Saturday, January 21, 2006

"Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name"

However did the mainstream of a religion founded by a person who was all about love come to be defined by who it hates?

by Egarwaen
A comment from Street Prophets.

The comment related to the cancelled ABC series, "Welcome to the Neighborhood," in which a gay couple (the Wrights) won the hearts of 7 neighbors to be allowed to move into their neighborhood. Apparently this is one piece of the puzzle, and a beautiful thing it is:

...the neighbor who was the Wrights' earliest on-camera antagonist - Jim Stewart, 53, who is heard in an early episode saying, "I would not tolerate a homosexual couple moving into this neighborhood" - has confided to the producers that the series changed him far more than even they were aware.

No one involved in the show, Mr. Stewart said, knew he had a 25-year-old gay son. Only after participating in the series, Mr. Stewart said, was he able to broach his son's sexuality with him for the first time.

"I'd say to ABC, 'Start showing this right now,' " Mr. Stewart said in an interview at his oak kitchen table. "It has a message that needs to be heard by everyone." (Mr. Stewart first discussed his son publicly with The Austin American-Statesman.)
I absolutely know no other way to understand that, than positive. So why has ABC decided not to air the series, and not to sell it to anyone else?

Because Disney wants to make a franchise out of The Chronicles of Narnia, and that franchise depends heavily on Christian evangelicals spending money at movie theaters. ABC says there is no connection. But the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family seem to think otherwise:

In a recent interview, Richard Land, an official with the Southern Baptist Convention involved in the negotiations with Disney last year to end the group's boycott of the company, said he did not recall any mention of "Neighborhood." He added, however, that had the show been broadcast - particularly with an ending that showed Christians literally embracing their gay neighbors - it could have scuttled the Southern Baptists' support for "Narnia."

"I would have considered it a retrograde step," Mr. Land said of the network's plans to broadcast the reality series. "Aside from any moral considerations, it would have been a pretty stupid marketing move."

Paul McCusker, a vice president of Focus on the Family, which had supported the Southern Baptist boycott and reaches millions of evangelical listeners through the daily radio broadcasts of Dr. James Dobson, expressed similar views.

"It would have been a huge misstep for Disney to aggressively do things that would disenfranchise the very people they wanted to go see 'Narnia,' " he said.
There's another piece to this puzzle, too:

While other ABC shows have gay characters - including the new comedy "Crumbs" - "Neighborhood" features a real gay couple and their prospective neighbors in a continuing dialogue about homosexuality, including interpretations of the Bible

I am going into this amount of detail, because details matter. One last detail, before the discussion: Stephen Wright, one of the victors who won the house, was recruited for the series by his church.

Boundaries are all about who is out, not about who is in. I would like to say that is otherwise, but it is true. Boundaries are drawn in exclusion, and always defined in the negative. This is truer in churches than in many other institutions, organizations, or groups of people, because churches are voluntary, and require firm boundaries to maintain their identity. Perhaps over time even creeds are softened into confessions of faith, not professions against heresy; I still say the creeds today because of the affirmations they are for me, and because I need their requirements to lock out my own desires, and include in God's good will.

But the boundaries we draw around God, only hurt us, and we alone are responsible for them. Those boundaries are real, and yet they are internal. External boundaries also get drawn, but they are drawn always including us, and leaving us at the center.

And when they are drawn to leave someone out, they leave God out. Because Jesus did not say he would be with the faithful homeless, the confessing criminals, the baptized ill and infirm. He only said he would be the least of those among us; with the powerless, the marginalized.

Christianity is not about power, but about powerlessness. Boundaries cannot be enforced without a display of power, which is what the SBC and Focus on the Family are all but bragging about here.

It is worth remembering that whenever we draw lines against other people, we draw lines against God.

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