IF THIS IS A JOKE, EXCUSE ME FOR NOT LAUGHING
by David Sisler
The article was entitled "TV's Bottom Feeders." Writing for the February 5, 2001 issue of U.S. News & World Report, Betsy Streisand asked, "Tempted by Temptation Island? Can't survive without Survivor? The television industry is there for you."
The syndicated shows which have become standard afternoon fare "used to be among the raciest and most low-rent on the air. But now that prime-time programmers have elbowed their way into the dumpster with reality shows like Temptation and Chains of Love, the syndies look almost tame by comparison."
And if you thought it couldn't get any worse, you ain't seen nothing yet. Last week at a meeting of TV programmers new material was unveiled. The descriptions are those of Ms. Streisand.
Grudge Boxing Federation: Ticked off at your IRS agent, your lawyer, or your mother-in-law? Hired thugs will duke it out on your behalf, and you can put money on the match.
The Beer Show: All there is to know about brew, plenty of Norm and Cliff jokes, and the most offensive slogan on TV: "Beer: Helping Ugly People Have Sex."
Iyanla: Frequent Oprah guest Iyanla Vanzant takes on the Queen of Talk. First show: "Homicidal Tendencies Among Kids With Unpronounceable Names."
If this is a joke, excuse me for not laughing (the perpetrators, however, will laugh all the way to the bank if local TV execs see a chance to pad corporate coffers at the further expense of decency).
Contrast that with the efforts of President George W. Bush who wants faith-based organizations to be more involved in helping with the every day needs of the underprivileged.
Already the cries of "separation" are being screamed with the same fervor the Sons of the Confederacy are protesting changes to the Georgia State Flag. Trash is okay on TV, let's all yuck it up, make religious people the butt of jokes, or portray them as pathological maniacs, but if someone of Faith wants to help, wants to make a difference in a world that has spawned such bilge, that's not okay. Turn up the volume on the laugh track and call me "Stupid," if you will, but I just don't get it!
"When we see social needs in America, my administration will look first to faith-based programs and community groups, which have proven their power to save and change lives," Mr. Bush said at a meeting with 35 religious leaders.
Currently, if a humanitarian agency is a totally separated from the church or denomination which founded it, federal funding may be received. In order for the president's program to work, Congress will have to change the law under which religious groups can currently do such welfare-type work.
Already charges are being made that Mr. Bush's plan violates separation of church and state doctrine, but Todd Young of the Southeastern Legal Foundation has studied the proposal and says it is on safe grounds. Mr. Young told AgapePress, "President Bush's plan to enlist the armies of the faith-based organizations in the war on poverty, addiction, and homelessness is neither an attack on church-state separation nor an endorsement of one religion over another."
In a January 30 report for UPI, Uwe Siemon-netto writes, "Through the ages, people of faith in most cultures have considered it right to look after the poor. Religion and public welfare have been thought of as twins since time immemorial ... Commitment to a higher calling is the key word here. This commitment drove Mother Theresa; it drives the likes of the Salvation Army or the Quakers whose packages have saved millions of Europeans from starvation after two world wars."
He continues, "Three millennia of Judeo-Christian-Muslim charity and 2,600 years of Buddhist care are a track record no secular agency can hope to match ... Atheism has never produced anything like this. Nowhere in the developed world were hospitals and madhouses as dismal as in the Soviet Union. In East Germany, where atheism was the official religion, the communist authorities were glad leave the mentally ill to Protestant deaconesses and Catholic nuns, who received meager allowances but no salaries. They, and they alone, had the commitment to look after them."
And where faith-based organizations have involved themselves in care of the needy, those programs have produced greater results at far less cost than typical governmental programs. Why? Because men and women who are committed to a practical faith are compelled to service. That is something the "Me-first" crowd will never understand, but they will continue to laugh at it. And probably syndicate for TV.
"Supporters of the initiative, rooted in a growing movement to rethink welfare programs, argue that religion-based organizations are often the best-equipped to tackle the nation's social ills. The proposal would not finance the religious activities of these organizations, just the social services they provide."Chicago Tribune article, January 29, 2001
"In the first step of what could be an unprecedented collaboration between government and nonprofits, the president created offices in five Cabinet agencies and the White House with a charge to ease regulations and boost government funding of charities, many of them with religious ties."Washington Post article, January 30, 2001
"Mr. Bush is right that ‘delivery of social services must be results oriented,' as one of his executive orders puts it; if charitable groups do indeed deliver superior outcomes, they should be encouraged."Washington Post editorial, January 30, 2001
"Faith has been a defining characteristic of our communities' life throughout our nation's history, and people who serve God by serving those in need remain one of America's greatest strengths. This initiative will draw on these traditions and bring them to bear on some of our most difficult social problems ... this is a common-sense approach that deals with the challenges many Americas face head on. It deserves a chance, and I commend President Bush for giving it one."Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH)
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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