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Television writers hate religion

By Christopher Gildemeister



Television writers hate religion.


Though such a statement may at first glance seem outlandish, its truth should be evident from even the most cursory glance at television “entertainment.” Comedy programs consistently mock religious beliefs and sentiments. Dramas, particularly police procedurals and crime programs, portray religiously devout individuals as insanely twisted and warped sexual predators and serial killers.


Television’s writers and so-called “creative” personnel seem to bear at best a veiled contempt for religion – a contempt that frequently boils over into outright hatred. No other racial, ethnic, gender or other group is subjected to the degree of contumely as religion. So knee-jerk is this tendency towards mockery of religion among television writers that, at a recent demonstration, striking writers chose to use the symbols and imagery of Catholicism in their protests.


Apparently, it never even occurred to these writers that devout Catholics might find their display offensive, and that their actions might decrease public sympathy for their cause…or perhaps their anger toward religion runs so deep that they didn’t care.


But this deep-seated hatred goes far beyond the picket-line practices of the writers. It is deeply embedded in the scripts they write.


On the September 30th episode of CBS’ Cold Case, police investigating the murder of a teenager discover that the teen was literally stoned to death – by members of her “Purity Club,” a religious students’ group which promotes sexual abstinence until marriage. Throughout the episode, members of the club are portrayed as sexually rapacious hypocrites. The club’s youth minister masturbates while a female member describes her sexual fantasies for him.  Another male member has sex with a female club member and threatens his girlfriend with violence when she reveals their sexual experiences to others. (This individual is described as “the most repressed, controlled person ever.  And that can poison you on the inside.”) The club’s female leader, Tina, berates a woman with a sexual past by saying, "You're just some slut with a whore for a mother." Tina is later revealed to be sexually dysfunctional, being unable to consummate her marriage, and led the attack on the murdered girl. Because the girl had made sexual remarks and “corrupted” several club members, Tina led the murderous conspiracy, throwing rocks at the girl while bellowing, "Deuteronomy!  A whore shall be stoned!  So shalt thou put evil away among you."


A similar denigration of Christian teachings on chastity appeared on the CW network’s December 12th episode of Aliens in America. In it, teenager Claire agrees to her mother’s request that she join their church’s Chastity Club – on the condition that her mother gives her birth control pills for Christmas. The episode also featured its male teenage protagonist praying that God allow him to have sex with an attractive girl. So offensive was this episode that the PTC found it to be the Worst of the Week.


Apparently, in the eyes of TV’s writers, controlling one’s sexual urges and waiting to use them in a marital context is indicative of mental illness -- only sexual promiscuity demonstrates a healthy mind-set. And religion, because it promotes the idea that one’s sexuality is a gift to be shared in the context of marriage and family, and because it promotes self-restraint, is the cause of violence and evil. Because, obviously, giving full license to one’s every desire promotes harmony in society, while exercising control over oneself causes anarchy.


Another example of broadcast television’s bigotry toward religion was seen recently on ABC’s Boston Legal. This is unsurprising, as Boston Legal’s creator David E. Kelley and his staff have frequently displayed anti-religious attitudes in past seasons, including storylines which featured a Catholic priest who is both a forger and shelters a child molester (December 13, 2006); a pastor who is a sexual predator (October 11, 2005); and a man engaged in bestiality who protests, “I’m a deacon at our church!” (November 8, 2005). On this year’s November 6th episode, a woman, Patrice, has killed the man who murdered her daughter. Patrice’s takes an unusual line in her legal defense -- she claims that God told her to commit the murder, quoting liberally from the Bible to do so:


Patrice: “I know how crazy it sounds. But at the time, I was reading a lot of the Bible. And so many of the verses I would hear in this voice – Leviticus: ‘He that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.’ Exodus: ‘He that smiteth a man so that he die, he surely shall be put to death.’ I kept hearing this over and over. And I became convinced that my daughter’s soul would rest only with vengeance. Sean Harmon had to die, and it was up to me to kill him.”


In the course of his defense of Patrice, attorney (and Kelley mouthpiece) Alan Shore snidely berates a rabbi:


Alan: “Jews are okay with revenge!...I know that if you cross Israel’s borders without the proper invitation, the bombs they go a-bursting. I know when Israel kidnapped Eichmann and hanged him, Jewish people the world over cheered!…Judaism has never been preoccupied with forgiveness. ‘Justice, justice, you shall pursue.’ That’s what the Torah commands.”


Naturally, the befuddled rabbi is reduced to silence and can only gape in awe at Shore’s brilliant analysis. But Boston Legal‘s writers were not content with portraying a scholarly Jewish clergyman as a fool; they also did the same with a Catholic priest. Shore’s assistant Whitney interrogates the clergyman, in the process making him appear unsympathetic and ignorant:


priest: “In this case, there’s also the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ principle.”


Whitney: “That justifies killing somebody?”

priest: “The phrase is to be found in the Old Testament. And I believe it speaks for itself.”

Whitney: “What about the New Testament? Jesus says, ‘Turn the other cheek,’ doesn’t He?”


priest: “Well, my reading of that is that Jesus was voicing a very personal view on how a saintly individual should act. I don’t interpret that as condemning revenge.”


And when the opinion is advanced that Christ would not have advocated revenge, Shore sneers:


Alan: “Well, except when it came to believing in Him, right? Mark 16:16. ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. But he that believeth not shall be damned. .damnation, if Hell is everything it's cracked up to be, is a fate worse than the painful death that precedes it. So according to this guy Mark, Jesus was okay with vengeance."


In addition to demonstrating that scriptural exegesis performed by hack TV writers is less than reliable, this episode also displays the intensely bitter and vicious hatred that Kelley and his TV cohorts hold towards people and systems of faith.


And the instances presented above are only a very few examples of the vicious denigration which religion suffers on prime-time television. So widespread is television’s hatred of religion that Faith in a Box, the PTC’s 2006 study of the portrayal of religion on prime-time broadcast TV, found that an incredible 95.5% of negative portrayals of religion occurred on scripted drama and comedy programs.


TV writers’ hatred of the sacred is irksome to believers throughout the year, but becomes particularly offensive during the holiday season. This season celebrates the Festival of Lights, the commemoration of the dedication of the Second Temple and the triumph of the Maccabees for adherents of Judaism; and Christmas, the birth of the Son of God and Savior of the world for Christians. It is a pity that TV’s writers are so spiritually and intellectually adrift, so deeply immersed in their own cynicism, that they cannot bring themselves to accept and celebrate the commonly-held seasonal message “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men."


Instead, television’s writers prefer to deliberately mock and condemn such sentiments and those who hold them, and delight in creating programs redolent of darkness and depravity. And America’s entertainment industry uses the publicly-owned airwaves, cable and satellite users’ subscription fees, and the hundreds of billions of dollars provided by advertisers to force this darkness and cynicism into the homes, the hearts and the minds of us all.


Merry Christmas.


TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff: Aubree Bowling, Caroline Schulenburg, Josh Shirlen, and Adam Shuler, under the direction of Dr. John Rattliff.

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