Frequent television portrayals of Christians as absurd make it more difficult for believers to defend themselves, a national journalist has said.
Recent storylines in a number of soaps have sent the clear message that “Christians are nutters”, the Daily Telegraph’s religion correspondent, Jonathan Wynne-Jones, wrote last week on his blog.
Christians should expect robust criticism, Mr Wynne-Jones said, but as faith is made to look more ridiculous “the line between ridicule and persecution becomes even thinner”.
Mr Wynne-Jones wrote on his blog: “Some would argue that Christianity has been undermined for some time on television.”
He continues: “Even some of the BBC’s religious documentaries have tended to challenge traditional beliefs, from claiming Mary was raped by a Roman soldier to arguing that Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus was caused by an epileptic fit.”
Earlier this week it emerged that dozens of viewers complained to the television regulator after an Easter Sunday episode of Coronation Street featured a string of outbursts against Christianity.
The character Ken Barlow described the Christian faith as a “superstition”, accusing churches of targeting “vulnerable people” and “indoctrinating” his grandson.
Mr Wynne-Jones also referred to Hollyoaks, a soap hugely popular with teenagers, where the ‘Christian’ in the show claims to have found an image of Jesus in a potato.
“Outspoken criticism of Christian beliefs should be expected, but the stealthy attempts to make believers look absurd is much more damaging,” Mr Wynne-Jones said.
“Once faith has been made to look ridiculous, the attempts of believers to rebut the criticism will be met with deaf ears. And then the line between ridicule and persecution becomes even thinner.”
It emerged earlier this month that the producers of Coronation Street are planning to portray a ‘born-again Christian’ character embarking on a lesbian affair in a bid to make the soap more reflective of modern Britain.
The BBC received 150 complaints about an episode of Eastenders shown in October last year, in which ‘Christian’ character Dot Cotton was made to look old fashioned and ridiculous in her beliefs on homosexuality.
She was shown getting to grips with an mp3 player before coming across two men kissing on a park bench and asking them to stop. The two male characters sniggered at her efforts to engage with modern technology.
Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, admitted last year that he believes Christianity should be treated with less sensitivity in television programmes than other religions.