Friday, January 21, 2005

What Really Goes On In that Pineapple Under the Sea? 

The good preacher highlighted this ludicrous accusation in his sermon at Seabury today; apparently, SpongeBob Squarepants is gay. At least, that's what James Dobson of Focus on the Family seems to think. Focus' own answer to what is being reported that Dobson said can be found here.

Now, come on. The character in question IS A SPONGE! (Though, to be perfectly fair and honest porifera are bi-gendered and can play either the male or the female role in reproduction.) That aside, he's still a cartoon sponge! This isn't the first time extremely conservative religious personalities have gone after cartoon characters. Years ago Bert and Ernie were accused of being gay and not too far in the past Jerry Falwell outed the purple Teletubbie. Now seriously guys, don't you have something better to do that complain about kids' cartoon shows? So, the SpongeBob Squarepants movie gets laughs out of kids by making butt jokes. Kids love jokes that feature "potty-talk"; it's just how they are. In fact, kids of all ages can get a chuckle out of a bathroom joke every once in a while. (Q. Why did Tigger look in the toilet? A. To find Pooh. Don't tell me you weren't even tempted to smile.) So, in the new music video for kids, it shows SpongeBob and various other kids characters singing along to the remixed version of the 1979 Sister Sledge hit "We Are Family". The company producing the video (We Are Family Foundation) was founded after 9/11 to promote understanding and multi-culturalism! But, that isn't what's got Dobson's panties in a twist. He read their website's toleration pledge, which asks people to have respect for people who's sexual identity is different from their own. Dobson claims that the reference to sexual identity is not only unnecessary, but that it crossed a moral line. Oh for crying out loud! Jesus loves everybody brother! He ate dinner with the people you would probably have abhorred had you been around in first century Palestine! I don't care if you don't like what gay people do in their private time, but as I read the Gospel, it calls you to love them anyway. That goes a step beyond the toleration pledge which asks you to merely tolerate and respect them. So, by your reasoning, if the toleration pledge crossed a moral line, then the Gospel must have just taking a running leap!

(I am of a moderate persuasion and you'll have heard me argue on here before for a more conservative position on the issue of ordination of homosexual persons, but never have I said that we should not love them or respect them! I will never say such a thing! God's church is a place for everyone! Period.)

So, James Dobson and friends, get a life.



To borrow a phrase from Jane and Micah, this seems to show a lack of "Kingdom vision".

By Blogger Dawgdays, at 11:46 PM  

So, why don't you accept the rationale given for Dobson's objection? Is it because he, along with most Christians, think homosexual practices are sinful and young children ought not be taught they are not sinful?

Seems to me if anyone's jumped the gun into intolerance, it's the rant you perpetrated here.

By Blogger Benedict Seraphim, at 1:16 PM  

Maybe Spongebob is Catholic???

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:01 PM  

Clifton -

It's not that I don't accept Dobson's rationale for objection. The rationale which you have proposed seems entirely fair to me, but that is another subject than the one I am trying to address. It seems to me that Dobson has taken his objections to homosexuality in general and more specifically to what he might call "the homosexual agenda" (if indeed such a thing exists) and gone after a video that is seeking to promote multi-cultural understanding in children. It seems to me that the video is trying to teach kids that they can and should be friends with all kinds of other kids regardless of perceived differences. Though, I must admit here that I have not actually seen the video, just read about it on various websites including the company's website that is producing it. Most kids are not going to see this video and think "gay"; most kids don't know what "gay" is. And really, a gay cartoon sponge? The rationale for Dobson's objection is fine, I think that it is just misplaced in a ridiculously paranoid way.


By Blogger Ryan, at 3:26 PM  


Like you I've not seen the video in question to which Dosbon and compnay object. And my information, like yours, comes from what I've read online.

But the principles seem to me clear: 1) the objection to the inclusion of a vice into what one might otherwise see as the promotion of virtue, is not irrational or intolerant; 2) this video intends a didactic function, and included in this didactic function is the toleration of homosexual behavior, which makes this video prosyletizing (even if that is not its primary intent); 3) children of this age--and I fully agree with you here--do not understand these sexuality matters, and it is precisely this fact which makes the didactic and proselytizing nature of this video so insidious: before the child has the capabilities to rationally weigh whether or not he/she should accept all that goes with the homosexual practices he/she is told to accept them.

It is this to which Dobson and company object, and, in my mind, rightly so. It is, in its very core intentions, meant to undermine any parental teaching and guidance on moral matters.

You and others may well object that "all" that is going on is that these children are being taught to accept everyone--and this is indeed something the Church has always taught. The difference however, is that the Church, like her Lord, told everyone to go and sin no more. Would this video be accepted if in it was the explanation that though we accept everyone as they are, we also encourage them not to sin? I hardly think so. In other words, this isn't merely the Christian virtue of loving our neighbor as our self, but is the acceptance of homosexual practices as well. I would love to see a cogent argument proving me wrong here.

Let me switch gears and provide another scenario. Let's say that instead of promoting tolerance, this video sets out to promote moral virtues of chastity, self-sacrifice, and service to one's community. Very few people would object to these virtues on their face. Yet, if one aspect of chastity which the video mentions is that human sexuality is reserved for one man and one woman for life--what do you think the response would be? After all, aren't we promoting sexual and marital fidelity? Who could object to that? Who would be so bigoted as to get their "panties in a twist" as to object to marital purity?

Yet, if I'm not mistaken, you and others outraged by Dobson's actions would indeed be offended by such a video--despite the other virtues it seeks to promote--precisely because it seeks to bypass children's parental guidance and formation and have them take on a sexual ethic that might be objected to by many parents. (And I note, none of the virtues I mention are specifically Christian, so there is no "separation of church and state" issues that can be raised here.)

In other words, I see the reaction to Dobson voiced by this post--and others I've read--as viciously intolerant as Dobson's reaction is claimed to be.

In point of fact, it is a matter of irreconciable and diametrically opposed moral systems. As such, it cannot be solved by dialogue or compromise.

By Blogger Benedict Seraphim, at 5:35 PM  

Well, Clifton, how can you expect me to come up with a "cogent argument proving [you] wrong here" when you close off your argument with, "In point of fact, it is a matter of irreconciable and diametrically opposed moral systems. As such, it cannot be solved by dialogue or compromise"? What I will say is something you already know - when the rich young man came to Jesus to see what he had to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus knew he suffered because of bondage to greed, but the first thing Jesus did, the very first thing even before telling him to sell everything (go and sin no more), was love him. "Jesus, looking at him, loved him..." (Matthew 10:21). Can you love gay people, Clifton?

I'm not out to prove you, or anyone else, right or wrong. Sometimes that happens (more often than not I learn something too), but really, I'm out to engage in conversation and dialogue with folks around issues I find interesting. Nor would I say I am "outraged" over what Dr. Dobson said about the video in question. Incredulous maybe, but not outraged. I really don't care enough to be outraged.

Permit me to ask you a question, or anyone out there who would like to answer: Do you really and honestly feel that the video (not the tolerance pledge on the website, but just the video itself), given what you know of it, has as one of its goals, overt or "insidious", to specifically proselytize children to accept sinful homosexual behavior? Given what I know about the film, I do not see that.


By Blogger Ryan, at 12:55 AM  


Do I love gay people? In a word: yes. Every day I encounter gay people at work, in school, among my friends. And everday I greet them, talk with them, assist them in various duties, and otherwise spend time with them. Though parenthood now keeps me from late night social activities, I have in the past also joined my gay brothers and sisters in eating, dancing and other sorts of fellowship. And it is precisely my love for them in Christ that obligates me to be intolerant of behavior the Scriptures and the Church call sin, behavior which social science research shows to have disproportionately higher risks of domestic partner violence, shorterning of average lifespan, and endangerment of physical and emotional well-being than among the hetero population at large.

That some (not necessarily you) would call my love for my gay brothers and sisters in Christ bigotry and hatred is understandable perhaps but nonetheless inexecusable.

By Blogger Benedict Seraphim, at 9:53 AM  

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