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Jesus didn’t turn people away. But CBS does.

I’m in Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, heading back from a week in the Middle East and to meeting in DC and Boston. I’m catching up on my blog reading and Jim Moore just posted something that makes me want to go down to the ticket counter and head to another nation for a couple of weeks…

The United Church of Christ (not my current denomination, but my mother and late grandmother’s denomination) has put together a beautiful 30 second spot about inclusiveness. The spot features parisioners being stopped at the entrance of a church by a pair of bouncers. A pair of men are turned away, as are a young man and woman of color – a white, heterosexual couple is admitted. The text reads, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”

Evidently, broadcast television networks do turn people away. CBS/UPN and NBC have both rejected the spot as being “too controversial”. An excerpt of CBS’s refusal, reposted on the UCC website reads:

“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations,” reads an explanation from CBS, “and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”

Come again? We’ve just made it through the nastiest political campaign of my lifetime. The few bits of political advertising I didn’t manage to miss (by being in an utterly non-swing state) were mean, fearmongering and of questionable accuracy (both from the left and the right)… but evidently not controversial. A church decides that it wants to be inclusive and welcoming, and that’s controversial?

Evidently the “red line” the ad crossed for CBS and NBC involves the unholy combination of gay people and churches. Gays and lesbians are okay, as long as they’re funny urban figures in sitcoms. But when they want to go to church (a church that’s bending over backwards to welcome them) that’s a step too far. As Reverend Robert Chase, of UCC’s communication ministry points out:

We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church’s loving welcome of committed gay couples, that’s where they draw the line.

Fortunately, a number of broadcast and cable channels are airing the controversial ad, including the always edgy Hallmark channel. I guess their young, hip viewers are able to tolerate this uncomfortable “inclusiveness”, while CBS viewers recoil in fear.