Friday, January 27, 2006

Jon Stewart Defends Mega-Churches?

Bernard-Henri Levy (the author of the hot new book, American Vertigo) appeared on The Daily Show last night. Stewart asked him if, upon meeting Americans during his travels, he'd found that the cliches about Americans were true. Levy appeared delighted to be able to inform The Daily Show's viewers that no, the cliches were not true! He then went on to describe mega-churches as "the laboratories of the extreme right wing." Jon Stewart stopped him - "isn't that a cliche?" he asked. Stewart, who appeared embarrased to be contradicting the great BHL, quickly explained that, in his view, most Americans are reasonable people that can sit down and have discussion about their differences, and that includes the people in the mega-churches.

Levy, in an attempt at diplomacy, offered that Bono seemed to like some of them. However, this generous concession was the best he could do. Still grinning, he went on to explain that the heads of mega-churches are crooks. Why? Because they are proponents of intelligent design. I'm not kidding, go to The Daily Show and watch it yourself. By this point Stewart is nodding idiotically and cheering Levy on along with the rest of the crowd. Apparently a big smile and a cool accent can make anything sound true.

(Thanks to Chad for pointing this interview out.)


Kim Traynor said...

I thought Levy's use of the word "crook" in that interview was curious. I later found this interview, which sheds some light on where the word "crook" came from and why he used it in that context.

Levy interviewed for Atlantic Monthly:

"I come from a country where religion, the faith, the creed in God, is a declining attitude. Old churches are in a deep crisis. But I landed in a country last year where you cannot find one American —lady or gentleman—saying that he doesn't believe in God. Tocqueville had seen that already. This is a big part of his observation. He stressed the paradox of this being the only nation in the world where freedom and faith did not go in two separate roads. In France, liberty has had to be gained over religion. The less religion we have in France, the more liberty we have...

"So, of what am I afraid? Of what should you be afraid? I would not dare to say. You know yourself. But myself there are a few things which I love and a few which frighten me. For instance, coming back to the topic of religion. One day I was in a helicopter going above the Grand Canyon. The pilot was a young boy, quite up-to-date, modern, liking new music, dating with a beautiful girl, and—I'm completely sure—secular in his mind. A modern, young, American boy. And I asked him "What about this huge, magnificent landscape that we see under our feet?" The canyon. And he said to me, "There are two theories." I felt aie, aie, aie, as we say in French, Problems begin! "First theory," he said, "during millions of years, the erosion of the water," and so on and so on. "Second theory," he said, "six thousand years ago there was a big flood which took place exactly here. And this is the place of the creation of the world." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Yes, there was a second theory which said the world was created six thousand years ago, in six days, and in this very place." We spoke when we landed, and he told me that he frankly did not know if Darwin was a scientist or a crook. That he frankly did not know if the birth of the universe was an immemorial event or a historic event like in the Bible. And I felt that is the thing of which, if I was American, I would be afraid.

"Today, they say, there is a Darwinist science and there is a creationist science. What the young pilot of my helicopter meant, by saying there are two theories, was exactly that. This is very serious, because if both of them are scientific then you give to creationism the title of legitimacy. This is a phenomenon which we don't have in France. It might be a little example, but it tells a lot of the dark side of the future of America.

"Tocqueville said that there was an instinctive mistrust of the American people toward great ideas. He called them "les grandes systèmes"—grand, great systems. And this nourished the idea of a pragmatic, un-ideological nation. I found exactly the contrary."

(For any of my readers who don't know...Creationism and Intelligent Design are two seperate things. Creationism maintains that the world was created in less than seven days and has not been around longer than the geneolgy presented in the pages of the Bible, ID says that science reveals a design that could not exist accidentally and thus points to a creator. It does not dispute the evidence for the age of the earth or things like dinosaurs.)

Kim Traynor said...

Just one more interesting interiew and then I swear I'll let somebody else talk!

Levy appeared on NPR in April '05. When asked what stood out to him as "the dark side" of America, this was the illustration he gave:

"When you have 10,000 people gathering like for a concert of rock and roll and you see them considering God as some kind of good buddy, a best buddy, someone who can help them lose weight, get fit, there is something which is going wrong."

Now, I'm not posting this to make him look stupid or so we can talk about how much we disagree with him, but I think it is fascinating that, of all the things he might say, (8 year olds bringing handguns to day care, senior citizens being carted off to old-folks homes, racism) he chooses mega churches and the belief in a personal relationship with God.

If you haven't gathered this already, Levy is an atheist. Atheism is interesting because those who adhere to it speak of it as if it is an intellectual position, while the irrationality and passion of their actions belie that it is a matter of the heart more than it is the head.

Personally, I'd rather have Jesus as a "good buddy" than atheism as a cold and paranoid lover.

ps It's worth noting that Lee Strobel, former atheist, was the speaker at the Willow service Levy attended. Strobel talked about the "Case for a Creator." That must have been quite uncomfortable for the poor guy!

Friar Tuck said...

Everytime I came to Willow Strobel was speaking. Never got to hear Hybels.

You should read the epilogue to Anne Rice's OUT OF EGYPT book. She makes some interesting points about atheism and people who are atheists.

Kim Traynor said...

Never got to hear Hybels?! Sad, so sad...

I loved Out of Egypt, and the Epilogue was fascinating. In fact, it kind of reminded me of Lee's story. He was an atheist and when he sat down to investigate the claims of Christianity he did so objectively, willing to follow the evidence where it led. He found the same thing that Rice did; many of the "scholarly" arguments against the veracity of the New Testament don't hold water and are based, not on good old fashion scholarship, but on intense, personal feelings.

Andy said...

Hi Kim,

Janett was reading her Bible yesterday and came up with a couple seldom cited quotations.
One was Jesus said (paraphrasing) I did not come to spread peace, but to spread division. It will be three against two and two against three.

There's plenty of Mr Levy's out there who propogate the South Park version of Christianity.

Len said...

yeah but I can think of some guys that I would call "crooks" that are in the Word-Faith Movement, who happen to have mega-churches. Perhaps he meant that crowd. Too bad Warren, Hybles and whoever else get's dragged into that company.

Kim Traynor said...

Welcome Len, thanks for checking out my blog!