Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Telling Moment

Most mornings I try to catch a few minutes of Morning Joe on MSNBC before leaving for work. I watch less and less television these days, but this remains a favorite. In my opinion, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist host the best and most lively hard news show around. Pat Buchanan, Mike Barnacle, Dillon Ratigan rotate as semi-regulars and the guest line-up is A-list all the way.

This morning, Joe Scarborough, while ruminating on the dire headlines in The Washington Post, made a passing reference to Sodom and Gomorrah and noted "We are all piles of salt now."

Sensing perhaps that nobody caught the reference (for Pat and Mika were not there--they would have certainly known), Joe asked if anyone knew who was turned into a pillar of salt....blank looks all around. First Willie admitted he had no idea, then Dillon, then the female economist guest. He turned to Chris the producer, who was equally was the crew standing nearby. Joe plaintively asked "Is there not a Baptist amongst us?" Finally, he informed everyone that the answer was "Lot's wife."

I am no longer easily shocked, but I have to admit that this caught my attention. Whether you were taught these Bible stories growing up in Sunday School or not--such stories were once part and parcel of our cultural narrative. Not so long ago, most everyone would have known what was meant by a reference to Lot's wife or a pillar of salt. The story that our society is adrift from its cultural moorings is hardly news. Still, one doesn't like to be reminded of it before their second cup of morning coffee. Yes, it may indeed be time to start "collecting books."


Hilarius said...

Certainly more evidence that we are in a truly secular society now.

I am perhaps slow, but I could not make the jump to 'collecting books' - do you mean to squirrel away good books to preserve knowledge? Or is it something else?

Certainly there is more good reading available to the masses (witness Google Books and volumes of good open source literature at the click of a mouse), but I wonder, is anyone really reading more and better material as a result? I know I am not.

-Eric John

s-p said...

I guess that goes to show if you are a talking head you only need to know the mechanics of telling people the news, you don't have to have a clue what it MEANS. sigh.

Mimi said...

Oh my goodness, that is startling. Although, I must admit, I was not raised religious at all, so while I'd get the reference, and have done my level best to make sure my kids would get that reference, I may not have as a teenager.

John said...

You're not slow at all, Hilarius. My reference to "collecting books" was from something I quoted in my Walker Percy--"Love in the Ruins" post. The Ochlophobist picked up on it his comment to that post. I am just carrying the thought on a bit (too far, obviously.) LitR is a futuristic mid-apocalyptical novel. Most of the characters are too dulled by modernity to even realize what is happening. In an aside, Percy notes that "the monks were collecting books again," an obvious reference to the preservation of knowledge from the barbarian hordes. Och's comments earlier, and mine here are along those lines.

BJohnD said...

This reminds me of something an acquaintance, who used to teach English in a local community college, told me 7-8 years ago: Imagine trying to teach 19th century literature to students with no knowledge of the Bible.

Kirk said...

A few years ago I made reference to Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael in closing arguments in a jury trial in Van Zandt County. In retrospect, this was a misguided move on my part. Even though there were, no doubt, several baptists on the panel, I suspect this allusion was beyond them.

I agree, John, with your assessment of Morning Joe. It is the best source of "real news" in the morning, and it is the only program on MSNBC that I will watch.

John said...


In Van Zandt County, I would wager that there were considerably more than "several."

I continue to be impressed with the show--their guests have real depth and the interviews are substantive. Monday, I believe, Zbigniew Brzezinski was on. Whether you like ZB or not, it is generally conceded that he does not suffer fools gladly. And so, they had a real, give-and-take dialogue regarding our limited option in Afghanistan and Pakistan--free of soundbites. That is the sort of thing I really get into.

Concerning MSNBC in general, if you find yourself in front of the televisional box at night, I would suggest you give the Rachel Maddow Show a look. You don't have to buy into the agenda--she simply presides over a clever, good-spirited, investigative news show, free of any screaming.

Kirk said...

Yes, Mr. Brzezinski is a semi-regular, since his daughter is a co-host. Last fall he would chide Joe, "Why won't you let my daughter talk more?"

In the mornings I divide my attention between MSNBC and CNBC. On MSNBC I get my morning briefing of political news and current affairs. On CNBC I get my morning dose of schadenfreude, as part of me enjoys watching the Dow plunge into oblivion.

All this news-watching will come to a temporary end in about a week-and-a-half, you know... I'm ready!

Milton T. Burton said...

Many of us remember Jesse Jackson and his picketers chanting at the University of California a few years ago, "Hey-hey, ho-ho; western civ has got to to go."

Well, Jesse, it's going and I really doubt that you are going to like what replaces it.

I used to wonder what it felt like to be in the Western Roman Empire about 400 A.D. Now I no longer have to wonder.

Milton T. Burton said...

By the way: I sell novels but I give short stories away. A free one is posted on my blog here, probably the best one I have ever written:

Feel free to comment if you would like.

Ranger said...

I taught a junior high sunday school class before I came to Orthodoxy. I asked the kids what the new commandment was, referred to by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. None of them had a clue. I would not be surprised if half of an adult class would be clueless too. This apathy reaches way beyond secular news sources, I am afraid.

Steve Hayes said...

An English bishop said he had once taken his niece and nephew to see "Jesus Christ, superstar", and discovered that they did n ot know the plot.