There are a lot of important things happening in the real world this week. Still, you should forward the following to whoever delivers sermons in your place of worship, whatever their title and whatever scripture they preach about.
It's a scene from the West Wing TV show, and it's a withering critique of sermons. I post this in a spirit of self-flagellation, for the many times I have been what President Bartlet calls a "hack", not living up to the gift of a willing audience every week in the synagogue.
Thanks as always to Joshua Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway for their podcast, The West Wing Weekly. This week they discussed the episode of which this scene is a part. The whole episode, of the show and of their podcast, is amazing.
The doors open. Bartlet and Abbey walk inside. CHARLIE Good afternoon. ABBEY Hi, Charlie. CHARLIE How was church? BARTLET [mumbles] It sucked. ABBEY It was fine. [to Bartlet] Stop it! BARTLET It sucked! ABBEY [sighs] You're talking about church. BARTLET Oh, like I'm not already going to hell. CHARLIE [follows them a pace behind] What was the problem? ABBEY He feels the homily lacked penache. BARTLET It did lack penache. ABBEY It was a perfectly lovely homily on Ephesians 5:21. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." BARTLET Yeah. She's skipping over the part that says, "Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord, for a husband is the head of a wife as Christ is the head of the church." ABBEY I do skip over that part. BARTLET Why? ABBEY Because it's stupid! They walk in THE OVAL OFFICE. BARTLET Okay. ABBEY "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing of water with the word that he might present the Church to himself in..." something. BARTLET [behind his desk, puts on glasses] "In splendor." And I have no problem with Ephesians. And any time you want me to cleanse you with the washing of water, you know I'm up for it. ABBEY Then what is your problem? BARTLET Hackery! Abbey waves her arms at him and walks out to the PORTICO. Bartlet follows. BARTLET This guy was a hack! He had a captive audience! And the way I know that is that I tried to tunnel out of there several times. He had an audience and he didn't know what to do with it. ABBEY You want him to sing "Volare?" BARTLET Couldn't have hurt. Words... ABBEY Oh, God, no. BARTLET Words, when spoken out loud for the sake of performance, are music. They have rhythm, and pitch, and timbre, and volume. These are the properties of music, and music has the ability to find us and move us, and lift us up in ways that literal meanings can't. Do you see? ABBEY You are an oratorical snob. BARTLET Yes, I am. And God loves me for it. They stop and face each other. ABBEY You said he was sending you to hell. BARTLET For other stuff, not for this. You can't just trod out Ephesians, which he blew, by the way, it has nothing with husbands and wives, it's all of us. Saint Paul begins the passage: "Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ." [passionately] "Be subject to one another." In this day and age of 24-hour cable crap, devoted to feeding the voyeuristic gluttony of the American public, hooked on a bad soap opera that's passing itself off as important, don't you think you might be able to find some relevance in verse 21? How do end the cycle? Be subject to one another! ABBEY So... This is about you. BARTLET No, it's not about me! Well, yes, it is about me, but tomorrow it'll be about somebody else. We'll watch Larry King and see who. [shouts] All hacks, off the stage! Right now! That's a national security order.