- - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On July 16, 1988, Hollywood and American media changed forever. On this day, Lankershim Boulevard, which connects Universal Studios to the freeways, was not just busy, it was gridlocked. Some 25,000 people had gathered outside the gates of the studio in the largest protest in the history of Tinseltown.

But the significance of the event was not just its magnitude, it was its cause. Universal Pictures and Cineplex Odeon were planning to release “The Last Temptation of Christ,” a film famed director Martin Scorsese had tried to get made for years. During filming and pre-production, word had leaked out of Universal about the film’s content. In it, Jesus was portrayed as a wimpy, bedeviled character who, in a dream sequence, is shown having sex with Mary Magdalene.

Mobilized by Christian radio stations and media watchdog groups, the offended faithful from all denominations were at the studio gates on that Saturday, begging Universal not to release a film defaming their Savior. It was not an angry protest; there was not a single arrest. It was an assembly of singing, passionate followers of Jesus asking for respect for their Lord … and for themselves.

Along with a film producer friend, I consulted with the bosses at Universal and — based on a reading of an early version of the script of “The Last Temptation of Christ” — gave notes to execs Sid Sheinberg and Tom Pollock identifying 80 items in the 120-page script we predicted would be offensive to Christian believers.

Universal ignored our counsel, stonewalled the Christian community and released the film anyway. This was probably the shot across the bow that put the conflict between Hollywood and the faith community into warp speed.

The question remains, “Is there an undercurrent of Christophobia in American media today?” Is this what stirred a major studio to release what was considered “blasphemous” to followers of Christ? Would the same treatment be given to the pleas of Jews, Muslims, African-Americans or the LGBT community? The evidence is clear that animus against the Christian faith is in a category of one.

For example, ABC television wanted to launch a new series in the 2011-2012 season called “Good Christian Bitches.” The network promoted the show using a sexy picture of woman’s cleavage with a huge cross hanging between her breasts.

Under pressure — possibly with the argument that “Good Jewish/Lesbian/Black or Muslim Bitches” would not have passed muster with ABC execs — the short-lived show’s name was changed to “GCB,” but its Christian-mocking story line of B-word characters in a Dallas-area church remained unchanged.

Then in 2014, Time magazine editors ran a cover story on an evangelical minister who no longer believes in hell. The editors highlighted a letter to the editor in the “Inbox” section from reader Don Koons that stated, “Hell is easy to define. It would be spending eternity with Evangelicals.” For comparison, ask yourself if Time’s editors would have highlighted a comment saying, “Hell would be spending eternity with Jews, Gays, Blacks or Muslims.”

The above references cover a number of years, but this does not mean that Christophobia has died in recent times.

Earlier this year, Hulu launched an original series based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which has an oligarchy of Christian televangelists and other evangelical leaders taking over the United States after a nuclear holocaust.

Since most women were left infertile by the nuclear fallout, the “Commander” and his comrades implement a reign of terror in which all fertile women are brought at gunpoint into monastery-like enclaves. Once there, the “handmaids” serve as concubines to the oligarchs to repopulate the nation.

In a most vicious assault on Christian beliefs, the leaders of the new regime quote passages from the Bible to justify their treachery. “Blessed are the meek” declares one mother superior-type person as she zaps an uncooperative handmaid in the face with what looks like a cattle prod. In another scene, the beloved Christian hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers” plays in the background as the “commanders” impregnate a bevy of the handmaids — an evangelical gang rape — in a monthly ceremony.

Then in August, the AMC network execs approved a scene in their original “Preacher” series in which Jesus has sex with a married woman, complete with an explicit portrayal of the act and silhouetted scenes of other sexual positions. AMC issued an apology to their viewers over “spoiler” information released on an episode of another series, but made no apology to 160,000,000 U.S. Christians who had their Redeemer viciously maligned by “Preacher.” The Seth Rogen series was renewed for 2018. How do AMC execs explain this? It is unlikely AMC and Mr. Rogen will do a similar scene involving Mohammed.

Is there any doubt why — in a survey reported by the Baptist Board website — 93 percent of evangelicals mistrust the media? You decide.

Mastermedia International Founder and Chairman Emeritus Larry W. Poland, Ph.D., spent more than three decades consulting with executives in Hollywood and New York media on the Christian community as a market for media products.


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