Monday, February 25, 2013

Fox continues its war on reason

Does Fox News think Christians should be thin-skinned and sensitive to everything that isn't exactly how Fox thinks it should be?

That's what I find myself asking after reading an opinion piece by Todd Starnes, titled "NBC Declares War on Christians." In his opinion piece, Starnes takes umbrage at the Saturday Night Live sketch "Djesus Uncrossed."

Aside from the Saturday Night Live sketch, NBC's offenses include sports blogger Rick Chandler's recent post about Tim Tebow's plans to speak at First Baptist Dallas. Starnes calls this post a "scathing smear." I just read it, and it seems like a fairly accurate description of the controversies centered on the church and the teachings of its head pastor. Don't take my word for it, though; decide for yourself.

Beyond that, the litany of NBC's supposed offenses includes editing the phrase "under God" out from the Pledge of Allegiance during the U.S. Open a year-and-a-half ago, NBC chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman expressing her personal mislike of religion on the "Today" show during a back-and-forth discussion, and of course shows like "Good Christian Bitches" and "The Book of Daniel." Plus there was a piece by Bart Ehrman, published in Newsweek, called "The Myths of Jesus," that lightly details the historical difficulties with the gospel accounts of Jesus' infancy.

By this point in his column, Starnes has got himself worked up pretty well over NBC's supposed war on Christians, and it's obvious he believes that the rest of us feel this way too. I'm sorry to disappoint him, but I just can't muster the outrage. I just don't see it.

For starters, Starnes has done a good job of stacking the deck. He neglects to mention other things that could put NBC in a more favorable light: the annual Christmas-tree lighting, for instance; Christmas specials like "It's a Wonderful Life," which NBC aired this past November. NBC also has aired shows like "VeggieTales" and "3-2-1 Penguins," which couldn't be more overtly Christian if they tried.

On "The Book of Daniel," Starnes notes that Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association hated it and called it anti-Christian bigotry. I should point out that Wildmon also was offended by "All in the Family" and "Charlie's Angels," and worried that Mighty Mouse would encourage kids to snort cocaine. More sensibly, the Rev. Gordon Atkinson said the main offense of "The Book of Daniel" was chiefly that it was a bad show.

Christ means everything to me. I've been a Christian for 25 years, even served God on the missions field in Haiti for a while. Perhaps I should be offended by "Djesus Unchained," but I just can't see it. It's Quentin Tarantino's over-the-top violence they're mocking, not Christ. If anything, the piece shows respect for Jesus. Its goal is to make us laugh by teaming jarringly graphic violence with the man best known in the United States for nonviolence. If anyone should be offended, it's Quentin Tarantino.

Fox loves to play the persecution card. The message they've been hammering for years is pretty simple: Be afraid. There's a war on Christmas. Liberals are attacking God. Our culture, our heritage, our legacy, are all under attack.

Simple truth is, we're not. If it sometimes feels like Christianity is being singled out for ridicule, there are two things to remember. One is that it's easy to overlook the negative portrayals of minority faiths like Islam, because they're not ours and we often don't understand them as well as we think we do. And the second is that because Christianity has provided the dominant underpinning framework for Western thought for as long as it has, it's only natural to use the language and the symbols of Christianity to communicate and to critique Western thought, civilization and art.

I'll also add this: Faith should lead us to reach out to other people and to forge connections with them. If the most it inspires someone to do, is to tell you to be afraid, do yourself a favor.

Change the channel.

Copyright © 2013 by David Learn. Used with permission.