LA Times Exemplifies the Culture Gap
The headline of the feature story in the Los Angeles Times sounded intriguing, "Passover, Potlucks and Plagues," by Ashley Powers [link provided, but registration required]. An admirable attempt, I thought, by the much-and-deservedly maligned Times to expand its coverage of religion in American life. Then I read the story, and realized what a steep climb it will be for the Times to reach a religious-minded readership.
The story itself is entertaining--an account of the annual Passover seder in the desert conducted by Reform Jewish Temple Beth Hillel, of Valley Village (my neighborhood). Writer Powers also makes sure that the Times readers will understand the background of Passover, and recites that it commemorates the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egyptian, through Divine miracles culminating in the splitting of the Red Sea, "a story made famous in the movie, 'The Ten Commandments.' "
Until I read that line, I thought that "boggles the mind" was a figurative expression. But I actually felt my mind boggle. It somersaulted and temporarily froze. "Portrayed in the movie," would have been fine, but "made famous in the movie?" How vacuous, how clueless, how ahistorical could the Times writer be? The Bible, in its Jewish, Catholic and Protestant forms, is the best-selling book of all time. Every edition of which I am aware, unless it is limited to the New Testament, contains the story of the Exodus; in fact, a whole book of the Bible is named after it. I am sadly old enough to remember when the Charlton-Heston-as-Moses version of "The Ten Commandments" came out. I was in elementary school. All my friends already knew the story of the Exodus, whether they were Jewish or Christian.*
[*For those readers whose information only comes from the Los Angeles Times, "Christianity" is a religion whose followers believe in redemption through the crucifixtion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a story made famous by the movies "Ben Hur," "The Robe," "The Greatest Story Ever Told," and "The King of Kings."]
Then I thought, is it just the Los Angeles Times, or does this story accurately depict the mental furnishings of most Southern Californians? Has our society become so secularized and unliterary that stories with which our parents and grandparents were intimately familiar are now "made famous" by movies and television, if known at all? Reader input would be welcome.