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Tuesday, January 23, 2007 

"Studio 60" And the New Attack on Christianity

If you haven't noticed, I love a little controversy. Sometimes my wife will ask me why I watch a particular program or read a particular book and I always tell her, "It's like watching a train wreck." I can't seem to take my eyes off of disaster or controversy. And maybe that is the reason why I continue to watch the new show on NBC, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

Every week the writers of "Studio 60" find some way to attack Christianity. Often times it is an adolescent attempt at humor based on ignorance and arrogance. And usually it revolves around one of the central characters, Harriet Hayes (played by Sarah Paulson), a confessing Christian who seems to walk a tight line between saint and sinner. In the first episode of the series, we find out that Harriet has been involved in a relationship with the very anti-Christian writer of the fictional show, Matt Albie (played by Matthew Perry of "Friends" fame). In another, Harriet gives an interview in which she notes that homosexuality is considered a sin in the Bible and later finds herself in a physical altercation with three gay men.

In last night's episode, Harriet again finds herself embroiled in controversy as Albie tries to find a way to swallow his pride and donate money to an abstinence-only education program via an online auction in order to win a date to an awards show with Harriet (who he is finding himself falling in love with once again). Albie argues with Hayes about the effectiveness of abstinence-only education and at one point he blindsides her with "evidence" from a study that shows that those who signed abstinence pledges were more likely to become infected with a sexually-transmitted disease (STD). Harriet reacts by smiling and continuing to discuss with him what she originally desired to talk about, almost conceding his point.

The problem with Albie's evidence (or should I say Aaron Sorkin's, given that he is the Executive Producer and has a penchant for attacking all things Christian and conservative?), is that it is based on a faulty report that has been discredited by several other studies, most notably by the Heritage Foundation (article accessible by clicking here), who examined not only the study itself, but the methods of data gathering used by the two authors, Peter Bearman and Hanna Bruckner. The Heritage Foundation found numerous problems with the Bearman and Bruckner study, including the sampling, the data interpretation, and the overall reporting of the results. Essentially, what they found was the study showed (yet under reported the fact) that "On average, individuals who took virginity pledges as adolescents were 25 percent less likely to have STDs as young adults than non-pledgers from identical socioeconomic backgrounds." Other independent studies have show even wider differences between those signing abstinence pledges and those not signing.

The point of bringing this up is that we shouldn't be surprised to see such shotty writing and willingness to attack Christianity at every level. The actions and beliefs of Christians have been under attack since its inception with the resurrection of Christ. Christians have always been cast off as ignorant, puritanical, and naive, yet Christianity has continued to grow and thrive amongst criticism. This new attack on Christianity led by the media outlets who no longer seem to fear repercussions will likely continue. Political pundits, talk-show hosts, and even sit-com writers will probably become more and more comfortable making fun of Christians, telling the easily-duped masses how much more dangerous Biblically-minded Christians are than Islamo-fascists who seek to impose Sharia Law on all lands.

So, how do we prepare for this new attack? We shore up the troops, we encourage one another, we train. And most of all we seek to bask in the hope of the return of Christ, our Commander-in-Chief who will judge all the nations with equity and bring all things into submission under His feet.

I would say this to start I in no way espouse the views of Sorkin, but I find him to be one of the most fascinating figures in Hollywood today. While taking shots at Christians he points to the absurdity that our popular culture is falling into, particularly in TV.
I agree with you on the B&B Study, and that has clearly been overturned, but I would say that I am not completely against the fact that we (Evangelicals) have not warranted some of the "attacks" that are mentioned on Studio 60.
If we would stop fancying ourselves as purely moralists in condemnation of everything that walks, or in boycotting every product or movie ever made, (or at least say these things), then maybe I could understand these "attacks" as purely ad hominem.
Here are the topics that we have been attacked on in Studio 60:
-Pat Robertson
-Christian Views of Science/Creation
-Responses to homosexuality
-Equating the exclamation of "Jesus", as equal to all other obsenities

Now in what way do these things directly count as attack on the Christian belief as Christ as Lord and Savior. They are peripheral, they are the battles evangelicals are choosing to fight, and have little to do with Christ and his Gospel.

I praise Studio 60 for some of its stands:
-Calling reality TV: "illiterate TV"
-Here is a line from the Pilot episode: "We're all being lobotomized by the country's most influential industry...We're eating worms for money, "Who Wants to Screw My Sister", guys are getting killed in a war that's got theme music and a logo...That remote in your hand is a crack pipe..."

That to me seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of our current culture.

I can take the punches on those peripheral issues, but this is the best show on TV right now (next to Sportscenter), and to this point I will defend it until it gets to a point were it falls into line like most other shows. But it won't, it is too smart.

I think the show is surprisingly balanced. I think the Christian character is smart and reasonable. I particularly enjoyed her argument with "Chandler" about homosexuality last fall. I think she pretty much kicked his butt.

I think the attacks on Christianity are pretty lame. They make shallow Hollywood liberals look pretty stupid to me.

Glad you're back.

One of the most effective ways of shaping our culture is through manipulation and brain-washing. No one does it better than the entertainment industry. In the last twenty or so years they have taken it as their mission to transform the culture to their liberal secular values. It is sad that so many people have not even noticed.

BTW-Sarah Paulson who plays Harriet Hayes-the Christian- is a lesbian!

I'm not sure that Aaron Sorkin has a "penchant for attacking all things Christian."

Studio 60 aside, Sorkin will likely be remembered the most for The West Wing.

I don't remember the West Wing to be anti-Christian, not at all. The West Wing explored personal religion closer than perhaps any television show in the last decade. Name one show where the main character attends church on a regular basis? President Bartlett presented an authentic commitment to his Catholic faith. During a time when our own Commander-In-Chief rarely if ever attends the 11am service, it was nice to watch the fictional Bartlett practice his faith.

Personally, I like Studio 60. Kind of a good show.

Anyway, Byron told me I should ask about your Arminian days, just for kicks. =)

I don't have the time to do the research, but I think it could be argued that God, Church, Christ, The Bible and other words like Christian are finding their way into more and more prime time televisions shows. Shows like Studio 60, the West Wing (which I agree with Big Daddy about) and even on LOST they talk about having faith not to mention Mr. Echo's walking stick with scripture carved into it, are showing more and more mentions of "God." Friday Night Lights has shown players praying before a game, even on a show like Rescue Me where the main character is a prime example of not walking the straight path, he still lives in fear of God. Not to mention has visions of him. Granted I wouldn't recommend this as a reason to watch it, cause the Jesus is not very Jesus like.

Sorry, my point was I think there's more mentioning of "God" on prime time television now more than ever. I don't think that's a BAD thing. I don't see the conspiracy here.

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I deleted your comment because of the use of profanity. You are free to repost it without the use of any offensive language. I don't allow such because of the age of some of my readers, such as my niece and nephew who are both under 13.

Now, as for your comment, it is not the publicity I was irritated at but rather the stereotypically way that Christians were painted by the show. The "Christian" hero slept around and acted quite unChristlike at times. Yet, her's was the only Christianity presented positively. But of course, it really doesn't matter now since the show was cancelled. I have my suspicions that the way Christians were presented had something to do with its abrupt ending.

Finally, I'm not sure what your problem is with my use of the term "Commander-in-Cheif" especially given the language used in the Bible. In Joshua, Christ is presented as the "Captain of the LORD's Host"; Paul often calls Christians "soldiers" and in Revelation Christ is said to have "went out conquering and to conquer"; and then there's this whole passage in Revelation 19:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

So, if I am as you suggested, then I take comfort in knowing that I am in good company with Christ and the Biblical writers.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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