Faux (Pas) Erudition


There is an interesting phenomenon abroad in our land today. It is particularly evident in the various ramblings of certain members of the media. I call this phenomena faux (pas) erudition. It appears when a writer or other media commentator makes what is intended to be “profound statement“, on a subject of deep importance to a great many people, without the slightest bit of knowledge of, or experience with, the topic they are addressing.

I have seen two recent examples, one in the national media and the other coming from the Denver Post. The topic of both articles is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

The best recent example is the ignorant rant issued by commentator Andy Rooney earlier this week in which he manages to be stupid, bitter, and blasphemous all in one relatively short column. In this column it is obvious Rooney is trying to affect an air of intellectual snobbery concerning the religious beliefs, not only of Mel Gibson, but of all Christians, while at the same time trying to be cute. I don’t know if there is any 80 something year old man who can pull off being cute without losing whatever is left of simple human dignity, but Rooney is clearly not one of them. Rooney, by virtue of his position at CBS is in a position to influence millions of people and yet he has chosen to ridicule both Mel Gibson’s movie and the Christian faith of millions of Americans. He can treat both only with scorn disguised with an air of intellectual superiority. Both attitudes are false, and so is his intellectual snobbery.

It is clear that Rooney has no understanding, nor does he have any experience, of the Christian faith. Yet he has the arrogance to hold himself up as superior, intellectually and morally, to those who try to live that faith everyday. He seems to feel (not think) that those of us who are Christians are little more than idiot children who deserve nothing but ridicule and scorn. I wonder what Rooney would do with St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Augustine, or St. Francis, or Mother Theresa? I wonder what he will do when he meets his Lord? Clearly, Rooney doesn’t think that will ever happen. But he doesn’t know for sure that it won’t. Rooney, and others like him, are making the most important decision of their (eternal) lives, on the basis of what they think they know. I imagine they think themselves to be cool intellectuals or hard headed realists. But this is like buying a home and never having seen it, or asked the price, or checked its condition. It’s like making the most important business decision of your life without investigating any or every aspect of it. These hard-headed realists would never do such a thing in their personal affairs because they recognize that is not hard-headed realism, its negligence.

Yet, Rooney and those of his ilk are ready to cynically dismiss as nonsense something that could affect them for eternity, without having seriously considered, or even questioned, that there are factors affecting the decision that demand such consideration. That’s not hard-headed realism - it’s stupid.

There are other versions of faux (pas) erudition. For example, there was a review today in the Denver Post of Gibson’s The Passion. I don’t quite know what to make of this review except that the reviewer is not openly hostile to Christianity, she just appears to be ignorant of it. I think her faux (pas) erudition comes more from the desire to be seen as somehow more intellectual than she is. This combination of ignorance and, what, hoity-toityness?, has produced some interesting comments in her review. For example:

“Gibson exerts a directional authority that makes clear that all his choices were intentional. It is a visually tighter film than “Braveheart.” But it isn’t a better story, and given its source material that’s extraordinary.” Huh??

“’The Passion of the Christ’ is a film of artistic ambition and devotion. There’s no arguing that. It is also a movie that assumes too much on the part of its audience by not providing enough backstory on its main character.” I kid you not, that is a direct quote. It appears she assumes that most people who go to see the film have roughly the same level of knowledge of Scripture that she does.

“Gibson has justified the movie’s brutality in the name of ‘realism.’ But in the case of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ that is a misnomer, to put it mildly. At best the word is a kind of shorthand for making as visible as he can the ineffable mystery of Christ’s gift, to make his sacrifice real.” I thought that was the point?

“But there was always a possibility that in trimming Christ’s life from the script, the character of Jesus would not resonate as powerfully as he has in story after story. That’s the other passion of Christ and it’s not here.”

This reviewer, I think has only the most rudimentary understanding of Christianity and it shows in this review.

The point of all this is that there are many people in the media, those in a position to influence a great many people for good or bad, who either dismiss Christianity as silly, not something for grownups to fool with, or are simply uninformed, for whatever reason. Perhaps we at St. Blogs are called to pray for these people during the upcoming Lenten season that they may be converted. Just think what a positive effect a mass conversion among the media would have on this country.

And there’s an additional benefit to this approach -- in the case of people like Andy Rooney it would be like heaping burning coals on his head.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on February 26, 2004 8:24 AM.

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