by Archbishop Council Nedd II
On the History Channel, they’ve turned the Bible into a miniseries.
It’s a hit. Nielsen reports the first installment had over 13 million viewers — a record for basic cable in 2013.
According to one of the network’s presidents, the channel “launched an incredible and coordinated [media] campaign” to lure viewers to this faith-based programming.
This got me thinking about media coverage of the Christian faith and how atheists choose to attack God.
In late 2012, the American Humanists Association targeted American children. The group unveiled a web-based campaign informing young people they are “a bit old for imaginary friends.”
The huge atheist media buy included online display ads on youth-oriented websites including Google and YouTube as well as the Cheezburger sites, Pandora, Reddit and Facebook. Disney, National Geographic Kids and Time For Kids were approached, but rejected the ads.
AHA also bought 200 interior and exterior bus ads in Washington, D.C. and a billboard in Moscow, Idaho.
The atheist media strategy left me curious. Why didn’t they run advertisements deriding faith in Detroit… or Cairo, Riyadh, Kabul or Abuja?
If it were about money, they certainly could have stretched their dollars further in those markets. If it was about reaching more people, they could have generated more significant buzz in places where faith — Islam, for instance — is more prominent in everyday life.
If it was a dialogue the atheists wanted, why not choose places with more opportunity for true engagement. Christians, Western Christians and American Christians in particular are less likely to talk openly about God. Most Muslims, however, even those who are not particularly devout, always seem willing to talk about their faith.
Atheist ads mainly fall on the deaf ears among Western urban dwellers. They usually only draw attention from people like me who are willing to defend my faith and publicly counter their claims. By choosing the high-profile but low-interest areas, what they did indicates a bid for media attention.
Realistically, atheists could run ads in Jakarta, Indonesia if they really wanted impact. Why don’t they?
The likely case is the organized atheist/humanist movement is being a bully. While Christians are bound and encouraged to express their faith and proclaim the gospel, they are, by nature, more understated.
Consider the passive nature of Christian martyrdom. Islamic martyrdom can be quite proactive when under real or even perceived attack.
Remember the Christian reaction to the atheists’ “mock nativity scene” at the Wisconsin State Capitol this past Christmas? There were no mob scenes, riots, burnings or other actions garnering international attention. In comparison, reaction in Cairo, Benghazi and Sana’a to Internet postings from the film “Innocence of Muslims” resulted in all of the above.
In general Christians may get outraged. For most, it ends there. Muslims, on the other hand, may respond openly and actively to an attack on what they consider holy.
The writer and activist Andrew Vachss once said: “Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a fighter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.” I’m not aware of the American Humanist Association mocking the practitioners of zoolatry, Sikhs and Hindus or Jews — and I don’t encourage it.
What I’m pointing out is that organized atheists seemingly target only Christians. The bully can dominate the playground of the mockery of God, and Christians maybe won’t fight back — at least not in the way to stop the bully.
We seldom, if ever witness the atheist bully attack Muslims. Bullies don’t typically attack when they know there will be an open and active response. We don’t witness the bully attacking Hindus. This would be politically incorrect and morally repugnant.
We Christians worship the One True Living God. His ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. Christians are expected to be faithful to God’s word, which often requires turning the other cheek and trusting in God’s ultimate protection. God has promised to take care of his own.
So maybe the atheists should rethink their approach.
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Project 21 member Council Nedd II, the bishop of the Chesapeake and the Northeast for the Episcopal Missionary Church, is the honorary chairman of In God We Trust (http://www.ingodwetrustusa.org), a group formed to oppose anti-religious bigotry. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org .
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.