Tuesday, 23 February 2010

(Not) Knowing me, Knowing You...

Here, thanks to the legendary MadPriest, is evidence that some journalism in the UK is even more stupid and ignorant about religion than the legendary national average:
Apparently Sky’s Kay Burley believes that the 2·1 billion adherents of the largest religion in the world spend Ash Wednesday “having a go with one of those tea trays down the luge.” Ms Burley knows all about crime, as well as religion. In 2008 she came up with what has to be one of the most gormless and tacky journalistic questions in the history of the universe:
It’s slightly reassuring, as a male, to know you don’t have to be male to play Alan Partridge...
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Sam Norton said...

Yes, the Sky people are ignorant, but Biden should not have gone on TV without wiping it off - he is 'displaying his piety before men' and engaging in 'dog-whistle' politics.

Anonymous said...

VG here.

Sky is to news what a typical Partidge-style motel is to the Ritz.

That clip should have gone viral: absolutely the worst question *ever*. I am ashamed of the culture that would allow one human to ask such a question of another, but given that I reckon a wife is *always* held to blame for what "her" husband does, because women are subordinate, I'm not surprised that Kay Burley allies herself with the oppressor class. Safer to appease.

Steve Coogan's comic character arises from the fact that he's the right sex and colour but still doesn't qualify as a successful man because he isn't dominant, and his attempts to gain dominance fail and so are funny. Ha ha. It's beautifully observed comedic work but the underlying principles remain sick-making.

Erika Baker said...

Not just journalists, I'm afraid, I didn't get it either. Maybe because we've only ever had Ash Wednesday Services in the evening and I've never seen anyone walking around with a smudge on their forehead during the day.

Oh the narrowness of village life:-)

Brett Gray said...

In the States it's more common to have the imposition of ashes in the morning - and to keep the ashes on. I was in Cleveland (Ohio) a few years back, and my mother was seriously ill (dying, ultimately) in hospital. I'd visit her day after day, and got to know many of the nurses well. Suddenly, on Ash Wedneday, a number of them appeared with smudges on thier foreheads (it's a Catholic sort of town).

And it was a blessing - my forehead was smudged too. We shared together, patients, staff and visitors, in a fellowship of frailty and mortality. Those ashes were a visible confession of all those things we like to hide from ourselves and others. It was perhaps the most moving day of a heartbreaking year.

So, no, he shouldn't have wiped it off. If he did it for political gain (and I don't see the gain), on his head be it (no pun intended). But, if he did it as we all should, as a visible mark of our culpability, folly frailty, and mortality then that's the bravest thing I ever saw a politician do. Who gets elected by being honest about those sorts of things?

Erika Baker said...

On a different tack, I've been astonished by the number of people who have commented that you should wipe off your smudge before leaving the church because it's an unseemly display of piety.

In a world where fewer and fewer people know what church is about and where churches start outreach programs that include a 2 minute Ash Wednesday liturgy on a train station, what's so wrong with a sign that "I'm one of them", "this is meaningful to me"? Wouldn't it be a great conversation starter?

Why is it different to wearing a cross or to stick fish signs in your car window?

Matt Wardman said...

Have to admit that I may have made the same mistake, but I wouldn't have done the idiotic banter about it.

There are suggestions around that he is wearing his Roman Catholicism on his .. er .. forehead for political reasons. That would not surprise me; politicians always show the flag for their constituency. But then he he is the first RC VP ever I think, so I can't blame him for that.

I'm not aware that he has been so prominently RC earlier in his career, and he does prominently advocate positions against RC official dogma - e.g., pro-abortion.

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Sam Norton said...

Brett/Erika - if it is a much stronger cultural convention in the US to keep the ashes in place then perhaps my earlier comment was too harsh. I still think it's a mistake, on the grounds given in the reading for Ash Wednesday (Mt 6).

Having said which - I completely forgot about it after taking our Ash Wednesday evening service, and it was only after I got home from collecting some fish and chips that I realised why some people were giving me funny looks :o)

Brett Gray said...

Sam, I take your point. Pointlessly public religion is off-putting and potentially the stuff of hypocrisy. It can be a covert attempt to garner approval and praise. Thus, Jesus' point.

I guess, though, I want to agrue that wearing your ashes publically can fall into a different sort of category altogether. Those ashes are a sign of our 'dustiness', an acknowledgement that we are going to die and that before doing so we are going to continually and seriously get it wrong on any number of levels. In our culture of denial of death and falibility that's just about the most subversive act possible.

It's also more likely to arouse puzzlement than praise - thus Ms Burley's blooper. But puzzlement can be a prolegomena to the Kingdom.

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