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Friday, January 25, 2008

What would Jesus do...about BET?

written by guest contributor Tami of What Tami Said

It must be unprecedented—clergy kneeling at the altar of Viacom, shouting praise to a purveyor of bouncing booties, big pimpin’ and a bounty of bling.

In an announcement allegedly signed by representatives of major religious bodies, such as the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the New York Theological Seminary and the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., Clergy Strategic Alliances (CSA) gushed:

We would like to congratulate BET and Debra Lee on presenting the inaugural
BET Honors Awards, dedicated to recognizing the achievements and contributions
of distinguished African-American leaders in their fields. As the leading
network for programming in the African-American community, viewers are able to
see the diversity of the Black experience expressed in various art forms ranging
from music and movies to gospel and current events. Over the years, we have seen
BET evolve and change, and while we might not always agree with every step they
make, they have always shown a willingness to listen to their viewers, and
adjust accordingly.

As religious leaders, we are encouraged by BET’s enthusiasm to engage in
dialogue with those of us who have expressed concerns over some of their
programming. BET has responded to these concerns by bringing its viewers new
shows such as Exalted and Sunday Best, but we all know that real change takes
time. We are excited about what the future holds for BET, and will continue to
nurture our relationship with the network and its leadership in their efforts to
provide new and innovative quality programming to our community. SOURCE
One new awards show and a sprinkling of gospel make BET a source of “new and innovative quality programming” that shows the diversity of the black experience?

You might argue that BET is no worse than its paler Viacom brethren—MTV and VH-1. And you might be right. But I have yet to see a group of community-minded holy men and women endorse either of those channels based on their one or two offerings of social value. But BET gets a hug and a cookie for airing Exalted and Sunday Best. I guess a little shoutin’ on Sunday morning erases a multitude of weekday sin—sin like materialistic excess, degradation of women, the sexual hijinks of the College Hill interns, the bumping and grinding of Hell Date, the g-strings and arched backs of the bet.com "B-girls," the crassness of “Read a *&%%* Book,” the celebrated violence of American Gangster 2.

The CSA Web site says:

At CSA our goal is to equip pastors and congregations with the skills necessary
to build power and improve their communities.
If that is the Clergy Strategic Alliance’s mission, then an alliance with BET ain’t so strategic.

Black women—the backbone of the church, the most faithful in the flock—are demeaned every day through BET programming, their children fed a steady diet of shucking, jiving and filth. Why aren’t these religious leaders standing with the women who pack the pews on Sunday, the church mothers who cook the repast, the ladies on the fellowship committee? Why aren’t they standing with ordinary black folks who are trying to raise their children in a world dominated by BET's values or lack thereof?

Gina asked me to remind you all that this isn't the first time a group of clergy members got together to try to stifle a movement led by ordinary people. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous letter from the Birmingham jail was written in response to a similar alliance of clergy willing to accept crumbs instead of justice.