“The Bible was brought to you by Wal-Mart.” Let that sink in for a moment.
For those not in the know, for the past five weeks, the History Channel showed the miniseries simply called The Bible. Every Sunday at 9 p.m., audiences sat down and were treated to many famous and iconic Bible dramatizations ranging from the story of Noah to the life of Jesus.
And The Bible managed to grab a large audience. For the five weeks it was on air, it was able to grab the top spot on Sunday nights, beating out programs like The Walking Dead. According to “TV By the Numbers” on zap2it.com, The Bible had a consistent audience of 10 million viewers each episode.
But now that the series is over, where does that leave the Bible (the actual book) in today’s society? What do programs like The Bible say about Christianity’s place in the American cultural sphere? The pitfalls that come with condensing Christianity in order to make it consumable to a mass market is that it is trying to package something much bigger than people realize.
There are two big dangers that a program like The Bible has to traverse between if the goal of the program is to spread the message of Christ (admittedly, not a stated reason for the show’s existence). The first is that in doing so, The Bible has to buy into the 21st century drug of choice. When you put a show on a cable network, you give people the sense that Christianity exists in the same realm of personal taste. If The Bible, and by extension Christianity doesn’t appeal to them, then fine, change the channel and watch something else. By playing for the audience, the issue of truth gets lost in translation.
The other issue is the lack of application. For many, The Bible brought to you by the History Channel may be the only exposure they get to what Christianity is about. To be fair, it is the History channel, and they aren’t trying to push a Christian agenda. The biggest concern are what Jesus would call the “lukewarm”. These are the people who watch the program and feel justified in saying they understand Christianity from it. Similar to the people who only attend church twice a year out of obligation to those around them, how big is the audience that watched The Bible simply to tell others “I’m spiritual”.
People can talk about The Bible (the show) or The Bible (the book) until they’re blue in the face. The Pharisees knew the law better than anyone else. But without practicing what they preach, The Bible becomes another check mark on their record of “religious things I’ve done”.
This is not to say that The Bible in itself is inherently bad. We serve a God who can work through anything, and do not doubt that He can use this program to reach people. But we still need to be mindful of how we present Christianity to others. Is it like The Walking Dead, where we can tune in once a week and enjoy it for it’s entertainment value? Or is The Bible much bigger than that?