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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Not Just Imagined: Media Hostility Toward Religion

Hopefully you are all catching some sessions of General Conference this weekend. Here in Shanghai, our congregations (now 3 great branches for foreign passport holders) will watch it as a recording next week so we don't have to go without sleep to watch conference in our time zone. For some folks, the temptation to sleep through conference is bad enough during broad daylight.

If you watched it, you might have been pleased to see that a woman gave one of the prayers in the opening session. Sister Jean A. Stevens used to be in my parents' ward and my wife knows her, having been her host when Sister Stevens visited Wisconsin a few years ago. Fabulous woman, she says. Cool!

What a privilege we have to be able to watch conference at all. For those who get to watch it on TV, it's one of the few religious programs you may ever see on the tube. Take a moment and read Jim Bennett's article, "Where's the Respect for Religion on TV?" Mocking religion is the easiest thing in the world. Creating characters who are religious hypocrites is a trivial exercise that is repeated endlessly in TV programs, movies, and books. Tiring end tedious, yet we are supposed to think it's witty. I'm finishing The Poisonwood Bible right now, and while I like a lot about the book, the repetitive sarcasm directed toward the religion of the totally one-dimensional, predictable boor-of-a-preacher tyrant father makes the book much less than it could have been, IMHO. As usual, religion, especially Christian religion gets no respect. It deserves a little more than that. Read Bennett's article and let me know what you think. It's not just imagined hostility. 

2 comments:

The Whitmer's said...

Jeff, sadly there seems little in the world that will invite TV networks to return to religion in a positive way. I expect that we will only see more slamming and denigrating before we see more responsible vision. Hope that doesn't burst any bubbles -- Maybe I'm just jaded and without hope in this regard. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

As is proved by Bennett's own example, Touched by an Angel, Hollywood is perfectly happy to air programs that treat religion with respect, as long as they get good ratings. It's pure business. You know, capitalism.

Bennett's article is just the usual shallow conservative culture-carping. He seems not to have thought very carefully about just what should count as "Hollywood" (if he means "the entertainment industry," aren't Roma Downey, Mel Gibson, and Kirk Cameron part of it?) nor about what should count as a "series with a respectfully religious premise." I would say that Deadwood was quite respectful toward religion, yet I doubt that Bennett would agree, partly because of his pinched understanding of religion and partly because of his low level of biblical literacy. There's a deeper knowledge of, and more genuine respect for, the Old Testament in a single episode of Deadwood than in all nine seasons of Touched by an Angel. Of course, TBAA lasted longer than Deadwood, presumably because really good writing is difficult to sustain, and because the market for trite sentimentality is so much bigger than that for honest explorations of the human condition.

Also, someone should tell Bennett that the portrayal of The Simpsons' Ned Flanders is overall pretty positive.

-- Eveningsun