Saturday, September 30, 2006

Regarding the joint Madonna/Veggie Tales furor...

[expanded slightly from my comment at The immediately-following is most of the text from the American Family Association's email alert regarding the editing of Veggie Tales.....check for bias and assumptions, of course, as it is rather full of those:

NBC: Bible Verses In Veggie Tales Offensive, But Not Madonna's Mockery Of The Crucifixion Of Christ

Dear K.,

NBC anti-Christian bigotry continues. This time NBC censored Bible verses and expressions of Christian love from the children's cartoon Veggie Tales being shown Saturday mornings on NBC.

NBC says comments such as "God made you special and He loves you very much" were offensive and censored them from the show.

In response to the outrage over the allegations that NBC was ordering the removal of any references to God and the Bible from the animated series, the network first issued a flat denial. As reported in Broadcasting & Cable, NBC said they had to "clip off the beginning and ending tags, which are Bible verses, but they were also arguably the easiest cut to make."

The creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer, said NBC's excuse for censoring the Bible verses was not true. Vischer said, "Well, that's kinda funny, because as the guy required to do all the editing, I know that statement is false...The show wasn't too long, it was too Christian. The show was already cut down to the proper length, so timing had nothing to do with it."

NBC then backpeddled: "NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of Veggie Tales. Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view." Evidently NBC considers not being truthful as one of their "universal values."

Vischer said had he known how much censorship NBC would exercise, he would not have signed on for the network deal.

Censored were comments such as: "Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies." And "the Bible says Samson got his strength from God. And God can give us strength, too."

NBC says using Bible verses or referring to God is offensive to some non-Christians. But NBC doesn't hesitate to offend Christians by showing Madonna mocking the crucifixion of Christ. Neither do not mind offending Christians in their new program Studio 60 with a segment called Crazy Christians. (Please read the review.)

This will seem a strong statement, and it is: The real reason the religious content is being censored is that the networks are run by people who have an anti-Christian bias. I noticed this anti-Christian bigotry and spoke out against it over 25 years ago. I'm sorry if someone thinks that is too harsh, but I must speak the truth as God leads me to see the truth. [....]

Personally, I'm inclined to see this rather clearly as NBC's trying to reach the most people in a general way, without promoting either any particular religion or cluster of religions (i.e., those which would quote the Old Testament incessantly to substantiate even the most universal of moral and ethical values). Saved, unsaved, it's all hot air and torch-brandishing -- how people treat each other is more important than in whose name or with whose words they happen to do it.

With Veggie Tales, I can surmise that NBC's editors were trying to reach a broader audience for the positive material itself, regardless of the faith or lack thereof of potential viewers -- with Madonna, even though I personally tend to think she's a pretentious flake, the valid conflict going on here is whether NBC should allow her to be shown making a humanitarian point while utilizing a religiously-vested tableau. The concept of crucifixion of the innocent, though, is larger than the Christian mythos/dogma from which it arose, and so more people are likely to see the symbolic level of what is being meant than are likely to take it as being an attack on Christianity. Honestly, the most it could technically be is a misappropriation, and that presupposes that Christianity's events can be said to "belong" to a particular group instead of being, as Pope Benedict commented, an essential part of European heritage -- and therefore its mental/emotional language as well. It's already there and it's not going out of our heads as a meaningful scene, therefore it has a psychological currency that is not limited to those who take it literally.

The lovely Litharriel comments via IM, btw, that the AFA and its ilk can have their Veggie Tales pristinely uncut once they stop trying to dictate the terms of other people's artistic expression. They can't have their cake and eat it too, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander. (End of proverbial insert)

All in all, I think NBC is doing a commendable job so far of trying to keep the peace and not try to impose anything religiously-partisan upon its viewers. That doesn't mean expunging material, but making sure that that material is not a dictation of formal religious beliefs to those who may not share them.

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