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Theocracy: Whose Version?

Posted by Rick · December 2nd, 2004 · 7 Comments

I have written before about particular groups of Christians — the ones I call neo-Pharisees — and their move to establish a theocratic form of government in the United States.

Some people — even those who agree with some of what I say — don’t quite get how serious a problem this is. They don’t understand that it’s not just jewboys like me, or Muslims, Buddhists and other “heathen” who will suffer. The move has already started to silence other mainstream Christian groups that disagree with the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson-George Bush version of Christianity.

Case in point: The United Church of Christ.

This is a group of Christians with about 1.4 million members in the United States. Although I don’t know a lot about that particular group, I know that they’ve been around awhile. In 1700, they were the first mainline church to take a stand against slavery. (Maybe that’s why the group struggling to control our government right now hates them so much.)

At any rate, churches sometimes run ad campaigns on television to attract new members. The Mormons — another group that Jerry Falwell hates (he calls them a “cult”) — frequently run ads in our area. And the United Church of Christ, being no different, is trying to run an ad campaign on the major networks.

NBC (owner of MSNBC “news” website) is one of those that refused the ads. I can’t tell you what NBC says, because they haven’t printed any stories about it. And a visit to their website generated a complaint in my browser because I blocked their cookies, so they won’t let me search their site. It appears that unless they can track my Internet behavior, I’m not allowed to read what they say.

CBS, however, said,

Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and [because of] the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks. News Release, CBS, NBC refuse to air UCC television advertisement (November 30, 2004) United Church of Christ website

Got that? Because it “touches on” the topic in a way that goes against the religious beliefs of the President of the United States, the ads are “unacceptable” and will not be allowed to air on CBS or UPN.

The networks said the spot was too controversial to broadcast because it implied exclusion of gay and lesbian couples by other groups, according to the UCC. Unattributed Story, Church: Networks Reject Pro-Gay Ad (December 2, 2004) CBSNews.com

In other words, CBS — owner of CBS News — said they won’t air the ad because it “implies” the truth in it. It “implied” that there are some other groups that exclude “gay and lesbian couples.” It’s not blocked because it expresses an unproven opinion. It’s not even blocked because it states “some groups exclude gays,” but because it impliedly asserts that fact.

Incidentally, this is an interesting claim by itself. If you get a chance to see the ad, you’ll notice that it shows a church with the entrance blocked by a velvet rope and bouncers, similar to what you’d see at a top-notch fancy restaurant or nightclub where everyone goes to be seen. (Hmmm….) A white guy approaches. The bouncer puts up his hand and says, “No, step aside please.” Next, an African-American guy approaches. “No way, not you,” the bouncer says. After him, there’s a young African-American woman. “I don’t think so.” Lastly, another white guy — you only see him from behind — approaches and is told “No.” The words “Jesus didn’t turn people away” and then “Neither do we” appear on the screen. Then there’s a crowd of people, followed by two little white girls, a black heterosexual couple, an old white heterosexual couple. Lastly, for the only part of the ad that might even mildly be construed as demonstrating the possibility that homosexuals exist, there are two women together. One of those women has her arm around the other woman’s shoulder. Only gay women pose like that, you know. Other women never put their arms around another’s shoulder in photos.

In other words, you have to already know that there are groups that exclude gays or lesbians before you could possibly imagine this ad implies what these networks say it implies!

A CBS spokesman said gay relationships were a matter of public debate…. Unattributed Story, Church: Networks Reject Pro-Gay Ad (December 2, 2004) CBSNews.com

Okay, so…

…if you’re not allowed to even imply that gays exist, how do you have a “public debate”?

Oh well, Republicans are all about freedom:

President Bush’s former New England campaign chairman was indicted Wednesday on charges he took part in the jamming of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002. Erik Stetson, Former Bush Campaign Official Indicted (December 2, 2004) Yahoo! News

Yee ha!

Special thanks to Taughnee over at Chepooka for pointing me to the Church of Christ story and to my wife, Denise Chaffee, for the story about the Bush campaign that jammed Democratic Party phone lines during the 2002 mid-term election.

Categories: Religion


7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob // Dec 3, 2004 at 9:30 am

    From AlterNet.Org

    The Rev. John Thomas, who serves as general minister and president of the United Church of Christ (UCC), is having a hard time figuring out why the same broadcasters that profited so handsomely from airing the vicious and divisive attack advertisements during the recent presidential election are now refusing to air an advertisement from his denomination that celebrates respect for one another and inclusiveness.

    “It’s ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial,” said Thomas. “What’s going on here?”

    The ad in question is part of an ambitious new national campaign by the UCC to appeal to Americans who feel alienated from religion and churches, and to equip the denomination’s 6,000 congregations across the U.S. to welcome newcomers. In an effort to break through the commercial clutter that clogs the arteries of broadcast and cable television, the UCC ad features an arresting image: a pair of muscle-bound bouncers standing in front of a church and telling some people they can attend while turning others away.

    After people of color, a disabled man and a pair of men who might be gay are turned away, the image dissolves to a text statement that: “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”

    Then, as images of diverse couples and families appear on screen, an announcer explains that, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

    It is a graceful commercial, which delivers an important message gently yet effectively – something that cannot be said of most television advertising these days. But viewers of the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks won’t see it because, in this age of heightened focus on so-called “moral values,” quoting Jesus on the issue of inclusion is deemed to be “too controversial.”

    What was controversial? Apparently, the networks don’t like the ad’s implication that the Nazarene’s welcome to all people might actually include ALL people.

    Noting that the image of one woman putting her arm around another was included in the ad, CBS announced, “Because the commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the (CBS and UPN) networks.”

    NBC was similarly concerned that the spot was “controversial.” UCC leaders, pastors and congregation members are upset, and rightly so.

    “It seems incredible to me that CBS admits it is refusing to air the commercial because of something the executive branch, the Bush administration, is doing,” says Dave Moyer, conference minister for the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. “Since when is it unacceptable to offer a different perspective?”

    Moyer says that people of all religious faiths and all ideological perspectives should be concerned that the major networks – which dominate so much of the discourse in America – are seeking to narrow the dialogue.

    The Rev. Curt Anderson, the pastor of the First United Church of Christ in Madison, Wis., says that people of good will should also be concerned about the message being sent to gays and lesbians in the aftermath of an election season that saw them targeted by the political right.

    “I’m thinking of the LGBT folks in my church who felt so under attack after the election. They are getting hit again,” explained the pastor. “This is another way where the culture, the media, makes them invisible. It is incredible that it is controversial for one woman to put her arm around another.”

    It is also bizarrely hypocritical. After all, the same NBC network that found the UCC ad “too controversial” airs programs such as “Will & Grace” that feature gay and lesbian characters. “We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies and titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church’s loving welcome to committed gay couples, that’s where they draw the line,” explained the Rev. Bob Chase, director of the national UCC’s communication ministry.

    Chase has a point. ABC, CBS and NBC, networks that reap enormous profits from the public airwaves, are not serving the public interest. Rather, they are assaulting it by narrowing the dialogue and rejecting a message of inclusion that is sorely needed at this point in the American experiment.


    This article asks some very good questions.

    In the American Christian world, every church in every denomination fights for the same thing: seat money. Not the ‘donation’ to sit in the pew, the number of dollars each seat could potentially generate to keep the church afloat.

    I can see many mainstream and Fundamentalist churches banning together to fight this commercial since it could ultimately cost them dollars. The UCC church is often considered a ‘fringe’ church by the mainstream but this infusion of cash and advertising could actually put them on the map. A map already divided by so many other players.

  • 2 Malnurtured Snay // Dec 4, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Moral Values

    Via Andrew Sullivan comes this: Take two iconic states: Texas and Massachusetts. In some ways, they were the two states competing in the last election. In the world’s imagination, you couldn’t have two starker opposites. One is the homeplace of…

  • 3 Gary Aknos // Apr 19, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    Funny that a site based on debunking “spin” would raise this issue and reference Rev. Bob Chase of the UCC. (Your site is great by the way)

    Chase is Director of Communication for the UCC. He is also affiliated with Issue Dynamics, a lobbyist for the former Baby Bell telco’s. Chase was profiled in a Washington Post article a couple of years ago (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A14490-2003Jun19?language=printer) detailing how he worked with Issue Dynamics on trying to block the transfer of MCI/WorldCom’s licenses under the guise of the church’s non-profit status. It was complete spin and wholly unethical. Even today, the UCC website that Rev. Chase operates to challenge the FCC licenses of NBC and CBS owned local stations that refused to run the UCC ads is owned and operated by Issue Dynamics (www.http://www.accessibleairwaves.org) according to Network Solution whois database. In addition, the UCC worked with Issue Dynamics to promote Comcast’s attempted take over of Disney. All of this was done without disclosure and to this day, Chase refuses to disclose the now well known relationship he has with Issue Dynamics.

    UCCtruths.com has much more on this issue and it’s certainly worthy of your ‘spin’ coverage.

  • 4 Rick Horowitz // Apr 19, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    Just to set the record straight, Rev. Chase was brought up in a comment by someone else, not in the main article by me. The person who brought it up does, however, occasionally write for Unspun™.

    In any event, I’m not sure I understand how the connection Chase has to the topic I raised in my original article — except that he has commented on it and is connected with the United Church of Christ — matters.

    Does this connection in some way change the points I made in the original article?

  • 5 The Voice(s) In The Wilderness // Sep 17, 2008 at 8:38 am

    […] the right-wing conservative neo-Pharisaic crowd gets us liberal bloggers down, and rails against us because we’re busy doing what the […]

  • 6 Chrismahanukwanzakah & The Borg of Religions // Sep 17, 2008 at 8:44 am

    […] bothered by this, as well. They’re certainly not free from victimization. Take the situation I recently wrote about concerning the censorship of the United Church of Christ because their view differs from that of […]

  • 7 How Fraud Won the Election // Sep 17, 2008 at 8:47 am

    […] a discussion happening over at Chepooka’s that started over the CBS/NBC/UCC thing and partly encompasses the “how Democrats lost the election” […]

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