Dear HPN Prayer Warriors,
I’m sure many of you have heard and had questions about the new show The Book of Daniel. You may have also seen the boycott e-mail from AFA. We would like to offer a different perspective.
My dear friend Dena, is the head writer of “One Life to Live.” She is brilliant, a great writer and loves the Lord. She received the same dreaded email that the AFA was sending out everywhere to get Christians to boycott “The Book of Daniel” and Dena was horrified that after all these years her mother doesn’t get what Dena stands for, why she’s here and how she views her own industry. So, she watched the show last night, as Jim and I did as well, and then wrote this email below. It’s so wonderful I wanted to send it to you, the members of the Hollywood Prayer Network, so that I can encourage you to think differently about our world and encourage you to pray. I want to give you the freedom to forward this as an alternative to the request to boycott.
Dena’s response to the AFA boycott of The Book of Daniel
My Review re: The Book of Daniel:
I can hear the pitch now… A writer goes to tptb at NBC and says I have a spec script for a one hour, single camera TV drama (the pilot was two hours, I know.) It’s “Joan of Arcadia” meets “Desperate Housewives”. (I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m just projecting.)
That’s all he would need to say to get the script read. Any exec at any network would flip over backwards. The idea of two high concept/successful shows that seem to have nothing in common, colliding in one show?… Are you kidding? It’s a slam dunk.
Then the execs read the piece and probably got nervous. Would they offend James Dobson? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing. They obviously went with the “good thing” scenario because they shot and aired the pilot and (I believe) slotted it for a regular time.
I know there’s a lot of chatter on the internet about this show and I haven’t read ANY of it. But I did watch the show. As an active member of the Hollywood Prayer Network and a guest lecturer at Act One, (I’ll explain the nature of those groups in a minute) I felt it necessary viewing– even though it’s not my cup of tea. I knew I’d get asked about it. Your email just reminded me…
Okay, so here’s what I thought artistically… The structure of the pilot was basically good. The pace was quick and the exposition (meaning information about the characters that we (the audience) needed to know) wasn’t too boring. The dialog was occasionally witty, occasionally clunky.
Although the characters were sort of soap opera cliches, I didn’t think they were too one dimensional. For example: The priest’s wife was clearly an alcoholic, but sort of a functioning one, in that her drinking didn’t keep her from attending to her children or from being an occasionally funny and sweet companion for her husband.
They gay son wanted to be “out” but didn’t want to be a poster boy for gayness or march in any parades and was willing to go out on a date with a girl to mollify his grandfather (also an Episcopal priest) in order to keep family harmony.
The daughter saw no moral problem with selling pot but didn’t (as far as I know, I missed part of the show) smoke it.
Interesting choices that kept all the characters from being too stereotypical. But here’s where the “Desperate Housewives” part comes in… The plot. Oh my gosh… Vintage soap opera. The conservative grandfather/priest is having an affair with the female Bishop? The brother-in-law (by marriage) absconds with the church funds then dies during some sort of unexplained sex orgy in a hotel in Daytona (I think it was Daytona), and his wife is a lesbian? The grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s and says inappropriate blurts at the dinner table? Come on! This is all over-the-top craziness, bordering on camp and (on more than one occasion) crossing the line into total farce. It was even too much for me… a soap writer.
And yet, I loved the fact that this family adopted an Asian kid who is now a teen and was totally blended into the family — so comfortable in his role as son and brother that he doesn’t mind dishing out and receiving jokes about the difference in his ethnic make up. I loved the way his parents loved him. I loved the way he jousted with his brother and sister. I loved the Romeo and Juliet aspect of his romance with the white daughter of the town’s “Mr. Potter” (A reference to “It’s a Wonderful Life”. There were also stolen story points from another classic movie, “The Bishop’s Wife”.)
And to be perfectly honest, I think the moral stance these people took isn’t that unrealistic. I mean, seriously… here’s a priest who condones and actually encourages pre-marital sex of any and all kinds (and not all that troubled by adultery.) As far as I know, this is a fairly realistic portrayal of where the liberal contingent of the Episcopal Church stands on such matters. Yet, look at this man reaping what he’s sowed. His church and his family are in chaos. Even though the writer didn’t intend us to draw such a conclusion… is this really a bad message?
And lesbians shouldn’t be too happy with this show. One lesbian was a total idiot. The other (I think we’ll find out in later shows) is a murderer and stole 3 million dollars from the church. (The writers were willing to offend everyone.)
Now as to the theological part of the story… I adored the concept of a priest having intimate conversations with Jesus. I really did. But the writer never got past the cool concept and dove into what the actual content of those conversations should be. Jesus offered nothing. He was vacuous and non-impactful. Hardly the kind of guy who stirred things up so much in his day that he went and got himself crucified.
However… I wasn’t offended or worried by this. What a nice opening for a conversation with someone. “Did you see The Book of Daniel last night? What did you think of the portrayal of Jesus?” You could go onto say how it didn’t really jibe with what you know to be true about Jesus… and the next thing you know, you’re “witnessing” without “witnessing”. Can’t be all bad.
But what I won’t do… what I never do… is boycott or letter write. All this does (and this has been proven time and time again) is cause “Hollywood” to dig their heels in, and react negatively to Christians and reinforce the idea that Christians are insecure, judgmental, and (to be bluntly honest) stupid. I know. I work in this world. I’ve heard it first hand so many times.
Jim Covell got into it with James Dobson once while guest speaking during the “Focus on the Family” radio show. He went toe to toe with Dr. James about boycotting– Jim (Covell not Dobson) took the position that, while a boycott may have momentary impact on the entertainment industry, in the long term it’s devastating to the Church in general. Dr. James took umbrage to this and that part of the show was edited out before it aired. Hmm… A guy who isn’t open to debate on such matters? Heck, I’m for debating anything. So was Jesus for that matter.
Boycotting and such worldly tactics were the weapons of Gandhi, not Jesus. Jesus only boycotted one group of people… money changers at the temple. And that was purely an “in house” matter. (By “in house” I mean church business.)
The Hollywood Prayer Network believes that our war is not with flesh and blood and that we are not called to fight in that way. We’re in a spiritual battle. We are about our Father’s business… and his business is the business of changing hearts. No heart of any network executive anywhere was changed (that I know of) by a boycott. Prayer changes people. The Holy Spirit changes people. We are called to pray. I would love to see emails go out urging Christians to pray for the execs at NBC and the creators of The Book of Daniel. This plan of action works. It really does.
The other strategy for combating the enemy in such matters is to raise up Christian young people to enter the entertainment field. That’s what Act One is all about. They bring young adults into Hollywood from all over the country (ones with legit promise) and teach, mentor and empower them to get jobs in the business. The problem is, Christian parents all over the country are actually discouraging their kids from entering such a dark and evil business– when they should be doing the exact opposite. (Thank goodness you didn’t feel that way.)
Jesus was about getting to the heart of the matter. That’s what we have to do with NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC and all the movie studios.
If anyone you know would like to become a prayer intercessor for the entertainment industry (which really is a mission field), then have them log onto the Hollywood Prayer Network website.
There… I got wound up. Sorry. Can’t help it. I love my Jesus.