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Cruisin’ for Abusin’ or a Real “Mission Impossible” for Tom Cruise? March 21, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Humor, Movies, Movies & Entertainment, Religion, Stupidity.
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I admit, I have never been much of a fan of South Park, the animated series on Comedy Central. The show is well-known for disrespecting just about anything that is respected.

Recently, the show made headlines when one of the celebrity voice-talents, Isaac Hayes (famous for singing “Shaft” back in the 70’s), quit the show in protest of its “intolerance of religions.” Given the show’s willingness to poke fun at Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddism, and so on, it should have been no surprise that Scientology (questionable as a religion) would be a target for some potshots. Regardless, Hayes decided he’d had enough, and took his highly-in-demand (cough, cough) voice talents elsewhere. “Chef” (his character), would have to go.

Things took an interesting turn when Comedy Central (owned by Viacom) suddenly altered its plans to air several shows that made more fun of Scientology, and (among other things) the sexuality of Tom Cruise, one of the more famous/infamous Scientologists. BoingBoing has gone so far as to suggest that Mr. Cruise threatened to not help promote “Mission Impossible 3” (also produced by Viacom) unless Comedy Central changed their programming plans and the show’s creator’s agreed to not discuss the issue or reasoning behind the change.

South Park vs Christians
My first exposure to South Park was years ago, when a 50 megabyte “South Park Christmas” video was making the rounds at a former company. crashing the Lotus Notes mail server. The video featured the (now familiar) cast of foul-mouth children, and a mano-a-mano battle between Jesus and Santa Claus. Most of my co-workers found it hysterical.

For me, it was like watching an Eddie Murphy standup routine or listening to Howard Stern. Funny for a minute or so, but once the shock value of the language fades… not very funny. (I’m aware that by not watching it regularly, I’m probably not a good judge of whether or not the show is insightful in some way, or has merits beyond increasing the four-letter vocabulary of our children.)

In Defense of Satire
With all that said, I have found myself regularly defending the right of South Park’s creators to poke fun at various religions, including my own. Whether or not I think it’s funny, offensive, or even socially relevant, I don’t see Christianity as threatened by cartoon characters lampooning some of the quirky behavior of churches (as organizations) or church-goers.

One of my favorite religious magazines, the now-defunct “Wittenburg Door,” was published by Christians, determined to create better religious satire than non-Christians could produce. In general, they succeeded. (The issue on sex was one of my favorites, asking important questions such as “Do you approve of Oral Roberts among consenting adults?”)

Accordingly, I have no problem with Lark News, Landover Baptist, The Onion, or others poking fun at religion. (Though I will admit to being sensitive to hearing Baptists used as punchlines from other denomination’s pulpits.) If I’m honest about it, we Christians (and especially Baptists) have done some pretty goofy stuff through the centuries, and we deserve a good ribbing.

Mission Impossible 4: The Mohammed Cartoons
It would be interesting to know if Mr. Cruise favors the inflammatory response that Islamic extremists have had to the derogatory cartoons depicting Mohammed (and Muslims in general). Would he be applauding their ridiculous behavior and attempts to suppress unfavorable depictions of their faith, or would he be championing the cause of free speech and editorial autonomy?

My guess is that he doesn’t care.

That is, until he discards Scientology and becomes a Muslim. On second thought, his behavior can be a little over the top, even for Islamic extremists.

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