Wow. So am I still dreaming? 'Cause if I am, it's a doozy! If you've found your way to this blog, you're probably pretty plugged-in from a Web standpoint, and that also means that you've probably heard a word or two about the "controversy" that has erupted surrounding our little show. Our little TV show. Please note that I did not phrase it as our little "religion," "church" or "cult." It's a T-V-show. Say it with me, AFA. "T-V-show." And, what's more, I think you'll find it's pretty clearly defined as a work of fiction, not a reality show about a priest (though I think in some circles that would be a lot more shocking no names, please).
And here's the kicker: I (apparently naively) thought that this show would be embraced by most Christians. It's ironic to me that the accusation has been that the show "demeans" and "mocks" Christianity when the intention was always the opposite: to treat the Christian beliefs of the Webster family as second nature. As a gay man (or "practicing homosexual," according to the AFA website though I'm absolutely not practicing anymore, but have actually gotten quite good at it, thank you very much), I've always longed for gay characters for whom sexual orientation was not the defining feature but was simply... there. A policeman who happened also to be gay. A truck driver. A lawyer. Not the characteristic that informs their every line and movement, but second nature. Like their hair color or height or the fact that they don't like pastrami. And that's what I've tried to do with the Websters. Yes, they're Christian. But they are not defined by their Christianity. It is simply second nature to them. True, each character has issues, faults or weaknesses that he/she is struggling with: Daniel is constantly trying to overcome his problem with prescription painkillers; Judith has a martini or two more than she should sometimes; Grace made a foolish one might even say "childish" mistake in how she tried to raise money to buy a computer; Adam has succumbed to his own overactive libido in his lust (and, we'll discover, true love) for Caroline. But these are merely aspects of each character, not their defining features. If anything, they're defined by their unwavering love and support for each other. And, for Daniel at least, Jesus (his own version, in his head) is always by his side to help guide him and remind him how to live his life. Why is this controversial? Why is a tolerant, gentle, loving, forgiving Jesus, with an occasional sense of humor and one whom Daniel invents in his own head controversial? Why is the fictional Daniel Webster not allowed to talk things over in his own personal relationship with Christ? I honestly don't understand. Does anyone on the other side of this absurd argument really believe that viewing this show could conceivably drive anyone away from Christianity?
That said, let's approach it from a different perspective at the unintentional risk of bursting anyone's bubble. Is there anyone out there who honestly believes that NYPD Blue is how all real New York City police stations operate? Or that Grey's Anatomy is an accurate depiction of life at all hospitals? Or that the lawyers of Ally McBeal really represented most true-to-life law firms? Yeah, I didn't think so. So why can anyone tell me do so many of the more vocal critics of the show continue to insist that The Book of Daniel must be a true representation of any Episcopal church??? It's been clearly stated as a work of fiction. Let's go to the dictionary, shall we? Fiction, n.: "an imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented"; "a literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact." Hello?
So why the hubbub? And please understand that I'm not actually complaining as someone once said, "there's no such thing as bad publicity." I'm just a little concerned about some people's ability to enjoy what I'd like to think is simply a good story, well told by wonderful actors and writers and directors and designers and crew. And I mean "enjoy it" without suggesting that I be kidnapped by a terrorist group and beheaded which was the loving hope of one charming "Christian" blogger. And I use quotes around "Christian" in that context, because I believe the general consensus is that real Christians don't actually wish for bad things to happen people. Right, Pat?
I have a few theories. One obvious one being that people don't like to see faith any faith talked about ever. In any way. Ever. And if you're gonna talk about someone's faith, it had better be their version or it's just plain wrong and won't be tolerated. (Lack of tolerance being another bizarre contradiction here.) Which, obviously, makes a real discourse on faith impossible, unless, of course, you happened to be preaching to the choir. (A phrase I did not, alas, invent.)
If these bullies and I call them bullies because bullies generally pick on the new kid, in the hopes of showing everyone else how tough they are were really as righteous as they say, they'd go after popular, powerful shows stronger than themselves. Like a certain new powerhouse on another channel, which was also created by a practicing homosexual and which has one story line where a nun threatens to break up a woman's marriage and claims she'll be able to do it because she has God on her side. Where is the AFA there? Running and hiding is where, because bullies don't go after the big kids. Plus, they'd probably p--- off their members, since a great many of them most likely watch the aforementioned show.
And finally, my last theory and probably the closest to the truth is that if you look closely on the bottom of the AFA's webpage, where they have set up a button to send an e-mail protesting our show... if you look right below it, there's another button to send money. To the AFA. So they can "continue the fight." We've become a fund-raising tool. How convenient.
The last thing I'd like people to know and this is in spite of things said by the AFA and others is that I am a Christian. That's right, a gay Christian. There are quite a few of us out there. But also know that that has no bearing on this. The Book of Daniel is a story, and stories can be written by anyone, regardless of creed, gender, race, nationality or orientation. All any writer needs is a story to tell. And I'm going to keep telling the story of Daniel Webster, a good man, a good husband, father, son and minister, who's trying to be a better one, trying to overcome his faults and flaws, as are all these characters, in this fictional world. Watch their story. Or don't. But please don't seek to deny your neighbor's right to watch. Because that's neither Christian nor American. And if your own faith is strong enough, solid enough, and built on a foundation of love, tolerance and acceptance, you might even find something in this show that speaks to you. Even though that's never been our goal. Our goal has always and only been to tell a good story.
The Book of Daniel airs Fridays at 10pm/ET on NBC.