On Dec. 31, I posted some comments on our "Calling for Truth - Christian View" blog about the then forthcoming television show "The Book of Daniel." In light of the actual airing of the program, I thought I might post those comments here to simply weigh in on the dialogue. Let me also recommend Dr. Tony Beam's article on the same subject, "What NBC Thinks about Christianity," posted yesterday here on Crosswalk.com. He comments on the actual episode that aired.
"Conservative Christians are gearing up for a holy war of sorts over NBC's forthcoming show 'The Book of Daniel' airing the first week of 2006," according to Fox News. The show's star Aidan Quinn - who plays the Rev. Daniel Webster - called the series 'a pretty down-the-middle, wholesome show.' 'I honestly don't think it's going to be nearly as controversial as some people may now be afraid of,' Quinn told The Associated Press. 'It just has the courage to deal with some of the real issues that go on in people's lives.'"
Great! We can all rest easy. The show is "down-the-middle" and "wholesome." Just in case, before we breathe a great sigh of relief, let's see how Quinn defines "down-the-middle" and "wholesome." "Webster regularly sees and talks with a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus. The Webster family is rounded out by a 23-year-old homosexual Republican son, a 16-year-old daughter who is a drug dealer, and a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter. At the office, his lesbian secretary is sleeping with his sister-in-law."
Well, it seems that postmodern revisionism has found its way into the dictionary. These things are indeed real issues that go in the lives of many people. But, that is why we preach the gospel, that those people might be saved and delivered from such enslaving sin. From a biblical perspective, the entire Webster family needs to be evangelized (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Quinn told the AP, "I'm an Episcopalian Priest who struggles with a little self-medication problem, and I have a 23-year-old son who's gay, and a 16-year-old daughter who's caught dealing pot, and another son who's jumping on every high school girl he sees, and a wife who's very loving but also likes her martinis. I can't tell you how many people have said to me, 'Hey, that sounds like my family.'" Again, that may sound like some families, but it certainly does not represent the average Christian family, let alone a gospel minister's family. The sad truth may be that such a family is representative of what one might find in the liberal/apostate wing of the Episcopal Church. However, in bible believing churches (Episcopal or otherwise), Webster would not be qualified to serve as a minister (1 Tim. 3:1-7).
We must also give some thought to the fact that Webster regularly has visions of and face-to-face conversations with "a very unconventional...Jesus." In this pervasively postmodern culture, neo-gnosticism is alive and well. It seems that every program on television with a religious theme is given to the ancient philosophy dressed up in modern garb.
The notion that we have direct, physical contact with the divine is behind this thinking. Never mind that the Scriptures indicate that this type of thing is not normative today. We experience God's presence through the Holy Spirit and He speaks to us by His word, the bible. Casual conversation via physical manifestation (theophany) is simply not how it works today. The quest for an actual physical experience with the divine as opposed to a mediated experience through the word of God is behind such thought even in Christian circles.
What makes this part of the program so unnerving is more than the fact that it is an unbiblical portrayal of how God communicates to us and that is that many Christians themselves would actually approve of this brand of mysticism as patently biblical. It is difficult to get the world to portray things in a biblical manner when much of the Christian world embraces such nonsense (as normative).
One more comment in regard to "a very unconventional Jesus." Do we expect anything different from an unconventional Jesus on a secular program? Of course, we must translate "unconventional." In plain terms we would say heretical. However the Lord Jesus is portrayed, if He is not portrayed as revealed to us in the Scriptures, then we have another Jesus which is no Jesus at all. What we have is sheer idolatry.
NBC and the mainstream media call it "edgy," "challenging" and "courageous." While they mean those words in a positive way, we must point out that they are right, but in a negative way. The program is edgy and challenging because it redefines biblical Christianity. It is courageous in a warped sort of way in that it boldly blasphemes the God of the bible, mocks His revealed truth, and effectively smacks Christians in the face.
"The series is written by Jack Kenny, a practicing homosexual who describes himself as being 'in Catholic recovery,' and is interested in Buddhist teachings about reincarnation and isn't sure exactly how he defines God and/or Jesus. 'I don't necessarily know that all the myth surrounding him (Jesus) is true,' he said." There you have it folks. But, don't forget, the program is "down-the-middle" and "wholesome." Well, it is if you are a homosexual Buddhist who believes the bible is myth.
"NBC considers The Book of Daniel a positive portrayal of Christ and Christians." What does that say about NBC? Programs like this reduce the Scriptures to nothing more than human documents that can be reinterpreted any way we like. They reduce Christianity to someone's notion of what Christianity is and not what the bible says it is. They reduce Christian experience to nothing but worldly experience. And, they reduce the power of the gospel to powerlessness as those who claim to be Christian evidence no spiritual power or change in their lives.
Let us turn briefly to fact that some have called for a boycott of the series. There is no doubt that Christians should not tune in to this program on a regular basis. I for one will not. It is indeed part of the larger assault on Christ from this culture.
While we wholeheartedly affirm and engage in personal boycotts of all kinds, at the same time, we still stand away from calling for block or institutional boycotts. It is so easy to use our carnal muscle. But, we are told that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds (2 Cor. 10:4)."
We do agree with the American Family Association in saying the program "is an example of that network's anti-Christian bigotry." I for one am happy "that the network has received more than 400,000 e-mails complaining about the show." But, let us leave it at personal refusal to watch the show, personal complaint to NBC, warnings from the AFA (and even this blog and the like), gospel preaching, and prayer. Let us not bully NBC simply because they bully us. While calling for a boycott of this show may be slightly different than calling for a boycott of a retail outlet to force them to conform their behavior to that which we want, a practice we should regard as patently unbiblical, though the personal decision to shop elsewhere is always appropriate, it still smacks of strong-arm tactics to get what we want from NBC.
Beloved, NBC is pagan. They are going to act like pagans. If the ratings are good, the show will continue. If the ratings are bad, the show will not. Let Christians make personal decisions and pray they make the right decisions and pray the show will not be successful. But coming against NBC with a public boycott puts the battle on the wrong field and makes them adversaries for us to defeat rather than helpless sinners for us to win to Christ. Even Fox News said we were gearing up for a holy war. We are being compared to Jihad. Oh, how that breaks my heart. Brethren, this ought not be. Donald Wildmon of the AFA is right when he says that "Christian-bashing is in style at NBC." But, let not NBC-bashing be in style in the Christian community.
(For NBC contact info or what the American Family Association has to say, go to www.afa.net.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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