The Week in Stupid, which debuted last week, was a big hit. Apparently there’s comfort in knowing that, while anti-intellectualism abounds in America, there is also a sizable demographic that understands that laughter (or perhaps snark?) is the best medicine. Yes, they’re crazy out there, but at least we can appreciate the underlying absurdity of it all.
This week, our search for stupid brings us to cowboy country, where we find not just one example of American anti-intellectualism, but a stupefying chain of it running from a cowboy preacher to the local media to the population at large.
COWBOY COMMANDMENT: “COMMIT ADULTERY”
Our story begins on the dusty plains of Oklahoma, where a horseback cowboy pastor is riding into town, hoping to deliver his plaque of the Ten Commandments to the state’s governor. As KSWO-TV explains in this story, pastor John Riggs is on this pilgrimage, along with a posse of his church members, because he’s disappointed that Oklahoma removed a Ten Commandments monument from its state capitol grounds. Riggs is hoping the governor will accept his plaque as a replacement, which is unlikely given that the removal of the original monument came pursuant to a court order that declared it unconstitutional.
To the Cowboy Church minister, the Ten Commandments represent the values upon which America was founded. That claim is easily refuted, as the American framers took great care to leave God out of the Constitution and were influenced primarily by Enlightement philosophers who saw little value in Old Testament theology. Nevertheless, revealing the motivation for his hundred-mile horseback journey, the preaching cowboy tells the reporter, “I want my kids to grow up in an America that glorifies and honors God, not something out in left field.”
Well, from out here in left field, a horseback pastor and church members crossing the Great Plains with the Ten Commandments seems pretty silly, and a careful look at this pastor’s plaque (shown below) makes it even more so. By committing the sin of trying to edit God’s Holy Word, the pastor created a plaque that seems to paraphrase the first commandment right (“Do Not Have Other Gods”) but then goes terribly awry. The plaque can be read to command the faithful to “Make Graven Images,” to “Commit Adultery” and “Commit Murder,” and to “Steal” and “Covet.” Sounds like Old Jehovah is in one of His moods again!
Now, this may seem like we’re picking on the poor cowboy pastor, but it could be argued that the real award for anti-intellectualism here should go to the KSWO, which found our western hero’s religious mission newsworthy. Oklahoma ranks in the top ten states for violent crime, has the highest rate of female incarceration in the country, and is otherwise plagued by numerous social problems. Nevertheless, a cowboy playing Moses makes the news. Go figure. It’s hard to believe there weren’t more important stories waiting to be covered.
KSWO might argue that such news stories get great ratings in Oklahoma, thus justifying mindless journalism covering cowboy theology, at least on a commercial basis. If that’s true, if this is the kind of “news” that the people of Oklahoma demand from their media, then this week’s stupid recognition should go not to the pastor, not to KSWO, but to the Oklahoma population at large.
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Photo source: KSWO site. (Upper photo is a screen shot of video.)
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