The debate about the Jerry Springer opera has rolled onward today.
The first suprise is that the Oxford Diocese seems to have performed a bit of U-turn with regards to their position, by deleting their positive review from Friday, replacing it with their complaint to OFCOM, and a letter they had recieved on the subject. The whole U-turn strikes me as a bit bizarre, in that since the review came from the Methodist Church, someone in the media team at Oxford obviously went to the trouble to get hold of the review (and the review hasn’t appeared on the Methodist Churches own website either). As the review clearly states on the top that it is “a personal reflection” it would seem to be decidedly more honest, and a better reflection of the division in opinion between Christians across the country, to keep the positive review, and issue a statement reflecting that, whilst they acknowledge the division in opinion, having seen the show, the opinion of the media team is to make a complaint to support the Christinas in the diocese who were offended. Instead the impression that is given to anyone who has read the previous review that the Diocese is operating as a dictatorship removing anything that dissents from their opinion. I’m half tempted to write and complain, but I suspect it will be a pointless exercise, if they had been at all concerned about reflecting the balance of opinion, and encouraging debate, it wouldn’t have been deleted in the first place. In general the whole behaviour is massively disappointing, after the careful way they handled the Jeffrey John affair, trying to give both sides a voice, this is a definite let down.
Talking of the division of opinion, as a balance to some of the other publicity Ekklesia has provided a helpful summary. The report highlights the ratings boost that the campaign produced, and also the higher than average number of calls of support the BBC has recieved over the broadcast. In addition, todays Times letter page includes a letter from a Christian stating that Christians owe a debt of gratitude to the authors of the show because:
“The work deals imaginatively and forcefully with many of the issues of sin and redemption, considered either religiously or secularly, in terms that engage with contemporary society in the best traditions of effective evangelism. It demands that we respond whilst reminding us of one of the central messages of Christianity â€” that no one is beyond Godâ€™s transforming love.”
One other interesting development is that the media is now starting to focus more on Christian Voice, the group that published the addresses and phone numbers of the BBC executives who were subsequently threatened. Stephen Green, their director was interviewed by Eddie Mair on PM tonight whilst I was driving home, and got a considerably more uncomfortable ride than he got on News 24 a couple of days ago. After some initial questions on the publication of contact details, and comparing this to the fact that the organisation “hides behind a PO Box”, Eddie moved on to a couple of points on this page asking “Why is the UK under God’s Judgement?”. The impression I got is that this probably wasn’t in the plan for the interview. This was based on the reaction when challenged over the statement that “TV, radio, and the arts are awash with blasphemy, violence and perversion, while virtue is derided”, and asked for examples, and also the criticism of the National Lottery on the site. Ekklesia also highlight how the website portrays those who disagree with its extremist views as â€œenemies of God”.
Looking at the ongoing comment on the BBC Talking Point there is still a mix of support for the BBC over the showing, against the complaints:
“Is the Christian religion really so weak, or so pompous, that it will not stand any type of negative comment? After all, they have made enough negative comments about others, including other religions.”
And the more forceful:
This is absolutely outrageous. I am sick and tired of the religious right telling us what is and what isn’t good for us. I don’t force my opinions down your throats. Believe what you want to believe and don’t attempt to bully your narrow minded perception of morality onto the rest of the democratic population. It’s nothing more that a neo-fascist attempt at media manipulation.
Also one or two supportive reactions from Christians:
“I am deeply committed to my religion and deeply committed to seeing a secular public space in which all viewpoints can be commented on, heard and judged on their merits. So good on the Beeb for showing it, let’s see more quality broadcasts from every viewpoint and not the ‘tellyban’ fanatics.”
As I mentioned yesterday, my opinion is that ultimately this ongoing debate is going to cause harm. Certainly from the discussion I had over lunch today, people who watched the show thought it was great, and whilst we had a very interesting debate over the points raised by the show, the general reaction was negative towards the attitude to the Church, with one person (a lapsed Christian) saying specifically that they thought the reaction of Christian groups was contrary to Christian teaching on tolerance. It is worth stressing that in most cases the media is a very blunt instrument, and getting subtle differences across does not work. The BBC is now linking to Christian Voice from it’s articles on News Online, and whilst I know there is strong feeling on the subject from mainstream Christians, the association is going to be made between mainstream Christians and the opinions of Christian Voice.