Mocking the majority

Posted: Jun 01, 2003 12:00 AM

 Our country was supposed to be based on a simple principle: Majority rules. That idea has worked well for more that 200 years, but occasionally comes under fire, as it is today.

In Washington, a minority of Senators are filibustering two of President Bush’s judicial nominees -- judges who enjoy the support of a majority of the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrats, the minority party in the Texas legislature for the first time in millennia, fled the state to prevent the Republican majority from passing a redistricting bill.

At least in politics, though, there’s still some benefit to being in the majority, most of the time. In entertainment, the mantra is “minority rules.”

Consider the new Jim Carrey movie, “Bruce Almighty.” In a film that’s supposed to be a comedy, “God” gives his powers to Carrey’s character, a failed reporter. “God” then steps out, allowing Carrey to wreak havoc on earth.

Imagine, the very idea of an omnipotent God going on vacation. Of God allowing his power to be used by a human for vengeful purposes. Only in Hollywood would that be considered funny. For most of us, it’s merely insulting.

And that’s the problem. Even though the vast majority of Americans come from a Judeo-Christian background, Hollywood considers it A-OK to insult our beliefs. When was the last time you saw a movie that insulted Hindu beliefs? Islamic beliefs? Wiccan beliefs? Never, because they all have the advantage of being in the minority.

That’s not to say that Hollywood should mock minority beliefs. Of course it shouldn’t.
But it also shouldn’t mock majority beliefs.

The problem goes much deeper. Back in 1998, after the Southern Baptist Convention ruled that wives should “submit graciously” to their husbands, Newsweek published a political cartoon showing a Baptist man dragging a woman along by her hair, caveman style. That’s a fundamental, and likely intentional, misunderstanding of what the Southern Baptist ruling meant. It was anything but a license for men to mistreat their wives.

On the other hand, in many Muslim countries, women are intentionally mistreated. They’re not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. They’re not allowed to vote in most Middle Eastern countries. They’re often forced to cover themselves from head to toe so men won’t be tempted to look at them. They’re often forced to take part in arranged marriages. And men are allowed to be married to several women at once.

Why point all that out? Well, imagine a political cartoon showing a Muslim man walking ahead of his several wives. There’s a blazing sun and the women are all decked out from head to toe in black robes, with sweat literally pouring out. “Hot enough for you?” he asks.

It’s not a far-fetched scenario. But do you think Newsweek would publish the cartoon?
Nope, because despite its accuracy, it would be considered “insulting to Muslims.”
Meanwhile, a cartoon that says Southern Baptist men are prehistoric is just fine.

As another example of anti-Christian bias, New York Times columnist Bill Keller began his piece on May 17 with a question: “Is President Bush a religious zealot, or does he just pander to that crowd?” Oh, does it have to be either/or? There’s no Christian middle ground the president could be occupying?

In attempting to answer his question, Keller writes, “I've been talking to people who think seriously about religion, including some who know Mr. Bush.” That’s a backhanded insult to tens of millions of people, because it implies most Christians don’t “think seriously about religion.” Well, I know many Christians, some conservative, some liberal. Some literalist, and some interpretive. But all have thought -- and continue to think -- seriously about their faith.

Again, imagine a newspaper columnist who dared to question whether followers of a minority faith were either extremists or exploiters. Who dared to hint that followers of a minority faith were unthinking dupes. That writer would be out of a job in a heartbeat.  In fact, he might even find himself, like Salman Rushdie, living under a death sentence.

Probably the greatest gift the Founding Fathers gave us was the First Amendment. It has ensured the minority would never suffer religious persecution at the hands of the majority. And under it, dozens of faiths have thrived, giving the United States the greatest religious diversity in the world.

That diversity is a wonderful thing, and should be celebrated. But just as they bend over backward to avoid trampling on the rights of the minority, Hollywood and the big media outlets should also be careful to respect the beliefs of the majority. They owe us at least that much.