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The Gospel Is Mush
The Book of Daniel's saving grace: It will soon be gone.


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Lee Habeeb

You’ve no doubt heard of NBC’s new series, The Book of Daniel by now. It has been the subject of much debate since long before its debut last Friday night, having incited the ire of critics like the Catholic League, outraged at its portrayal of Christians and Christianity–and for good reason. But now that it has aired, there’s good news: The real problem with The Book of Daniel isn’t that it is an affront to Christians, or that it portrays Jesus Christ as some kind of mellowed-out Woodstock holdover (which it does). The real problem is that it is remarkably mediocre.

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Still, what was NBC thinking? Given the success of The Chronicles of Narnia and of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, there’s clearly reason for Hollywood to go Christian. Eighty-three percent of Americans in a recent ABC poll identified themselves as Christians, and yet the best NBC could do to reach that audience was to create a series where the central character is a pill-popping Episcopalian priest with a boozing wife, a drug-pushing daughter, a slowly decloseting gay son, and an adopted Asian teenage Lothario.

Bravo, NBC! Creativity like this is a model for must-not-see TV.

But Daniel is worse than just that (even in the first episode). The Rev sometimes hangs with Jesus Christ, or at least his vision of JC. Out of nowhere, the Savior will appear, looking like a Jesus Christ Superstar understudy. When the Rev asked JC for advice about his dealer daughter, the laid back Son of God tells him to chill. When the Rev asked for help with his brother-in-law stealing church funds, the mellow Messiah tells the Rev not to sweat it.

You wouldn’t trust this dude to score you a nickel bag of pot or scalp tickets to a Grateful Dead Show, never mind lead you to eternity.

In one of the worst but more revealing scenes of Friday’s show, you could see what got the Catholic League going, when the Rev administered last rites at a euthanasia. Whenever the Rev went to pop a pill, the Savior showed. But pulling the plug on a parishioner? Nothing wrong with that, so why would there be Divine intervention? JC is a no-show there–presumably a no-fault, no guilt act, much lower on the priority scale then popping painkillers. Jesus, in this latest Hollywood incarnation, isn’t down with drugs, but he’s easy on euthanasia.

By now, of course, what I tell you about the Rev’s homily is not likely to surprise you. It’s what you’d expect: quality writing, penetrating theology. Let’s go to the script for your look-see:

Temptation. Is it really a bad thing? I don’t think so. What I mean is, if there was no temptation, how could there be redemption. If we never did anything bad, how could we become stronger because of our weaknesses?
Heavy, dude. Writing like that would have gotten me an “F” in my college theology course.

But the homily got even murkier. And mushier.

I’m not suggesting that we should go looking for temptation, but my brothers and sisters, if temptation corners us, maybe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for giving in to it.
A homily only Hollywood could come up with, or live by!

With the cultural genius on display Friday night, The Book of Daniel will surely be canceled within the next few weeks–that is, unless Christian groups take the bait and keep this show going by trying to kill it. Let it die a natural death–the low-ratings kind.

As for that Friday time slot, we can only wonder what NBC will come up with next. Possibly an opium-sniffing imam whom Mohammed appears to on a flying carpet. Will his two sons want to grow up to join al Qaeda?

Don’t hold your breath.

Lee Habeeb produces The Laura Ingraham Show.



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