Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ugh...that "Book of Daniel"

One major topic of discussion at coffee hour today was the NBC TV show, The Book of Daniel. Much controversy was stirred up in advance of the show, to the point where the local affliate station even came to my church to interview me about it. To find a positive comment about it, they even had to take a comment out of context, edited half way through from one of my parishioners!

Yes, I watched the show. Here is my critique, in several catagories.

LITURGICAL - I know it is a funny place to start, but a show proporting to show what it is like for an Episcopal Clergyman should at least have someone on staff who can advise on simple things like 1) the priest had the chausible on backwards (applique on the front rather than the back), and the priest in a green chausible and the woman dressed like a bishop wearing a white cope at the same service (should both be the same color).

ECCLESIASTICAL - First, it is taken for granted that women can be bishops, an issue that continues to divide the Anglican Communion. But perhaps in that east coast parish/diocese that is okay. Secondly...why in the world is the bishop at the parish two weeks in a row not preaching or celebrating? If a bishop is present they have perogative to do both or one. Why was she there at all?

THEOLOGICAL - It is quite offensive to have a character as Jesus Christ himself on the show, putting dialogue/words into Our Lord's mouth! Although there were a few very good lines (like when the character told the priest that "life is hard - but there is a great reward at the end"), for the most part it was a projection of what Hollywood wants Jesus to be - soft, affirming, almost effeminate.

IMMORALITY - this show has it in bucket-loads! From the priest whose first sermon justifies sin and temptation, to an exasperated statement to his gay son that since the Diocese of New Hampshire has an (unrepentant) gay bishop, the whole church should get with the times. Another son is promiscuious with an underaged girl (to which the Jesus-like character is not too concerned), and a daugher dealing drugs to buy (and later pirate) computer software. Given the chance to show the priest-character's dad (the retired bishop) being valiant and holy by caring for and being faithful to his wife with alzheimers, they have him having an affair with the women dressed as the current diocesan bishop. Oh, and let us not forget the scene when the priest is giving pre-marital counseling to a couple and asks "how are things in the bedroom?" and then gives them advice on helping with sex lives -before marriage - rather than calling them to repentance? And let's not forget that the priest is addicted to viacoden, and is getting the bishop hooked on his 'canadian headache pills'. This doesn't even go into the lesbian relationship of his sister in law and the brother in law embezzling 3 million dollars and no one calling the police!

BIGOTRY - this show has in abundance. The Italian Roman Catholic priest is connected to the mob. Anyone with a traditional idea is a moron or not with the times, and the teachings of the Church are disregarded completely as irrational or unimportant.

ONE THING WE DID NOTICE - (my wife and I) is that were weren't too many commercials for products (lots of long ads for NBC shows, but not many other commericals). Many companies are staying away from advertising on shows that will bring a boycott! Even if the show picks up in ratings (it was tied for second in that time slot, with a lower share than "beauty and the beast" got and was canceled according to the Drudge Report), if there is no advertising money, it will be pulled! Afterall, the networks real idoltry is the almighty dollar!

Finally, I think Ruth Holladay summed it up well in her 1/08/06 review in the Indianapolis Star www.indystar.com by saying
The bigger point is that "The Book of Daniel" deserves to die not because it was censored in advance, but because viewers recognize its shameless pandering to a low common denominator. First, the characters fail to engage us, despite their flaws. The problem is not that they are sinners but that their sins are so exaggerated as to be absurd. Everything that in the real world would be a source of pain is treated as a joke. Secondly, Jesus is a thoroughly modern man -- an affable, hippie like therapist dude in robes and long hair who basically wants approval. When the priest pulls out a Vicodin, saying, "I think I deserve one," TV Jesus has his sad joke. "Try a lime Lifesaver instead." No, try the New Testament.