Saturday, March 23, 2013

The History Channel's ‘The Bible’ – Featuring an Obama Look Alike as ‘Satan’

I tend to avoid all but the most scholarly documentaries to do with the mythological book of fairy tales known as ‘The Bible’. The reasons have been articulated many times before in earlier blogs, such as:

But in this History Channel fantasy series an even worse crime is the cynical depiction of “Satan” as a black man who bears a striking resemblance to Barack Obama. If I didn't know better I'd swear it was at least an Obama clone. Indeed, according to one press report, during an innocuous viewing in a rec center, a little girl asked: “Why’s Jesus and the good guys always white and the devil’s looking like Obama?”

Out of the mouths of babes! (And note NO one gave a hint to her of saying that!)

According to The Christian Science Monitor  the problem isn’t innate jabberwocky and underlying racism but rather 'demeanor', such that:

"The Bible' suffers from the same parenting issue we do here at home, that too often the messenger’s demeanor distracts from and derails the message. The Bible, the History Channel series, is losing the scriptural education message to the perception that the actor playing Satan looks, to some, like President Obama. The real problem here isn’t that History has given birth to “Obama-Satan,” but that it suffers from the same parenting issue we do here at home, that too often the messenger’s demeanor distracts from and derails the message”

In other words, the Monitor’s take is that the message of this recycled bollocks is fine, it’s the medium by which it’s delivered. In other words, just as parents would be more effective if they didn’t crease eyebrows and squinch their faces up when trying to impart a lesson to Junior, so also 'Survivor' creator Mark Burnett’s puerile miniseries would be more effective if it hadn’t distracted with an Obama-like Satan. Of course, Burnett dismisses any resemblance as ‘nonsense’,  but if the guy had any smarts at all he’d have more carefully chosen how to represent ultimate evil and perhaps in a form that wouldn’t have elicited such controversy. To quote blogger Linn Washington ('The Real Obama- The Devil Is In The Details')

"Even worse than the meticulous use of makeup to craft the actor playing this miniseries’ devil to look eerily like Obama is the defensive reaction from producers of The Bible curtly dismissing criticisms of their malicious make-up usage as “utter nonsense.”

The producers of that miniseries, one being actress Roma Downey of “Touched by an Angel” television series fame, are assuming roles of angels-of-ignorance in their insultingly ridiculous antic of casting-out critics of their makeup slight as if they were demons spewing unadulterated balderdash of biblical proportions."

If Burnett were really as smart as he believes he is, he’d have been aware of a recurring theme and critical complaint that too often “Satan” is depicted as a black man or dark –complexioned being while Jesus is depicted as white. If he were really serious about portraying “Satan” he’d have chosen a beautiful woman to be evil’s embodiment. This indeed had been done before in ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ with good effect. While some women may complain the point made is that beauty is a much more plausible embodiment of ultimate evil precisely because of the innate cognitive dissonance and its disarming effect. In other words, the beauty aspect disarms any humans into accepting the being's agenda, rather than rejecting it. Burnett, in selecting a “Satan” that’s black, whether intended to look like Obama or not, played right into the evil= black tautology which is the most infantile, least subtle one possible. I.e. most likely to appeal to morons and anti-Obama racists. Maybe Burnett in his heart of hearts believes this is his putative audience!

Beyond this, the problem with many people (most likely most of the series’ 15 million viewers) is they relish religious tall tales, and prefer to avoid harsh reality. Fantasy always has a much greater appeal, primarily because there are regions of the brain (temporal lobes) that have been found to be conducive to triggering fantasy religious ideations under the right conditions.

Serious people, as opposed to immature types in need of adolescent fare, are better served - if they want to learn about how the Bible was put together - to go to an academic site. One of the best available right now is currently on the Open Courses site of Yale University, taught by Prof. Dale B. Martin and entitled: Introduction to New Testament History and Literature, and roughly on a par with my Introduction to the New Testament course taken at Loyola in 1964-65. (The Loyola course was somewhat more difficult)
The compilation of course sessions, all on video, can be accessed via this link:
(New Testament):

and (Old Testament):

And the one I recommend most for those short on time is No.13, dealing with the "Historical Jesus" (link below):

In approaching these sort of issues, like Jesus' historicity, inquiring students and curious others need to ask themselves whether it more serves their interests to follow childish depictions of ancient stories, or the rants of numerous evangelical bloggers or follow someone with authority and actual insight, experience.

One more word to the wise: If in any alleged theological docudrama or miniseries you see "Satan" in the person of a black man, especially one with a startling resemblance to a black president - RUN, do not stop, from this bullshit before it engulfs your brain like it has a certain relative of mine!

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