Tuesday, December 05, 2006

TV Show The Book of Daniel: Conservative Christians pick another winner!

I just finished watching the Book of Daniel with Linda for the second time. You probably have not heard of the series since it was cancelled by NBC in January this year due to a coalition of conservative Christians headed by the American Family Association who not only promoted a online petition to close the show (getting over 670,000 emails to NBC) but also organized a ban against any business who would do advertising during the program. Cancelled after only 2 shows, the Christian Examiner proudly boasted the bully tactics eliminated all but 1 sponsor.

The show itself is a reflection of genuine Christian struggles in an entitled (RICH) but “typical” Christian family – at least one I grew up in: one child is gay, the father, Daniel, is an Episcopal priest, who struggles with his own issues, including a dependency on “Canadian pain pills” (read: codine), the mother is feeling the need to find a job outside the home to fulfill herself, the daughter has been caught selling pot in a desperate attempt to fund her self drawn manga, and Daniel’s father the Bishop is taking care of his mother who is degenerating from Alzheimer’s. Put bluntly, if you want to see how to apply the complexities of actually following Christ in a complicated world, any of the seven episodes and the double pilot are far more inspirational (if not practical) than any of the sermons I heard for the entire last year I attended a Christian congregation. But these ideas; that life can be complex, that there might not be black and white solutions to every situation or that teenagers could actual make mistakes and learn from them seem to be the very issues which drive the Christian right into a frenzy. In one episode, with resistance from the church on having another gay couple come (“we have 7 gays already, isn’t that enough?”), as well as Daniel having to reconcile a son whose father has now married a younger woman…who happens to be the son’s secret ex-wife, and some guys with mob histories coming to church wanting people to look past their names and family connections – the question is asked, “Jesus asks us to accept and love one another...but how often do we decide simply on what we think we already know?” And these are the kind of questions that Christians DON’T want other people watching or thinking about? Do they really think that if the only application of Christianity is either to find out who to hate or to find our motivation solely in a fear of hell?

These Christian groups say that those who support the Book of Daniel, regardless of if they identify as Christian or not are “Non-Christians.” The reasons why no “True Christian” could like or support this show (or much less, find themselves in any way reflected in it): First, it is written by a HOMOSEXUAL! Sorry, there isn’t any more to that argument; I guess the assumption for some Christians is that homosexuals are incapable of providing any insight or understanding into the human condition. Next, the show depicts Christians having problems, this is "negative" while Christian News agencies like the Agape Press feel that Hollywood should instead focus on good, problem free, hardworking Christians. I am not sure what show that would make; maybe “The Weekly Good Hardworking Perfect and Happy in Christ Family Show” – sounds like a real gripper!

Okay, here are some of the other reasons the ban was called: gay character (of course!), Jesus talks to Daniel to offer comfort, and a little girl says she “talks to Jesus” (Why exactly don’t Christians want Jesus to be portrayed as a good listener who is there for you....?), also daughter is caught selling drugs and ends up doing community service (so the theme of make mistakes, learn from them but be responsible for them isn’t something Christians want teens to learn either I guess), a secretary to the church accountant is a lesbian (of course part II!) and sex outside of marriage (though Daniel and his wife are entirely faithful to each other) – well, I can see why they don’t want that shown – I can’t remember the last Christian church where members or their children EVER had sex outside or before marriage.

So, if you are a Christian who, when seeing two guys kiss on TV, doesn’t immediately start shouting “Lalalalalalalalalala! Honey! Satan is trying to turn me gay!” then you will probably like this show. If you aren’t Christian; can anything the Christian right hate this much NOT BE GREAT? Let’s face it – if the AFA or the Traditional Values Association or the Christian Women of America called for a ban on a brand of ice cream for being “a spawn of the devil” – I’d be buying a case the next day – as these groups have almost an unblemished record of going nuts over things any sane person will love (if you don’t believe me, remember when they pressured the FCC to stop the showing of Saving Private Ryan on TV? They also hated Season 1 of Desperate Housewives and tried to get that cancelled too!). Remember how you loved the Waltons, but then you grew up and found it just a little too sugar sweet? The Book of Daniel is the Waltons for jaded people, and you can buy it here (I'm not getting a commission - I just push people toward the things I like).


kathz said...

I haven't come across this show - it may not have made it over the Atlantic, which seems a shame. Meanwhile, I AM appalled by the idea of the "Christian" video game, Left Behind, which is just about to be released here: http://www.eternalforces.com .

Quotations from the FAQs include:

"Our game includes violence, but excludes blood,
decapitation, killing of police officers, etc. Our
game is expected to be widely accepted by the
mainstream and Christian marketplaces, just as they
have accepted Star Wars games which are “T” for teen
rated. We have taken great care to make certain that
consequences for poor gamer behavior will adequately
reflect the gamers actions. Accordingly, unnecessary
killing will result in lower Spirit points."


"Does the violence depicted in the game run contrary
to Jesus’ message on “love your enemy”?
Absolutely not. Christians are quite clearly taught to
turn the other cheek and to love their enemies. It is
equally true that no one should forfeit their lives to
an aggressor who is bent on inflicting death.
Forgiveness does not require absolute defenselessness.
Apparent contradictions on behalf of Christians are
often the result of them placing greater importance on
the message, than in caring for others."

So it's all about killing people without visible blood on the justification that they are agents of the Antichrist and it's therefore necessary. And turning the other cheek doesn't mean what you think it means. I wonder why they think Jesus chose to "forfeit [his] life to an aggressor bent on inflicting death", beceause it sounds like a big mistake in their theology.

Judging from your account, I'd rather choose The Book of Daniel for my Christian message any day.

GayProf said...

I watched the show when it aired (twice). It had a lot of promise, but never quite found its legs.

Of course, I also think that the lack of good ratings probably had something to do with NBC's decision to pull the plug as well.

Elizabeth McClung said...

NBC never said straight out why it cancelled but even when a show IS cancelled, they usually let the preshot series run - the first six episodes - another factor was that the AFA was getting individual NBC station affiliates to refuse to run the show (you know..for moral reasons) - it was up to 11 on the second week. Even the lowest rated and most controversial show Profit, which opened with the main character, a businessman killing his father, sleeping with his mother, and lying, blackmailing and positioning his enemies in good old USA fashion ran the first 6 episodes.

Wiccachicky said...

I will have to check this out - I hadn't heard about it, but it sounds like it would be fascinating to show in a class.

Anonymous said...

(still catching up with your blog entries; i've been away too long)

thanks for the tip. i don't know how i missed this one. might check it out.


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I live and work in Asia.