19 December 2004

Not likely to be aired in this country - ever

Bible is 'lies and spin,' says C4

'Sensationalist' film sparks anger among church groups

Jamie Doward, religious affairs correspondent
Sunday December 19, 2004
The Observer

It's the season for Channel 4 to cause controversy. Each year the channel strives to whip up a furore surrounding its programming on Christmas Day. If it is not trying to break the record for the most f-words (2002), it's asking Ali G to present an alternative Queen's speech (1999).

Now it has attracted anger from Christian groups over its plans to screen a documentary which dismisses some parts of the Bible as untrue and attacks others as being a 'masterwork of spin'.
I can't imagine anything like that being broadcast in the US - no network would stand up to the Christofascists' cries of "anti-Christian bigotry." Who would present such a program, anyway?
They have also expressed concerns about the presenter, Dr Robert Beckford, a reader in theology at Birmingham University.
Well, he must be one of those "anti-Christian bigots," right?
In the new documentary, Beckford, a committed pentecostal Christian, describes a journey he made to some of Christianity's holiest places to help him uncover the provenance of the Bible. He calls his conclusion an 'earth-shattering experience' and one that made him doubt some of his most basic Christian beliefs.
Here are a few of the things this pentacostal Christian has to say about the Bible:
Of the Old Testament, Beckford declares: 'The so-called law of Moses turns out to be the work of many human hands. What I once thought was the word of God was now beginning to sound like something out of Stalin's Russia.'

He produces archaeological evidence to suggest the Bible's claims that the kingdoms of David and Solomon dominated the 10th century BC were wrong, an error that raises profound claims about the genesis of Christianity.

He declares the New Testament a 'masterwork of spin written by people who were nowhere near the events they describe, all gathered by powerful editors who kept out ideas they did not like'.

The story of the nativity is also doubted. Beckford argues that Matthew added the story to fulfil a prophecy made in the Old Testament.
And anyone who's seen either The Power of Myth or Snatch knows that last one involved an amusing mistranslation, too.

There is also a (sadly) unsurprising interview with Richard Land:
One of the most revealing moments comes when Beckford visits the US state of Georgia to talk to President Bush's spiritual adviser, baptist minister Richard Land. Land dismisses as 'rubbish' suggestions that the Bible is inaccurate and cannot be the basis for political decisions. 'When you stand in judgment of scripture, that is a theology of death,' says Land, who has called for Iraq to be 'flooded' with US troops.

To Beckford such views are deeply alarming. 'This was what surprised me most about my journey, discovering how dangerous this fundamentalism can be,' he said.
I suppose it could be surprising to someone who doesn't live in a society where such nuttiness is considered normal. Part of the reason it isn't marginalized in the mainstream discourse, I believe, is exemplified by the next sentence in the article:
But Hilborn said: 'People have these wrong perceptions. To see evangelicals as literalists is not true. It's a multifarious movement; you have to give a much more nuanced interpretation.'
Notice the bait-and-switch? Beckford was addressing fundamentalism, which, by definition, involves literalism. The fundies like to cloak themselves in the more respectable term 'evangelicals', which, strictly speaking, means those who try to convince others of the truth of their theological beliefs, including entirely reasonable people (say, Slacktivist). I've basically given up fighting the subversion of language, however, since it seems mostly futile.



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