Religion on TV is a freak show say freaky religious types

Before I get going on this article, I’ll just let you in on a little secret: God doesn’t exist. Okay, let’s get going! The Church of England is getting all uppity because it thinks that British TV is “sensationalist and unduly critical” of religious programming. Basically, TV is making religion look like a massive freak show.

Of course, religion is a bit of a freak show. Essentially, it’s people listening to the voices in their head. Look at Stephen Baldwin on Celebrity Big Brother. He’s looking increasingly like he’s going to level the Big Brother house in a Waco style stand-off with the British police as he holds Ivana Trump hostage after offering Sisqo up as a ritual sacrifice.

But anyway, religion on TV isn’t as prevalent as it once was. This has got the clergy disgruntled. They claim that UK channels “were once exemplary” in their coverage of religious and ethical issues. Now, this kind of show has been ‘marginalised’ and culled in number.

Not that the church has a history of repressing dissident voices and culling naysayers. Nope. Not a shred of evidence supports that.

The Guardian reports that Nigel Holmes, a member of the general synod of the Church of England from the Carlisle diocese (and a former BBC producer), will tell the general synod that output of the BBC’s religious programmes has dropped by a third in a decade.

ITV’s programming decline, meanwhile, has been “far steeper”, he says, dropping from 110 hours a year a decade ago to “next to nothing”. BBC 3 has only featured religion “from the angle of a freak show” while Channel 4’s treatment of Christianity has been particularly “sensationalist and critical” when compared with shows on other religions, he says.

And? I know there’s a demand for television to represent everyone and their views, also, to try and treat everyone fairly. However, even a village idiot could tell you that this is the aim of TV, rarely the outcome. Fact is, no-one is really interested in this fairness unless they’re getting a kicking. I don’t see the church bawling over the ‘unfair’ treatment of, say, politicians, (unless, of course, it’s Iris Robinson with her chops on a teenage butcherboy) celebrities and fat people who are hounded and fetishised by television.

Holmes reckons that those who work in religious broadcasting believe that a “lack of sympathy for, and ignorance of, religion leads to poor decisions in the corridors of power”. The corridors of power that the church had the keys to for years and years, which they systematically abused until the media started to haul their sorry arses over hot-coals for?

Of course, not all religious people are nutters. Most you meet are incredibly sweet and intelligent humans. They use their faith to confirm their goodwill to others. Fine. But there’s no story in that.

The fact is, there’s no point moaning about the lack of nice things said about the church on television… the lack of debate… when religion is just as flawed as the media itself. Issues like women bishops, the treatment of homosexuals, child abuse and vulgar displays of wealth blight everything good done by the clergy.

There are some who look at these criticisms and sniff “Oh, you’re so predictable! I knew someone would bring that up eventually!” The point being? The rest of the world treats child abuse and inequality rather seriously and doesn’t roll the collective eyes at the mere mention of it.

And it’s for this reason that TV gives religion such a hard time. The media wants to have the difficult conversation with all religions, yet, thus far, the offer is declined. People want an open channel where the nasty questions are asked. We need answers in the real world, as opposed to some fictional penance or prayer.

While it will seem unfair that the good stuff is glossed over, Christians (or whoever) are advised that surely a media depiction is the least of your worries… that your reward will come when you die and get unconditional salvation and love from God while all us telly heathens will suffering unimaginably awful things in some hellish limbo or hell.

You can’t shirk the uncomfortable debate and demand a fair deal in the modern world… things just don’t work that way anymore.


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