- - Wednesday, February 6, 2013


It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion about Hollywood. The good, the bad and the ugly of the entertainment industry are often on full display. Hollywood is a favorite target of special-interest groups, politicians and the media — and with good reason.

Grace Kelly, an actress who went on to become the Princess of Monaco, once famously said, “Hollywood amuses me. Holier than thou for the public and unholier than the devil in reality.” Alas, reality has gradually taken a much firmer hold of the land of bright lights and movie magic. The increase of sex and violence on the celluloid screen, a never-ending series of extramarital affairs and a long-term love affair with liberalism are just a few reasons why Americans regularly get fed up with Tinseltown.

Yet there are moments when Hollywood produces something that qualifies as good entertainment. I was recently lucky enough to catch one of those brief glimpses.

I was invited to a private screening in Ontario of the forthcoming miniseries “The Bible.” The co-producers are Mark Burnett (Emmy Award-winning executive producer of “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and “The Voice”) and his wife, Roma Downey (Emmy-nominated actress for the CBS program “Touched by an Angel”). The event was hosted by Crossroads Television System, a privately owned Canadian network, which predominately airs Christian-oriented programs.

“The Bible” will appear on the History Channel in 10 one-hour segments beginning in March. Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey showed about an hour’s worth of raw footage and completed scenes to an audience of several hundred people. The series promises to be a high-quality program with superb acting, magnificent imagery and beautiful storytelling. Most important, said Paul Tuns, editor-in-chief of the pro-life, pro-family publication The Interim, the Biblical depictions appear to be accurate.

All of this is great. Yet there is another important aspect to the Burnett-Downey miniseries. Hopefully, it will help cut back on Hollywood’s often anti-religious behavior, especially with respect to Christianity.

While there was little doubt that faith-based communities would tune in, Mr. Burnett’s involvement also should appeal to non-faith-based communities. He is a prominent reality TV producer and a highly recognizable name. Hence, this series will, in all likelihood, be able to capture a regular audience from different backgrounds and ways of life. It also will help expose more people to religion, history and human spirituality. Ms. Downey said at the CTS-TV press conference that their “hope is that on Mondays, people will be around the water cooler talking about the Bible.” While that may be a stretch, even the occasional discussion would count as progress.

“The Bible” could result in more people reading and studying the Good Book. Animated series such as “Superbook,” “Veggie Tales” and “The Greatest Adventure: Stories From the Bible” have helped pique our children’s interest in learning about Bible heroes and stories. The same thing could happen with adults if they want to reacquaint themselves with stories they read while growing up — or learn about them for the first time. More knowledge along with less fear is always a good thing.

A faithful account of the Bible by creative people who have faith also would be a nice change of pace. To be fair, Hollywood has produced various religious-themed movies over the decades, including “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” “Barabbas” and “The Passion of the Christ.” While some films have followed the words of Scripture close to the letter, others have taken events out of context in the name of artistic liberty. Ms. Downey and Mr. Burnett, therefore, are in a unique position to give an accurate portrayal of the Bible to a large TV audience.

While I am neither religious nor Christian, I strongly believe in freedom of religion and oppose anti-Christian sentiments. Hollywood has never been a leading light for either of these two principles. In their anti-religious bias, they often ignore a real market for good, wholesome entertainment.

If “The Bible” miniseries turns out to be a successful venture, in terms of viewership numbers and profits, this attitude finally could change. It would force Hollywood to re-examine its prejudices against organized religion and view Christianity in a more positive and inspirational manner. Such an unexpected turn of events would be a real blessing, indeed.

Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a columnist with The Washington Times.

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