Monday, September 25, 2006

VeggieTales Meets the NBC Slice and Dicer

NBC executives have made a decision that reveals, yet again, their belief system. They bought the rights to the popular VeggieTales series, which is filled with distinctively God-centered content, and are now editing references to God out of the show. They have replaced Bob the Tomato's sign-off line: "God made you special and He loves you very much," with "Thanks for coming over to my house, kids. See you next week." After first insisting that the cuts were made to meet time constraints, the network finally admitted that they made the cuts, "because the network did not want to appear to be advocating any religion." VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer said, "Trying to change the show's Christian message runs counter to the show's expressed mission. It's a mistake to pitch VeggieTales as just values, because fundamentally it's about God."

According to The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Wurtzel said NBC did not believe it had deleted the show's religious message. He said the network had bought the rights to VeggieTales because of its positive religious themes; however, they asked for changes to comply with their standards. "We are not a religious broadcaster," he said. "There are universally accepted religious values that we do think are appropriate,” but “the promotion of any particular religion or a particular denomination" is not allowed. "Clearly the show has religious themes," Mr. Wurtzel said. "It puts forth some very specific religious values. We had to make a decision about where it went further than we considered appropriate."

Wow! What a shocking revelation: NBC is not a religious broadcaster. Help me understand exactly what particular religion and or denomination is helped by a simple reference to God. Most parents, like me, view VeggieTales as a fun, positive alternative to the kind of children's programming typically offered by the major media outlets. We have never viewed the content as a systematic theology. Positive themes and recognition of God is, at best, a mere support of what we teach our children. Bob the Tomato is not a kid's version of Billy Graham. LarryBoy is not a door-to-door apologist for the Christian faith.
This story reveals that NBC is willing to slice and dice some Christian vegetables and values for their own agenda. In fact, NBC is a religious broadcaster. They broadcast a brand of religion sometimes known as secularism, otherwise known as liberalism. Make no mistake; they are very religious. The same people, who want to puree VeggieTales, defend the network’s decision to run a "special" featuring Madonna mocking the crucifixion and sexualizing the holiest doctrine of the Christian faith, thus proving that Ann Coulter is right. In her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Coulter maintains that liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as "religion.” The religion of the liberal elitist is their secular world view. Make no mistake about it. It is a religion and this move proves that it is a godless one.
NBC thinks we need vegetables in our diet; they just have to be godless vegetables. Even though this story is set in the trappings of childish things, it reveals once again the "values" of those who still believe that they control the media.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christianity Under Intensified Fire

The spiritual strategy against Christianity is not merely found on the pages of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. We are watching a hellish belching of verbal, visual and physical assaults against biblical Christianity. Last week on the television program The View, Rosie O'Donnell made the bold claim that; "...radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America." In response to many Christians’ outrage toward Rosie's statements, ABC News felt compelled to show a film from a church summer youth camp in Oregon, whose theme was spiritual warfare, as an example of the militarization of Christian youth. Another assault occurred last week when a liberal guest on MSNBC’s The Situation (hosted by Tucker Carlson) made a similar statement; guest Sam Seder, co-host of Air America's Majority Report, announced that Jerry Falwell was “just as dangerous as Osama bin Laden.” Beyond this, NBC has decided to join in bashing the Christian faith by airing a Madonna special in November that depicts the "Material Girl" in a mock crown of thorns hanging on a crucifix, while she frees a saint from his sexual repression by seducing him. Madonna considers mocking the crucifixion of Jesus the highlight of her show and NBC agrees.

These American pop-culture attacks upon of our faith converge on the same week that many in the Islamic world took to the streets protesting, rioting, and burning churches, as well as the murder of a Catholic nun over Pope Benedict XVI comments on Islam. In a scholarly lecture given in Germany, the Pope referenced a 13th century quote about Mohammed. The quote set tempers flaming to the point that sharpshooters had to man the rooftops this week in Rome to guard the Pope from threatened assassination, during his weekly blessing.

What are we to make of these compelling news items? First, the spiritual war in our land and in our world is real. The lines are becoming clearly defined. It will be increasingly difficult for Christians to remain passive, ignorant and disengaged, in the world we inhabit. Secondly, the message of biblical Christianity is that Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost. We cannot draw back from our mission to reach people in our community and the world with the liberating love and exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Lastly, our Savior modeled how we are to handle hostility: we are to face it and confront it with love and truth. A Catholic nun named, Sister Leonella, who devoted her life to helping the sick in volatile regions of Africa, was likely murdered in reaction to Pope Benedict's comments. She whispered as she died, "I forgive, I forgive" and proved once again the clear distinction between a faith based in sacrificial love and a religion based upon fascism.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bold Moves from Ford Motor Company

I’m not sure which message I am supposed to take from the Ford Motor Company “Bold Moves” advertising campaign. The ad shows a family of four and their dog on an outing for the day. They seem happy and well-adjusted. The narrator announces that the new Ford Freestyle, Crossover edition, will travel over 500 miles on a tank of gas. Nothing confusing yet; that is important news for potential automobile buyers. Then the Freestyle stops and the father gets out, hugs his kids and thanks his ex-wife for allowing him to share this time. She benevolently smiles and says, "Sure," and drives away, leaving the father behind. 

Beyond the clear presentation of a divorced family, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what Ford is trying to say. The ad ends with this statement, "Bold moves happen every day." What is the bold move? It must be the bold message Ford is sending. Listen to the response of John Felice, the general marketing manager at Ford. ''It's a true reflection of the world today,'' adding that the company was not ''making any type of social statement.'' On the contrary, Mr. Felice; Ford is making a mighty big social statement.

The first social statement made reflects the marginalizing of males! A father is dropped off at a dumpy little apartment, while his family drives away. The dog is getting better treatment, as his tail wags all the way home. Mom is in the driver’s seat, while the father is simply along for the ride. This ad says that men are marginal at best, troublesome at worst, but necessary donors for the human race. Perhaps this arrangement is the father’s idea. If so, it represents self-centered masculinity at its worst.

My next problem with the ad is the glamorization of a lie! The myth of the good divorce is not new to Hollywood; but, it is pretty much ignored as a joke by anyone who has ever had to file for one. The only truly realistic part of the commercial is the uncertain look on the children's faces, as their father goes to his home alone. Once again, the myth of the well-adjusted child is portrayed to the hilt. The message is clear: kids are as durable as a Ford and they will make it through this “freestyle" and this "crossover."

In a really strained rationale, John Felice then defends Ford's "better ad idea," by suggesting that it is a "celebration of family" and a tribute to "the versatility of life itself, as well as the versatility of the Freestyle." Mr. Felice, you cannot be serious in suggesting that an answer to the divorce issue is a brand new Ford Freestyle. If you want to celebrate the family, then celebrate the couple who went to the brink of divorce and turned back--the couple who found help and strength to work through their issues and provide a better life for their family, not just a better vehicle in which to pass through life. 

Divorce is a painful reality all across this nation. Don't insult the tragedy of millions of Americans, by suggesting that a new Ford is a way to make the best out of a bad situation. Let me suggest that Ford should stick to engineering engines, drive trains, and body styles and resign as engineers of social change.

Ed Litton