Where Credit Is Due – The BBC And Christianity in Britain

I know this title will shock and annoy most people here. The following is not meant to discredit or dismiss all the complaints about the BBC’s shabby treatment of people with  Christian faith. I’m not here to claim there is no BBC harsh treatment of the religion itself and its various churches as opposed to what Mark Thompson admitted was the soft touch with Islam. I offer this only as a moment to take notice when the BBC actually does get it about right, as giving credit where due can only help deter charges of the blog seeing only negatives in everything and not ever taking an objective approach.

Watching the latest episode of Neil Oliver’s “Sacred Wonders of Britain” was a refreshing change to the sniggering and sneering or casting doubts we usually get from Beeboids about faith, especially that of believing Christians. For example, Jeremy Paxman giggling when asking Tony Blair if he prayed together with George Bush, or Radio 4 suggesting that the danger from Christian extremists was just as bad as from Mohammedan jihadi extremism, or having atheist Melvyn Bragg present a controversial programme about Gnostic Gospel ideas on Good Friday, have all added to the perception that the BBC treats Christians faith with some disdain. And let’s not even get into all the hate poured out by “edgy” comedians and the likes of Stephen Fry. Usually it seems like the only time the BBC nomenklatura approve of religious Christians is when they’re the useful kind: right-on vicars who espouse Socialism or hold the usual approved thoughts on pet BBC issues. I confess to being a little wary initially, being aware of Oliver’s otherwise typical BBC ideological credentials. For example, I saw him turn a segment of one episode of his “Coast” series into an advertisement for wind turbines.

In this series, though Oliver actually treats the expressions of faith with wonder and a smile. There are no side quips about modern problems, no rolling of the eyes at discussions of how faith was important in daily lives. His demeanor does not come across as phony or patronizing. While the series obviously began covering the old pagan faiths, it’s now into Christianity and it’s offered without any diminishing qualifiers.

Another recent example of getting it about right was the “Tudor Monastery Farm” series. Previous versions of the historical farming series didn’t really get into religion at all, but this one had it at its center because of the premise. This time, the producers chose the historically accurate plot vehicle of having the crew act as if they were tenant farmers on a monastery estate. So they really had no choice but to have unadulterated, old-school Christian faith infused into almost everything.

(Yes, I know some people here have been outraged at seeing a black face in Tudor England. I know it can be seen as a gratuitous token done not out of historical respect but in fealty to what we know to be their editorial policy to promote multiculturalism at all costs. Perhaps those who are angry can take comfort in the fact that, from what I saw, the blacks were never shown to be allowed indoors. This has nothing to do with the topic of Christian faith in the series, and I’m hoping we can all leave this issue alone this time.)

In this series, they had no choice but to act as if faith was the guiding force in everyone’s daily lives. Food was symbolic, the meals could take on ritual elements, and real faith was involved in nearly everything on some level. Like Oliver in his show, the “Tudor Farm” cast explained the various religious facets with smiles on their faces and positive expressions. It was done with sincerity, no downplaying it as, “This is what those people did, we’ve now advanced,” sort of thing, nor did they try to say that faith wasn’t all that important. Sure, they were probably acting for the camera, but that doesn’t detract from the sincerity of the presentation. Faith was not described as a negative influence at all. Celebration of religious festivals was not done ironically. Instead, it was presented as a fact of daily life, without negative qualifiers or denigration. Religion wasn’t the point of the series at all, of course. It was just there because it was accurate.

Sometimes – not very often – the BBC can get it about right on matters involving Christian faith. I think we should recognize it on the rare occasions when it does happen, if only to show that our own biases don’t prevent us from noticing. If anything, giving the BBC credit when they do it right should only strengthen our position on criticizing them when they get it wrong.

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18 Responses to Where Credit Is Due – The BBC And Christianity in Britain

  1. john in cheshire says:

    They also presented a programme on the Salvation Army, a week or so ago and it was actually enjoyable to watch.

       8 likes

  2. F*** the Beeb says:

    Agreed completely. I wrote a very positive comment for an article posted a few months back about white South Africans facing racism and segregation. It didn’t pass judgement one way or the other, it just highlighted that it existed and spoke to some of them. It’s about the only time I can think of where the BBC has even acknowledged that racism works both ways, apart from one episode of Crimewatch where they reported on two black women racially abusing two white people, which took about 15 seconds.

    Also, with regards to Stephen Fry, he and QI were the only BBC outlet that actually gave any credulity to the belief (actually a mathematical yet politically inconvenient fact) that equal prize money at the tennis Grand Slam events for male and female players is asinine. Sure, he didn’t phrase it that way – he had to be diplomatic and saying “arguably it’s a little unfair” – but it made a change from the tennis commentators either ignoring the dissent entirely or saying they should ignore the mathematical aspect as it’s not important, the most incorrect thing I’ve ever heard regarding equal pay because the ONLY thing that’s relevant is merit based on workrate and load. Again, it was only for about a minute or so compared to the approved party line of “women deserve as much because shut up sexist” that was on the Wimbledon coverage, but it was nice to hear especially from someone so far to the left.

    Unfortunately, for every instance of impartiality, balance, or restraint, there’s 100 Charlie Brookers or Russell Howards to remind us that the BBC is literally laughing in our faces.

       12 likes

  3. johnnythefish says:

    Neil Oliver – a gem of a bloke and a gem of a series.

    So where was the usual agenda from climate change to Islam?

    Once the BBC Thought Police wake up to this one slipping past their PC filter poor old Neil will be in for some Room 101-style awareness training.

       13 likes

    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      As I said, he took the opportunity to push the watermelon agenda in Coast. That series is probably loaded with remarks about how AGW is harming the environment.

         3 likes

  4. Philip says:

    I can’t help feeling that the BBC has a canny knack of ‘timing’ and wheeling out ‘fair-and-balanced’ programs that are enjoyable to watch (and presume Actors inclusive), but only when public concern is at it’s height. I listen to Radio more than watch BBC TV simply as the TV ‘bias’ is far more news ‘procative’ (and obvious). On occasions (history and drama) at the BBC can be a gem if the BBC management get off their poltical hobby horse. I cringe when the BBC news has been doctored to be ‘politically correct’ as in today lead story about pregnant British Asian mothers forced to abort ‘girl’ babies in favor of ‘boy’ births. The BBC persenter (radio 4) had to go out of her way to avoid ‘hate, racism, sexism, discrimination’ (from a mainly indian population) without stating that obvious fact. The BBC is bizarre sometimes. Sometimes I forgive but one does not forget that they are ‘anti democractic’, beureaucratic and biased against native ‘anglo saxons’.

       8 likes

    • Aerfen says:

      IMO Radio Four is worse than television, the most PeeCee of the lot! At least once or twice a week the afternoon plays are the crudest political propaganda (sob stories of asylum seekers etc), then the so called Comedy slot at 6.30, painfully unfunny stale old comedy from the eighties mocking ‘racists’ , Daily Mail readers, royalty, the French, or even less funny ‘ethnic’ shows designed to give work to foreign actors, or to promote weak ethnic minority ‘stand ups’.

         11 likes

      • Philip says:

        Not as bad as Radio 5 (I hear). Switching over to Classic FM does help to remove the PeeCee! And those R4 unfunny comedians are a relic of soviet era ‘we will make you laugh’ (except nobody listens to them and laughs). BBC Radio comedy finished with ’round the horn’ for me. It’s all ‘prop-o-ganda’ now.

           9 likes

        • Aerfen says:

          I find it worse than Radio Five by far! Jenni Murray ‘Immigrant Wimmin’s Hour’ is a daily slot, every producer has a foreign name, almost every ‘expert’ pulled on is a foriegner (to send us the message that we rely on ‘skilled foreigners’ to do the jobs Brits are too thick and uneducated to do). Even the Archers is full of multikulti cods!

             10 likes

  5. Aerfen says:

    (Yes, I know some people here have been outraged at seeing a black face in Tudor England. I know it can be seen as a gratuitous token done not out of historical respect but in fealty to what we know to be their editorial policy to promote multiculturalism at all costs. Perhaps those who are angry can take comfort in the fact that, from what I saw, the blacks were never shown to be allowed indoors. This has nothing to do with the topic of Christian faith in the series, and I’m hoping we can all leave this issue alone this time.)

    NO David! Why the hell would we ‘take comfort in the fact that, from what I saw, the blacks were never shown to be allowed indoors’? We’re not racists (like you Americans)!
    We object to blacks in a series about Tudor England because it is a deliberate Orwellian distortion of our history! Children are watching that program, who know NOTHING of the BBCs agenda, and who will take that as accurate. As todays children grow up and the history books tell these lies , the time will come when there is nobody left who even knows they are lies! Of course the Globalists would like nothing better than to blot our all ethnicity and create a world of coffee coloured *Brazilians* who never knew it was ever any different.

       13 likes

    • DP111 says:

      Apropos – I didn’t know that one of the Knights of Arthur wax Black, and so to Guinevere.

         5 likes

  6. Barabbas says:

    Jesus told his followers to expect their beliefs to be mocked, because they were so mockable.

       0 likes

  7. DP111 says:

    The BBC has been pouring contempt on Christians and Christianity for as long as I can remember. If for some reason, they have broadcast a program that is not anti-Christian, then I have to question if this is just an aberration before normal service resumes, or are they afraid that they are going to get their wings clipped.

    As long as they are falling over luvvies of the sort of Fry, who has grown fat on license payers money, I have to treat any thing the BBC does with the same suspicion and scepticism that I bestow on what comes from CRU.

       8 likes

    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      These shows (along with that one about a bunch of elderly Christians on a cruise ship, and that series about British church iconography) are the exceptions that prove the rule. As long as the BBC keeps producing things like this, they can dismiss all claims about the anti-Christian bias everywhere else in their output.

      The Tudor Farm was probably concerned with religion only out of necessity. I mean, what else were they going to show about Tudor period farmers? Crofters? Peasants farming for the local nobility? Too many intruding political issues. At least the farmers working for the monks didn’t have to worry about le droit de seigneur.

      The Charter & Agreement still require the BBC to do a token amount of Christian stuff, and these shows tick the necessary box. Whenever there’s a big public discussion of abolishing the license fee and all those dopey artists and comedians and politicians come out in defense of the BBC, do they point to these shows as examples of the wonderful stuff that will be lost if the BBC is privatized? Ever seen a BBC mouthpiece highlight any of this as an example of their great public service broadcasting? That tells you all you need to know.

         6 likes

  8. thoughtful says:

    Is anyone as pissed as I am about the PC left deciding on a whim which aspect of ethnic culture can be criticised, and what cannot, with anyone elses objections being over ridden as simply ‘racist’.

    So we have the disparity in birth genders being bleated about, and my first thought is ‘this is the vibrant diversity of multi culturalism you craved so accept it for what it is because criticising it for what it is, is simply as racists as anyone else attacking it.

       7 likes

  9. chrisH says:

    Neil Oliver did a good job-no question.
    Good scheatic teaching too, that allowed me to draw my own conclusions.
    And not a mosque in sight!
    No complaints her…thanks for pointing it out David.

       5 likes

  10. Deborah says:

    I read through your post last night, David, and slept on it before commenting this morning. Other than the people who introduce Songs of Praise I cannot think of many on TV who profess their Christian faith (or indeed any other). Except for a couple of Jews – Simon Scharma and Lord Robert Winston came to mind. Does Mishal Hussein go to a mosque – no idea. Does any of the regular newreaders attend church on a regular basis – no idea. But if any of them did it would be good fodder for the Now Show, the News Quiz or Mock the Week.

       5 likes

    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Fiona Bruce caused a little stir once for wearing a cross, no? It seems like Drama Schama is only allowed to wear his Jewishness on his sleeve when it’s time to do a documentary series about 2000 years of Jews being whiny victims.

         3 likes

  11. lojolondon says:

    There must be a change afoot at the BBBC – this morning some woman interviewed Martin Schultz, and actually seemed to give him a hard time! (on the counter side, you could argue they never interviewed any Eurosceptic at the same time for the same coverage…..)

       0 likes