Monday, February 26, 2007

Television-Induced Existential Crisis

Hello in a post-Oscar moment before heading off to bed, powder pigeons!

I watched the entire telecast at my friends' house, on one of those ginormous flat-screen TVs that make you feel as though you are THERE.

I thought that almost all the stars look smashing this year, but I didn't much enjoy the show. It dragggggged. The Al Gore moment was lovely, and I was so happy for Jennifer Hudson, Forrest Whittaker and Martin Scorcese. I adore Helen Mirren.

It occurred to me watching the Oscars that I just don't watch television very much at all, and the vast majority of my encounters with pop culture come through the internet or brief interludes with magazines -- usually in the line at the grocery store.

So I suffered an anxiety attack right there in M and P's living room realizing that I am going to be on television -- a medium I don't really have any meaningful connection to!

I believe that this little flurry of attention is related to the mistaken impression people have that we clergy are remote creatures, too busy being super-duper holy to be fully engaged in the world the way "ordinary" people are. You know, I know, and God knows that we're not superduper holy, we're not remote, and we're not disengaged from the real world as lay people know it. Like everyone else, we're trying to juggle all our responsibilities in life, with the added layer of attending people through the spiritual journey and speaking a word of hope and grace on Sunday mornings. We're trying to figure out how to communicate through our appearance some of the relevancy and vibrancy we believe is present in the contemporary Church.

How can we do things like connect to pervasive forces like television while still honoring the essential aspect of our calling? Television requires sound bites: ministers don't think, speak or live in sound bites. Television says, "entertain me!" and ministers don't entertain, we engage. (I mean, I certainly intend to entertain you as PeaceBang, but you're not the general public. This conversation is by us, for us, and about us, darlings!).

And yet we must be willing to reach people through popular media. If you had a few moments of time on national television, what message about the vitality of liberal religious life would you want to communicate? I've got my talking points ready (hint: it's not actually fashion we care about so much as better managing our complicated role and image in our churches and in society), but I'd love to hear some of yours.




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4 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Gidget said...

I have become hugely aware of clergy image in media since becoming ordained. We are EITHER hopelessly good and naive as well as ineffectual bumblers (think Fr. Mulcahy in M*A*S*H*)...

OR we are the anti-thesis of this, and you shouldn't trust us. We're scheming and exploitive, bilking innocent church members through the collection plate (think Steve Martin in "Leap of Faith") or we're womanizers (female clergy other than nuns don't exist) or child-molesters (too many tv shows and movies to name)

But you're right, PB, both of these images point to a sense that we are OTHER in the extreme.

Probably the last portrayal of clergy I liked was Sr. Helen Prejean in "Dead Man Walking". She was motivated to serve God and humanity, and she struggled over how best to do it.

My 2c.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous pastorperson said...

I had to respond (for the first time) to your crisis because it connected so strongly to a fundamental belief I have about those who have are called to pastoral ministry. Peacebang, what makes your blog both insightful and fun is that you write from your experience and share who you are in an honest way. I believe people respond to your blog not because you give fashion advice (sorry to disappoint) but because you're sharing a piece of your authentic self -- you care about fashion and how pastor's present themselves. What makes any of us able to connect with people in a meaningful way in our ministires is that we are equally real and honest about things that we care about. Whether we are preaching a sermon, presiding at the sacraments, writing a blog, praying at a hospital bed, or being interviewed for our local cable-access television show (or Nightline as the case may be), connection happens when we allow who we are and our experiences to guide our words and actions. Of course, as you often remind us, we need to present ourselves well. We need to maintain appropriate boundaries. We need to choose our words thoughtfully. But what makes our ministry meaningful is that we do that in a way that is authentic for each of us. Therefore, when Nightline comes, be real. Do and say what you do and say in writing. That's why they've come calling. But please, don't try to make some profound commentary on pop culture and clergy's role in addressing it. You'll just sound inauthentic and give people even more reason to ignore the church for being out of touch with reality -- not the world's reality, but your own.

My 2c.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Peacebang, I gotta tell ya, I read your blog and Philocrites and D. Haffner's everyday. The only three I consult regularly. The world of UU blogs has really helped me on my own pilgrimage as a progressive/liberal in a not so liberal context (Baptist).
Congrats on raising the profile of liberal religion.

And, thanks for making me feel better about being concerned about the thread count in my shirts. As I became more liberal over the last 15 years, I feared that I would have to give up button downs and blazers.

Peace

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Rev. Gidget wholeheartedly. As a Roman Catholic priest, I cringe at the portrayals on television, in the movies and the press, of priests and ministers. Either supernatural angels without blemish, or avaricious, predatory, and slimy...no in-between, no portrait of a human being who struggles and yes, might even sin occasionally, yet still strive to be a faithful leader in the community.
I also find presumptions about denominational membership to be a little prejudicial, too. In other words, Catholics are all "Mary worshippers", all Baptists are right-wing fundamentalists, etc. We are all too complicated and varied to fit these stereotypes that the media perpetuates.

1:10 PM  

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