Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stewart v. Huckabee: Does an Eternity of Flame Signify Hell Or Unusual Metallurgical Metaphors?

On last night's "Daily Show", Jon Stewart presented guest Mike Huckabee with a commercial that he had voiced during the Presidential campaign.

The ad begins with the image of flames set against a dark, cavernous, dystopian background. The voice begins: "This November, some Christian voters..."

We see that there is a worker submerged in the darkness, laboring with a hammer, and then dipping a forge into the flames.

The voiceover continues "...will be put to the test". The ad then quick cuts to a hand checking a ballot. The voiceover continues:

"Some issues...are not negotiable". The words "not negotiable" then appear against the darkness in bold, golden type.

The voiceover: "The right to life from conception to natural death." Life and death are rendered in the same bold golden type.

The cavern-trapped, flame-licked, darkness immersed dystopian worker now dips the word "marriage" into the flames, as the voice intones:

"Marriage should be reinforced."

Then, there is a close cut that fills the screen entirely with flames.

We see the word "marriage" being consumed by those flames as the voiceover adds: "Not redefined."

The word "freedom" is then dipped by the laborer into the fire that burns in the darkness. The words are spoken and appear on the screen: "It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the choice to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life."

The words "violations", "religious liberty" and "human life" are bolded in golden hue. The word "choice" is dimmed--so it can barely be seen.

Quick cut to a woman, in worried thought, walking through the curtain of a voting booth. Voiceover: "Your vote will affect the future..."

And quick hard cut to a menacing picture of the laborer, facing forward, the flames burning beside him, set against the cavernous darkness.

Accompanying voiceover to this image: "And be recorded in eternity".

Voiceover: "This is Mike Huckabee asking you to join me and vote November 6th for values that will stand the test of fire."

Stewart, viewing this choice of images and phrases, reasonably queried whether Huckabee was implying that those who cast a vote against Mitt Romney--their vote having been so recorded "in eternity"--would go to Hell.

Huckabee replied that the ad was meant to reference the text of Corinthians 10, and the idea expressed therein that your vote would be tested be fire.

Aside from the perhaps unusual specificity of theological scholarship that Huckabee was bringing to the discussion, Stewart, in his sharp, incisive questioning, missed one question.

For those watching the ad during the campaign, and who just happened to not be familiar with the specific text of Corinthians 10--for that large swath of Americans who are not textual Biblical scholars--perhaps the images and  ideas--lapping flames, dark cavern, man laboring against the increasingly approaching fires, "your vote will be recorded for eternity"--might lead them to a more threatening, emotionally and electorally powerful inference about their fate, should they vote for Obama?

Don't you think that, for that majority of viewers, the flame-devouring, darkness-enclosing, eternal  labors were meant to be understood in "eternal", directional,  flames-lapping-at-your-body, consequential terms, rather than in terms of the strict text? Most people don't know the text of Corinthians 10, Mike!

Why would you expect them to?

Perhaps...he didn't.

Of course--the creative team could have directly cited Corinthians 10, to remove all possible confusion that they were stating that Obama voters would be spend an eternity in Hell.

I wonder why they did not.

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