B U Right Back
Little Children Come
Eat Your Greens
Van Diemen's Land
Bring Me To Life
2005 02 21
Three programs on Channel Four (C4) have just given me cause for thought.
Two I've watched tonight and a third is yet to be aired, this Saturday.
The first was a short piece entitled 'You Shall Have No Graven Image' and featured a lad from Wellen Garden City very 'into' Marilyn Manson. He confessed that the pop idol was tantamount to 'his own personal Jesus'.
The program followed him as he gave up Manson for a week and we observed his loss of identity and descent into bland obscurity.
Interesting, given the fact that C4 is currently trailing a documentary to be shown this weekend about the Ten Commandments. Its thesis, that although these are widely quoted as the defining group of guiding principles we still hold to as a culture/society; in fact few of us know what they really are.
This casts the first program in a useful light as a 'public information film' (remember those?!), even if the central character had no Damascus Road conversion to free him from the clutches of Brain Warner (aka Marilyn Manson) and his dependency on a tribal youth culture to secure his sense of self. (Not that I behaved in any similar way when I was fifteen!)
The third program, and second for me tonight, was the Despatches documentary 'Holy Offensive' (natty title). This compared three recent controversies: the play Behzti forced off the stage at Birmingham Rep; the BBC broadcast of Jerry Springer the Musical; and the murder of a Dutch film maker whose film had angered Moslem extremists.
These events have I'm sure exercised you as much as me over the past months as they hit the headlines consecutively. Shock at the violent intolerance of Islamic fundamentalists in Holland. Grudging admiration for the Birmingham Sikh community tinged with regret and grief for the wounds caused to the arts and freedom of speech. Confusion as to whether I should be on the streets protesting against the Beeb or rather hold the reputation of Jesus as lightly as He did Himself.
Our opinions on these issues will differ considerably, no doubt.
What interested me most however was the discussion of blasphemy.
The interviewer put to one of the writers of 'Jerry' the contention that one scene in particular he must surely have realised was deeply offensive to Christians. A clip accompanied the description of Mary's entrance to the proceedings with, as her signature tune, a refrain about being 'raped by an Angel, raped by God'.
The writer accepted that he and his associate shocked themselves when the line was written but defended the choice of words so: the stories in the Gospels are not the sole possession of people of faith and that given Mary's age (13?) and our modern perception of child protection issues, she (as a child) could not have consented to what occurred. This puts the incident and relationship between God and Mary into the area the writer considered 'abusive'. This, for him, justified his turn of phrase in the score.
As a member of the secular society, looking in from the outside, applying current mores, then perhaps he might be indulged. Perhaps we should overlook his blindness to the central issue of that commandment about graven images and idolatry.
His basic fault is imagining God as one of us. Building upwards from man to God when the Good News is of a journey in the other direction. Were God a man then we could doubt His motives and imagine Him capable of such tawdry deeds as humanity. We accuse God of the worst fears we have of ourselves and paint him in our colours. We make Him in our image.
To say what he does is saying that the babe who passes prematurely from this life is not safe to rest in His everlasting arms; that children praying might need similar protection to those in an internet chat room. In question is the very deepest principle, the character and nature of God; what He is like.
Yet perhaps it is but a further ignorance allied to that even of the commandment itself.
Who is guilty? Perhaps we who are tasked with showing forth His glory 'til He comes in a world that has forgotten.
And maybe we should be in part grateful to those who at least are telling the stories and trying to understand?
© cag 2005