TV miniseries invites Bible-focused water cooler conversation

Meredith Flynn —  March 12, 2013

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Even if you haven’t watched an episode of History Channel’s miniseries on the Bible, chances are you’ve heard about it. More than 13 million people watched the March 3 debut of “The Bible,” making it the evening’s most-watched program (broadcast or cable), and the most successful entertainment telecast on cable so far this year.

“The best-case scenario for us is that there’s an opportunity here for people to be discussing the Bible at the water cooler the day after this has aired,” said actress Roma Downey, who produced the five-part miniseries with her husband, reality TV hitmaker Mark Burnett. The couple was interviewed on LifeWay.com (the website of LifeWay Christian Resources) before the show’s debut.

At a time when biblical literacy is at an all-time low, Burnett told LifeWay, he and Downey felt compelled to create a series that would get people engaged with Scripture for the first time ever, or the first time in a while.

“People who really know the Bible will say, ‘Oh, I forgot about that or I don’t remember that part.’ That’s what’s so great. It will make people say, ‘I’m going to look that up.’”

It may also send viewers to their Bibles to fill in the missing pieces in an understandably abridged narrative. Ten hours is a lot, especially in broadcast time, but the Bible is far too expansive a story to include even every familiar story. For example, God’s covenant with Abraham is the focus of much of the first episode, but Jacob, Esau, Joseph and his scheming brothers only get a sentence or two before we find Moses cowering before the burning bush on Mt. Sinai.

On the other hand, “The Bible” is an opportunity to highlight stories that could be considered minor, like Samson and Delilah. The tragic tale from Judges is included in the miniseries’ second episode. Samson’s journey – from God’s promise, to tempted man, to eventual spiritual and physical blindness – has implications for today, and could very well make for great water cooler conversation.

Read LifeWay.com’s interview with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey here.

Other news:

Dolan: Next pope will face threats to religious liberty
(From Baptist Press) Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said the next pope will have to address rising threats to religious liberty, and the Catholic church’s perceived irrelevance. “We hear that more and more people have absolutely no problem with faith, but they do with religion,” Dolan told Reuters. “… More and more people don’t see the need for the church.”

Recently, Catholic bishops proposed the creation of a Vatican office to monitor religious liberty violations. Dolan told Reuters such an office would need to monitor violations that “take place not in Third World countries but in First World countries.”

“There seems to be a pretty well-oiled choreography to reduce religion and faith to the excessively private and where religion may have absolutely no public witness and voice in the public square.” Read more at BPNews.net.

Mississippi schools may see more religious freedom
The Mississippi State Legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Phil Bryant that would allow public school students to express their religious beliefs through assignments, in classrooms, and at school events, reports Christianity Today. Read more at ChristianityToday.com.

How much news do you know?
Most Americans can identify the symbols associated with Judaism and social media site Twitter, but fewer recognize U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren or know where Syria is on a map. Those results are from the Pew Forum’s latest News IQ quiz, given at least twice a year to measure Americans’ current events acumen. Read more results or take the quiz at PewResearch.org.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.