Saturday, January 7, 2006

Would Jesus Flip Them Off?

Most people wish to serve God - but only in an advisory capacity. ~Author Unknown

How typical. One day, i write about a religious figure writing intelligently about both Christians and Jews. The next day, the nuts come out again.
Item 1: Pat Robertson is at it again. Quoting scripture more or less at random, he has decided that Ariel Sharon's stroke is a judgment from God because he is offering land to the Palestinians (who, last I heard were also some of God's creatures). You remember ol' Pat; it wasn't too long ago he was advocating the assassination of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Robertson, who has had political ambitions on occasion, now suggests that it is against the teachings of the Bible to live in peace with your neighbors. Pat shouldn't be so worried. There are enough nuts on both sides of the Middle East mess to ensure that innocent people will keep getting blown up for years to come.
But what this points up is another case of a Christian who apparently has no familiarity with the New Testament. You would be hard-pressed to find any reference in the Gospels, the Epistles, Acts, or even Revelations where Jesus would advocate divine retribution for “giving up” parts of the “Holy Land” to descendants of peoples who were there when the Biblical narratives occurred. And I am unable to find a single instance of Jesus recommending the murder of a political leader.
Perhaps, if we could get Robertson to attend a Sunday school Bible class or two, his understanding might be improved.
Item 2: Religious groups are up in arms yet again about a TV show. Is it “Desperate Housewives”? Is the the entire Fox Network? Nope. They want “The Book of Daniel” taken off the air.
Okay, people. Let's get a couple of things out of the way right at the outset. Censorship is evil, no matter what you're trying to do. No one should be in the business of telling others what they can and cannot read, listen to, or watch. So you have no right to suggest that something be kept from view. You don't like it, then don't watch it. Tell the world it stinks. But don't think you have the privilege of deciding whether others can watch it.
Secondly, when are people going to learn that the more noise you make about something like this, the more people will tune it in to see what the fuss is about? To repeat, you don't like it, don't watch it. Write a letter to the network saying you'll boycott the sponsors. But don't talk up the stupid show.
All that being said, what is the fuss about “The Book of Daniel”? The plot of this epic goes like this: Daniel is an Episcopal priest who pops pills, which helps him commune with Jesus (who appears on the show). His wife is a lush, his daughter is a drug dealer, and his son is gay (making him more normal than anyone else in this bunch of freaks). Not exactly “Seventh Heaven”, is it?
(By the way, the TV ad says the son is sleeping with a 16 year old girl, so he's apparently more versatile than the print articles indicated. However, Daniel's sister-in-law, I think it is, is having a lesbian affair, so it's all good.)
The producers claim that the show is not a satire of religion. Good lord, I hope not. Religion has plenty of areas ripe for satire (see Pat Robertson above), but this is a heavy-handed piece of crud. Forget about insulting religious groups. The whole thing sounds like an insult to the intelligence of any human with an I.Q. over 10. There have been plenty of shows about dysfunctional families, but this family is beyond dysfunctional. It's gone all the way over to psychotic. Based on the one ad for this pile of dross that I've seen, it may be one of the dumbest things to ever hit the air waves.
I find it quite interesting that just before the show premiered that a major brouhaha should erupt, conveniently generating huge amounts of free publicity for this thing. New programs do not suddenly appear out of nowhere. Production begins months earlier, and news items are usually all over the place to generate buzz for the premier. How amazing that, having generated no comment until now, the show has suddenly, immediately prior to its first showing, become a front page topic in newspapers and even been a feature article on CNN's web site.
If I had a cynical turn, I'd say that NBC, the network shoveling this thing out, made sure that the most conservative religious groups they could find had a preview or at least got a detailed look at early scripts. It wouldn't be the first time that something of this ilk occurred. In Alabama, when a Christian-backed group fought against the adoption of a lottery, it turned out that a significant amount of their funding came from gambling interests in neighboring states. Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida wanted Alabamians to keep spending their gambling dollars across the state line.
Would it be so amazing to imagine that a network wouldn't stoop to a similar tactic?
Once again, people, if the show turns out to be as bad as it looks (and it would be remarkable to be otherwise), it will go away much more quickly if you don't watch it, you encourage everyone you know not to watch it, and you write nastygrams to NBC saying you won't buy the sponsors' products. Keep screaming for censorship, and you'll just push the ratings up.
Better yet, instead of acting like fools, do what Jesus would do: Write compassionate letters to the network executives, the writers, and the actors expressing your concern for their sordid view of life. Explain how you understand their suffering and hope that they might find the wisdom and insight through prayer to realize how warped their views have become.
Kill 'em with kindness and understanding. Then, tell 'em you won't buy the sponsors' products.

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