Today is the Feast of the Epiphany on the Christian calendar. NBC celebrates Epiphany with the premiere of "The Book of Daniel." If you haven't heard about this show yet I assure you that you will. The American Family Association and Focus on the Family are engaged in a boycott and protest of the show. KARK in Little Rock is one of two stations nationally that refuses to air the show.
Why all the controversy? According to the press the show is about about an Episcopal priest who abuses painkillers, has a gay son, a promiscuous straight son, a daughter who deals marijuana, and a wife who drinks too much. Just everyday life right? (Warning: This is sarcasm.) Reading the press releases from media outlets and Christian action groups I wondered if this is supposed to be a comedy or an intense drama. NBC's website features a promotional trailer for the show. After watching that I am convinced that the show is banking on the success of "Desperate Housewives." It fits in the genre of black comedy. Viewers are tantalized with the revelation of scandal which is hidden behind the trappings of a well-to-do neighborhood - in one case Wisteria Lane and in the other the local Episcopal Church.
I am not concerned about the insult of Christianity or the portrayal of Christ as a laid back hipster. Ridicule of our faith and recasting Jesus in our image has gone on for centuries (for a discussion of the latter I recommend Stephen Prothero's American Jesus.) I see no value in Christians losing their tempers or stirring up trouble over a TV show no matter how offensive it may be. (This is television - what do we expect?) In fact, magnifying the controversy only serves to draw attention to a show that may not last very long. When we are criticized and ridiculed we ought to take the opportunity to demonstrate grace. I know that some Christians in this area very politely and very respectfully asked KNWA to reveiw the show and consider carefully if they should air it. I also know that the programming director of KNWA did so.
It is ironic that a show that features the appearance of Christ to a priest begins on Epiphany. The focus of the old season of Epiphany, which is so overlooked, is that Christ has become flesh and dwells among us. The focus is on the manifestation of God in the work and life of Jesus of Nazareth. The church should learn from what Christ did so that it may live out the truth in this world. Rather than get stirred up to protest or complain, let us get stirred up do do good works, act graciously, and open our mouths to tell the stories we know about the living Jesus. The Book of Daniel will not have the final word on what Christ is like if we are in the world living out the Christ-life.