Why I Hung Up on Roseann Barr

Anything else that doesnt fit into the other categories listed under spiritual food
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Why I Hung Up on Roseann Barr

Post#1 » Tue May 22, 2007 6:45 pm

Hey Paully,

Do you think she qualifies for "an email"????




http://www.religionandspirituality.com/ ... 4315-8624r

Dear friends,

This past week, I was invited to take part with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in a dialogue /interview on a radio show run by Roseanne Barr and someone her producer kept calling "her boyfriend Johnny." The producer kept repeating that while Rabbi Boteach was very right-wing, Roseanne was very left-wing and it would be an interesting conversation.

I sent him a few questions I thought would be interesting to pursue — the role of religion in general and Judaism in particular in dealing with wars like Iraq, wih the danger of global scorching, and with sexual ethics.

The producer called me at 8 p.m. to clear the line. He explained the phone was set up in such a way that at first I would be able to hear Roseanne and Johnny introduce the show and us two rabbi guests, but I would not yet be able to join in to create a conversation or talk to the radio audience. The real conversation was supposed to begin at 8:05.

What I heard, beginning at 8:05, was eight straight minutes of Roseanne and Johnny foul-mouthing religion in general and Judaism in particular. Not foul language in the literally obscene sense, just foul thought in stupid words. Johnny, for instance, kept coming back to how stupid the Jews were for talking about "the Holy Land" — since the whole earth is holy, and this "Holy Land" stuff and all the stupid ceremonies are just about money. Roseanne weakly pointed out that American Indians have places they call sacred too, but she agreed the whole idea was ridiculous, though Jews are not unique in the silliness. She went out of her way to say that though she was herself Jewish, she had nothing in common with Rabbi Boteach or me.

This went on and on. There are plenty of cogent critiques to be made of religion, including Judaism, but this was drivel. Stupid, ignorant, whiny and hostile, all at the same time. A poisonous stew. After eight minutes, I hung up.

I guess this dialogue of drivel went on for another five minutes, because it took that long for them to discover I was off the line and for the producer to call me back. I explained that I had good, serious and pleasant work to do and did not intend to waste time making myself into an enabler for such a stew of hateful stupidity, not even to try to explain in any sane and useful way what the joys and problems are of religious life.

Five minutes later, someone else called to ask me please to take part. This time I could hear in the background what seemed likely to be Rabbi Boteach's voice; but I was enjoying my work and explained again that I didn't want to lend credence to drivel. Then this other person asked whether I'd be willing to take part in a more debate-like format with Christopher Hitchens, who has just published a book attacking religion — not with Roseanne but with a wholly different host. I said that Hitchens was at least reputed to be intelligent, and I would think about it. (I haven't yet heard back about that notion.)

Why am I telling this story? I started out imagining that Rabbi Boteach and I could address some important issues on which we deeply disagree in a way that would encourage serious thought among a very wide audience. It became clear that this would absolutely NOT happen.

Instead, it would be something like a leering, slobbery Howard-Stern-like show about religion instead of sex, aimed to reduce the audience to about the same level of slobber. Tuned to give them the impression that they had had a conversation about God — when all they were actually doing was coming all over their pants with the "grown-up" discovery that God and religion are stupid.

With this analogy in mind, I imagine an entire generation fed up with their parents' and teachers' conventional obeisance to boring, rote-driven, hypocritical religion. (Think about learning holiness from a pastor who, you later learn, has been seducing women who come to him in profound grief after their husbands' deaths, or has been seducing/coercing young boys into sex while proclaiming eternal damnation for those who desire same-sex marriage.)

So maybe the primary blame for such a slobbery program as the Roseanne talk-show belongs in the behavior of much of established, official American religion.

But is there no better response our society can conceive, no way to introduce large numbers of people to a grown-up, thoughtful, compassionate, spiritually searching version of religion? Even one in which the erotic would be grown-up and passionate without being exploitative and obsessive?

The work I got done that night after I hung up the phone was about Passover, the Song of Songs and charoset — the mixture of chopped nuts, raisins, wine and spices that we are taught to eat at the Passover Seder. Charoset as the embodiment of the Song of Songs. A recipe for love. And loving laughter. And delicious mouthfuls of delight.

Not for malicious slobber.

With yearning for that day -

And with blessings of shalom, salaam, peace -


— — —

Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center (with offices in Philadelphia), the author of many books on Jewish history and practice - and co-author of "The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims." Copyright 2007 by Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

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