The showing of Jerry Springer: The Opera seems to have pretty evenly split opinion, judging by the BBC Talking Point. Based on the 1.7 million viewers the main result of the Christian Voice campaign seems to have been a 70% rise in the viewing figures that would be expected for a late night opera on BBC2. The additional audience seems to consist of two groups, people who didn’t know it was on, watched it and loved it, and Christians who forced themselves to sit through it all to judge it.
Christian Voice themselves have moved on to the Cambridge Theatre itself, resulting in increased security for cast and audiences, and they are also considering bringing a private prosecution against the BBC over the show, due to it portraying Jesus as a “coprophiliac sexual deviant”. (Go get the dictionary out for that one…)
The Church of England bishops are somewhat split. The Bishop of Manchester, as lead spokesman on broadcasting has followed up his statement of last week, particularly objecting to the scene where (apparently) Eve attempts to masturbate Jesus, although having seen the two second shot I think he’s reading an awful lot more into it that there was. However the Bishop of Worcester in a radio appearance has criticised the threats against TV executives, the over the top reactions (including the inflated swear word count), and refused to condemn the show, saying that it could be “a good thing” if it provoked a debate about whether religion was an individualistic interest.
To my mind the ongoing campaign, if it continues to bring publicity to one aspect of the broad spectrum of Christians and their opinions can only be damaging to the image of Christians as a whole. Take for example a couple of the comments from the BBC Talking Point I mentioned above:
“Congratulations to the right wing Christian organisations for the publicity they have brought to the BBC and the Jerry Springer Opera in particular. These church organisations have unwittingly brought the show national and international headlines, whilst showing themselves to be so far out of touch with the vast majority of the people in this country. This event highlights why so many have abandoned organised religion in the last 50 years. Well done BBC, you’ve earned my respect for not caving in to the minority.”
And also, this very straightforward reminder of something the BBC does for Christians – the fairly heavy bias towards Christianity in the output of the religious department:
“If Christian licence fee payers don’t want to pay for shows such as this, then I want Songs of Praise, and the Heaven and Earth Show off my TV now!”
There is a general impression that in some ways Christians are being massively hypocritical, and that is the abiding impression of the church that they have. Take as an example the following teaching from Matthew Chapter 7:
Don’t pass judgement, so you won’t be judged. Don’t forget the judgement you hand out will be the judgement you get back. And the standard you apply will be the standard applied to you. Why do you notice the sliver in your friend’s eye, but overlook the timber in your own? How can you say to your friend, ‘Let me get the sliver out of your eye,’ when there is a timber in your own? You phoney, first take the timber out of your own eye and then you’ll see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend’s eye.
To me that reminds us that before we seek to pass judgement or try and control what people outside the Church do (or in this case watch on TV), we need to put our own house in order first. Having said that, I’m sure Christian Voice and the Bishop of Manchester would see it differently!!!