TV’s mockery of God, Christians growing
When the former host of CBS’ “The Early Show,” Bryant Gumbel, referred to Missouri’s Phyllis Schlafly as a “religious right fringe fanatic” in February 1993, many Christians were disturbed and even expressed outrage at Gumbel’s ridiculous characterization. Schlafly, a devout Christian and the person who led the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, is a beloved leader who remains an eloquent voice of conservatism after more than four decades of toil. I wish I could announce that such behavior targeted at Christians by television personalities has been eradicated, but I cannot.
Mocking God, Christians and their faith has become a common occurrence in the television industry. Christians have come to expect it from largely pagan moviemakers in Hollywood. At least we can protect ourselves and our children from their smut by not going to theaters. However, television, because it is in 98 percent of American homes (more than 50 percent have more than one in the house) is a different beast and is too often accessible to young eyes and too frequently inappropriate for adult ones.
When it comes to mocking God, Christians and their faith, television has a “rap sheet” a mile long – and it’s getting longer. I am not talking about acts of buffoonery like that of Gumbel on “The Early Show” on June 29, 2000. Perhaps you recall that Gumbel’s guest that day, Robert Knight of the pro-family Family Research Council, was on defending the morality behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Boy Scouts’ ban on homosexual scoutmasters. When the interview was complete, Gumbel could be seen by more than four million viewers blurting, “What a f—ing idiot!” He, nor CBS, ever apologized. Gumbel was unaware his remark was being witnessed by the public, just like when CNN Founder Ted Turner mouthed on Ash Wednesday, 2001, “What are you, a bunch of Jesus freaks? You ought to be working for Fox.” Again, Turner was unaware that millions of people knew what he said as he was saying it.
Instead of these foolish examples that clearly demonstrate anti-Christian bigotry, I am more alarmed about blatant, purposeful examples that have surfaced in recent weeks. What disturbs me (not that the others don’t because they do) about these new incidents is that they are intentional, meant to sway public opinion. They mock God and are deceptive to unbelievers.
• The day after the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Rose O’Donnell, co-host to ABC’s “The View,” compared Christianity with radical Islam. O’Donnell, a lesbian who leads a national effort to make same-sex marriage legal, said, “Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state. We’re a democracy here.”
• On the Dec. 11 CBS program of “Two and a Half Men,” actor Charlie Sheen gave a “vulgar adaptation” of a few Christmas carols, including “Joy to the World.” The episode opened with Sheen singing about his sexual activity to the Christmas tunes. I’ll spare you the raunchy details.
• A skit, taped on Jan. 10 and aired early on Jan. 11, on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” featured a character titled “the homophobic country western singer.” (See the lyrics in the box.)
Douglas R. Scott, Jr., president of Life Decisions International, offered appropriate criticism: “The NBC and CBS television networks may be rival corporations, but they have one thing in common. Both networks have allowed programming that blatantly mocks Christianity. The idea that anyone would think about the Son of God in this way is simply appalling. The inferences that permeate the song are utterly disgusting.”
I wonder what the reaction would be if the Conan skit had been about Buddha, a rabbi or Muhammad? I think it is safe to say they would have been outraged and banned the skit, but because it was about Jesus Christ, well, nothing was done. Christians are too timid when things like this occur. Jews, Muslims Buddhists, Hindus and other groups would not take it. Why should Christians? We have an obligation to speak truth and to combat deceit wherever it surfaces.
Perhaps television’s seemingly growing disdain for God and Christians can been seen in the amount of religious programming offered. A Parents Television Council study examined the entire 2005-2006 year of prime-time programming. It found a total of 2,271 hours of programming containing 1,425 treatments of religion. The new statistic accounted for a 41 percent decrease from the 2,344 religious portrayals made during the 2003-2004 season. When you consider that a November poll by the American Bible Society and Zogby International revealed that 85 percent of American viewers find religious values, references to the Bible less offensive than sex and violence on television, a strong argument can be made that television is out of step with most of its viewers.
Mocking God and His children is nothing new. The Israelites mocked Hezekiah’s messengers, who urged repentance and when the mocking persisted, God brought judgment (2 Ch. 30:1-10; 36:16). Jeremiah was mocked because of the message God had given him (Jer. 20:7). Jesus was mocked all the way to the Cross.
Yet God has promised us victory, so we should not fear mockery. Matthew 16:18 says, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So rather than ignore or be timid, let us engage the mockers.