Sunday, January 1, 2012

Occupy Jerusalem - 'Who Was Jesus' TV Special

There is a series on the Planet Green channel called Who Was Jesus? It's one of those pop-level looks at "the historical Jesus", which attempt to divine truths about Jesus as a person apart from religious doctrine and dogma. Given that the series appears on the Planet Green channel, I was fully prepared to be offended in some way, and while I only saw one episode of the series, two things were irksome about it. Well, more than two, but two that I felt like addressing in this post.

First was that the language used by the narrator to describe the economic and social conditions of the time were rooted in a particular disingenuous, modern, leftist rhetoric. Not that what they said was wrong per se, but the fact that they chose to say certain things repetitively -- while not saying many other things that could be said about first century Jewish and Roman culture -- revealed the presence of a particular ideology. Specifically, they referred to the "discrepancy of wealth" and "the suffering masses while a few prospered" over and over again. I will reiterate; it wasn't merely that they said these types of things, but that they made similar statements over and over again. The special could easily have been titled Occupy Jerusalem.

The second was some blatant racism by one historian. When talking about Mary when she goes with Jesus to Jerusalem, and Jesus goes to the temple, she says that "Just like a Jewish mother, Mary was worried to death when she couldn't find Jesus." I'm not hypersensitive when it comes to stereotypes, especially true ones, but this is one of those stereotypes that probably has little basis in reality. I'm aware of no evidence that suggests the average Jewish mother is appreciably more concerned about their children than non-Jewish mothers. The historian even reiterates the statement later, in addition to another trait of the Jewish mother that Mary displays after she finds Jesus, which the historian said was, I believe, relief. She was laughing as she relayed this observation of hers.

Again, I'm the last person to be overly politically correct and I certainly wasn't offended, but if they were exploring African history and she declared about some historical figure "he was, just like an African father, a deadbeat dad", I don't expect Planet Green would so readily include that programming on their channel. Even though, in this case, the attributes -- large amounts of worry and relief -- are either neutral or positive things, it's still quite surprising that they blithely include such dubious racial stereotypes.

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