Saturday, February 22, 2014

Kindness on the Television and Beyond

According to this article in The New York Times the Arizona legislature passed a bill to allow businesses to, out of respect for their religion, refuse to serve gay people. Setting aside the ramifications of such a law (Would the electric company have to provide service? Fire fighters? The Postal Service?) and also putting aside its unconstitutionality, such a thing is just unkind.

I’m no longer Christian, but I've read the New Testament cover to cover, know most of the Old Testament, and know something of Jesus Christ. So my question to folks of Arizona is What Would Jesus Do? Is this bill Christian? 

I'm no theologian, but Jesus was cool and He was kind. About the only people He ever got angry with were the money changers in the temple and moments later He was back to being peaceful Jesus, the kind guy who wouldn't ever vote for this Arizona bill. 

I watched Ricky Gervais's show Derek last night. He plays an autistic who describes himself this way: "I'm not clever or good looking, but I'm kind." The show is schmaltzy, beat me about the head with its message, was filled with characters too good to be true, has been reviewed pretty badly, and I loved it. 

I’ve tried to watch House of Cards but during one episode said out loud, "none of these people are likable. They’re terrible people doing terrible things." The show is beautifully shot, impeccably scripted and acted, but I can't stand such awful people. I gave up on Breaking Bad for similar reasons. 

Gervais’s show surprised me by being kind. He isn't known as a kind man. Yet I remember The Office being about awkward people who were mostly about kindness and love. Watching his new show, knowing that he’s an atheist, and hearing his character explain that "kindness is magic," have me believing he's more Christian than any of the Arizona bigots. 

After Derek, I watched some of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Linda Holmes of NPR wrote that she "...didn't know in 2009 that Jimmy Fallon even had an animating principle, let alone know that it would turn out to be joy, which is the animating principle of entirely too little of popular culture." Watching him after crying over Derek I was transported to a place of joy by Fallon's exuberance and insistence that comedy can be kind.

There really is too little kindness. There can never be enough. What Would Jesus Do is a pretty good guide for living life. Ricky Gervais, one of the "meanest" men in Hollywood followed that rule. The Arizona legislature, not so much. I know which way to go. I'm not religious, but I can be kind. Instead of amen I'll say, write on.