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Friday, January 6, 2006

The Book of Daniel

NBC will be premiering their new show, The Book of Daniel, tonight. It's a show about an Episcopal priest and his family, who have all sorts of problems from drug abuse to promiscuity (and a homosexual son, which is only a 'problem' to some). Along the way, there are conversations with a Jesus character, who seems to be used as an authoritative vehicle for delivering California/Hollywood "truth" to the rest of us ignorant folk living between L.A. and New York. According to this AP article, the show was created by a disgruntled homosexual ex-Christian who said that his partner's "emotionally guarded" family was an inspiration.

I'm not sure if I'll watch or not, as I have many reservations from what I've read. My first impression was that the show was yet another mean-spirited attempt to show Christians as bad people and hypocrites. Now, I fully acknowledge that Christian people aren't perfect and many of them do live hypocritical lives. There are also plenty of mean-spirited Christians who force their religion on others and promote the same sort of caricatures of non-Christians.

However, I would prefer we try to come to understandings with those of various beliefs by focusing on what we have in common, what values we share, and what problems we share. As an ex-Christian nonbeliever myself (Humanist), I have met many fellow atheists and some of them are atheists for the wrong reason. Some have made judgments about Christianity as a religion, belief system, and organization, based on their own anecdotal experiences with some unpleasant individuals. This is akin to making the logical error of Ad Homonym. How long before these people move on to some other belief system because they meet a few hypocrites or jerks who happen to be Humanists?

Although there are a lot of good teachings attributed to Jesus, I believe there are serious logical and philosophical problems with the common practice and belief system of modern Christianity which give good enough reason to question it. But I have no interest in demonizing members of any religion or philosophy, or engage in mean-spirited caricaturizing.

There is a more general problem I have with this show, which goes beyond Christianity and is found in nearly everything produced in the media these days. Whenever television or Hollywood producers say things like they want to, "depict how 'humor and grace' help a flawed man struggle with his faith and family" that's code for promoting the idea that there is no right or wrong, we're all 'dark grey', and anyone who says otherwise or tries to promote principles are either foolish or fascist hypocrites.

I fear this show may just be a 'jab' at caricatures of Christianity, and yet another attempt by the media to promote unprincipled living. On the other hand, I haven't seen the show yet. To present the other side, I'll quote a well written comment I read recently made by a Yahoo user called Adirondacklady66...

I was born and raised in a little town in the Adirondacks. A town that homed the headquarters of a world renown religious group that has missions across the country and around the world. At the age of 8 my parents began going to the local church that was supported by this religious group.

We would sit for ours being preached too about all the sins we could not do. How we are to be pure and etc. People were recruited every Saturday with a school bus to come to the church from the local towns, but then treated like they had the plague because they didn’t dress fancy enough or have nice enough homes. As I grew older I began to see things in a different light.

The deacons found out that my father was an alcoholic. Instead of supporting my parents and trying to be good christians and helping them along the way they treated my family like the black plague. My parents slowly stopped going to the church. In the mean time the daughter of one of the founding fathers returned home because her husband announced he was gay. Her father was getting shipments of wine and so on and so forth.

Ten years later my father had a heart attack, he was in the hospital struggling for his life. Along came four deacons from the church whom he had not seen in years wanting to pray with him. I said no, but my dad said ok. I think he wanted some peace with God for his sins.

When they walked out of his CCU room and asked me if they could pray with them, I looked them in the eyes and asked them if they thought this was Christianity. They looked taken back and asked me what I meant. I said to them "My father helped you build the addition on your church, he helped build the gymnasium for your school, he was a member of your church but when him and my mom needed your support you walked away from them and you have not spoken to them for ten years. Now as he is dying you want to pray with him, you men are the most hypocritical Christians I have ever met! And I would rather go sit on the top of a mountain some place and pray to God alone."

They were shocked and walked away. I was a good friend of the owners of a local video store that rented adult entertainment. The owner was told me one day that the management of this large religious group had come to the video store demanding that they see a list of their members. She refused on the grounds of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of America. The ironic part is that one of the men that was demanding to see the list, was one of her biggest renters. She said he was a bit peekish looking while he was playing his part in the shake down.

So as you see the Holy Rollers can scream their arguments but there is not one family in the USA, not even religious families, that don’t have issues. It is my belief the Religious community does not want this show aired because they are afraid it will strike a nerve and make them wake up and look around at their hypocritical life.

If these sorts of behaviors can be addressed in a beneficial and compassionate way by such a show, then maybe there is some value in it. I just hope that the producers, Adirondacklady66 and the rest of us keep in mind that there are many Christians who do take in those with problems, and the ugly tendency to do otherwise is not a Christian one, but one shared by all human beings.


  1. Thanks for the comment (and for reading) Father Time :)

    I watched last night and it seems to me, more than anything, that the worst thing was that the show was simply *ordinary*. Two quick comments...

    1) Jesus didn't say or do much. He made a lot of small comments like "imagine that" and "you never know" with a knowing nod. One gets the distinct impression that the writers figured if they made him not say anything, each viewer would fill in the blanks with what they thought Jesus would think. The result is that they stuck in a dude with a beard to get media attention, without much consequence to the story. Pretty much the opposite of the problem I feared (that he would be a blatant mouthpiece for the author's views).

    2) As I thought, each and every character had to have a 'dirty little secret'. Of course, all people are imperfect, but not so over-the-top. It felt like the author went through a checklist for each character, that they got from the 'Modern Drama Writing 101' class.

    The maid smoking was the last straw for me. Not that I think dope is a sin per se, but just that she also had to have some secret. It seems that some people just can't imagine that there *really* could be some honest people in the world with nothing to hide. I'm so tired of 'anti-heroes'. What ever happened to the Lone Rangers or the Supermans or the Captain Picards or the Ward Cleavers? Such people are not unrealistic or uninteresting - they're just, unfortunately, rare, no thanks to 'Modern Drama Writing 101'.

    All in all, it's not nearly as damning of Christian people as it might have been, which is a good thing. But on the bad side, it is over the top and I'm not seeing much profound happening here either. My overall impression is: *unnecessary*.

    Of course, it's just one episode, so who knows.

  2. I wasn't too crazy about having the Jesus character in there. I kept thinking maybe he'd been smoking something and that's why he made those little comments that didn't really say anything.

  3. Hehe. I also thought that maybe they wanted to leave it open as to whether or not it was the 'real' Jesus or just this guy's imagination of what he thought Jesus would say.

  4. Aaron M RossettiMay 5, 2006 at 3:25 PM

    I just wanted to let everyone know about a new blog on the circuit.

    Out of Christianity

  5. Thanks for the note Aaron. Seems like it will be an interesting site.