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The Golden Calf Award for Religious Hypocrites

but I repeat myself.....

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, October 29, 1997.

I’ve been on the job market again, and scaring my friends recently by walking up to them with my briefcase, a crooked smile, over greased hair, slamming the briefcase on the nearest solid surface and emoting “let’s talk insurance, shall we?” Which I truly think is the most effective Halloween getup ever. After their screams die down, I assure them that no, I’m not selling insurance and with a smile and a flourish take a small new Tupperware container out of the briefcase. After I revive them again by slipping a restorative under their tongue and slapping them repeatedly with the Tupperware top, I offer them a Girl Scout cookie and a coin container from UNICEF and suggest an appropriate donation, and as they rapidly backpedal themselves across the floor on their backs, holding their arms across their faces, I say “Oh Come On, you know I don’t sell cheap goody-goody stuff like that - anymore- and besides...” putting an all too friendly arm across their shoulder “there’s an election coming up and your party needs your help! ” Oh, lord.... the tales I could tell about the Trauma Center, but enough of this hysterical carnage.

Let’s talk about RTD, shall we? No? Well, OK, how about Steven Seagal, eh? Yes, you may know him as the wispy voiced, overweight, muscle toneless inexplicable star of a number of crappy movies not co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, but Boulder recently recognized his newly acknowledged status as a Buddhist Lama by allowing him to teach, I believe aikido, in a brief seminar. That is something you do not expect: a cult movie star, as famous for gratuitous violence on the screen as for his past preposterous claims of missions on behalf of the CIA, actually exploiting his spiritual beliefs and, for the most part, getting away with it. It is not quite as if the Vatican appointed Jean Claude Van Damme to the Curia, where he issued press releases about his upcoming flick, or if the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore for Episcopal sainthood (The name’s James. St. James.), but it is edging uncomfortably close.

Fortunately, Seagal is such a ridiculous poseur that it is hard to take his current stance seriously, or anything about him seriously. It revives in me the need to encourage someone, anyone, to start a yearly national Award Show for spiritual hypocrisy. Surely no country in the world has produced more bona-fide, top of the line spiritual hypocrites than the United States. And this group of ethical black holes deserves our attention and appreciation. We have Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List, and bestseller lists, and various artistic awards, and even Grammy Awards, but if there is an area that screams out for its own show it is the coven of American Religious Hypocrites. It is so long overdue that Seagal’s recent performance would probably not even receive a nomination. There are so many more deserving.

Most of them attend Promise Keepers, that assemblage of ranting, calculating male chauvinists who will admit all their sins before God and a million others, provided they have an army at their back, and the sure knowledge that a purge of past sleazy behavior is more likely not to receive the scrutiny it deserves if it is lost in a hundred thousand voices. There was a cruel joke about the Million Man March, a worthy effort created by Louis Farrakhan, a questionable person. A million men took a day off, but the nation only lost twenty man-hours of work. A crueler joke, but likely with more substance is: another million men took the day off and not a single woman was beaten up that day. No wonder the wives support Promise Keepers. They’ve always done what they were told or been sorry.

What could be so wrong with a bunch of emotional men repenting and seeking forgiveness and promising to do better? I don’t believe them. In jail, you see variations of that all the time. I’ve been in show business for a quarter century and I know bad acting when I see it, and a lot of this is. If someone wants forgiveness and wants to do better, just do it. But Promise Keepers offers the opportunity for public acclamation and no individual scrutiny. You are lost in a herd. It is not God but the mob that gives courage. What does history teach us about those mistaking the mob for God?

So, yes, I would give this years Golden Calf, the Grand Prize of the Religious Hypocrisy Awards Show, to Coach Bill and his throng. Imagine: the most important man in American religion today is Bill McCartney, a man who - while praying to God with his wife - the very definition of a private, spiritual moment - allows, indeed seems to encourage, a photographer to record it. Does he think God needs proof? Did he want it autographed? Didn’t Christ mumble something about those who are ostentatious in their praying? Pharisees, and hypocrites.

Jerry Falwell. Stephen Seagal Bill McCartney. The year’s collection of Southern Baptist men of god who assaulted children at summer camp and spend the winter condemning homosexuals. The priests who abuse their own alter boys. Nuns of different religions with vows of poverty who live and eat like, well, priests. Episcopal men of the collar having affairs with the flock. Long overdue, this award show. Come on down, contestants! And let’s talk insurance. You don’t have any.