osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Why you should NOT sign the "Wal-Mart" Letter

My friend RedAxe recently posted about a campaign to get signatures on a leter to Wal-Mart to demand that Wal*Mart stop selling copies of the Bible. You can read the letter (and sign it if you wish) here: http://thebibleletter.com/

While I usually like what RedAxe has to say, my take on this is that it is worse than stupid. This "Bible Letter" campaign is the sort of ideological nonesense that a handfull of lefties lap up with a spoon while alienating large numbers of potential allies and fuelling party opponents.

My reasoning below the cut.

Obviously, I am soooo not in the mood to work today.

If you follow the link, you see that the author is trying to show up Wal-Mart as hypocrites because they refused to carry John Stewart's "America: The Book" ostensibly because it contains a drawing of the Supreme Court justices naked. The author therefore seeks to show that the Bible is, by Wal-Mart's criteria, an awful book that should be banned.

So what's wrong with this? Where to begin . . .

1) Why the Bible? This is just lazy and dumb. I can find crap in Shakespeare worse than this to make the reductio ad absurdum point. The Bible is targeted because those running this campaign conceive the face of their enemies as religious conservatives. Which, of course, plays directly into the hands of those opponents. The Christian right depends on maintaining among their flock a feeling that their values are under constant assault.

2) Such a pay off to the other side would be worthwhile if it had some outweighing positive benefit. But if it does, I don't see it. To the contrary, targetting the Bible, rather than using Shakespeare or Wagner's operas or something else, transmutes this from an attack on Wal*Mart to an attack on the Bible and, by implication, those who believe in the Bible.

That's a big problem, because a lot of the people you would like to reach and organize have very strong positive feelings about the Bible. The "read the Bible literally" motif used here to make the point is inherent offensive to a large number of people you might recruit. Worse, it is needlessly so. If you want to target Wal*Mart effectively, why are you needlessly diluting your point and ensuring that a huge segment of people who might agree with you will want nothing to do with you? It's dumb.

3) The effort to read the Bible literally to achieve this effect simply makes the letter writers appear ignorant and hostile to all religious people -- exactly what the religious right likes to see. Anyone who has had even a little Sunday school -- whether a supporter or an opponent of Wal*Mart -- can argue the points made in the letter. Telling someone that you think they are a hypocrite because you read their Holy Book and this is what it means does not impress anyone. Just the opposite.

And, bluntly, trying to compare these passages of the Bible with a picture of naked people is comparing apples and oranges. Wal*Mart can quite legitimately say there is a world of difference between a huge book that you have to open up and hun through on the shelves to find the "offensive" passages and a book a child can flip through and unexpectedly find a picture of naked people. Again, the deliberate selection of the Bible for this exercise in the doctrine of moral equivalents just doesn't fly even on the terms the letter authors propose.

As an exercise in making the author and other signers of the letter feel good, I suppose it has as much social value as any "meme" or LJ poll. What is both irritating and inexcusable is the belief that this crap actually advances progressive causes when, in fact, it simply provides fodder for religious conservatives.

There is certainly a role for nonesense that stokes the party faithfull, which is all this "letter campaign" is. (At least, I assume the maintainers of this site have no delusions that they are really going to persuade the folks at Wal*Mart into changing their ways with this crap). But if progressives are going to try to create their own equivalent of the "War on Christmass" or Rush Limbaugh then at least be as smart about it as the Republicans. The conservative sound machine acts strategically, and carefully delineates between what is for internal consumption and what is not.

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