To Critique the “Bitches” or the One-Time Presidential Hopeful … That is the Question

Question. 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? 

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.”[1]

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?

Pat Robertson, founder and host of "The 700 Club"

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?


[1] 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

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12 Responses to To Critique the “Bitches” or the One-Time Presidential Hopeful … That is the Question

  1. Debra says:

    Scott, through all the GCB posts I have read the last few days, I had not seen anyone take on Kristin Chenowith and was truly shocked by that void. I saw your title and thought finally, Scott did it. But not really.

    I had channel surfed one day iwht a new remote that didn’t have my favorite channels programmed so I zoomed by CBN and who was there? Kristin. I had heard she was a christian so I watch a piece. Hmm. OK.

    THEN came GCB. What will it be like for the ‘missionary to the entertainment world’ to take on this role? I had to watch. I have to say, I enjoyed her delivery of a couple of lines, as I did Annie Pott’s, but otherwise, not so much.

    I thne googled Pat and Kristin to find an article that really was a press release for one of her CD’s. ( http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/kristin_chenoweth040405.aspx )

    Here’s a pertinent snippet:

    “”Though Kristin once contemplated how to use her music as a missionary or musician, two years ago her Mom told her she was a missionary in one of the hardest places — the entertainment industry. Kristin agrees. People watch you, she says. You have to be mindful of what you do.

    Kristin’s love for the Lord always made her want to serve Him wherever He placed her. She says she knew He put this love of music in her heart for a reason.

    “One of the things I’ve always wanted to accomplish as an entertainer is to let people know there are real people in the real world trying to be what God wants them to be,” she says. “”

    So my question is about the lack of blog on this subject. Your thoughts?

    • Hi Debra,

      You bring up a great point. And honestly, I actually considered going with a Chenoweth quote over the quote I used by the creator/head writer. But in the end, his was a stronger quote in terms of trying to show how they are defending the content of the show. So I went with his.

      As for why various media outlets/blogs are not asking her the “tough questions,” I don’t know what to say. I wonder if it has to do with the main point of my blog? That is to say, I wonder if it has to do with Christians’ reticence to critique one of “their own.” You know what I mean? Robertson has been saying these sorts of things for years, and we just smile and nod before politely dismissing him as “our crazy old uncle, Pat.” I think sometimes, people are so invested in having Christians in the public spotlight that they fear calling them out lest anyone notice. But I could be wrong.

      What about you? Why don’t you think people are calling her out?

  2. Ryan says:

    Yea, but Pat is now in favor of legalizing marijuana, so I feel better about him and the dime bag I bought last night.

    • Yeah … who would’ve ever thought that the founder of the Christian Coalition would come out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana? Strange days, my snarky, sarcastic friend!

  3. lamehousewife says:

    interesting take…authentic appraisal of our own faults would be welcome…

  4. lamehousewife says:

    I have got a question for you…someone on another site just said that the part of the Gospel where the stoning of the woman was stopped by Jesus when he told the one who was free of sin to cast the first stone…the person on this other site said this was a made up part of the Gospel…what is your take?

    • So here’s the deal. While I have studied a fair amount of theology and Greek and have earned two Masters degrees, I am not equipped to answer that question. And I hope that tells you something both about my restraint and about the level of complexity that we are dealing with in passages such as this or Mark 16:9-16. When people are quick to take stands on issues like this, I often find that they lack even the most rudimentary tools from which they could build a well-grounded argument. So what you get is the “echo chamber,” where people simply repeat the opinions of others that they trust.

      Here’s the deal. When we are attempting to construct a modern translation of the Bible, we develop what are called composite manuscripts. That is to say, we take the earliest and best original manuscripts and compare and contrast them with one another. Because of the sheer number of existing texts (which far outweighs the number of texts we have of ANY other ancient manuscript), we are able to construct a translation with a high degree of accuracy. With regards to this particular account in John, it does not appear in any of the earliest and best manuscripts that we currently have in our possession. Moreover, if you remove the questionable material and read the text before and after it, it reads very smooth. So on these grounds, many (including the highly regarded conservative scholar, Bruce Metzger) suggest that the text does not belong.

      But again, I lack the training to truly do an analysis that is not dependent on the opinions of others. And thus, I am uncomfortable making a pronouncement on the subject. If you want to read a little more on the subject, go to http://www.netbible.com. Look up John 7 and than go to the 139th footnote. It’s got a nice, short, summary of the issues related to the passage.

      Hope this helps.

      P.S. As I know that you are Catholic, I’d be curious to know if you are aware of any tradition surrounding this text. And if there is, does the commitment to tradition as a authoritative source cause the Catholic Church to adopt a certain position on this text? Just curious to know if you have any insights on that. Blessings.

      • lamehousewife says:

        Thank you so much for giving me your take…I am so thankful for your honesty, brother…I spent the day working on this because I had never heard of it…but God is so good…someone I do not know came to my defense to toss out that theory with newer information (he was a Protestant with texts from the Eastern Orthodox church that corroborate the text)…another person also defended my position, which didn’t really start with Scripture (it was about punishing single mothers, so of course I had to say something)…I would never play the Scripture round because I am deficient in that area, but I can read and learn about it:) and was able to gain a lot of spiritual fruit from my research…God knows how to get me going, and He always takes me right to Him…Anyway, I think I will post my findings tomorrow…You are a blessing because you admit what you do not know and stay so realistic. Again, thank you… Praise the Lord and God bless!

  5. Rich Bennema says:

    Here’s my thought – highly speculative and unprovable as it may be.

    If there is no such thing as bad publicity, then are these groups producing the desired effect? In other words, if GCB had been ignored by these groups, would the ratings have been even lower?

    If that is a possibility, would you really want these groups to focus on the 700 Club? Or would that only give more publicity and a greater platform to the nonsense?

    As long as we are playing “what if,” let’s really go for it. How’s this: what if these groups and the 700 Club disappeared when GCB does?

    • With regards to watchdog groups and GCB, I wondered that myself. I wondered if we artificially inflated the ratings by creating the controversy in the first place. If that’s true, the numbers should come crashing down shortly.

      As for Robertson, I think it’s a totally different case. Because he founded the Christian Coalition and Regent University and because he’s run for the Presidency, I think we adopt a hands off policy. We smile and dismiss him, and silently hope that he will stop saying foolish things. But after 50+ years, he isn’t going anywhere. And I think it may be time for us to invest more energy in self-critique than we spend in critiquing others.

  6. Cal says:

    GCB is a reminder of the wretchedness of the American Bible Belt and the failure of the Church to be the Church of Jesus Christ instead of the Church of Conservatism/American Morals/American Idealism.

    I’m glad such a parody exists for shining a light on the absurdity on one hand, and it brings my heart grief on the other.

    Peace,
    Cal

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