The Washington Post, Pop Culture, and Jesus

November 29th, 2005 1:40 PM

Secular liberalism emerges in the funniest places, or pages. There was a Washington Post review yesterday of Carrie Underwood’s new country album. In attacking the entire album as a pre-fabricated mishmash, Dave McKenna had to mock her mention of Jesus Christ in the music: 

Underwood drops the Lord's name a lot in her first single, "Jesus Take the Wheel," and continues asking for help from a higher power at other points on her troubled CD. There has never been a separation of church and tripe in pop music. But that shameless ditty, along with others on this bland, unintelligent design of a record, should have listeners of any persuasion praying for one.

Now is the mere sincere mention of Jesus to be described as "tripe"? Or is McKenna trying to say it's a pathetic Nashville pandering move to hail a savior in your single? As an e-mailer suggested to me, "McKenna asserts the song was just crass opportunistic marketing to religious country music lovers, not even considering for a moment they may reflect Underwood’s personal faith and her desired approach to life’s problems (letting go and letting God, as the saying goes)."

But it does make you wonder whether liberal newspapers and their cultural critics and editors aren't more comfortable with irreverence rather than reverence. Look no further than another "Jesus" entertainment product, Sarah Silverman's new standup-comedy film "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic." Washington Post reviewer Stephen Hunter applauds the appeal of her "blasphemy":

Onstage, Silverman becomes some strange apparition of deliverance, or blasphemy. It's a very tricky thing, similar to Steve Martin's deluded, self-important fool with the arrow through the head, but also much closer to the dangerous edge. She radiates the self-confidence of clueless beauty, playing the stereotypical Jewish American Princess, with an emphasis on self-absorption, moral superiority based on the freakish genetic gift of beauty, amused intolerance for, ick, the many lesser others, and the quiet bravado that only really white, straight teeth can give. It's like her mantra is, "I'm cute, it's allowed."

Post reporter William Booth wrote a feature on Silverman headlined "A Comic Sweet as Punch: Sarah Silverman Knocks 'Em Down Standing Up." Booth adds more context to the irreverence in the movie:

She mentions that her grandmother, her beloved nana, survived the Holocaust -- at "one of the better camps." She tackles religion ("everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ. And then the Jews try to pass it off on the Romans. I'm one of the few people who believe it was the blacks").

This may be clever, even funny. But it's certainly graded on an entirely different curve than a Mel Gibson or someone making a sincere movie about the passion of Jesus. I certainly don't think it's best summarized as "sweet as punch."