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Image: SpongeBob
Shannon Stapleton  /  Reuters
It's hard to believe that cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is at the center of this controversy.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/21/2005 6:07:25 PM ET 2005-01-21T23:07:25
COMMENTARY

Since I am a compassionate and tolerant person, I hate to generalize about any particular group. Because people are so wonderfully diverse, proudly independent and gloriously unique, any racial, ethnic or religious pigeonholing would be deeply insulting, not to mention inaccurate.

So when I hear the word “Christian” these days, I don’t assume good or bad. All sorts of people fall within that category. In my humble opinion, Jesus Christ was an important and influential figure in world history, and I respect that. Because he was a symbol of love and understanding, the term “What Would Jesus Do?” resonates powerfully. If we all acted as Jesus would, I believe the world would be at peace, and love would wash over all of God’s children.

But of course, not all Christians are alike. Many, if not most, Christians understand the true message of Jesus. But there is a frightening number of so-called Christians who can be best described as creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous — better known by the acronym C.R.A.C.K.P.O.T.

These CRACKPOT Christians are nothing new. Throughout history there have been dangerous fools of all persuasions who have perverted religious text for their own selfish purposes. What they like to do, in essence, is force-feed their twisted beliefs on others while hiding behind a respectable label, thereby conning folks into thinking that their mean-spirited behavior is really born out of kindness and generosity.

But the CRACKPOT Christians may have gone too far. Now they’re messing with SpongeBob.

SpongeBob SquarePants is a hugely popular cartoon character. He lives inside a pineapple underneath the sea. The CRACKPOT Christians, however, would like you to believe that he really lives in a loft in Greenwich Village above an antiques store with his longtime companion.

The CRACKPOT Christians want to warn Americans that a music video being sent to 61,000 U.S. schools in March featuring SpongeBob and promoting a message of tolerance is really a surreptitious attempt to turn straights into gays. Specifically, they’re upset by a “tolerance pledge” on the website of the nonprofit We Are Family Foundation, the producer of the video, that asks people to respect the sexual identity of others along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race.

I’ve only caught bits and pieces of SpongeBob, but I never noticed any Bette Midler playing in the background. Nor have I seen SpongeBob shopping for china at Williams Sonoma, or French-kissing another male sponge. He does, however, hold hands with his sidekick Patrick and enjoys watching the imaginary TV show, “The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy,” so I can see why the CRACKPOT Christians might get their knickers in a knot believing that the moral foundation of our nation’s schoolchildren is in grave peril because a couple of cartoon characters touched each other.

But why stop at SpongeBob? I’m sure the CRACKPOT Christians are, at this very moment, gathered somewhere in a secret location, scrutinizing old clips of Tom and Jerry to detect any signs of mutual arousal. I know the CRACKPOT Christians are all over the rumor that whenever Scooby-Doo humps a leg, it’s always a man’s leg. And have you noticed that Ed, Edd N Eddy hug each other quite a bit? I guarantee you the CRACKPOT Christians have noticed.

The now-infamous SpongeBob video — or as it is more commonly known now among CRACKPOT Christians, “The Insidious Perpetuation of the Undersea Gay Agenda By Animated Phylum Porifera” — also features such notable characters as Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, the Rugrats and others. By their participation, I have to assume they are targets as well. The CRACKPOT Christians will ask, “Why is it we never see Barney with a girlfriend?” Or “Is Winnie’s preoccupation with honey just a smokescreen?” And “Exactly what type of ‘tools’ is Bob the Builder busy with these days?”

Video: SpongeBob controversy This situation might be funny if it wasn’t so insane.

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Yet rather than dump on the CRACKPOT Christians for placing their heads in an anatomically impossible position, I feel a little sorry for them. By turning SpongeBob into a controversy, they’re destroying the miniscule amount of credibility they might have had in the eyes of real Christians and others. These CRACKPOT Christians have succeeded in doing something I thought would be impossible:

They’re giving Jesus Christ a bad name.

For a lot of people, this might be unforgivable. But I’m more compassionate than most. I would like to help the CRACKPOT Christians redeem themselves. After all, they’re human, or at least they started out that way. Guiding these CRACKPOT Christians along the path of righteousness will be a Herculean task, but as the Bible tells us, miracles do happen. How can I preach tolerance and then turn my back on those who need it most?

The first step for the CRACKPOT Christians is to accept that they have a problem. I know programs exist that can reprogram the insufferably preachy and transform them back into normal people like the rest of us. They have to get the message that taking the Good Book, living by the parts they agree with and disregarding the parts they don’t, is a learned behavior and can be cured. They need to be taught that looking for secret messages where none exist is an urge that should be resisted.

Maybe they could use an instructional video.

Michael Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.

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