The article in today’s Daily Telegraph had a sad ring of familiarity to it. The opening sentence begins ‘The BBC’s new face of religion is an atheist who claims that God had a wife and Eve was “unfairly maligned” by sexist scholars.’ And it goes on to explain that the BBC have decided to invest your licence fee and mine in a primetime BBC Two series, The Bible’s Buried Secrets, which will set forth controversial and provocative views on the text of the Bible as interpreted by an atheist scholar at Exeter University. No doubt this will all be out in time for Easter.
The head of BBC’s religious output is Aaqil Ahmed. So today’s headlines got me wondering when the BBC’s series attacking all the other world religions is likely to be commissioned. I thought I’d draft Mr Ahmed a letter to find out and I thought I’d share it with you.
Dear Mr Ahmed
I note with interest that the BBC has commissioned another series of programmes designed to disparage orthodox Christianity, The Bible’s Buried Secrets. No doubt in pursuing your agenda of equality and diversity you have also begun prelimenary work on spending my licence fee on programmes designed not just to ridicule the faith of Christians but Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus too. When, for example, can we expect to find The Kuran’s Buried Secrets on our TV screens? There are a number of Islamic scholars who are themselves either liberal Muslims or atheists whose unorthodox views would be as interesting to hear as that of Dr Stavrakopoulou.
If, because of the time you’ve had to spend considering how to offend Christians, you haven’t quite got round to thinking how best to insult other people of faith maybe I can suggest one or two avenues that you could explore. For liberal scholars who have done a fair bit of work deconstructing Islam how about commissioning Ibn Warraq to make a series based on his scholarly books such as The Origins of the Koran and The quest for the historical Mohammed. No doubt his views broadcast by the BBC will help boost ratings and make a few newspaper headlines. Or you could turn to Christopher Luxenberg and his ground-breaking ideas that the text of the Kuran is based on pre-existing Christian Aramaic texts. Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran is the work to consult for more on that line of thinking.
I look forward to hearing back from you on how work is progressing on these series but I won’t be holding my breath.
Yours not very sincerely…
Did you catch the BBCs screening of The Nativity over the Christmas period? (if not catch it here while you can). The screenplay was written by Tony Jordan best known for writing 250 episodes of EastEnders and more recently Life on Mars. In a fascinating interview in The Telegraph he tells of his own personal journey from scepticism to belief.
“I don’t come from a religious background and I don’t think I’m anybody’s fool. I was expelled from school at 14. I’ve been in trouble. I know that people from my sort of background have always discounted the story of the nativity and I certainly didn’t believe it when I started on it three years ago. But now I do.”
“The only thing I know for sure is that the words I read as coming from Jesus Christ are the most truthful thing I have ever heard. As a blueprint for mankind, it is so smart that it couldn’t even have come from a clever philosopher. Who would have been smart enough to say ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone’? Wow! That’s pretty cool.”
Even the virgin birth is taken in its stride:
‘If you accept that Jesus is Son of God, why would you not believe that Mary was a virgin, and that God must have had some handin the impregnation?’
It suggests to me that the biggest challenge that Christians face is in inspiring people to read the Bible for themselves. Perhaps the biggest barrier to faith is the beginning – once people start the journey many continue it to its destinations end.
Certainly it’s been my experience that once people meet Jesus on his own terms and take time to understand him that the cynicism faces and many find themselves drawn to him. There is something beautiful, compelling, attractive about the man, his message and his mission.
For a great review of The Nativity from a Christian perspective check out Mark Meynell’s blog here.
For an extended interview with Tony Jordan try this (with thanks to Mark Meynell).
The BBC comedy Little Britain may not have been your cup of tea but most of us have some idea of who Daffyd Thomas is. He lives in the Welsh mining village of Llanddewi Brefi and the comedy kicks in when poor deluded Daffyd thinks he’s ‘the only gay in the village’. In fact half the village is homosexual but Daffyd can’t or won’t see it. Unable to cope with the fact that everyone (including his parents) are quite OK with his sexuality and that even his best friend, Myfanwy, the local bar-maid is a lesbian, Daffyd stays the centre of attention as he persists in playing the ‘victim’, a misunderstand and isolated gay man in a straight world.
What makes it funny is the lengths that Daffyd has to go to in refusing to recognize the gay community around him. The fact that it is a gay man revelling in his status as ‘victim’ makes it particularly powerful. But the sketches also challenge the assumptions and thought-processes behind all those, gay or straight, who wish to ignore the sizable gay community in their own town or city in a desire to keep homosexuality on the margin of society.
But clever as the big idea is that makes the sketch work new research suggests that perhaps the voice of the gay community, in our media in particular, is out of proportion to it’s size.
How many people are gay in the UK?
The most common statistic is still the 1 in 10 figure associated with the Kinsey Report. The study reported that 10% of American males surveyed were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55“.
More recently, during the debate over civil partnerships, the then government accepted a figure of somewhere between 6 and 7 percent.
However it now appears that such figures are hugely inflated. The most recent and comprehensive survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics demonstrates that in this country we have consistently overestimated the size of the homosexual population.
My preferred weekly magazine, in its Christmas special, ran only one article on the Christmas story and they asked an atheist to write it. It’s called ‘Confession of an atheist: I respect Christianity too much to believe in it.’
Why would the magazine, which is conservative culturally and politically, prefer the view of an atheist for a Christmas comment? Well I guess because it’s a different angle. And that, my friends, is the problem for Christians when it comes to Christianity and the media.
There exists an inevitable bias against Christianity in the media because the media is always looking for new angles and new opportunities to say new things.
Andrew Marr at a recent internal seminar at the BBC let the cat out of the bag.
The BBC is a publicly funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnicminorities and almost certainly of gay people than the population at large. It depends on the states approval at least for its funding mechanism and all this creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC and I think if we pretend there isn’t an institutional liberal bias of that kind which is much more clearly expressed as a cultural bias than as a party political bias.
And it has always been so. Marr, in his presentation to the September seminar, actually quoted a parliamentary committee from 1936 which highlights how the old, old story will always be eclipsed by the new.
‘There’s an inevitable tendency in the general programmes of the Corporation to devote more time to the expression of new ideas and the advocacy of change in social and other spheres than the defence of orthodoxy and stability, since the reiteration of what exists and is familiar is not so interesting as the exposition of what might be.’
As Marr pointed out, ‘Any producer, any reporter worth their salt wants to go for newness, challenge, controversy – and the Continue reading »
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