When you mention FAITH in election year 2012 you get a lot of responses. But for me the response is obvious and it is love. Not because I’m religious. But because Faith is my sister’s name. Literally. And I do love her. As I am sure you love your own sister. (Note: Those without sisters, use something else you love aside from yourself and you’ll get there).
Of course, if you’re running for president these days the word Faith wouldn’t be talked about in terms of my Faith (though it would improve things because she’s a lovely, talented person). It might evoke sound bites that include words like, well: Christianity, Satan, maybe Muslim, perhaps The Devil, or, well, even poor old Whitney Houston. But these days you would never, ever, ever follow the word Faith with the word Ginsberg (as in the case with my sister’s full name). I mean, the closest thing to a Ginsberg in the faith-based national American political stage at the moment is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and everyone knows people with her kind of last name, which is shared by both my Faith and, well, my own Non-Chair moniker, have no relevance at all in the DC fishbowl that we elevate to presidential level. (Hint: And it’s not because we Ginsbergs are all three liberals. Think about it).
When did one’s religion (nee faith) or lack of it, become of such outwardly vocal, pressing national concern? At least so publicly.
Hell Heck, I think I much preferred when this stuff was talked about in restricted country clubs or at least under your neighbor’s breath behind closed doors like it’s supposed to. I don’t know about you, but I never thought I’d live to see the day when a viable political candidate leading in many of the major party’s polls uttered statements like “Satan has his eyes on America.” But then again, I could never have imagined Kim Kardashian, Chase Crawford or even Zack Efron just a few short years ago. Yes, I do admittedly like this faith talk very much from The Church Lady, but she’s a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character (isn’t she?). There is something about seeing a white man in a sweater vest running for president saying it in reality (not a reality show, though it sure seems like one) that gives me the Rickys, uh, willies. And even though I have learned to respect people’s religious views even when their religious views have very little respect for me (Hint: I can’t be married to the person I’ve lived with for 25 years but we are both very stylish and like theatre, especially musicals), even I have to say the urge to buy out all of Netflix’s copies of Bill Maher’s “Religilous” and send it on a prepaid loop to these new brands of holy roller whackos is only surpassed by my urge to shake them by their lapels, march them into the O’Neill Theatre and force feed them every lyric to the score of “Book of Mormom.” That is, if I even knew any theatrical types who could get me tickets to the most popular show now playing on Broadway. Which is in New York City. The sacred, holy American city that was attacked on 9/11.
God uh, Gosh.
Of course, politics is not the only arena that has grabbed God by the heart and won’t let him (or Her) go. The entertainment industry is equally, if not more guilty than most. I’m not talking about defunct shows like “Touched by an Angel,” “Joan of Arcadia,” or “The Sopranos.” (Come on, the latter WAS a religion!). I’m talking about performers who use religion as part of their spectacle (thank you Grammy, or any upcoming Academy Award acceptors), and religious events that use entertainment as a way to inform and/or infiltrate the public consciousness.
As a self-admitted junkie whose religion is entertainment, almost any kind of entertainment except, well, “Toddlers and Tiaras” (sorry, I have to drawn the line somewhere), I’m a sucker for spectacle. That’s why this past Saturday (Feb 16) morning instead of my usual tuning into “Up With Chris Hayes” on MSNBC and bringing my blood to a proper boil as I see which new hell the religious right are wreaking upon the national stage, I instead found myself mesmerized by an entirely different kind of fire and brimstone. The pop God funeral of singer Whitney Houston – who died several weeks ago at the age of 48.
Whitney was younger than me, and it gives you pause when you start getting older than people who are dying, even when it’s from unnatural causes. But what I think really got to me and caused me to watch all four funeral hours, none of which seemed particularly fune-real – was the communal celebration of mourning and life and death within a very cool Black church service – the kind I have never witnessed before. It also didn’t hurt having songs sung by Alicia Keyes and Stevie Wonder, a eulogy by Kevin Costner, and the potential reality show debacle of a Bobby Brown encounter (See, I told you I was an entertainment junkie). As more than one pastor said that day – the family’s decision to allow Whitney’s funeral to be televised was particularly valuable because it allowed all of America to go to Church. Hmm, and I thought it was more of a funeral. Amen, to that. I think.
Now just because I can be had by some names, a movie star and tacky, cheap voyeurism doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the spirituality of the moment or respect my time in church. I have appreciation and respect. I also feel more than bad that yet another very talented person died due to what looks like, in part at least, a long period of addiction she was never able to conquer. In fact, I found the whole thing mesmerizing. Actually more than mesmerizing — hypnotic.
As a white Jewish kid who went to temple but was never moved, I was surprised at the intensity of belief I witnessed – the sheer power of a kind of “divine logic” that everyone could understand and relate to as religion. Sure – it wasn’t predominantly realistic or entirely logical or at least reflects the reality of life as I know it, but that was also its beauty and attraction. And, I suppose for the believers, the benefits. The congregtion/chuch/attendees really seemed to believe in the preacher’s message as it applied to real life even if they all didn’t walk the walk each day. Of course, the sermonizers even made accommodations for that. That God makes NO mistakes – that he calls people when HE decides it is their time no matter how you live your life. And that no matter what people do HIS love is infinite and bountiful and can always let you back in to love and happiness. Pretty powerful stuff. If you can make the leap and believe. Unfortunately for me – I don’t. Or didn’t. Well, not entirely.
Don’t think I don’t want to. But writing is my religion (not merely entertainment – I
sinned lied and the power of art is divine to me – call it a higher power if you want to. And if I am being totally honest I have to admit I worship at the altar of Meryl Streep, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Alfred Hitchcock, Pedro Almodovar, Woody Allen (yeah, I know he’s a heathen, that’s part of the fun), Francois Truffaut, Martin Scorsese and a host of others. Perhaps my real religion is simply the creative spirit, or the power of it.
So – if I accept everyone else’s, how come they can’t accept the validity of mine? Why are my beliefs any less than the ones they have come to on their own. You say what I’m talking about is not a religion? Who says? Okay, fine. Then substitute just about any other religion other than Christianity or Jesus. Why would that religious belief be any less valid to be a guiding principle of the world? Why should that religion not be the ultimate faith litmus test for anyone running for the highest office in our land, or to otherwise be known as – The Leader of the Free World.
Because no religion should. Because faith is personal and should have nothing to do with any of it. Because the idea behind America is that it’s a place where anyone can come and worship in any way that they choose. I should know because I literally grew up with Faith. And though I can’t image your Faith could be any better than mine, I certainly can’t get into an argument with you about it. Cause how can you ever objectively debate about who or what you love?
Oscar Note: The Chair and the Chair’s mate are going to this year’s Oscars. Here are you NotesfromaChair Oscar Pool Tie-breaker Questions:
1. Will Meryl Streep’s dress have a collar?
2. How many Yiddish words will be uttered by Billy Crystal?
3. Which movie clip will they show for Elizabeth Taylor as part of the “In Memoriam?” Or will there be a separate tribute and, if so, who will introduce it?
4. How many times will Harvey Weinstein be thanked?
5. (Tie breaker) The inevitable Variety headline when The Artist wins best picture will be “Silence is Golden.” But – can you come up with something better????