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Fear, Jesus and Dirty Jokes

26 Jan, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Fear is the mindkiller.

That phrase is kind of floating around my head with the fact that Universal is releasing a new extended edition of Dune next week. Yes, dork that I am, I'm excited about it, but that's beside the point of this column.

I thought of this phrase as I read that the NBC show “The Book of Daniel” has been canceled. The TV show about a Vicodin-popping Episcopalian priest — who would get personal visits from Jesus as he dealt with his alcoholic wife, gay son and drug-dealing daughter — raised the ire of several Christian groups.

Members of groups like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family put pressure on advertisers and local NBC stations, calling the show blasphemous and sacrilegious. Seven NBC affiliates never aired the show.

I don't really get what these groups were worried about, what they were afraid of. Were they afraid that Christians would not be able to figure out how to turn off the TV or change the channel if “Book of Daniel” made them uncomfortable?

Were they worried that the faithful Christian would somehow be corrupted by the show?

Why is the very existence of a program like this deemed “offensive?” It wasn't offensive to me. Who's looking out for my belief in — my religion of — freedom of expression?

Apparently, the Christian groups were tickled pink to see it canceled.

"Had NBC not had to eat millions of dollars each time it aired, [the network] would have kept “Daniel” alive," said Donald E. Wildmon, founder of the Mississippi-based AFA, in a press release. "But when the sponsors dropped the program, NBC decided it didn't want to continue the fight.

"This shows the average American that he doesn't have to simply sit back and take the trash being offered on TV, but he can get involved and fight back with his pocketbook."

Ummm. OK, whatever. I still don't get it. It's not like NBC was showing Jesus spouting off his version of the world's dirtiest joke or anything.

Speaking of that, The Aristocrats arrived on DVD this week. While I am fully grossed out by parts of that movie, I am so appreciative that it got made, got into theaters and is coming out on DVD. I hope it does really really well on DVD.

It reminds me that there are still people in this country who value their right to freedom of expression and use it, even if it is in a nasty, raunchy and, let's face it, to some people very funny, way.

I'm reading a wonderful book right now called 1776 by David McCullough. It makes me feel so proud and privileged to be an American as I read accounts of the amazing confluence of events, people and often sheer luck that helped our founding fathers create a country that holds freedom of expression as a fundamental value.

But then, I get afraid every time I see stories like the ones about “Book of Daniel.” I get afraid for freedom of expression.

Fear is the mindkiller; we have to fight that.

We need to snap to and pay attention before we wake up in a world where my right to like shows like “Book of Daniel” and buy DVDs like The Aristocrats has disappeared.

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