Monday, January 09, 2006

Bashing the Book of Daniel

The American Family Association (AFA), a far right wing action group, issued an email alert today that said in part:

"I watched the Book of Daniel show on NBC tonight just so I could
see if it was as bad as you said. Mr. Wildmon you have it wrong -
it was worse than you described. The so called pastor takes drugs,
smokes, drinks, takes the Lord's name in vain. He supports
homosexuality and drug use. He broke the law by giving out
prescription drugs to a Bishop. Two Bishops were committing
adultery. They mis-quoted the Bible. The program portrayed our
Savior in a joking way. There was a corrupt Catholic priest. The
maid smokes pot. The Bishop drinks, the pastor's wife is a drunk
and her sister is a lesbian and the son is a homosexual. One son
sleeps around. I found this program very offensive to my Christian
beliefs. They were poking fun at our Savior."

A good friend of mine says they need to lighten the hell up. Yes, they do. I taped the show and watched it Saturday night. Keep in mind, I'm an Episcopalian, so if anyone should be offended, it would be me. The show portrays a flawed man who is an Episcopal priest and a descendant of THE Daniel Webster. Since his dad is also a bishop, the priesthood runs in the family.

Daniel Webster is a very flawed man. He is addicted to pain medication, and his talks with Jesus often turn to this topic. Christ chides him for needing the pills and shames him into not taking them. Yes, the Christ in this show is lighthearted, kind, and has a sense of humor. Is it what you'd expect if Jesus regularly showed up to chat with you? Not really, but after watching the show, I'd hope Jesus would be able to laugh and joke with me as He does on this show. I know that offends the delicate sensibilities of the Religious Right who believe only in an authoritarian God and Savior who would speak very firmly with you at all times. These are the same people who think Ariel Sharon had a stroke because he pulled out of Gaza.

The wife is a drunk, and I'm sure that will become an issue later. However, it's also apparent that she is the one with the responsibility to take care of everything in her family. Her sister is a bisexual mess who prefers to live as a lesbian now that her husband (who stole millions from the church school fund) is dead. She also has a daughter who was selling pot in order to raise money to buy anime programs. All her children like to tease each other mercilessly at the dinner table, even though they are old enough not to. Her husband even schedules sex for them on Friday nights. That she has a drinking problem isn't that shocking.

As for drinking in general. Episcopalians drink. We aren't called "Whiskey-palians" for nothing. We serve wine with just about every meal we share together in church. That priests and bishops drink is not shocking. It would only be bad if they developed a drinking problem, but the mere fact of drinking is not mocking of men and women of the cloth.

I'm a bit surprised that the AFA hasn't attacked the female bishop. It's one of the things that the developing world's Anglican churches hate us for. We dare give women spiritual authority over men! *GASP* Shocking, I know. We even have an OPENLY GAY bishop! Most people involved in hierarchal churches such as the Methodists, Episcopalians, and Catholics, can tell you that politics plays a big role in who gets ahead. It's like that in every church, but showing it honestly doesn't not mock Christian faith.

The two bishops committing adultery are Daniel's bishop and his father. The thing the AFA viewer doesn’t mention is that Daniel's mother has Alzheimer's and is quickly deteriorating. It's obvious from the show that her husband loves her and misses her, but he also acknowledges that she is a stranger to him now. That's the nature of Alzheimer's. It destroys your mind and your personality. Sure, he shouldn't be boinking the female bishop. Again, it goes back to the flawed human being notion. These people are doing the best they can to do God's work, but they struggle with it, and they are not perfect. I'd personally rather have two bishops having an affair than a bishop molesting children. But that's just me, I'm sure.

The son's homosexuality is not celebrated. It's clear that Rev. Daniel is quite uncomfortable with it, but he loves his son, so he accepts it. The grandfather bishop doesn't know, and the grandson feels the need to go out of his way to hide it from him. The Episcopal church is in the middle of a grand conversation about homosexuality, and many clergy agree with the actions of Rev. Daniel where he loves and supports his son as best as he can.

The corrupt Catholic priest is not corrupt...he's just related to the Mafia. Every good Catholic family likes to have at least one child each generation enter the priesthood. This priest is a friend of Daniel's and is also related by blood to the Mafia. Those connections help Daniel find the money his brother-in-law stole so that his church's school could be rebuilt.

I'm sure the AFA disapproves of the interracial relationship between the adopted son of Daniel and a blond girl. The boy was adopted from China, but he's a part of the Webster family and he's in love with a pretty blond white girl. Her parents are determined to break them up, because, as the mother says to Daniel's wife, "I don't intend to have little Oriental grandchildren running around the Christmas tree." I'm sure that the AFA feels this portrayal was mocking of the Christian tradition of racial purity, or whatever BS they can come up with.

The point is that the Book of Daniel is not mocking Christianity, and it is not diminishing the Savior. The Right tends to forget that the Savior was also a human being. Human beings joke, laugh, and talk. It's apparent that Christ knows how to best talk to Daniel to get through to him. It's not something to run from. In fact, it could actually bring people into a faith that often comes across as a holier-than-thou, judgmental, puritanical, no-independent-thought religion. As a Christian, it is THAT particular portrayal that offends me, not the Book of Daniel.

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