Say it ain't so, Chef!
No amount of higher education could take away the fact that I sometimes behave like a juvenile teenage boy. Hence, my reverence for the animated South Park series. I've often visited the real place, the windswept high mountain valley town of Fairplay, Colorado, and the surrounding area that played host to miles of trail running and several lab outings for hikes and rafting down the Arkansas River. The real South Park isn't actually a town but rather a geographical region where the mountains give way to a huge, sprawling, high-altitude grassland. If you're taking Spring Break to ski in Breckenridge and are tiring of the great food and mass of people, you can drive 25-30 miles south over Hoosier Pass to the far less commercial real Colorado.
Co-creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, are some of the most controversial figures to come out of the University of Colorado system until Ward Churchill. But they have always been even-handed in ridiculing virtually every religion, racial and ethnic group, and boastful celebrity - and if you pay attention, there is usually a moment of clarity in each episode where some real truth about our culture is revealed, most often by Stan or Kyle.
So why, after ten years and 150 episodes does singer Isaac Hayes leave the show on religious grounds? He was somehow able to reconcile his 40 years of work as a civil rights activist and collect paychecks from shows poking fun at all manner of minorities and religions.
Well, as Reuters reported yesterday, they made fun of his religion, the Church of Scientology.
The only reason I make this point on this blog is that Scientology is well-known for avoiding the use of drugs, particularly psychiatric medications. Tom Cruise's famous admonition of Today Show's, Matt Lauer, "You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do," reveals just one frightful aspect of this group's unusual concoction of pseudoscience and religion.
Those of us associated with health care spend a tremendous amount of time trying to erase the stigma associated with mental illness and get diagnosis and proper treatment, that sometimes includes drugs, to the people who can best benefit. To me, depression and psychoses are as life-threatening as hypertension or cancer and are a result of clear biochemical disturbances in neurotransmitters and neurosteroids. Scientology would have it otherwise, as they do not believe in chemical imbalances or altered physiology in the brain. But they will sell you on various sessions to rid you of what's in your mind...and your wallet.
I still take Rolling Stone magazine in an attempt to stay updated on music and cultural trends among the younger folks - last week's issue had one of the most extensive recent reports on the Church of Scientology. Cult expert, Rick Ross, has a nice review of the article if you can't get through the entire 13,000-word text.
As for Mr. Hayes, I can only wish him well out of respect for his musical career, civil rights work, and ten years of hilarious satire. But, for me, a return to his roots as a Southern Baptist would be far more palatable than his embracing of $cientology.
ADDENDUM: If you got here via Paige's Page, just another reminder that I'm the next host for The Skeptics' Circle. Please send entries for The 31st Meeting of the Skeptics' Circle to me here by 11 PM EST on Wed 29 March 2006 and put "Skeptics' Circle 31" in the subject line. Many thanks!