. It has been estimated that this show is
attracting up to 10 percent of the population in each city
it visits. Now, if only we could arrange to have this
enlightening display at the United Nations during the
pope's October tour.
Is success spoiling the once-upstart Fox television
network? Or is Fox intent on following the rest of the
television industry into the sinkhole of mediocrity and
tame "family programming" to quench the rage of Bob Dole,
the American Family Association, and other blue-noses?
Fox busted up the airwave monopoly of the "Big Three
(ABC, CBS, NBC) by "pushing the envelope" on conventional
programming. Sarcastic, outrageous, experimental and, for
some, "dumbed-down" offerings were the standard bill of
fare. "Married With Children," "The Simpsons," "In Living
Color," and a host of other programs were nurtured on Fox.
Despite criticism that the network was catering to the
banal tastes of "trailer park" America, the Wayans
brothers broke new territory for Black comedy and "The
Simpsons" managed to pillory nearly every bourgeois
institution ever invented (including the religious Ned
Flanders of "how-de-doodle-de-do neighbor!"-fame) -- and
draw the presidential wrath of George Bush who said that
HE preferred the Waltons, and the nation would be better
off for the doing the same. Fox was a welcome opening for
bolder and more creative production talent, even if it did
grind out its share of trash and schlock (which could
always be compensated for with enough popcorn before
hitting the "off" button on the remote.)
Bob Dole and the rest of the Christian right has the
entertainment industry running scared, of course, and now
-- instead up standing up to the Forces of Religiosity and
Terminal Boredom -- even Fox is wavering. Nearly a year
ago the network brought over John Matoian from CBS, who
once said that "Sophomoric was the word I always used to
describe Fox shows. . . . They were brash and they pushed
the envelope. But now we're a maturing network."
Matoian is now part of that "maturing" process, for
good or bad, and like the rest of the media establishment
believes that through "responsible programming"
(apparently, NOT "pushing the envelope") the industry will
be able to be "responsible" to public concerns about
violence, profanity and all of the other stuff people
watch in private, and avoid overt government censorship
schemes like the notorious V-Chip.
The new Fox lineup promises to have less zing and
more mindless chuckling. There's "Two Something" which
USA TODAY described as "A comedy about best friends who
work in the mailroom of an investment banking firm while
also pursuing their dream careers." And there's "The
Crew," a "New Fox show about four wild and wacky flight
attendants, (which) represents the high-class taste
Matoian is known for."
There will also be the cosmetic changes on shows like
"Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place," programs which
speak for themselves in that they never drew criticism
from Tipper Gore, George Bush, or Dan "Mr. Potatoe"
As for shock, controversy, and maybe a good verbal
slug-fest, well, it's becoming harder and harder to find.
Like certain credit cards, Fox WON'T be making shock-jock
Howard Stern a part of its late-night lineup. It could
have balanced Stern with an equally outrageous figure,
say, the Rev. Al Sharpton, or given the head of B'nai
B'rith a co-anchor role with Louis Farrakhan.
We need something more on the television, if the
limits of the "envelope" are presently defined by "special
reports" featuring Ted Koppel, or verbal exchanges between
William Buckley and some ambassador to a remote country.
In our phobia against "sex, violence, profanity" and
other buzzwords which define a constipating cultural
conservatism (CCC), we risk having television become even
more of a wasteland than it is now. Shows once though
controversial, even risque, are now "classics." For the
chuckling mindlessness of "Leave It To Beaver," there was
"Twilight Zone", even "Playhouse 90."
And against the threats of a V-Chip or government
mandated-ratings, the entertainment industry -- that is,
individual writers, producers, actors, directors and other
creative people -- should respond in the way people should
have answered the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, with boldness
and open defiance. It's not sufficient to have "freedom
of expression" unless that freedom involves testing
limits, challenging popular notions and standards, and
"pushing the envelope."
For starters, I'd have Lisa Simpson to give Bob Dole
a good kick in the butt!
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