Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?
It seems that an American politician has taken some heat for trying to cool off by going for a night frolic in the Sea of Galilee. According to some reports, there had been a bit of a party by the water. Some food and alcohol had been taken and the partyers were having fun. Goaded on by waiters, these revelers decided to take a dip. Apparently, certain watchers became indignant to see that unlike the other swimmers, Representative Kevin Yoder was buff. Naked that is. And since there were pictures to share, they were. This way other watchers could be offended too.
The incident was reported as a tasteless Animal Farm-like romp, unbecoming of an American law maker. Doubtless this is true. (By the way, Canadian law makers would be exempt from such charges since we have film of Bob Rae and Rick Mercer gleefully leaping off a dock with their backsides mercifully blurred and this only made CBC, not CNN.) But the thing that got so much of the attention is that it took place in the Sea of Galilee – the site where Jesus Christ served most of his public ministry and performed many of his famous miracles including walking on water. Commentators stated that the others were “appropriately dressed” for their dip in the holy place, not so for Mr. Yoder.
That this has received attention seems disproportionate given how big the world is and how many other people are doing immature things every day. After all, we could cruise the shores of any of our lovely Quebec lakes on a hot summer’s night wearing night vision goggles and find many such scenes. I guess there are several reasons that this has gotten any attention at all.
First, our version of journalism loves the “tee-hee” factor. Don’t we love anything to do with the foibles of celebrities – especially when they are Republican politicians? No one would be shocked if he were a Democrat because we expect some of them to be free-spirited back-to-nature sorts, don’t we? We’ve seen President Obama, man of the people, buying beer for patrons in bars, but if it were a Republican leader treating strangers that way there would be a huge public uproar trying to goad Republican teetotalers.
This is an election year too. Therefore, any news that has pictures that can be played repeatedly while an expert panel discusses them, is a potential ratings grabber. If the content is irrelevant to the weighty issues at hand but certain to stir things up for the average unthinking American, so much the better.
An important part of this story, though, is where it took place. There seems to be some kind of feeling that the Sea of Galilee is holy space that ought not to be violated by anything as crass as skinny dipping. Who knows what “appropriately dressed” means to those who were scandalized? Do we think that the only appropriate use for the water is Christian baptism or for taking a stroll? Come on – it is a lake. People live around the lake. They fish in it and enjoy water sports. They do business there. People take vacations on its shore. They fall in love there and have arguments there. And, yes, they swim too. In fact, over the years many thousands have taken dips in the heat of the day and night. For centuries when there was no such thing as Speedo to design swimwear for men who have no business wearing them in decent company, people swam in this lake. No less a person than St. Peter swam in the lake – albeit fully clothed according to one reported incident. Is it so hard to imagine that the other disciples and maybe Jesus himself swam here too? Perhaps they even had fun doing it?
We have such a confused notion of what is sacred these days. We cherish and preserve crucifixes in the National Assembly but want to ban religious symbols at the SAAQ. Some frown at Republicans skinny-dipping in a lake, but express outrage when the protest band, Pussy Riot, takes over the altar area of a church during a sacred service and is charged with hooliganism. Was this “out of proportion?” Yes. The whole confused mess is.
The Sea of Galilee is not like a Cathedral that is set apart for sacred observance. It is a place for living according every aspect of human life. Jesus lived by these shores too. He wasn’t the kind of Saviour that only walked in pristine religious sanctuaries. He got mixed up with childish, hypocritical people. He did so even with “sinners and publicans,” which sounds a lot like “Republicans” come to think of it. Thank God for that. It gives me hope for people like us too.