Cartman Wants to Feel Jesus’ Salvation All Over His Face in South Park Episode 709, “Christian Rock Hard”

As an episode about South Park exploiting the Christian music industry in order to win a bet with Kyle, you can only imagine how much I love “Christian Rock Hard.”

So, now you know the premise, and what’s left to enjoy are Cartman’s experiences creating his awesome band. By taking the lyrics from old songs and replacing key words with Jesus, we’re left with a series of sensual, sexual and disturbing song about Cartman and Jesus. The songs also have great names that recall issues like salvation, crucifixion, sin and forgiveness. The names of the other Christian rock bands, like “Trinity,” also speak to South Park‘s amusing understanding of Christianity.

At Christfest, where Cartman hopes his band will perform, there is a stand selling bibles and another selling items with your favorite psalm printed on them. A particularly hilarious scene is when Cartman and the band are in the record company’s president’s office about to have their band signed. Cartman challenges God to strike him with lightening if he is being insincere about his love of Jesus. Butters scoots away.

In the meantime, in addition to mocking Christian rock and Cartman’s exploitation of evangelical Christians everywhere, the show comments on a social issue prevalent at the time: downloading big bands’ music from Napster and the internet. This lambasting of Metallica and others for their self-obsession, greediness, conceit and lack of interest in the music when compared to the money is both blatant and, I’d say, deserved. Sure, musicians have a right to protect their music – it is theirs after all – but to try to stand in the way of what, we can see 6 years later, is an unstoppable progression in the way music is acquired and listened to, is foolish and short-sighted.

What did you think about this episode? What was your favorite part?

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Kyle, as Jesus, Preaches Faith in the Economy and Saves South Park in “Margaritaville,” Episode 1303

We haven’t stopped hearing about the economy ever since it, well, started crapping all over our heads. But for some reason, I’ve only seen two intelligent pieces on the economy. The first was from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and comes from his extended debate with Jim Cramer (of Fast Money). Indeed, Stewart had Cramer admitting that he had to change the terrible way he’d been treating the public through his ridiculous show. The second is this episode of South Park.

As the economy begins crashing all around us, everyone angrily points fingers at everyone else. The only person people start listening to, however, is Randy Marsh. He preaches an end to spending and a return to constant savings and old ways (sheets for clothes, llamas for transportation, squirrels for toys, etc.). The whole town follows his advice and nobody gets anything at all.

When Cartman blames the Jews for the problems of the economy, Kyle denies his baseless accusations and rebels against this no-spending spree that has overtaken South Park. He becomes a renegade Jew, or as it were, the Jesus of the economy. The economy only exists because we have faith in it, he tells people. It’s not some powerful and vengeful, angry god. This position is much akin to that uttered by the Wise One in episode 1004. Fascinating that this would be the position taken by the Jesus figure of the episode, causing us once again to recognize that South Park‘s thought on the existence of God, inferentially, is that God is most powerful as a human idea rather than an actual divine being.

Randy and his ruling council decide to stop Kyle and his blasphemous preaching and do so with the aid of Cartman (who is Judas in this biblical reenactment). The theological jokes abound, especially when someone on Randy’s council proposes that Kyle could be the only son of the economy. Father Maxi insists that this idea is totally retarded since any omnipotent being could have more than one son. Hmm…

At a Last Supper of pizza with his friend, Kyle vows to do something he always knew he’d have to do in order to restore people’s faith in the economy: he pays off everyone’s debt on his no limit platinum American Express, ultimately sacrificing himself (i.e. his economic future) for the sake of humanity and the economy.

All the while, we’re learning what’s actually going on in the economy as Stan runs from person to person trying to return a Margaritaville blender. Everybody keeps sending him to the institition above that’s now responsible for his return. Eventually he winds up at the Department of the Treasury and learns that the government makes its decisions in a totally random fashion: by sacrificing, as it were, chickens, and then letting them run around with their heads cut off until they land on some point of a grid that determines what action the government should take.

As a blog about South Park and religion, you can imagine that this was an episode that had me squirming with delight the entire time. For me, this will go down as one of the classics.

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Zen Talk: The Path to Salvation Must Begin and End with the Self

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

This, to be honest, reminds me of Christianity. Of course, the Buddha knew nothing of Christianity and Buddhism is not a prophetic religion, so obviously he wasn’t talking about Jesus or Christianity, but nonetheless, the mention of being saved makes me think of Christianity. Mentally, the concept of salvation is monopolized in my head by Christianity.

But as we can see, this quote is not saying what Christianity says. This quote says that only we can save ourselves – NOT someone else (which is to say, Jesus). Now, I’m not saying that Jesus doesn’t save or passing any kind of theological judgment. I’m merely discussing the significance of this concept, which I believe can be applied to anyone, whether Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Shintoist or other.

Why? Because it puts the emphasis on the self for guiding one towards Enlightenment. Liberation from suffering and these worldly concerns only comes with our own willpower, determination and effort. I’ll avoid the theological discussion that I’m tempted to have about the concept of a savior, and just conclude by saying that I really like what this verse is saying because I do believe that each of us is responsible for his or her own fate.

What do you think of this quote?

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Religion in the News: Will Atheism Be Advertised on London Buses?

The Situation

The British Humanist Association has decided to run advertisements on buses that say, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” After raising more money than they expected for this endeavor, they may even get some in-bus ads going. Richard Dawkins, world renowned atheist and author of The God Delusion has supported the group.

The idea, the group claims, is to make people think. Religious posters often adorn the sides of buses, and no one gives it a second thought as these religious groups are given liberties like tax breaks and the right to never be offended and more. This group seeks to put a stop to that free ride. At the very least, they hope to make people smile and think.

Compared to the many advertisements threatening eternal damnation or salvation through Jesus, the BHA hopes that its posters will be a breath of fresh air for commuters and locals. Some local religious figures made appreciative comments about the campaign because it encourages people to engage in deep and important questions about life.

My Thoughts

On the one hand, this seems antagonistic to me – trying to get people riled up about their beliefs. On the other hand, I love riling people up about their beliefs. It’s true, religious people do think they’ve earned the right not to be offended and it’s true that they’re allowed to preach at everyone else all the time and we are subject to their nonsense way too often. Just the other day I couldn’t get through a hoard of Scientologists without taking their stupid and nonsensical flier.

Putting posters up like this could make people think because many do worry too much about the next life and God and salvation and all that jazz to live enjoyable, meaningful lives here. Not all religious people, mind you, but there are enough to make this a valid comment.

Funny enough, England seems like a silly place to do this. England has one of the least religious populations and believers in God of nearly any country in the world. It seems like this is something better suited for a generally devout country (or part of it), like middle America. I’d like to see somebody try that here. But hey, I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

What do you think? Do you like the sentiment behind the posters or do you think it’s unnecessarily antagonistic? Do you think that religion deserves the free ride it’s on?

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A Military Helicopter as Santa’s Sleigh – Do You Think They Saw South Park’s “Red Sleigh Down?”

I just saw the following picture:

Military Copter as Santa's Sleigh

Military Copter as Santa's Sleigh

Do you know what it made me think of? Nothing other than South Park, and in particular, episode 618, “Red Sleigh Down.” Why?

That episode is one of the most amazing ever. Santa goes to Iraq in order to spread the Christmas spirit to a part of the world sorely in need of some holiday cheer, and Iraqis shoot his sleigh down and then torture him.

The boys, in an attempt to rescue Santa, find Jesus who then busts into the Iraqi compound and saves old Saint Nick. However, on the way out of the compound, Jesus is shot and killed, making Christmas a day to remember how Jesus saved us and then died for us. Truly, it’s a sensational episode.

Rather than flee Iraq, though, Santa turns around and starts shooting missiles at Baghdad, not actually destroying anything, but missiles that explode holiday decorations, presents and cheer all over the city. I was looking at a bunch of “funny” photos from the Iraq War (and yes, yes, I know there’s nothing funny about war but you can check them out yourself by clicking HERE) and since this one reminded me so much of South Park I just had to share. However, I doubt this helicopter was shooting missiles filled with holiday cheer, though maybe it wasn’t dropping presents and aid and not just some sick, twisted joke.

Do you agree with the connection I’ve made between this picture and the episode? Do you like that episode?

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Zen Talk: Dogen’s “The Issue at Hand” Waxes about Being As Is

“Kindling becomes ash, and cannot become kindling again. However, we should not see the ash as after and the kindling as before. Know that kindling abides in the normative state of kindling, and though it has a before and after, the realms of before and after are disconnected. Ash, in the normative state of ash, has before and after. Just as that kindling, after having become ash, does not again become kindling, so after dying a person does not become alive again. This being the case, not saying that life becomes death is an established custom in Buddhism – therefore it is called unborn. That death does not become life is an established teaching of the Buddha; therefore we say imperishable. Life is an individual temporal state, death is an individual temporal state. It is like winter and spring – we don’t think winter becomes spring, we don’t say spring becomes summer.”

These words from Dogen’s Shobogenzo essay, “The Issue at Hand,” reassure me not only about the nature of time but also about the nature of life and death. The notion of individual temporal states removes the usual power that the idea of death has.

I have never been particularly scared of death. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to die and when confronted with the prospect of immediate death I am scared. However, the actual idea of death, which is to say, no longer being a part of this life on earth, doesn’t upset me. I am not scared of death as an unknown. Perhaps it’s this lack of apprehension regarding death that has never made me feel the need to pursue religions that insist on making me feel better about what happens after we die, with notions of Heaven and Hell, salvation, etc.

Those ideas are all meant to fill a need: to comfort people and their fears about the great unknown, death. For instance, Christianity is a very ‘other-worldly’ religion. That is, this life is about guaranteeing salvation and a ticket into Heaven and eventually about being resurrected back into life. These concepts are all central to the purpose of Christianity and are meant to address a very basic and understandable human fear about death. The purpose of Christian ritual and belief, then, is aimed primarily at seeing these things through – in a manner of speaking, at preventing, or beating, death.

On the other hand is the Buddhist approach above. Life and death are both individual temporal states: they are times, or periods, and they each have an equal value as such. We are not meant to prize life and cling to it obsessively, insisting that it is all that matters. Yes, life should be valued, no doubt, but we should also embrace its fleeting nature, seeing existence not as our conscious self in time but as ourselves among everything else as existence.

Did you read this week’s essay? Did you enjoy it? What do you think about when you read the quoted section above? What is your philosophy about life and death?

I have spoken in brief about a fraction of a concept in part of a paragraph in this essay. I recommend you read “The Issue at Hand” in Dogen’s Shobogenzo to begin getting the full effect. Then read it again. I read it three times before anything started to register.

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