Wednesday, 6 August 2008

For your summer viewing - Make Me A Christian

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Here's religious programming at its finest – starting this Sunday Channel 4 have a new series, Make Me A Christian (they did Make Me A Muslim last year), in which a bunch of individuals who don't currently make the moral grade spend three weeks living as Christians.

Now, my first question was "what kind of Christian?", because I'm sure you'll agree it'd be easier to pretend to be some kinds, such as Church of England, for three weeks, than other, more evangelical, kinds. According to the publicity the "mentors come from different branches of Christianity", though it doesn't elaborate.

But the man in charge of it all is a certain Reverend George Hargreaves, an anti-gay evangelical preacher who leads The Christian Party. A quick web search throws up some interesting quotes from the Reverend, my favourite being his opposition to the Welsh flag:

"We will not allow this evil symbol of the devil to reign over Wales for another moment. Wales is the only country in history to have a red dragon on its national flag. This is the very symbol of the devil described in The Book of Revelation 12:3. This is nothing less than the sign of Satan, the devil, Lucifer that ancient serpent who deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. No other nation has had this red dragon as its ruling symbol. Wales has been under demonic oppression and under many curses because of this unwise choice."

If Hargreaves isn't a fan of the Welsh flag, he'll have some fun Christianising the motley crew Channel 4 have rounded up for him:
  • a biker who's a tattooist and a militant atheist
  • a young man who was brought up Christian until he was 12, and now has a girlfriend who is 10 weeks' pregnant
  • a lap-dancing manager who can't live without continually acquiring expensive designer shoes
  • middle-class parents who are so professionally busy that they have hardly any time to spend with their children
  • a man in his 20s who, unbeknown to his girlfriend, goes out every week drinking and womanising
  • a man who found Christianity unfulfilling and has converted to Islam
  • a lesbian who sometimes sleeps with men.
Oh, and the lap-dancing manager is also a fan of witchcraft. Can you believe some people think TV is dumbing down?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow - channel 4 plays us for fools!

Is it any wonder that Christianity is dying out in this country. The reverend George Hargreaves tries to cement its death by confirming most peoples believe that this religion is out dated and hypocritical.

This channel 4 programme is attempting to convince a “sin full” nation to repent its evil ways and return to the teachings of God. The way in which this programme goes about this is through the teachings of reverend George Hargreaves. Channel 4 are keen to set the history of the various participants within this programme, casting them as immoral and sin full people - some of which for some my not be that far from the true. However channel 4 steer well clear of telling us about the reverend George Hargreaves a man who (especially if your saw the show) has an interesting life and past.

We as the audience are told about the reverend George Hargreaves’ beliefs that Briton is in the mitts of decaying morality and on a path to destruction. He (we are told) is leading a battle to make Britain a more Christian nation, having set up a Christian centre in Leeds to reform the northern ways. We are not however told how this has been funded or any of the quite frankly interesting background of the reverend George Hargreaves.

The reverend George Hargreaves is a politician representing Scottish Christian Party and also a famous song writer (yes that’s right a famous song writer). There are a few things here that concern me slightly. One why does channel 4 fail to mention this to us? I feel that knowing this makes a big difference to the way in which this programme is to be viewed (does he really have a Christian concern or is this a publicity stunt? After all channel 4 is hardly a channel that promotes good Christian morals.)

The second concern I have with this programme is the facts the other facts that are left out and we are not told. Did you know you have probably heard one of Scottish Christian Parties reverend George Hargreaves’ songs? If your not done your research then you will be surprised to know that his hits include Sinitta’s Cruising and the better known So Macho. (I was stunned by this)

The reverend George Hargreaves is an out spoken anti-homosexual campaigner whom just happened to author of (and still collect royalties from) a gay anthem! Now why channel 4 thing that viewers don’t need to know this is beyond me. I read further and find that the term “so macho” has recently been licensed to hallmark for use on cards and other greeting products. I’ll bet that they don’t intend on putting a picture of Jesus and a moral message next to this slogan on these cards? The problem here seems to be that this programme has many hidden agendas, and while it is entertaining and it does ask some important questions - it is my opinion that the reverend George Hargreaves is not the person to be asking these questions and addressing these issues, especially without setting the full picture out for the audience.

I wont to be careful here as I feel that the programme is asking good questions, but I urge readers to investigate the man leading this show and some of “moral” quests (he has even asked the welsh to remove the dragon from the welsh flag - I kid not Google it!)

If you saw the first show and found yourself annoyed by the large tattooist bloke who would not play ball (as I was) don’t be because he might just have been the only one within the group to see the reverend George Hargreaves in his true light.

To get you started:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1637264.ece

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hargreaves_(politician)

But please don’t take my word on this keep looking as this man is an interesting man to tell Britain about being sinful and immoral!

Anonymous said...

I have been trawling the internet for somewhere to air my views on tonight's programme "make me a christian"....I already am one, so don't need convincing...but I could barely watch it. I'm a pretty passive person, but I did actually walk out of the room at one point cos it was making me so cross. It's a shame to hear that George Harvgreaves might be a bit dodgy, from what I saw of him on the programme (and from my experience of Christians) I think that his agenda was genuinely to help people to understand Christianity. What made me angry was his method. Argh!! Going into somebody's home and confiscating their possessions was the tip of the iceberg. My experience has been that as I've understood more of who Jesus was and is, understood what the Bible is saying and developed a relationship with Him, where I love and respect Him and feel deeply loved by Him, THEN my behaviour changes, in line with the kind of life He wants me to enjoy. Having someone intrude into my life and tell me to stop doing things certainly would not have "MADE ME A CHRISTIAN"!!
Sarah

Mike said...

Having watched the first part I suspect the Christians will have some success with this group. That's because a lot of them are facing issues such as bankruptcy or relationship issues and therefore are the typical Christian fare for converts. People with perceived needs like this are likely to be susceptible.

What I hoped we might be treated to was some discussion of Christian theology and the proof or otherwise of its teachings. Instead there were no apologetic attempts at all but bible thumping and emotional manipulation [such as through abortion clinics and health tests].

I'm afraid it's been produced for the reality TV market rather than having any real value for discussion.

I just hope the general public watching this see just how shallow and manipulative this all is. I suppose in that though it is a fairly true reflection of evangelicalism.

Contrast it with Dawkins fine Darwin series, seeking to present the facts of evolution and encourage scientific and rational debate.

Vronni said...

Even as a believer, I was appalled at how shallow and one-sided the programme was. The 'ministers' did not allow for any debate - it was 'Believe this because I say so' not through reasoning or two-way discussion. An abortion clinic was used to emotionally manipulate the subjects, yet anyone regardless of faith would be horrifed by pictures of dead fetuses, that is not a uniquely Christian view!Non-Christians can also be moral and ethical and have caused far less wars! No-one challenged the Catholic priest who smugly was agreeing about the horrors of the abortion clinic why the Catholic church is so opposed to contraception which would surely cut down the abortion rate, nor did anyone ask him why the Pope has banned condoms in Third World countries where thousands of men, women and children needlessly die of AIDs every year.
There was no balance to the programme and picking on mainly vunerable people rather than people who do not believe but feels secure in their stance and happy with their lives is not a valid way to communicate a so-called 'better way of life'.Good journalism is presenting a balanced and accurate view of ALL sides to an subject.
Vronni

Elliott said...

This was an absolutely awful program!!
I am a Christian and these idiots especially Hargreaves presented the most narrow minded, un-biblically founded view of Christianity. It is not suprising that Hargreaves once worked for Christian People's Alliance which has links to BNP. What this program should have done is followed the work of evangelists such as those who work for the Church Army an organisation dedicated to meeting people's real social, financial and emotional needs. Nick Russell on the Ferrier Estate in Greenwich for example is a much humbler and in my view christ-like man than Hargreaves and a better example of a Christian:
Check out this film of him:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOKS_w4yvoY

Anonymous said...

I was involved in this programme and there were constant clashes with producers over the things they asked us to do. It was terribly contrived and much arguing went on behind the scenes over the scenarios they wanted to try and produce. (The final edit could have been much worse). The programme is fundamentally flawed because these participants WERE NOT CHOOSING to become Christians and therefore it was wrong/useless to impose Christian teaching and demands on them. The way that Christians try to live is only possible with the spiritual change of heart and mind that comes about when one chooses to become a follower of Christ. So this experiment became increasingly hollow and an excruciating project with which to be involved. Unfortunately, all this became clear once we were into filming... and we realised that we'd been brought into it with different understanding of the basic premise.

Paul Sims said...

Thanks for coming by and commenting Anonymous - great to hear from someone who was actually involved. You say you were expecting something quite different, but were you not aware of the Make Me A Muslim series from last year? It was conducted in much the same way as this one, if I remember rightly.

Anonymous said...

I think Martin made some very valid points.

Anonymous said...

phew, I'm glad I'm not the only Christian who thought this programme was terrible!
Sarah

Anonymous said...

As a Christian I was absolutely horrified to watch this programme.

As always this is all about these religious Christian leaders telling the participants what is wrong with their lifestyle and what they need to change to be accepted into the church. Reverend George's comment about one person "on a road to hell" is the appitimy of how judgemental some people in church still are.

I was so upset I switched programmes halfway through. Ironically the reverend's aim is to bring people to the church. What he is achieving is the exact opposite. People like him should not hold leadership positions in church. They are the main reason people are avoiding church... It is absolutely heartbreaking to think that people who are more occupied with their religion rather than their faith is leading the Christian church.

The main message should be to accept and love people no matter the circumstances or how sinfull they are and let God change their lives as they grow in faith. They need to realise that the church is full of sinners who are all living in faith.

Once again this would not really help. These people are hell bent on their own perceptions and will never change and in the process drag other people down with them. I can only be thankfull that I belong to a a church where everybody is excepted no matter their circimstances, their past, careers, looks or sexuality...

Anonymous said...

Love the sinner, not the sin.

This distastful program does make a mockery out of our faith.

However they werent as loud and shouting down upon people as those Imams on make me a Muslim were.

scotsbaker said...

You cannot live the Christian life unless you are "born again" of the Holy Spirit.

These Channel 4 participants are struggling because they are being asked to life a Christian life without the inner resources (The Holy Spirit) to do it.

Why should anyone need to be "born again"?

Go here to find the answer:

www.newchristian.org.uk/makemeachristian.html

Nari said...

I also was enraged as I watched this programme. I am a Christian and I despair at the whole angle that has been tasken here. Somewhere the message has gone wrong. This programme is teaching that to be loved by God one has to follow particular rules, and this is precicely what turns people away from the church. Because it's all about what you can't do as a christian. I think the best part of this programme was when they were in a soup Kitchen, displaying the active part of faith and worship. this shows what Christians are doing, not what they're not doing.
The message that should be being preached is one of Grace. Because the law brings death and Grace brings life. The fact is that nothing you can do will change God's love for you; you can't gain more love by following rules or lose it by not following them. And as someone above said, following the law comes after a change on the inside and a realisation of the Grace of Jesus.
It grieves me that this broken message in "Make me a Christian" is the one that so many people will be receiving as the Christian message when it really isn't.
xxNari

Logic Lad said...

I also thought the only really meaningful part of the program was in the soup kitchen, an act of charity that had bugger all to do with being a theist and a lot to do with respect and compassion for your fellow man. All the rest of it seemed to consist of arrogant bigotry and an ignorant intolerance of other lifestyles. While I appreciate that it makes 'better' TV to see the brow beating and crying I can't help but feel that none of the clerics did there religion any favours in this train wreck of a show.

Anonymous said...

Its just another reality TV programme. They preach and preach and three of the mentors are unmarried - but they had to bring someone else on to talk about saving sex until marriage. What have the three single mentors being going ???

Anonymous said...

I am not a Christian! and I was utterly appalled by this programme! Here we have people with problems in their lives - problems that can be solved with the help of ordinary one-to-one counselling, and the introduction of common sense and a set of values and morals - one that we ALL share - no matter what religion you practice or not. You can't tell me that only with Christianity will you realise that sitting together as a family once in a while is a good idea?! Pathetic. Get a grip. This is common sense. Instead, this programme goes on to these people and speak to them about sin sin sin and hell hell hell - fear fear fear! Stupid people fear easily and will eventually convince themselves that God loves them and that they love God - when in actual fact they're only trying to prevent themselves from being sent to eternal hellfire. Wakey wakey - there is no hell. Relax.

Now, after having read the comments on here - you Christians may want to sort things out between yourselves first before trying to indoctrinate us and our children. You say "this vicar is wrong - he's not teaching God's words", (actually, ordinary Men wrote the Bible); or "God always loves you no matter what" (what about sin and hell? not such a loving God, because when you die you're f*****); and "no point in indoctrination/brain-washing, because you need to be re-born and filled with the holy spirit first" - did you know that people from "every" religion (and even atheists) are able to experience this sensation of utter joy? But no, YOUR religion is the only correct one! Why? Because God said so! (why did he? because he was jealous of other Gods!!!!! Pityful!) All the other religions claim the same thing about their Gods. Wake up people! And if you don't want to, at least keep your beliefs to yourself, don't indoctrinate your children! Amen.

Anonymous said...

To all those Christians who have posted their sorrow and disgust about the programme... I know why you felt that and being in the programme I felt exactly the same. After the programme finished filming I refused to sign my release form but the co. went ahead and included me in it... I got lawyers to try and get me out of it but in the end I was included and I'm sorry to be associated with something that was so misleading in its presentation of the Christian faith.

Behind the scenes good things did happen and were said!! But of course they didn't tally with what the producers wanted to say so they were dropped. One of my constant mantras to the other mentors and producers was that they were labelling people (especially Laura) and that this was terribly destructive and in no way in line with our understanding of God's view of these individuals. I think that some of the participants realised that what was being set up wasn't authentic Christian faith in action. Perhaps unexpectedly, through these off-camera conversations I particularly connected with Martin, Will and Laura.

There's so much more to say but for now I can only apologise.

Roy said...

I am a Christian, a minister but not a fan 'reality' TV in any of its forms. This is a disturbing program and I am concerned, if relieved, that a participant has voiced concerns on this site. it is reassuring to know that other Christians were unimpressed by this.

Jay Jay said...

Why is the person who actually participated in the show remaining anonymous on this blog? Don't get that one.

Anyway, 3 weeks to make someone a Christian? That's not a lot of time. But all the people involved were volunteers, they agreed to the "set pieces". So some of it was bound to feel artificial and staged.

What surprised me was how effective some of these "interventions" were. And did you notice how they used resources from right across the Christian spectrum: Minster cathedral, a nunnery, salvation army, community outreach programs, etc. That's a lot of cooperation.

As for the comments of my biblically-challenged friends, you should know that "repentance" is not just a stated belief in Jesus Christ, it is also an action. The thief must stop stealing, the violent must stop hitting, the fornicator must stop pre-marital sex. A conversion is exactly that, turning away from the things that harm ourselves and others and learning to live a new way of life that brings real joy, peace and happiness.

That's why the home visits were arranged. It allowed the doctor to see what was wrong with the patient. He's the expert. He knows what will cause the greatest harm. So they removed those elements which they knew would stand in the way of that persons conversion.

Some have mentioned the lady caught up in witchcraft. This is the same religeon where, in Africa, witch doctors are encouraging men who have AIDS to have sex with babies so they can be healed. She may not agree with that part of their philosophy but if you fly with the crows, you get shot with 'em. What she was doing was potentially very dangerous both to her and to others.

None of these ministers represented themselves as being perfect and not everything that they did was entirely correct. But I was deeply impressed by the level of cooperation shown right across the Christian community for the sake of the people they were trying to reach.

If that level of cooperation were replicated right across the UK, we would see a revival of a strong and positive message that I believe would be broadly welcomed by most UK citizens.

Good job Channel 4. Keep it going.
Jay Jay

Logic Lad said...

Jay Jay

I find your likening of the ministers to doctors to be profoundly disturbing. A doctor basis his diagnosis on years of training and a scientific understanding of anatomy, not on the outdated opinions of ancient philosophers. While I agree that the people involved in the program where volunteers the levels of intolerance and lack of compassion towards their chosen life styles should cause the faithful as much concern as the sceptical.

I have no idea as to the accuracy of your statement concerning African witch doctors, but i do know that Christianity is responsible for horrendous suffering in Africa with it's no contraception policy. That policy serves to spread HIV as much as nearly anything else not to mention the excess population due to lack of birth control. So I hardly think it's a good topic to try and show the church in a good light.

As to the level of cooperation shown by different branches of the church, well i am sure the free publicity had something to do about that.

As to your last point, I would hate to see a revival of evangelical Christianity in UK, it's not doing very well for the Americans and frankly we have made great progress in freeing ourselves from the yoke of religion, lets not slide back into bad habits

Jay Jay said...

Logic Lad, here are one of the hundreds of links that will take you to corroborated stories of baby rape by HIV infected men at the behest of witch doctors in Africa.
www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/8931/africa_hiv.html
As regards your concerns about using a medical diagnosis analogy to advise distressed people about spiritual dangers, I think it is entirely appropriate. However, I do agree that the person concerned should be highly trained, compassionate and sensitive.

It is very important to stress that there are many Christians who vehemently disagree with the wider Church policy on birth control. I must further stress that there is no Biblical endorsement for this policy, it is supposed to be a matter of personal choice.

The Church does have some sorting out to do with regard to its more contentious policies on pro-life issues and homosexuality. You will probably agree that that was clearly shown in this programme.

Logic Lad said...

Jay

Thanks for the link, actions like this under the aegis of superstitious nonsense don't surprise me, sad as that is to admit.

I am sorry while i agree that a 'spiritual' adviser should be compassionate and trained I fail to see how reading a two thousand year old book qualifies.

I accept that there are many chritians out there who disagree with the birth control views of the vatican,it is nice to know that the light of reason can shine in to the darkness of supernatural belief. however untill the majority of christians stand up and say tell the vatican to change it's ways they are still dictating policy for a huge number of people, causing misery and suffering.

I am surprised this show got any support from either camp, to the athiests it is the typical bullying tactics and threats to get people to conform, to the christians it shows how out of touch some of their more vocal ministers are.

From what you write you seem like you have a very progressive attitude, so nice to find in a web usually overrun by extremists

Merseymike said...

I thought this was just the sort of publicity I want to see for Christianity. It made it appear very unattractive, as indeed it is.

As an ex-Christian, it is much easier to see the limitations of this religion once outside. And have you noticed how conversions always happen at times of crisis?

johnny said...

What you say is right I think most Christians and humanists would be on the same side on this one! The whole program suggest that the core of Christianity is rule keeping - it is not! You may find it interesting to hear some intelligent Christian views on this:

http://jamescary.blogspot.com/2008/08/make-me-christian.html

While it is true that George was in the Christian People's Alliance for a while. But Eliot is wrong when he says "the Christian People's Alliance which has links to BNP." This is nonsense it was the CPA that kicked the BNP out of newham.
The CPA is known for confronting the BNP you can read about it here:

http://www.meetalancraig.com/?p=26

Have you ever read the literature the CPA produce?