Take, for instance, the cultural hand-wringing that accompanied the announcement of ABC’s Good Christian Bitches. In the months that lead up to Sunday night’s debut, various Christian groups and commentators attempted to take the Disney-owned ABC to task for a show that they believed would unduly desecrate the name of Christ by parodying those that follow Him. Their collective pressure was so great that ABC eventually capitulated, and renamed the show Good Christian Belles, before altering it once again to the even more innocuous GCB. What’s more, as the pressure continued to mount, the show’s writers and Christian star went into a collective state of damage control that may be best exemplified through the following statement issued by the show’s creator:
“As long as I have breath and am writing it, these women never are going to be reflected as simply bitchy or evil or their Christianity used in some derogatory or demeaning way. It’s more a celebration of a bunch of women who are bound together in a faith-based society.”
Now regardless of whether one believes these public statements to be true, the simple fact of the matter is this: GCB had a very mediocre opening because, truth be told, it’s a poor-man’s Desperate Housewives, which itself is no work of Shakespeare. The show has been widely panned by secular critics; and its 2.2 overnight rating leaves it trailing both the outgoing Housewives and even the now-cancelled Brothers and Sisters, which just last season occupied GCB’s timeslot.
All this to say, it would appear that certain groups have poured a fair amount of time and treasure into assailing a show that was never destined for greatness, longevity, or even a significant degree of cultural relevance. Moreover, they poured these efforts into suppressing a show that, upon viewing, was clearly meant to serve as a satire or commentary on certain segments of the Christian community that are virtually begging to parodied. Consider, if you will, what is being mocked. The lead villainess is a surgically-enhanced, church-going, wealthy socialite who spies on her neighbors, gossips, steals and advises people that “cleavage helps your cross hang straight.” Is anyone meant to take this seriously? And even if they are, is this sort of behavior not worthy of being mocked?
Now consider The 700 Club. Founded by Pat Robertson in 1960, The 700 Club is one of the longest running television shows in history, seen daily by over 1 million people in over 200 nations around the world. In other words, in terms of media scope and scale, it is unrivaled in its ability to paint a picture of the Christian life. Now consider what The 700 Club uses this platform to espouse.
Earlier this week, when faced with the question, “Why did God send the tornadoes?” Pat Robertson, the one-time founder of the Christian Coalition and a man who has run for the Presidency of the United States, responded by suggesting that the fault lay not with God, but with the people who built their houses “where tornadoes are apt to happen.” Likewise, when hurricanes swell and dash the shorelines of a nation, it’s the fault of people who “decide they want to build houses on the edge of an ocean.” In either case, if more people had just been willing to pray, God would have happily diverted the tornadoes and hurricanes, sparing, in the case of the Asian Tsunami, hundreds of thousands of lives.
Sadly, when it comes to Robertson’s presentation of the Trinitarian God, statements such as these tend to represent the rule as opposed to the exception. After all, this is the man who, in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, suggested that the tragic loss of 300,000 people was the direct result of their ancestors having made a “pact with the devil.” This is also the man who blamed the pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, and the ACLU for the loss of nearly 3000 people on September 11th. One could keep going, but the point has been made.
So after watching the premier episode of GCB and after watching Robertson’s latest series of public gaffes on The 700 Club, I am left with the question I posed at the outset of this article. What would happen if all of the energy that conservative Christian watchdog groups brought to bear on certain mainstream television programs were to be focused, instead, on The 700 Club? Clearly, the intent of these groups is to protect the good name of Christ and those that attempt to live in His ways. So what would happen, if, instead of going after the easy targets, they turned their attention inward and offered an equally robust critique of Christian media. Think about it. Internal critique is far more compelling than external critique. Internal critique bears witness to the fact that you understand that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. External critique merely bears witness to the fact that you think someone else has a problem. And in terms of the credibility of the witness, the former is far more potent than the later could ever hope to be.
So I guess the better question is: are we really trying to protect the good name of Christ and the reputation of his followers, or are we trying to be cultural power brokers that are merely interested in crafting a cocoon so that we don’t have to worry about what our children see?
 Robert Harling is the creator and head writer of the series. For further information on his attempts to defend the content of the show, please see: http://www.twincities.com/entertainment/ci_20079915