In God’s name
Were you watching ITV’s Channel 4 on Monday 19 May at 8pm? If so, you would have seen Dispatches: In God’s Name. Dispatches is the flagship documentary unit which specialises in tackling issues others prefer to ignore.
Last year it highlighted the plight of Muslim converts in the UK. Earlier this year it exposed the presence of extremist Islamic literature in ‘moderate’ UK mosques – and ended up being charged by West Midlands Police for inciting religious hatred. Sanity was only restored to the proceedings when Ofcom (the independent broadcasting regulator) exonerated Dispatches of showing unfair and unrepresentative footage.
So how does In God’s Name compare? One for their hall of fame? The answer is ‘No’. Let’s briefly see why.
The enemy within
In God’s Name was produced, written and narrated by David Modell. Starting out in life as a photographer, Modell went on to win a BAFTA for going undercover and secretly filming a rising star in the British National Party (BNP) as he gave full vent to his offensive views.
In similar vein, he got close to some animal rights activists and by winning their trust was able to expose their extremist views.
‘Christian fundamentalists’ were his next target. Heavily trailed in the national press, his programme promised to show how Christian fundamentalists are increasing in numbers and – even more worrying – gaining access to political power.
Modell’s main subjects were Stephen Green of Christian Voice, Andrea Williams of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (LCF), and a twenty-nine-year-old man from a Word-Faith church in Bristol. Warming to his task, he set out to show how ‘offensive’ are the views of the average Christian fundamentalist.
He managed to include footage on Islam; homosexuality; hell; abortion; creationism (especially as taught to children); and American influences. Viewers were meant to come away with the impression that ‘ fundamentalists’ are odd and out-of-touch – guilty of holding the most offensive opinions and positively out of control when it comes to their views about Islam. We are scary people who rank alongside the BNP, animal rights activists and probably al-Qa’eda to boot.
A failed thesis
Yet time and time again, throughout the programme, Modell fails in his claim to show that Christian fundamentalists wield political power. He films Andrea Williams lobbying Lord (Norman) Tebbit to seek his help in tabling amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill – help which in the end she does not receive.
Modell also follows the story of magistrate Andrew McClintock, who with the support of the LCF, appealed to a tribunal so that he could be exempted from having to place children for adoption in same-sex households.
Modell is actually filming Andrew McClintock when the call comes through with the news that his appeal has failed. Proof of Christians having political power and influence? His evidence shows the opposite. His thesis falls apart.
The grand finale
It is not until the last three minutes of the programme that Modell’s unspoken aim in making In God’s Name becomes plain. The programme went out on 19 May, right in the middle of the debate on the HFE Bill in the House of Commons.
The very next day (Tuesday 20 May) MPs would vote on amendments lowering the upper time limit for abortion. One such amendment (to lower the time limit from 24 to 20 weeks) was being tabled by the Conservative backbench MP Nadine Dorries – who had appeared earlier in the documentary explaining the important role the LCF and Andrea Williams have played in framing the amendment.
So, if you missed the programme, you must now try to picture Andrea Williams and Nadine Dorries relaxing together in the sunshine near to the House of Commons, following a seemingly successful publicity event launching Mrs Dorries’ amendment.
They are enjoying the moment. But wait! All of a sudden, Modell (camera at the ready) appears, and the programme switches to a novel line of inquiry, completely divorced from its previous 57 minutes.
Channel 4’s subplot
Modell puts it to Nadine Dorries: ‘How comfortable are you with the idea that someone who is a religious fundamentalist should have the kind of access to power and influence that Andrea has?’
Mrs Dorries is surprised to hear that Andrea has acquired political ‘power and influence’ through friendship with herself. But Modell pursues her: ‘Now I wonder, Nadine, if you are aware about Andrea’s other views [that is, besides her views on abortion]. For instance, I don’t know whether you have discussed her views about Islam very much’.
And in case Mrs Dorries is not sure how ‘politically incorrect’ Andrea Williams’ views are, he rounds on Ms Williams and states: ‘You believe Islam is the work of the devil, don’t you Andrea?’
What a master stroke! The day before Mrs Dorries is due to speak in the House of Commons, the nation learns she is in league with Christian fundamentalists – the equivalent of a political ‘kiss of death’.
And any MP who in future considers enlisting the advice of Andrea Williams or her kind, risks getting the same treatment – treatment which, of course, succeeds in pushing Christians further to the fringes of the political process.
A closing thought
Modell is unable to prove his thesis that Christians are growing in political influence. In fact, his footage manages to prove the opposite. But we do get a little insight into an intriguing political subplot cleverly embedded in a Channel 4 programme. I wonder what Ofcom will make of that? More importantly, I wonder what the Lord thinks about it?
In God’s Name lasted one hour and many of you probably didn’t see it or even hear about it until you read this article. But the not-so-hidden agenda it discloses should give rise to urgent prayer.
It shows the growing boldness of unbelievers to vent their hatred of the gospel, of Christians and of the Lord himself. We must pray ‘for kings and all who are in authority’ (1 Timothy 2:2) as well as for agencies like the Christian Institute. And above all else pray: ‘Oh, that you would rend the heavens! That you would come down!’ (Isaiah 64:1).