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It Takes A Fake Preacher to Tell the Truth

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It's official. Those of us who watch Comedy Central's fake anchors are better informed about current events than viewers of Fox News. What a topsy turvy world we live in when satirical shows intended to entertain us are more edifying than "straight" news broadcasts. Now that network news divisions and cable news channels are all about the profits, a well-informed populace is a luxury our culture apparently can't afford.

So it's entirely fitting that the Reverend Billy, a fake preacher, offers us true redemption through his Church of Stop Shopping. If you're not familiar with Reverend Billy, you will be soon, when Morgan Spurlock's What Would Jesus Buy? hits the theaters. Reverend Billy's companion book by the same name warns of the impending "Shopacolypse:"

"Now children, we are all Shopping Sinners. Each of us is walking around in a swirl of gas and oil, plastics and foil. We should all hit our knees and weep and confess together. We are not evil people, but somehow we have allowed the Lords of Consumption to organize us into these mobs that buy and dispose, cry and reload..."

Kurt Vonnegut was less forgiving of our wasteful ways, telling Jon Stewart back in 2005, "I think we are terrible animals, and I think our planet's immune system is trying to get rid of us, and should."

But Reverend Billy's message to Stop Shopping and Start Loving lifted vinegary ol' Vonnegut out of his Thinking Man's Andy Rooney routine just long enough to bless the front cover of Reverend Billy's book with this beyond-the-grave blurb:

"Rev and his choir now enrapture large audiences, sometimes including me, with sermons such as those in this collection, and ones to which, I dare say, Jesus himself would have said Amen."

We were amongst the enraptured on April 14th, when Reverend Billy brought his greenhouse gasp gospel to Manhattan's Battery Park to ignite the Step It Up 2007 Sea of People rally against global warming.

After Reverend Billy got the crowd all hot and bothered about our compulsive buying, Step It Up founder Bill McKibben took the stage to make his own pitch for more mindful living.

McKibben's been trying to tell us for, like, 18 years--since the publication in 1989 of his watershed book, The End of Nature--that we're irrevocably altering our environment (and not for the better.) But his Methodist madness is just too mild mannered to hammer the message home with the efficacy of a fictitious firebrand like the Reverend Billy.

That's why, as my regular readers know, I've been trying to harness the power of The Secret to get McKibben his place in the sun, aka Oprah's sofa. Evidently I need to wish even harder, though, because so far, I've only managed to get him booked on last Friday's Newshour With Jim Lehrer, where he told Ray Suarez:

"I'm not, you know, the absolute biggest optimist that there ever was...and the problem's even harder than you imagine, because we have to do it -- we don't just have to do it, we have to do it darn fast, something like the next 10 years, according to the best science...

Look, the only way that it's going to happen is if we have a strong political movement in this country demanding that kind of change. So far, Congress has been embarked on a 20-year bipartisan effort to accomplish nothing, and it's been highly successful."

And they've had plenty of help from Rush Limbaugh, "Global warming's most popular denialist," as James Wolcott notes in his brilliant, must-read lambasting of Limbaugh in the current Vanity Fair. With all the brouhaha over Don Imus's ho-paux, I wish people could work up a fraction of that outrage over the way Rush Limbaugh has brainwashed millions of listeners into believing that global warming is a liberal elite hoax. As Wolcott notes:

"... he has injected millions of semi-vacant American skulls with a cream filling of complacency that has helped thrust this country into the forefront of backward leadership. He has given Republican lawmakers the rhetorical cover fire to do nothing but snicker as the crisis emerged and impressed itself on the rest of the world. He conscripted concern for nature as just another weapon in the Culture Wars."

But there's a ray of hope on the horizon. I saw it on Saturday, when Tiffany Cordero, a preternaturally self-possessed 12 year-old New Yorker, took the Step It Up stage to declare "A lot of people are thinking just of now. But we won't have a 'now' if we don't focus on the future."

Why is it that a 12 year old can connect the dots, while doddering Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, can't? Stevens admitted to NPR's Steve Inskeep on April 10th that climate change is altering Alaska's environment, but Stevens blew a gasket when Inskeep asked him if one of his pet proposals, drilling in ANWAR, might exacerbate the problem:

"That oil and gas doesn't have anything to do with global warming! How do you make the connection between producing oil in Alaska and global warming?"

The question is, how could you not? But then we're talking about a guy who thinks that the Internet is "a series of tubes." And Senator Stevens was the driving force behind the $315 million dollar Bridge to Nowhere. Which is exactly where his kind of "leadership" will take us. I think I'd rather cast my lot with Reverend Billy's carbon-curbing congregation.