I had been pondering how the media - and the BBC in particular - treat Christianity both in this country and worldwide and shortly afterwards a slightly bizarre question came to me: How would the devil use the media to undermine the Christian faith? Then, rather in the manner of C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters I found myself imagining the following memo of advice from the devil to the particular demon responsible for influencing the BBC.
How to undermine Christianity: some guidelines for how to influence the media
1) Try to ensure that people ignore Christianity altogether. This is not as easy as it sounds. The Christian faith is a matter of profound importance for many people, 70% of the British population still believe it is the faith that they hold to and most of the values that people respect come from it. Nevertheless, try to avoid any mention of it. Remember, there is always something else more important to talk about: a footballer who has broken an ankle or a dog that has learned to surf.
2) If any aspect of the Christian faith must be discussed then the following strategies are useful:
- Treat the faith negatively. Highlight disagreement and disputes, especially over trivia. It is absolutely vital that people are persuaded that Christianity is no more than some sort of series of intellectual beliefs that are good for nothing except argument. Suppress absolutely any hint that the faith might have been a force for good over centuries.
- When matters to do with the faith are presented, make sure that the tone is gently patronising. A weak smile of condescension can work wonders. Audiences need to be gently persuaded that whatever Christianity is about, it is of no real importance and that it reflects something that has been completely and utterly discredited.
- Try to ensure that utterly inappropriate people are found to present the case for the faith. Lamentably, from our point of view, there are many bishops and scholars who are capable of presenting an informed, reasoned and powerful argument for Christian beliefs. Make sure they are never contacted for an opinion. Try to get people who don't believe what they are defending, or are rambling. If you can't do that, then - for television at least - try to ensure that whoever defends Christianity has nasal hair, a bizarre dress sense or a speech impediment. It is important that it is universally believed that the only people who believe in the faith are the elderly and the intellectually challenged.
- If you must - and please try not to - display church gatherings on television please be sensitive. Please avoid dynamic, lively and youthful congregations. Remember we must portray the church as obsolete and irrelevant. Remember this year's marketing slogan: 'Christianity: it's yesterday's thing'.
- If some sort of Christian input is expected, at Christmas or Easter for example, try to find someone with an odd view and make sure that they are allowed to present their position. Let irrelevancy rule. Make people think that Christianity is all about Mary Magdalene, the location of the tomb, the number of the wise men or the true date of Christmas. Do not on any account let them consider the possibility that it might all be true and of vital importance.
- Try to avoid questions of right and wrong in any form except at the simplest possible level. What we want is for people to think that it is society alone that makes moral standards. As you are aware, the grand strategy of hell is to bring about a situation in which television and the media have completely replaced the church as the source of moral guidance.
- If these approaches are challenged, just have our people utter the words 'political correctness'. Make sure that everybody understands that because Christianity is the traditional and majority view in Britain it cannot, by definition, be defended. Make people feel guilty about defending the truth.
- In the meantime, continue promoting the production of more and more programmes which are mindless and devoid of any ethical basis. Dulling minds is a very helpful step towards damning souls.
Having sketched out this letter of advice, I realised that it was ridiculously hypothetical. Or was it?