Network’s attack on religion OK for Jesus, Mohammed not so much

Nathan Burchfiel Contributor
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It should come as no surprise that Comedy Central is developing a show practically designed to offend Christians. It isn’t surprising, but it is ironic considering Comedy Central’s refusal to even depict – much less attack – the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Comedy Central announced in May that it is developing a script for an animated show about Jesus Christ “wanting to escape his father’s enormous shadow to live life in [New York City] as a regular guy.” The show, tentatively titled “JC,” will be a “playful take on religion and society with a sprinkle of dumb.” Sounds hilarious.

It isn’t the first show founded on the premise that the Christian God deserves to be mocked, and it won’t be the last. But Comedy Central’s bold hypocrisy is striking.

The network added audio bleeps to an April episode of its flagship cartoon “South Park” so the name of Muhammad wouldn’t even be spoken on air. This censorship came in response to a threat from a radical Islamic website, based in the United States, which talked of violent retribution for “insulting” Muhammad.

Just what did the extremists, and the executives at Comedy Central, find so insulting? In the episode, celebrities sick of being ridiculed by “South Park” believed Muhammad possessed a “goo” that made him immune to satire. The show hid Muhammad inside a bear costume (later revealed to be Santa Claus in a bear costume), and the prophet was heard mumbling from inside a box truck.

It’s important to note that in the same episode Buddha snorts cocaine, Jesus is portrayed as a porn addict, and a number of other religious leaders contribute to a running joke about oral sex.

While “South Park” and other Comedy Central shows have attacked a host of religions, including Judaism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, and even Atheism, it’s clear they view Christianity as the juiciest target.

The now-cancelled sketch show “The Sarah Silverman Program” featured a bit in which the lead character has a sexual relationship with God. During a lovers’ quarrel, she refers to him as an “anus.” Countless stand-up comics, like Mike DeStefano, have used the Comedy Central stage to bash Christians and Christianity. In the animated series “Ugly Americans,” a character named “Christ Angel” abuses women. In a 2005 Comedy Central special, tastefully titled “Merry F—ing Christmas,” Denis Leary called the Christmas story “bull—“ and said someone must have “banged the hell” out of the Virgin Mary.

But “South Park” remains the network’s No. 1 offender. It would be impossible to list every example of the show’s offensive portrayal of Christ and Christians, from Jesus as a murderous action hero to depicting the Catholic Church as overrun by pedophiles, but here are a few examples:

  • 2000: A priest was depicted having sex with a married woman in a confessional.
  • 2002: Catholic priests defended and promoted child molestation
  • 2003: The main character started a Christian rock band and sang sexually charged lyrics including, “I want to get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus, I want to feel his salvation all over my face.”
  • 2005: A statue of the Virgin Mary menstruated on Pope Benedict XIV
  • 2006: Jesus defecated on President Bush and the American flag
  • 2007: Jesus was killed in a bloody stabbing. He was resurrected and murdered Catholic League President Bill Donahue, who had become pope.
  • 2009: The show attacked Christian abstinence advocates.

The network, of course, defends these depictions in the name of artistic expression. “In general, comedy in its purest form always makes some people uncomfortable,” Comedy Central Head of Programming Kent Alterman said in preemptively addressing criticism of “JC.” Alterman hasn’t shown such brave dedication to artistic freedom when it comes to Muhammad.

Alterman’s contrasting positions aren’t the only noteworthy juxtaposition. So too are the responses from the offended parties. Radicals threatened violence against the show’s creators and Comedy Central for daring to mention Muhammad. The Christians who are offended by the network’s attacks on their faith, however, have taken a different approach.

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell – also the founder of the Culture and Media Institute – and other leaders have scheduled a teleconference Thursday, June 3. They won’t be threatening violence, in case you were wondering. Rather, they’re asking advertisers to pledge not to underwrite “JC,” and urging Comedy Central to cancel preproduction of the show.

Comedy Central has an opportunity to rectify its double standard and show equal respect for all religions, not just the ones whose extremist members threaten violence. Let’s hope for decency’s sake they take it.

Nathan Burchfiel is with the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute.