Monday, June 23, 2008

Comedian George Carlin Dies

Woke up this morning to hear the news that comedian George Carlin died last night.

If you were a teenager growing up in the 70's, like me, then you certainly heard George Carlin. His records were never at my house-- Mom and Dad wouldn't permit that-- but they were at my friends', and he often appeared on Saturday Night Live.

There's no doubt Carlin was a funny man, a gifted comic with biting social insight. I remember once hearing him do a stand up routine on SNL that left me in stitches. Carlin was a man of his culture. He broke down social barriers while advocating personal freedom and a do whatever you like attitude-- made famous by his "7 Words You Can Never Say on TV."

What made Carlin good was his ability to analyze society and the human soul. As the Associated Press wrote, Carlin was "as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian, a position he would relish through the years." Much of Carlin's view on life is reflected here in this quote:
"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition," Carlin told the AP in a 2004 interview. "There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."
I'm not going to kick dirt on Carlin's grave, but in light of his death, Carlin's argument will get increased attention, and its one worthy of engaging. I'm not sure if by "religious superstition," Carlin had in mind Christianity-- my guess is it does, since it was the most influential religion in Carlin's time. But actually, Carlin's description of the human body as evil is a gnostic belief, not a Christian one. It's gnosticism that believes the material world is inherently corrupt and the body is something to be escaped. A cursory reading of Genesis 1-3-- a foundational text to Jews and Christians-- shows that God made the human body and sex good. What Carlin likely doesn't like about "religion" is its assertion that we're accountable to God and that God puts parameters on how we use our body. Can the body and sex be misused and abused? Scripture answers with a loud "yes." If anything goes, nothing we do with our bodies is evil. God asserts in His Word that there are standards. Why are those not appropriate guidelines?

Carlin made you laugh and left you thinking.

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