Sunday, September 19, 2010

Absurdity in the name of publicity

Sukka In New HampshireImage of a real sukkah via Wikipedia

Jewish date:  11 Tishri 5771.

Today’s holidays:  Sukkah-Building Day (Judaism), Paryushana (Hinduism), Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), March of Reanimated Corpses/Talk Like A Pirate Day (Secular) (Church of the SubGenius).

Note:  Sukkah-Building Day is not an official Jewish holiday.  11 Tishri, however, is traditionally the day one should start building one’s sukkah (a sort of temporary building with vegetation for a roof) so as to be ready in time for Sukkoth, which starts 15 Tishri.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Don't Build the Belo Monte Dam! - The Petition Site” and “Protect the Paradise Forests and the Orangutan - The Petition Site”.

I have a huge backlog of religious news to comment on, and there is no way I can deal with all of it.  This would be true even if I did not have to put up my sukkah today.  What to choose… What to choose…

Topic 1:  Since Sukkoth is the holiday just around the corner, let us start with “A Look at the Finalists in the Sukkah City Design Competition”, described as “Twelve architects compete to redesign the ritual holiday hut—and you get to pick the winner.”  I would hesitate to call any of the top contenders a winner.  The top 12 are depicted on the voting page, and it is not clear that any of them is ritually acceptable.  Many one would never guess were intended to be sukkoth at all.  When making something ritually acceptable is not a basic requirement, one has to wonder what the people behind this competition are thinking.

Topic 2:  “Pregnant nun ice cream advert banned for 'mockery'”, with the offending graphic visible with respectable detail in “'Pregnant nun' ice cream ad banned after Catholic outcry (on eve of Pope's visit)”.  This is getting in due to being the most recent controversy, not the most worthy one.  Let me just quote this article:
An ice cream company banned from using an advert displaying a pregnant nun has vowed to position similar posters in London in time for the Pope's visit.
Antonio Federici's advert showed a pregnant nun eating ice cream in a church, together with the strap line "immaculately conceived".
The Advertising Standards Authority has ordered it to be discontinued, saying it mocked Roman Catholic beliefs.
I am disturbed that the Advertising Standards Authority banned the ads; freedom of speech does include freedom to say things other people do not like.  However, the ad itself strikes me as at best poorly thought out.  The term “immaculate conception” refers to the Catholic doctrine that Mary, mother of Jesus, was born without the taint of original sin.  The term is often misunderstood as referring to the conception of Jesus, purportedly accomplished by the Holy Spirit and not by the usual human method.  The pregnant nun would seem fit better with the incorrect understanding of “immaculate conception” than the correct one.  A nun conceiving in the usual manner would be getting pregnant through sin (as she is required to be abstinent), and the child would have the taint of original sin.  But a nun conceiving through the Holy Spirit would not commit any sin, and the child might be free of the taint of original sin.  But how does immaculate conception fit in with ice cream?  Ice cream is not conceived at all, nor is the concept of original sin really applicable to it (or anything else inanimate, for that matter).  And if one really wants to force “immaculately conceived” to apply to ice cream, what the meaning of that?  Is this ice cream somehow like Mary or Jesus?  Or is eating this ice cream somehow connected with miraculous pregnancies, perhaps even causing them?  Yes, this is overthinking an ice cream advertisement, but it only qualifies as overthinking since the only thinking which seems to have gone into it is how to cause enough controversy to get a lot of publicity, not thinking about making the content make any sense.

Topic 3:  For today’s religious humor:  Since Sukkoth is coming up very soon, “The Laws of the Sukkah according to Dr. Suess”.  For something so silly, it contains a lot of accurate information, not to mention footnotes and references.


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