In an age of entertainment and mass communication, a sensation-driven news media rules the airwaves. Although reporters are doing their jobs in covering the devastation of hurricane Katrina, the disaster porn shown endlessly on cable news is no doubt contributing to ratings. And this is the great danger in all hyped news stories – that people with ulterior motives become a part of the story for the purposes of an agenda or personal gain.
Such was the case in the weeks leading up to Hurricane Katrina with Cindy Sheehan and her continual photo-op. Politicians, celebrities and activists all made pilgrimages to Crawford to get in on the media whoredom. Long before that, pro-life leaders and activists made their way down to Florida to get in on the hype of the Terri Schiavo case. Some activists held up signs that read, “Save Terri!” with a website address below – high enough for the cameras to broadcast the advertisement to the world.
This is the temptation of mass broadcasting to which, unfortunately, the news media continually succumbs. It is for these reasons that public-relations firms and publicists live off publishing houses and activist organizations. The business of the news media is a market with open doors to all who fit the mold of being uniquely controversial – the corporations get their ratings and you sell your book. Everybody wins, except for those who want the truth.
In the case of the horrible devastation of the hurricane specifically ripping through New Orleans, some right-wing fundamentalists are piggybacking on the media hype to push their own conservative agendas. This time, they’re saying God took a pre-emptive strike on homosexuals who had planned a large-scale event in New Orleans called “Southern Decadence,” which was set to occur this past week.
Repent America, directed by Michael Marcavage, is an organization known for picketing gay pride events and abortion clinics. While their biblical hermeneutic on Divine judgment could arguably be clouded by their previously established political activities, Repent America sent out a press release Wednesday that was picked up by media outlets and among these, WorldNetDaily.
In the press release, the organization played connect the dots and insinuated God sent the hurricane to stop the gays. “Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city,” stated Marcavage. “From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence,’ New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge.” It is still unclear why the organization felt compelled to broadcast their private prayers and conjectures to the rest of the world.
Then you find a guy like J. Grant Swank Jr., who is not nearly as high-profile but every bit of a right-wing hack. In a column on a not-worth-mentioning website, he writes, “Sodom and Gomorrah were to be re-enacted in broad daylight – and into the night haunts as well. It would be one high ol’ time of it in the southern scape. … Then came along Katrina. Now New Orleans is under water, bathing in sewage and devastation rather than providing downtown fountains for homosexual capers aplenty.”
Swank, just like Marcavage, bases his faulty ideology on the unbiblical theology that his arrogance is somehow less offensive than homosexuality. It rains on all and disasters are not prejudice. We’re all in the same boat.
Not nearly as offensive, but in the same vain, WorldNetDaily’s own Craige McMillan takes the opportunity of the New Orleans crisis to give a lesson on the Seventh Commandment.
In his column, he questions, “Do you think New Orleans would be better off right now if its public school system had taught all students the Ten Commandments as part of their secular education? Or would such forthright exposure to religious indoctrination have so traumatized the little darlings that they might – oh, say – loot the city at the very first opportunity?”
He goes on to criticize public schools for not teaching Mosaic Law and their aversion to all things God, but in the same paragraph exalts Judeo-Christian ethics as essentially the only prevention of total moral anarchy. It’s a nice Sunday school lesson, but it comes off as arrogant to those of other traditions, especially in light of such suffering in the wake of Katrina.
Aside from the unjustifiable theology found in the messages of these activists, perhaps most telling is their insensitivity to the plight of their fellow human beings. There are times of reverence in which people of any understanding should keep quiet. At this point, I’m just waiting for Fred Phelps and his friends to show up on a New Orleans’ highway with picket signs saying, “God Hate Fags.” That’s most certainly the love of Christ in action.