Must Read Monday: The devolution of humor, ballot measures and worldview, and marriageNovember 5, 2018
What we laugh at reveals our character
I don’t know if you noticed but humor in America has devolved.
“On Saturday’s episode of the sketch series, Pete Davidson appeared on the “Weekend Update” segment wherein he gave his “first impressions” of some candidates ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections. When the image of former Navy SEAL and Congressional candidate Crenshaw flashed across the screen, the comedian giggled. Crenshaw, who did three tours in Afghanistan and wears a patch over the socket of the right eye he lost to an I.E.D. was mocked by the comedian who said, “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit man in a porno movie,” Davidson mocked. “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever…”
War or whatever?
There’s clearly a disconnect here between the wound and disability with which this man now lives every day and those who would mock him. That disconnect reveals the growing chasm between civilians whose freedoms to make fun of others in public and get paid for it are won and guaranteed by veterans who made actual sacrifices for those freedoms. It occurs to me that Veteran’s Day is coming up on November 11. Pew research reveals the changing face of America’s veterans. They tell us that 77 percent of adults ages 50 and older said they had an immediate family member who had served in the military. I do. Among those ages 18-29, the share is only 33 percent. And in the same way that it’s harder to hate up close it’s also harder to mock up close.
Which brings us full circle to the devolution of humor in America. It’s not just that what passes for comedy today is raunchy, it is openly hostile, often violent and well, not really funny. As with everything else, comedy is now largely political speech and comedians now work for more claps more than laughs.
When was the last time you really laughed? Really laughed to the snorting, eyes watering, doubled over, my cheeks hurt level? What provoked that kind of laughter? I hope it wasn’t the injury, disability, pain or suffering of another image bearer of the living God.
What ballot measures reveal about worldview
While much of the focus tomorrow is on who will be elected in America’s midterm elections, there are a number of other things our fellow Americans will be voting on coast to coast. Voters in 19 different states have ballot measures related to voting itself. Some of them are about the when and the where and others about the who and the how. As with the definition of marriage, when this many states see something as an issue, you can expect that the local nature of the question will rise to the level of national debate in the next election cycle and Supreme Court docket.
Another issue which has been voted on in several states and is now on the ballot in several more is the legalization of marijuana. In some states the legalization process has just begun and is restricted to medical use. Other states, having passed that hurdle, are moving toward the legalization of recreational pot. Marijuana remains on the list of illegal controlled substances so it is not difficult to see this issue rising to the level of federal attention. That’s where we see the intersection of the what of ballot measures and the who of elected governance at the federal level. Again, elections matter.
Ballot measures measure the changing worldview of the citizenry. As America grows more secular we should expect the changing moral codes related to be reflected by growing majorities of the American electorate. Consider the shift in cultural attitudes, followed by the change in legalization, related to marijuana, abortion access, the redefinition of marriage, and growing acceptance of physician assisted suicide. Each of these changes in the law reveals a change in values and worldview. It is difficult to deny the changing landscape when the laws of the land are adopted through voter referendum.
But there are also trends in the other direction. Arkansas may raise its minimum wage by $4.15/hour and West Virginia, Alabama and Oregon have ballot measures that would restrict abortion. In West Virginia and Oregon, voters will decide whether or not to block public funding for abortions by preventing state taxpayer money from covering abortions for individuals on Medicaid except for in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s health is at risk. In West Virginia and Alabama, voters may amend their respective state constitutions to declare that abortion rights are not protected. Alabama’s ballot initiative goes further than West Virginia’s. In Alabama, the constitution may be amended to declare a fetus has personhood and therefore the protections enjoyed by all persons are the right of the pre-born person as well.
Both the West Virginia and Alabama measures are dependent in part on anticipated action by the Supreme Court on revisiting – and potentially reversing – the Roe v Wade decision. It is anticipated that abortion would then return to the state level in terms of legality and access. Think that’s never going to happen? Well, what it if did? Would your state’s constitution be in a place to immediately implement a ban? These states would if Roe v Wade were to be reversed through cases now rising where the question of personhood and when life begins are being challenged.
If those issues seem too hard to tackle in terms of conversational apologetics, what if we use a ballot measure in California about chickens and eggs to discuss worldview? California voters will decide whether or not egg laying hens have the express right to be raised and lay their eggs in a free range environment. This is a conversation about animal rights, human responsibility. (Read Speak the Truth: How to bring God back into every conversation for more on this topic.)
One sobering read to wrap up today’s Must Read Monday…
It was a storybook wedding and it ended in what the world sees as tragedy just hours after the couple stood before God and said, “I do.” On Saturday night, a Texas newlywed couple was being whisked away from the groom’s family ranch in Uvalde when a mile into flight, the helicopter crashed. The couple and the pilot were all killed. The stories in the secular press are predictable. But friends of the couple are also bearing pretty amazing testimony on social media that ought not be missed. #BaileeByler
What testimony might it be to talk here about what marriage really is, the wedding feast and the bridegroom and the bride, eternal realities in the Kingdom of Heaven? Are you prepared to have that redemptive conversation today with those who only see this couple’s story as fairy-tale fulfillment and death as an end and not a beginning?