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Seth MacFarlane

You can judge the health of a civilization by the culture it creates and consumes.

At the height of Roman corruption, the Empire created and consumed a culture of death and decadence. The bloodlust of the games and the bodily lusts of sexual deviancy led Rome down the rutted road of long decline and prolonged decay. By the time Rome fell to the barbarian hordes she had already committed spiritual suicide.

What Rome forgot, and perhaps we’ve never known, is the truth that culture is a better indicator of a civilization’s spiritual condition than are public opinion polls asking about our belief in God. Culture is what people make in the world, to make sense of the world. If we go back to the beginning of culture, to the creation of culture, we discover that God made the natural world and gave it meaning—He called it good.

But then God made man and woman in His image and called it very good. When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden they were to cultivate God’s good creation into something very good. To take grapes and make wine. To take wheat and make bread.

This is the meaning of culture—to bring about human flourishing by doing as God did, by making the good into the very good.

I thought about this as I watched the 85th Annual Oscars. The award ceremonies for musicians and moviemakers provides an undiluted jolt of what these cultural shapers value most. A sort of cultural Red Bull. And if the millions of viewers of the Grammys and Oscars is any indication, then these shows also tell us something about what the people value. So, as a cultural event, what did the Oscars say about human flourishing in American today?

The answer to that question depends on where you stand on the cultural divide, but the selection of Seth MacFarlane to host the 2013 Oscars told you how Hollywood answers that question. Creator of television’s The Family Guy and director of the movie Ted, MacFarlane is best known for his juvenile and sophomoric humor—that is to say, humor filled with body parts and body functions. And his bits for the Oscars didn’t deviate, though many thought them deviant. Here’s a sampling:

  • The opening song and dance number celebrated topless celebrities in the movies. In “We Saw Your Boobs,” MacFarlane at one point sang about Jodie Foster’s breasts in The Accused—a movie loosely based on a real life gang rape.

  • While introducing Django Unchained, MacFarlane said, “This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a ‘date movie.’”

  • Referencing Daniel Day-Lewis, who won for Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, MacFarlane said: “Daniel Day-Lewis, your process fascinates me. You were totally 100 percent in character as Lincoln during the movie. If you bumped into [African American] Don Cheadle on the studio lot, did you try to free him?” And, in what even the audience deemed distasteful and disrespectful, MacFarlane said, “I always thought the actor who got most in Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”

  • During one of the award presentations, Ted—the stuffed bear in MacFarlane’s movie of the same name—asked where the after show orgy was being held.

  • In making a jab at George Clooney, MacFarlane used 9 year old nominee Quvenzhané Wallis: “To give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be sixteen years before she’s too old for George Clooney.”

MacFarlane’s performance, the celebrities who laughed, as well as the viewing public who took to social media calling MacFarlane “edgy,” “funny as hell,” and scolded critics to “lighten up,” raises important questions about our civilization, our culture, and human flourishing.

In a culture that is sexually confused on so many fronts, is it funny to turn what was morally clear regarding violence toward women and the sexualization of our children into fodder for crass comedy? When everything is a joke, and nothing is sacred and nothing is honored, can anything really be funny? And are we ever going to get to the point where the excuse for envelope pushing because it’s comedy is no longer acceptable?

Civilizations are known by the stories they tell. The story the Oscars told was not one of human flourishing, but of human coarseness; of narcissistic nihilism; of radical individualism divorced from common decency; of long decline and prolonged decay. The cultural shapers of our day, Seth MacFarlane included, have a unique power to point out what we ought to praise, to admire, to emulate. How much better our culture and civilization if more folks exercised that authority by eschewing anything that wasn’t good, true, or beautiful.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted during the Oscars: “Has anyone told the Oscars [sic] people that there are families watching their show with their kids?”

Families were watching . . . and wondering: What do the Oscars say about the civilization our children were living in?

They are living in a moral minefield.

“Our culture is walking through a maze of land mines,” Ravi Zacharias wrote, “and the heaviest burden is when we send our children on ahead.”

Human flourishing cannot long endure in a culture hellbent on self-detonation. It will become maimed and disfigured in the shrapnel riddled spirits of our children.

But in the comedy of cultural deformity everything is funny, even the spiritual condition of our misshaped civilization.

 

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @derrickjeter.

 
 
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  • Rob Hanson

    Excellent, truthful article, you couldn’t be more right on as O and the leaders fiddle while the new “Rome” burns

  • http://www.facebook.com/polly.rash Polly White Rash

    The frog is boiling.

  • Susan

    Without Virtue—civilizations (like Rome) collapse. There is no freedom when evil reigns—not even your children are safe. It is just as important to protect a child’s mind from filth from Hollywood–as it is to protect their bodies from toxic food. Children with warped, sick minds— of no character–who learn Evil is Good, Sodomy is a Right– fills the world with dysfunctional, evil addicts, who use others for their own narcissistic lusts.

  • Jimmy

    I
    didn’t watch it, but after reading this I’m glad I didn’t. Our children
    are our future and the way the culture is heading, they may not be
    much of one!

  • Ithamar

    The single most important factor contributing to the moral
    (law)/cultural descent into depravity for the US has been the perversion
    of historic Biblical Christianity in US churches, simply put, apostasy.
    The rise of Popery from European and Mexican immigration, radical New
    England heretical ‘revivalism’ which spawned Unitarianism,
    Transcendentalism, Mormonism, Pentecostalism and New Ageism, along with a
    slew of other ‘isms’ to include Dispensationalism, and the Arminian
    perversion of the Reformed Confessions, which makes the sinner secure
    and comfortable in his sins, have been the particulars of that apostasy.
    Today, the sodomite, abortionist, murderer and thief is assured that
    ‘God loves you regardless of your sins,’ ‘we are all equal sinners and
    cannot condemn another’s sins,’ ‘God has a wonderful plan for your life
    if you will just say the sinners prayer.’ None of this is Scriptural; it
    is the invention of sinful men by perverting clear Scriptural teaching.
    Our people are going to hell with a lie in their hand.

    • Daniel Sinclair

      I think I agree with you, just be careful not to throw the baby (in this case, true Christians) out with the bathwater (lukewarm/apostate churches).

    • Kweezinart

      I’m not sure why you think its necessary to throw Pentecostals in with all that other rubbish…

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerie.james.5 Valerie James

      Ithamar, I will tell you. I am in that group of people that you say is what is wrong with Christianity (I won’t label myself, but I believe the Bible in its entirety, I believe that it is God’s will always for healing and that Christians are called to heal people, just to name one.) But I did not watch the Oscar’s, I was too busy focusing on whatsoever things are good, as in Phil 4 V 8. But I will tell you something, I am sure there was something good that night in the Oscar’s, I challenge you to find it.

      • Ithamar

        Why would I waste my time looking for “something good that night in the Oscar’s”? By your own admission, and evidenced by your post, you are blissfully, yet ignorantly, in that group of what is wrong with modern Christianity, a group in the throes of silly, shallow, heretical Christianity. Do not think that your claim to “believe the Bible in its entirety” enables you to escape from that charge.

  • parkLitchfield212

    Thanks for letting me in on what happened during a show I wouldn’t have watched if I was duct-taped in a chair with my eyelids superglued open!
    This is why there are 150+ channels available in most cable arrangements and why televisions have OFF switches.
    If the Deviants and show-biz junkies need this kind of entertainment to complete their worthless lives, let them have it.
    I couldn’t actually finish your article, but you can be sure i won’t spend much time reading anything else you post, if that’s all you can write about.
    This is the downside of a free society. By giving them any kind of attention, you justify their actions. What used to pass for humor has been lowered into shock and awwwwww.
    We ALL knew what’s going to happen on shows like that because theoretically, they haven’t really lowered THEIR standards. That’s why there are parent-controlled lockouts on cable boxes, and my minor-aged relatives don’t have TV’s or computers where we can’t walk through and check out what’s on.

  • Daniel Sinclair

    Wow, even Wasserman-Schulz’s conscience is not so seared that she can’t recognize that some things are innately wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000133524553 Kelly Keeling

    I think it’s interesting when people call others edgy. What is edgy about having a 12 year old mentality. The majority of the comedians today have the same mentality. Therefore their jokes are not edgy but recycled and over used.

  • Mary

    Thank you for article. Well thought out and entirely accurate.

  • http://twitter.com/JamieMarino6 Jamie Marino

    The same could be said about the Superbowl. Or by walking into Walgreens and seeing bare breasted women on the covers of several magazines all in full view of my 4 boys’ eyes. I look forward to the day when Jesus returns.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Mark-Pilling/662233082 Steven Mark Pilling

    When even the Wasserwoman is scandalized (I didn’t know she could be!) that says something. But it says even more when Chris Dodd hires a complete reprobate like Seth MacFarlane to host what was once (before Dodd & Jack Valenti came along) the most watched and respected awards ceremony in the country. Nor should anyone be surprised at MacFarlane’s suggestive comments aimed at Q. Wallis, the 9 year old rising star. It’s only been six years since a movie called “Hounddog” brought actual child pornography into the mainstream of the American cinema. When something like that can be done without lasting repercussions, you know the culture is rotten to the core… and criminal besides. Guys like Seth MacFarlane and Christopher Dodd (already a crook in the political area) are just riding the wave of depravity that others have already generated before them.

  • http://WWW.ANOINTEDIMAGES.COM FRANCES LOUISE

    To understand this you need to know the people behind the AGENDA: GRINDING AMERICA DOWN

    This has been ongoing for a long time:
    Congressional Record: January 10, 1963 – Current Communist Goals:
    Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.

    16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions
    by claiming their activities violate civil rights.

    17. Get control of the schools, use them as transmission belts for socialism…soften the curriculum, get control of teachers associations

    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.

    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”

    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.

    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the
    ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

    29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.

    30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”

    40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.

    41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.

    How is this accomplished?
    Do you know who the Fabians (with logo of wolf in sheep’s clothing); SDS,Frankfurt School and Willi Munzenberg, Herbert Markusa and Franz Noima; John Dewey, Antonio Gramsci, Mattechine Society, Saul Alinski (who dedicated his book which Obama taught for years in Chicago “Rules for Radicals” to Lucifer) was a disciple of Gramsci used to train at the rifle range with Leon Despres preparing for the revolution to take down America, later became a mentor to Obama and.Committees of Correspondence are? Connect all the dots that are part of the Agenda to create an America so corrupt it stinks; use public policy to
    subvert America from inside, infiltrate and influence our culture to
    break down basic rules of morality driving us in a direction designed to
    destroy us. . . I have watched it 12X to absorb all that is in it…

    Get it. Watch it. Share it. Arrange a showing in church, groups, clubs, with friends or family. Everyone who loves America needs to see this movie,

    Here is just a taste:
    No Conspiracies. Just Verifiable Facts:

    https://vimeo.com/52009124