Comedian George Carlin died of a heart attack at age 71 Sunday evening.
I am old enough to have a perspective on Carlin's significance. He signaled a change in comedy. Comedy had been more of the Henny Youngman variety: one-liners, shticks, gags. Carlin started "straight" and buttoned-down, then developed a very different approach to comedy. He pioneered a more observational sort of humor, such as we can see in Stephen Wright, Jerry Seinfeld, Ritch Shydner, and a host of others.
Carlin's worldview took a toll on him, as drug-use reportedly started the heart-problems that eventually killed him. Five years before his death, the "funny-man" voiced a very dark view:
"I sort of gave up on this whole human adventure a long time ago," he said a couple of years ago. "Divorced myself from it emotionally. I think the human race has squandered its gift, and I think this country has squandered its promise. I think people in America sold out very cheaply, for sneakers and cheeseburgers. And I don't think it's fixable."Here you see a man who is confronted with the disaster which autonomy has brought on our race. Carlin sees some of the bitter fruits of man's rebellion against God. He longs for redemption. He sees that it will not arise from within us. Yet, like the classic definition of insanity, he has no prescription but more of the same. He was raised Roman Catholic, and probably thought (alas, wrongly) that this exposed him to Christianity, to Christ, to the Gospel. Thus he often expressed contempt for religion. Rejecting the fake, like so many he was inoculated against the real item. Thus apparently Carlin never seriously considered the actual cure whose absence he would later feel so keenly: Jesus Christ, the only hope and redeemer of mankind (John 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:1).
As we all naturally do — in spite of his many keen insights — Carlin misdiagnoses the cause, and thus completely misses the cure.
When I think of Carlin, I think primarily of his riff on "stuff," and his riff on how we view different ages: we "become 21, turn 30, push 40, reach 50 and make it to 60; now you've built up so much speed that you hit 70!" (Someone added some trite "happy life" thoughts and circulated it, made it totally un-Carlin; but I've heard the man give the first part.)
As articles across the globe remember Carlin, those routines aren't what they celebrate (?) in Carlin. What they remember — often in their obit headlines — is a routine he did on, and exulting in, seven obscene words. (I won't link to that one.)
I don't think that would bother Carlin, unfortunately. His routines were often badly profane, which is why you don't see links to them. But it bothered me. What a way to be remembered: Carlin made many clever, wry, gentler observations; but it was a juvenile, potty-mouthed rant that ends up as his epitaph.
Which got me to thinking a bit of how any of us will be remembered when we pass away. Which got me to thinking of Mark Driscoll.
Don't brace for a bash. This isn't meant as one. I think we here at Pyro have a range of estimations of Driscoll, with a lot of overlap. I have heard at least a couple dozen of Mark's sermons or talks, and liked most of them very much... with some reservations.
But if Driscoll were to pass away right now, how would he be remembered? Would it be: "Revolutionary voice for Christ in Washington passes away: Driscoll preached Bible in an anti-Christian setting"?
No, you know what it would probably be, still: "'Cussing pastor' dies: anti-feminist shocked Christians with coarse language, blue sermons on sex."
Now, would that be fair? As a summary of all of Driscoll's work and preaching and writing, no, I don't think it would be fair at all. But you know it would happen.
Part of that would be the fault of the paint-thin, sensationalistic, spiritually clueless, despicable, contemptible MSM.
But part of it wouldn't.
It's worth our giving that a thought, regardless of the size of our circle of influence, fame, infamy.
I'm not asking that we convince the world to like us. Not going to happen — or we've messed up, somewhere (James 4:4). I'm not saying we should expect fairness from the MSM. I'm more thinking of what we make our emphasis. If the media noted our passing, and mischaracterized us, would our friends have abundant resources to show how ridiculous they are? Or would we have played right into their hands by poor judgment, poor priorities, over-fondness of applause, playing for laughs and roses?
I'm saying it's worth real thought.
but the name of the wicked will rot
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold
A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.