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January 30, 2005 - The Sponge Story Has Legs (That Sponge Has Legs?)

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When I was ten years old, in 1957, the United Church of Christ (UCC) was formed.  My family’s Congregational church – my mother’s father was a Congregational minister – merged with a bunch of others.  The Evangelical and Reformed folks joined us, or we joined them - Paul Tillich and that crowd.  It was an administrative thing – we still were a Congregational church.  It was just that the idea floating around then was that inclusion and agreement were good things, so we merged and shared office supplies with the Evangelical and Reformed church two blocks further down Smithfield Street and stuff like that.  But it really was an “inclusion” thing.


Now has the UCC gone too far?  They include sponges?  (Background on that in these pages here last week - on James Dobson of Focus on the Family being all upset that a new video was being distributed to 61,000 schools – “using popular children's TV characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Barney the dinosaur to surreptitiously indoctrinate young children into the homosexual lifestyle” and all that.)


See this -


SpongeBob receives 'unequivocal welcome' from United Church of Christ

J. Bennett Guess - United Church News – January 24, 2005


CLEVELAND -- Joining the animated fray, the United Church of Christ today (Jan. 24) said that Jesus' message of extravagant welcome extends to all, including SpongeBob Squarepants - the cartoon character that has come under fire for allegedly holding hands with a starfish.


"Absolutely, the UCC extends an unequivocal welcome to SpongeBob," the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said, only partly in jest. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."


For that matter, Thomas explained, the 1.3-million-member church, if given the opportunity, would warmly receive Barney, Big Bird, Tinky-Winky, Clifford the Big Red Dog or, for that matter, any who have experienced the Christian message as a harsh word of judgment rather than Jesus' offering of grace. 


Jesus didn't turn people away?  Doesn’t Thomas have his theology wrong?  Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple, didn’t he?  The dude kicked ASS!


See Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, Luke 19:45 and John 2:14 (and 2:15) for that.  Chapter and verse.


Is the idea one should be standing up for moral values – and not tolerate evil?  Right is right and if someone does wrong – well, you stop them, or stomp them.  Jesus would?


Today’s lesson in faith?  Being Christian, it seems, is about having fixed values and being intolerant of having them questioned, and making sure others adopt them no matter what they might think they want.  What do they know?  Heathens need to learn a thing or two, after all.


Ah well, after a few years of dealing with Bullies-for-Christ (maybe I should trademark that before they do) I left all that behind.


Note this detail too - from American Family Association researcher Ed Vitagliano regarding these tapes –


AFA researcher Ed Vitagliano sees the project as an "open door" to a secondary discussion of homosexuality, noting the foundation has a "tolerance pledge" on its website that children and others are encouraged to sign, which includes sexual orientation.

"While we want everyone to respect other people's beliefs, we do not consider it appropriate for children's television to be used in an effort to indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality," he said.

Vitagliano says the foundation is employing a bait-and-switch approach, with popular children's figures such as Arthur, Dora the Explorer, JoJo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Big Bird and Bob the Builder.


Big Bird?  Cool.  Obvious double meaning there.  And we all remember the lesbian porn film “Dora the Explorer” of course.  And don’t even think of what the gay porn films “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Bob the Builder” would depict.  Bob the Builder?  The construction fellow from the Village People?






ITEM 1 -


See December 5, 2004: Tolerance is for Sissies regarding the United Church of Christ planning a nationwide television ad campaign extending an open welcome to all people, especially gays and lesbians. The message: "Jesus didn't turn people away; neither do we, the United Church of Christ."  The visuals dramatized people, including two men holding hands, being turned away by bouncers at the door of a church.  That week the major networks announced that they would not air the spot.  ABC never airs religious ads.  Fine.  But NBC and CBS said they wouldn’t because the thing was "too controversial" or was "advocacy."


UCC – troublemakers. 


ITEM 2 –


Here the United Church of Christ (UCC), running with the story, provides a full page of photographs of SpongeBob SquarePants at their Cleveland headquarters.  It’s an inflatable SpongeBob SquarePants puppet they found somewhere.  We have our new symbol, folks.

ITEM 3 –


Being Christian, it seems, is about having fixed values and being intolerant of having them questioned, and making sure others adopt them no matter what they might think they want?  Statistical evidence –


Survey Finds Church-Going Americans Less Tolerant

Michael Conlon - Sat Jan 22, 2005 06:37 PM ET


CHICAGO (Reuters) - Church-going Americans have grown increasingly intolerant in the past four years of politicians making compromises on such hot issues as abortion and gay rights, according to a survey released on Saturday.


At the same time, those polled said they were growing bolder about pushing their beliefs on others – even at the risk of offending someone.


The trends could indicate that religion has become “more prominent in American discourse … more salient,” according to Ruth Wooden, president of Public Agenda, a nonpartisan research organization which released the survey.


It could also indicate “more polarized political thinking. There do not seem to be very many voices arguing for compromise today,” she said in an interview. “It could be that more religious voices feel under siege, pinned against the wall by cultural developments. They may feel more emboldened as a result.”


The November U.S. election saw voters in a number of states back gay marriage bans, and President Bush won re-election with heavy support from fellow religious conservatives.


So folks are now feeling emboldened to push their beliefs on others – even at the risk of offending someone?  That was inevitable.  Bullies-for-Christ is a working concept now.


Thanks, George.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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