Do Christians Not Care About Blasphemy Any More?
Every year, Amazon releases several pilot episodes for different videos that they may later make into a series. This year, one of the Amazon pilots is a show called Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Looking at the description (a housewife decides to become a stand-up comedian and achieves great success) it seems to be based roughly on the life of Phyllis Diller, although Diller was not Jewish as is the protagonist in the show.
This particular pilot has been very well-received. On the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) site, the show is rated 8.7 out of 10 based on more than 1000 reviews. On Amazon’s own site, it’s rated even more highly. There, it is rated 4.9 out of 5 stars by more than 7500 reviewers. In fact, 92 percent of the reviewers give the show 5 out of 5 stars. Another 5 percent give it 4 stars, while 3, 2 and 1 stars each get 1 percent. In other words, it’s an extremely highly rated show, and if Amazon goes by the reviews, one would expect that they will make the pilot into a full-blown series next year.
Here’s what I find interesting about the show: there is an instance of extreme blasphemy approximately 1 minute into the pilot. I’m not talking about a character, like Ann Romano on the old show One Day at a Time, saying her signature line “Oh, my God!” While I always saw that as not exactly right, it did, to some extent, express a hope that God might in some way help the situation.
No, it’s not like that. It’s just extreme, gratuitous blasphemy that would have to insult any Christian. It’s the kind of thing where if someone said it in your presence, you would either pray for their soul or perhaps call for an exorcist, but you certainly wouldn’t spend another hour with them.
Remember, this is a show that has been rated 4.9 out of 5 stars by more than 7500 people on Amazon. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Institute, 70.6 percent of the adults in the United States identify as Christian. If we extrapolate from that number, then of those 7500 reviewers, approximately 5200 were self-identified Christians.
But, of course, Amazon can be seen by people all over the world, so what if the people watching this show were a perfect religious cross-section of the world? Christians make up 31.5 percent of the world population. So, that would mean of the 7500 reviewers, approximately 2300 would have been Christians.
Out of more than 7500 reviews, only about 230 people gave the show negative reviews. Many of those found it not funny or just not for them. Of the people who gave a moral objection to the show, most complained about the nudity—apparently there are two sex scenes including nudity within the first three minutes. Of all the 7500 or so reviews on Amazon, the word “blasphemous” is used only once. A blasphemy that must be found offensive by every Christian—by which I mean a person who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—is mentioned by only a single person.
When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one of ten came back to thank him. That was 10 percent. In this case, the number of people who came back to Amazon to complain about the insult to the Name of Jesus Christ was only 0.013 percent.
My question is, why? Why do Christians put up with casual and gratuitous insults to the Name of Jesus?
Amazon and Netflix have in recent years been creating more and more original programming, sometimes movies, but often whole series of shows. Unfortunately, gratuitous blasphemy is not the exception on these shows, but the norm. Admittedly, I have not watched or read about them all, but from what I’ve seen, those in charge of Netflix and Amazon programming either believe that the United States is almost devoid of Christians, or that Christians simply don’t care.
The fact is, they don’t do this to other groups. Show after show on Netflix does not gratuitously insult Muslims, or Hindus, or Buddhists. You won’t find characters on these shows using the name of Allah in vain. You won’t find characters coming up with new and creative ways to use the “f” word in combination with Vishnu. You won’t find Buddha verbally assaulted in every episode.
And it’s not just that Christianity as a religion is attacked. How about Christians simply as a demographic group? What about the supposed idea that people should have a “safe space” for their beliefs? What about attacks on people’s beliefs being hate speech?
You won’t find on these shows gratuitous attacks on other demographic groups. They don’t constantly offend racial minorities. You wouldn’t have a show that went out of its way to insult the handicapped as often as possible. And it boggles the mind even to attempt to imagine a show that would be patently offensive to the transgendered.
In fact, if Netflix or Amazon somehow let a show slip through the editorial process which was offensive to large numbers of minorities, the handicapped, or the transgendered, it would be immediately withdrawn from circulation, someone would be fired, an abject apology would be issued, sensitivity education classes would be filled to the breaking point by anyone close to the offenders, and a donation with lots of zeroes would be made to some advocacy group, in the hope that such a hate crime masquerading as a video series would never happen again.
For my part, I draw a bright distinction between shows with “swear words” and shows with blasphemy. While I could do without the “f” word in a show, I wouldn’t stop watching an otherwise good show just because of that. (I am assuming here that the word is used as an interjection or adjective/adverb and not in a sexual context). Swear words are just words, after all, and since they are generally not an occasion of sin when heard, there’s no necessity of taking offense.
Blasphemy, especially against the Holy Name of Jesus, is entirely different. The Holy Name is not just a word, but a Name and a Person. It would be bad enough to use any person’s name as a swear word. But the insult against a person is measured by the dignity of the person offended, so blasphemy against the Holy Name is simply intolerable.
And it’s not just that the actors said those things when the video was made. If those words come through the speakers on my computer or television, then they are in effect being said again. It’s like I’m cooperating with the actors to give voice to blasphemy in my own house. And that is also intolerable.
Of course, it’s not just blasphemy that I don’t want in my videos. It’s also the other language, sex, nudity, over-the-top violence, and more.
Some would say that one bad scene or even one bad word irredeemably ruins a movie or television show. Filth is filth, and there’s no good reason to get dirty. St. Paul tells us to think on the good, the true, and the beautiful. If videos aren’t all these things, then why bother with them at all?
While that is a reasonable point of view, there is an alternative view that a problem word or a problem scene does not have to ruin a show. There are many inspirational programs that have very little wrong with them—and nothing that would really affect the plot or the message of the show. I think of a movie such as The Princess Bride, which is beautiful in many ways. I want my children to love that movie as much as I do; but there are a few things in it I’d rather they didn’t see.
Fortunately, in 2005 Congress passed the Family Home Movie Act, making it legal for families to edit videos that they watch in their own homes. That law, along with software from a variety of different companies, allows you to filter offensive content out of videos. Hollywood studios have fought against videoing filtering ever since the law was passed, but they haven’t quite been able to get rid of filtering.
Very recently VidAngel, which is the largest company offering streaming video filtering, has come back on-line after a long hiatus due to legal challenges from these studios. VidAngel offers hundreds of filtered movies and at this time works with Netflix on phones, tablets, and computers. Vidangel charges $7.99 per month for unlimited video filtering.
Another company called ClearPlay has just gotten into streaming filtering as well. ClearPlay has thousands of filtered videos available on DVD, but they currently offer only a few streaming videos. They plan to add four or five more videos every week. ClearPlay works with Amazon video and charges $1 per movie for filtering.
The current author has also been working with a group developing a completely free video filter, called Family Movie Filters. Like ClearPlay and VidAngel, the Family Movie Filter system allows editing of videos. Unlike those services, however, it filters the audio for any movie or television show on Netflix and Amazon.
With the law on your side, and with the right software, you don’t have to put up with blasphemy in videos you watch.
So, why would you?