the book of daniel (here we go again)

I woke up this morning to two dj's on the radio discussing the "controversial" television series which begins tomorrow evening on NBC, The Book of Daniel. Daniel, in the series, is an Episcopal priest who gets the unprecedented opportunity to discuss life and crises one on one with Jesus. The key word being discuss. Jesus answers back.

The announcers said that the show was already being criticized by the American Family Association as mocking Christianity. I almost used the AFA's protest link to send an email SUPPORTING the show, but decided that I didn't want to accidentally add my name to some petition seeking to have it pulled. In the end I sent the following email to NBC Chairman Bob Wright:
Dear Chairman Wright,

I am writing you this email to ENCOURAGE YOU to go ahead and air "The Book of Daniel" as planned. I got wind of the protest by the American Family Association and I am disturbed that they are seeking to keep the show off the air when they haven't even seen it yet. I am also disturbed that the AFA and others find the idea that priests and pastors and devout followers of Jesus struggle with life to be such a difficult concept to grasp. I am a pastor of a church in the Cleveland, Ohio area and I can tell you that we struggle. We all do. And we don't all have the perfect idea of a "the American Family" (at least as the AFA seems to picture it). In the end we depend on the Grace of a Loving God to pull us through. I wish that we all could discuss life with Jesus and expect an answer. As far as I'm concerned God may even use your show to teach its audience a thing or two.

I have no idea if I will even like the show at all, really. I haven't seen it either. But I will watch and give it a shot. I think the concept is an intriguing one and daring and I thank you in advance for giving it a chance.

I also have no idea if you will even see this email, but I had to give it a shot.

Stacey Littlefield

Why do Evangelicals (if that is what they are) think that it is our job to be against something like this? I mean, did anyone every protest Desperate Housewives, for crying out loud? No, I don't think they should have. But let's at least give Jesus a chance here, what do ya say?

The main area of concern for the AFA is the fact that the priest deals with a gay son, an adopted son who is sleeping with the daughter of an influential parishioner, a daughter who smokes pot, a wife who drinks too much, a sister-in-law who is a lesbian and bishops who have adulterous affairs. Oh, and he apparently dips into the Vicodin pills to help him cope. And we are concerned that Jesus is being thrown into this situation why?

Okay, maybe it's a bit over the top, but I like the idea of real struggle, controversy and challenge and how Daniel (or Jesus!) deals with it all. I once heard author and former pastor Gayle Erwin (The Jesus Style) say of such controversial portrayals (The Last Temptation of Christ was the big stink at that time), "anytime you throw Jesus into the mix, he wins."


At 6:03 PM, Blogger Antony Hanson said...

Amen! Preach on.
A. Hanson

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Dinger said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Dinger said...

I mentioned the show to a certain teenager, and strangely enough, his response was, "How can they allow such a thing?" I was really surprised that he would be so unaware of the fact that you can't legislate such things. Art, whether high-quality or low, is a reflection as well as an outpouring of a culture. On the other hand, he did make a good point, in that if a show like this was portraying another religion, or even another denomination, it might not go over so well. Actually, I think more sitcoms in the past have made outright fun of Baptists, more than any other group. I don't think that has brought so much attention.
While I am not wild about Jesus being portrayed in such a light manner, I am SURE he has a sense of humor and we already saw him in South Park anyhow (in the boxing ring with Satan, no less). If ANYTHING can help challenge some people's idea of God from being far away, dead, irrelevant, or uninterested, then fine! Let it happen! The other message the show sends, however, is that the pastor's relationship with Christ seems to have had no affect on his family; almost that Christianity is one more choice that does not override any other, like choosing to play football over tennis.
I do appreciate the funny response to the New England stereotype of not discussing feelings and such. Here is the Epsicopal Church's blog on this whole thing:

At 9:32 AM, Blogger stacey said...

Dinger, so far, no one has been able to say anything about how Jesus is portrayed, as no one has seen the pilot. The AFA can only rant and rave about who wrote it and the various issues at work in the priest's family.

On that note, I think that all the issues in his family give the writer(s) (and audience) a lot of room for growth with tough issues. The reality is we all struggle with something; why not let it all play out in this guy's family (he is still human, after all) as a microcosm of life in general? Thanks for the comments.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger theultrarev said...

OK Rev. You watched the show? What did you think?

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Luke said...

I watched. And I was amused.

Life is messy. Why are we surprised when applying faith to life is messy, too? Why is anything short of an unrealistic, whitewashed version of struggles somehow an attack on the core of the faith?

Only people with the weakest of faith should feel threatened by this show. And if they're feeding their faith by watching network television during prime time on a Friday evening, they're looking in the wrong places to begin with. And... if they are, they are probably exactly the type of people who reject Christianity because of all the stereotypes that this show does NOT promote.

I wouldn't say that the priest's relationship with Jesus has no effect on his family, either. The advice and interaction between Jesus and the priest seems to take place at moments of stress, when he might choose to react to his family in a different way than Jesus counsels. If "no effect" means that they still have problems, well, yes, but a lot of us who have a relationship with Christ still have problems. Even some of the same problems shown... and that is the point.

My favorite part of the show was when, in a moment of crisis (and they happened at a rate of about 26 per minute, I think), Jesus is standing behind the priest, and simply puts His hand on the priest's shoulder. No prayers, no counsel, no quotes - just a compassionate hand on the shoulder. If that didn't preach volumes, I don't know what could.

It will be interesting to see how the writers develop the show - if we're given the chance. And I hope we are!


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