Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Make sure you put a bow on it

I don’t watch TV. One blessing of a conservative Christian up-bringing was the lack of a television. We didn’t get one until I was 21. Now…more than 22 years later…I don’t have the draw or desire I see in others my age that were raised with one.

The other night, I was working on my computer while my wife watched this show--The Bachelor. I have enough familiarity with Americana to know it was out there, and the rough concept. (If you don’t know—it is 15 or so beautiful women vying for the affection of one man, who whittles down the number of women each week until he has narrowed his “choice” of potential partner to one.)

Having never watched the show (or its alter ego The Bachelorette) I found myself watching for about five minutes. It was all I could stand.

Really? This is what counts for entertainment? Apparently it has been on for a number of seasons, so not only did it gain a following, it has enough support to warrant bringing it back again and again.

It consists of pretty women who are looking for fame (let’s be honest) through national exposure. Who must pretend to be enamored with a guy (still being honest) who looks and acts like 100 other guys in their community. Only those other 100 guys aren’t on television. A guy who is “looking for love” but has a television camera on every date, and is provided limos and grand meals, and glorious settings outside the reach of most dating couples.

I couldn’t care less, so I didn’t look it up—but has there been a single couple that worked out as a result of these shows?

As a concession to the numerous action movies my wife sits through with me, on a rare occasion I will watch a romance movie with her. They can all be reduced to one plot theme: “Within the next 120 minutes, the woman will realize the right guy she should be in love with.” (Although infrequently, they kill the guy off, meaning:

1) Negatively: my wife is an emotional wreck for the next hour; and
2) Positively: I never have to watch that movie again! *grin*)

In our entertainment, this is what we have come to like. Kill the bad guy, get the girl and explain the plot within a few hours. Wrap up my fantasy in a nice little box. Dating involves limos and roses and romance. Never flat tires or an ill-advised call from a ex.

This spills over to politics. Vote the right person in, they fix all our problems, we live happily ever after. Go to college—you will get a good job, have a nice income and retire at 65 with an appropriate pension.

We want our lives to be answered and explained in neat little packages.

Problem? Solution.
Issue? Resolution.
Question? Answer.

This is why God-belief is such a fantastic sell. So what if it creates cognitive dissonance, or talks out of both sides of its mouth? So what if it says completely opposite propositions in the same paragraph with a straight face?

It always provides a nice, tidy presentation. Easily embraced; wonderfully respite. It is this reason Craig does so well with Kalaam’s Cosmological argument in debates. Yes, I know he expands out the premise in great length, but the little diddy:

P1: Everything that begins has a cause.
P2: The universe began.
C: The universe has a cause.

is so simplistic, so tight, so packaged that it is easy to see why people succumb to its lack of sophistication. To explain the issues, the question-begging, the science behind why it is wrong takes time and discussion of difficult concepts.

We live in an America that wants the plot explained by the villain. Our culture wants the answer in easily digestible chews, with words no longer than two syllables. Multi-syllabic explanations are for certain categories on Jeopardy.

We want Prince Charming who (like he does in the movies) says just the right thing, or provides flowers at just the right moment. Absent that reality, why not create one in a God who—so it is claimed—always gives the right answer? Even when that answer is horrible, the person would rather believe in the God who gives horrible answers, than the messy solution of no God at all.

How many movies is the hero placed in what looks to be a terrible dilemma? Tied up with ropes over a shark pool? Of course, within the next 20 minutes she or he manages to escape, capture the villain, stop the missile from blowing up the world, and look absolutely stunning throughout. This same expectation from God is equally reassuring. Sure, things look bleak now, but in our simple explanation is the hope God will…eventually…likewise resolve all the pending problems and we wrap it up nicely.

Things like the Haitian earthquake happen. Because an orderly, trim explanation is the most comfortable, people pray God will do…something…and expect He must have some reason for allowing the event to occur. The hero of our movie has some reason for letting a person get killed; we need only wait for the explanation to come in the next hour or so.

For some, like Pat Robertson, they make up a reason to suit their tiny bundle of a God. Others assume some smart person somewhere has figured out an answer to the Problem of Evil, so why should they bother? Their solution is secure without the necessity of thought.

God makes the best Bachelor. He is always romantic, always makes great dates, always is on time, always dresses nice, is always showered, never farts, and always wraps up the show on a happy note.


  1. Tristan & Ryan. They worked out. Married, two children. Tristan & Ryan, from The Bachlorette show. They worked out. *grin*

    Now, about the rest of the post. Great, as usual.

  2. Superb analysis!!! Though I own a TV and watch it daily, I've never watched The Bachelor nor the Bachelorette. In fact, I stay away from so-called "reality shows" altogether because the reality they present is unreal and contrived beyond measure.

  3. Well typically it wouldnt take more than 5 minutes to check out all those women. So I guess in that sense youre pretty normal. ;)

  4. Primetime TV is a commercial and intellectual wasteland. If Karl Marx was alive today, he'd pronounce this overly pervasive medium as the opium of the masses and promote religion as a logical alternative.
    I can't believe the amount of attention (life, actually) that it drains from a viewer's vitality and other natural social endeavors.
    Imagine a space alien visiting our planet and looking into the windows of our homes in the evening. The alien would wonder if these beings were hypnotized or under some spell compelling them to stare at a flickering panel of colored photons night after night for countless of hours while their limited lifespan's clock keeps ticking down.
    I can imagine that to a "Bachelor" fan, God would be decked out in a tux, be on time and be all that the beholder might expect in the perfect being. Just as a trekie might expect God to have that perfect decision-making ability of a Captain Kirk.
    If this is the limit of society's modern comprehension of a possible perfect deity it only means that its an update from the white bearded angelic kind faced man in flowing robes and nothing more.
    Making God a contemporary figure does not make him more or less believable. Belief transcends modernization.

  5. Oh yeah, and when He stands you up, as in failing to show up for a date, you know he did it because he loves you, because it was better for you that way--too bad if you were tortured or murdered, eh?