Public radio, Huck and the Eucharist

eucharist 01The radio skit wasn't news, but it may, perhaps, make some real news. During the Fair Game with Faith Salie broadcast on KCPW -- the public radio station in northern Utah -- the producers decided to air some political commentary with major, repeat major, religious content. Here is a link to the skit itself, although it appears that the station has taken this content offline or it has crashed due to high traffic.

However, here's the key part of the script, as passed along by the Catholic League:

[Woman's voice]: And now another Huckabee family recipe leaked by his opponents.

[Male Voice]: Tired of bland unsatisfying Eucharists? Try this Huckabee family favorite. Deep-Fried Body of Christ -- boring holy wafers no more. Take one Eucharist. Preferably post transubstantiation. Deep-fry in fat, not vegetable oil, ladies, until crispy. Serve piping hot. Mike likes to top his Christ with whipped cream and sprinkles. But his wife Janet and the boys like theirs with heavy gravy and cream puffs. It goes great with red wine.

[Woman's voice]: Now that is just ridiculous. Everyone knows evangelicals don't believe in transubstantiation.

Let's leave the Catholic League out of this one. That's not the story.

This was satire and, thus, is protected speech. The station had every right to put this on the air. And evangelicals and Catholics have every right to protest -- especially since this involved their tax dollars.

But, what is this story really about? Before we ask that question, let's ask what the SKIT itself was about, since that may point toward whatever news story is here. Needless to say, the station's leaders have been asked this question. Here is part of a post by KCPW blogger Bryan Schott:

So, I've been spending most of my day fielding calls and e-mails from people who are outraged by a skit that aired on Fair Game. ... I can see where the outrage is coming from, but the skit was meant to poke fun at Mike Huckabee's Southern roots and his problems with obesity. That's not my interpretation, that's why they wrote it.

Frankly, I don't know how to respond to this. We don't originate the show. We don't have an editorial control. The host is a friend of mine -- and she's really upset that this is the reaction. She's Catholic herself, and didn't mean to poke fun at Jesus.

The point, you see, is that the producers of the show were not mocking Jesus and they were not mocking Roman Catholics. They were mocking Bible Belt people. They were mocking an evangelical from the Bible Belt who is running for president. The problem was that they had to use the Mass and the Catholic faith in order to get to the punch line about the evangelical target. Follow that?

So, what is the point? That Catholics should not vote for Huckabee? That many Catholics are tempted to vote for Huckabee and this offends progressive Catholics? That this was a journalist's attempt to protest political cooperation between evangelical Protestants and traditionalist Catholics? Or was this simply a stupid skit that gives us insight into what a very, very small number of people in public radio think is funny?

wine and cheeseHere's why I ask that question. I have received a few emails recently asking me if your GetReligionistas believe -- as some of our comments page regulars clearly do -- that the whole NPR universe is somehow (a) anti-religion, (b) anti-traditional forms of religion, (c) anti-evangelicals or (d) some combination of the above.

Personally, I think that NPR does some of the best religion-news coverage that is being done today -- period. Click here for the network's religion-news page. Then again, I also think The New York Times does some of the MSM's best religion coverage.

Seriously, it's hard to question NPR's commitment to excellence. Does that mean that the critics of public-radio are totally wrong when they suggest that, well, many people at NPR and the network's core audience have a rather blue-zip-code view of the world?

It's way too simplistic to say that NPR people are all liberals and who are out to mock people like Mike Huckabee and the people who are voting for him.

But I will ask this question: Can you imagine a public-radio station airing a skit this blunt about, oh, any efforts that Barack Obama may make to reach out to Catholics? Wine, bries, soul food, watermelon and Eucharist? That Hillary Clinton might make to reach out to Muslims? Imagine the humor material lurking there. That John Edwards might make to reach out to Jews?

And will NPR do a straight national news story about this controversy? Just asking.

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