THE CONTROVERSY OVER "THE BOOK OF DANIEL"
I usually stick to covering news regarding radio and music, but occasionally news about the other broadcast medium, TV, comes to light so profoundly that I just have to throw my two cents in. In this case, it was brought to my attention via a heated speech at church this past Sunday.
Apparently, Friday saw the premiere of NBC's The Book of Daniel. According to TV.com the show centers around an Episcopalian priest with a predilection for popping Vicodin, his alcoholic wife, gay Republican son, promiscuous daughter, and equally promiscuous Chinese adopted son. Also included is a caricature of Jesus as a mental image that the title character regularly converses with.
No surprise that the Christian community has erupted in controversy.
I'm not going to comment on the show itself. I haven't yet seen it, so I feel unqualified to speak to the quality of it, whether or not it's blasphemous, sacrilegous or even if it's any good. I won't insult your intelligence by condemning it or uplifting it. Most of the people who are currently condemning it didn't watch it first, and one has to question the integrity of someone who is lambasting something they only know of through second or third-hand information.
What I'm more concerned about is the reaction of the Christian community. There has been a wide range of response, ranging from boycotts to outright death threats. Mind you, these are the same people who cried foul when people called for the removal and boycott of the equally controversial movie The Passion of the Christ.
Just for your information, I'm a conservative Christian. But don't let that keep you from reading. I might surprise you with what I'm about to say: This outcry demanding that NBC remove The Book of Daniel from the airwaves is WRONG.
Yes, I said it.
Again, I'm not defending or condemning the actual show. I don't know enough about it to do either. I am saying, though, that Christians need to be careful about how they go about trying to enforce censorship. Censorship is such a slippery slope, and once you go down it, you may just find yourself unable to climb back up. The trouble with censorship is that it's not only applicable to just one group. If you take away someone else's right to free speech or expression, you are opening the door for them to take away yours in the future.
Look, for instance, at the debacle in Alabama where the Ten Commandments were removed from the courthouse steps. That's a very palpable example of freedom of expression of religion being infringed upon. Yet, how can anyone as a Christian complain about that when we're the very ones who open the doors of censorship anytime something objectionable comes about?
Besides, protesting the show and publishing countless articles and preaching heated sermons about it actually helps the show out. It gives the show publicity that the producers could never buy. The old axiom is true, especially in the entertainment industry: there's no such thing as negative publicity. If you need proof, here are a couple of examples.
(1.) The Last Temptation of Christ. This Scorcese movie was critically reviled. Artistically, it was a failure. I watched it. The production values were terrible. All in all, the movie should've been looking at instant failure and would've been swept under the rug quite quickly. But then along comes Don Wildmon and the American Family Association, running ads in major publications, going on TV, and doing all they could to preach from the highest pulpits about how evil this movie was and how Hollywood was attacking morality and Christianity. Suddenly, the movie was viable, and because thousands of people were made curious about the movie, thanks to the AFA's protests, the movie made more than it actually would've made previously.
(2.) 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be. Nobody had heard of 2 Live Crew except extreme rap fanatics. Then Tipper Gore and her crowd got all morally indignant about the lyrics of "Me So Horny." There was the ensuing media stink, Congressional hearings, and more circus than P.T. Barnum could've ever hoped for. Next thing you knew, every 12 year old boy in junior high had a copy of it, and 2 Live Crew were topping the charts. This case also ushered in the Parental Advisory sticker and sent a loud message to the entertainment industry that musical obscenity was highly marketable. For the Christian right: mission not accomplished.
Maybe if Christians would stop getting so worked up, they'd take the time and think about the obvious factors: (1.) This show is premiering midseason, which means that it has lesser chances of surviving compared to rookie shows that premiere in the fall. Even at that, it's only scheduled for six episodes at this time, and rumor has it that NBC halted production on the series nearly a month ago. (2.) It's running against ABC's 20/20, CBS's successful Numbers, The WB's Twins, and UPN's popular WWE Smackdown. (3.) Book of Daniel has, to this point, been a ratings disappointment.
"But," replies every Christian I've spoken to about this, "shouldn't Christians stand up? If we say nothing, will that not embolden them to do more of the same?" The answer is not that simple, I guess. Maybe yes, maybe no. But there is a more powerful way to express your disinterest in the show, and that is to turn your TV off. If you don't like it being there, you have two distinct choices: either find your way to another channel or turn the TV off and concentrate on real life.
Our freedoms of speech and expression are the cornerstones that this country was founded on. They were established to protect both believers and non-believers and to allow everyone the right to their respective beliefs as well as the right to verbalize these beliefs. You can't remove someone else's free speech without endangering your own. They have just as much right to evangelize as you do, and they have a right to choose to view certain programming if they wish.
It's not our responsibility to tell everybody else what they should do. We need to concentrate on doing what WE are supposed to do and strive for our own perfection. If we do that, there will be no time left for us to try to control the lives of others we don't happen to agree with, much less to control their viewing habits. And for all the crowing about ridding the public airwaves of such things, I have yet to see Christians come up with good alternative programming (and no, blowhard preachers in $5000 Armani suits begging for money doesn't count.) Maybe if we all exercised our freedom of speech and religion and tried a little harder to spread the love and mercy that are crucial to the teachings of Jesus, we would have less of these issues to contend with in the first place.