A question regarding ABC’s recent atheist/Christian “Wife Swap” episode

By: American Decency Staff

My wife watched the program (“Wife Swap”) and said the Christian wife was not portrayed negatively overall, in fact, she was able to influence the atheist family. My wife was impressed that the Christian family could be portrayed in such a positive light. We normally watch almost no TV, and it is interesting that she happened to watch this show to provide a first hand Christian perspective, which differs from your assessment. … I am curious about your portrayal of this show in comparison to my wife’s assessment. Orlando, FL Personal note: We had a couple of people ask a similar question as that stated at the top. They felt that the Christian family was portrayed in a positive light. We think it is important to provide you with our analysis of this concerning ABC program. Here is our response — While there were some positive portrayals of this Christian family on “Wife Swap”, in analyzing this program it’s important to look beyond these few positives and look at the overall message and theme of this episode. Looking at the presentation of Christianity on network television, as a Christian, on the surface I can be pleased that a Christian family is featured – shown praying, reading the Bible, relying on God, raising their children morally and following Christ. But looking deeper, what is the message ABC is sending about Christianity – especially to non-believers watching this? While the atheist family is shown to be extreme and unconventional, even considered “freaks” by most viewers, their message of “tolerance” and “acceptance” is lauded throughout the show. However, the Christian parents, to an unbeliever, would be seen as oppressive – the Christian parents “do not even allow their children to go out with friends or their 14 year old daughter to even speak to boys until she is 16”. This view of Christians as repressive is reinforced by the narration and the word emphasis of the narrator: “They control their daughters COMPLETELY. Karen [the mom] EVEN tells them evil spirits can emerge from their television.  Karen is SO CONTROLLING she even chooses the clothes her kids wear each day.” ABC picks and chooses what they air. Reinforcing once again the “open-mindedness” of the atheist mom with this snippet: Narration: “What do they hope to gain from the swap?” Christian mom: “I want to walk into someone’s home and teach them about the Word of God.” Atheist mom: “I hope they accept me for who I am and that I can learn a lot from them and they can learn a lot from me.” To an unbeliever, which woman is being portrayed as more ‘loving’ and ‘accepting’? Another aspect of the Christian family that is ridiculed and used to mock Christian values is the concept in their family that they refer to as “man law”, where the husband does no domestic chores and the wife stays home to cook and clean for her family. The husband says: “I got me a law around here. The man is a provider, the woman stays in the house. She cleans and cooks.” As Christians, we understand the different roles God creates for husbands and wives and this is this family’s method of living it out, but would an unbeliever understand that or would they see the Christian husband as repressive and domineering? ABC once again reinforces this negative portrayal of the Christian dad when the Christian family and the atheist mom are shown at home. Narrator: “Daryl’s back from work and taking it easy with Daryl Jr. While under ‘man law’ the women get on with serving their men.”   Atheist mom: “You boys aren’t helping? How do you girls feel about that because you’re girls?” Christian daughter: “I think a boy should be treated the same way as a girl.” Atheist mom: “I agree!” Christian dad: “You know what I think: man law rules.  Cleaning is not a manly thing.” Atheist mom: “I think it’s very selfish to implement such a crazy archaic rule in his house. There’s three females and they definitely get the short end of the stick.” Many other examples could be given from this episode of “Wife Swap” of the portrayal of Christians as oppressive and the atheist mom as caring and accepting. The atheist mom arranges for the 14 year-old daughter to go out with friends while the Christian parents didn’t allow the kids to socialize with friends outside the home. The atheist mom encourages the Christian kids to be “free-thinkers”, allows them to choose the clothes they’d like to wear, “opens them up” to things outside the home, takes them to art museums, etc. The atheist mom tries to convince the Christian dad to let his kids do things outside the home. The dad talks about wanting his kids to remain virgins and says: “We talked about a chastity belt.” The atheist mom is shown with great concern ‘pleading’ with the Christian dad, saying: “Trust her [the 14 year-old daughter] with what you’ve given her.” All of this seems welcomed by the Christian daughters, reinforcing the message by ABC that these kids are “repressed”. Later the atheist mom states: “These kids, they’re looking for freedom to be who they are, not who mom and dad tell them to be. Friends and experiences are very important.”  The Christian mom’s heart is certainly in the right place and her motivation to share the love of Christ and God’s Word with the atheist family is to be commended. She faced great opposition and persecution within this family. However, ABC shows her trying to ‘force’ the atheist’s son to pray before dinner, making the children in the atheist family perform a Christian song in front of their friends, telling the family “this week you will learn the way of the gospel”. To an unbelieving viewer is this the best representation of Christ? In taking the atheist family to a modern church, where they were accepted warmly, the Christian mom did influence them as the atheist dad states: “I certainly have a much better opinion of it.” But for every positive portrayal of Christianity, there were many negative misrepresentations of our faith. For every time the Bible was referred to as God’s Word, it was also shown being beaten on, thrown in the trash, mocked. For every time the name of our Lord was lifted up, it was countered again and again with statements from an atheist viewpoint such as these few out of many: – “They’re brainwashed into thinking some higher power is giving them the answers.” – “I think religion is just a crutch for Harold. It’s his answer for everything, even when it doesn’t make sense.” – “Religion has ruled your life for so long, you are completely close-minded.” Our concern with this program is not with the Christian mom who tried to be a witness, but with ABC’s negative portrayal of Christianity and the message ABC presented by the choice of scenes aired depicting Christians as oppressive and close-minded. As Christians, we so rarely see any positive portrayal of Christianity on television. So when a program shows a tiny glimpse of a true Christian, we can be too quick to rejoice over these crumbs thrown our way by network television that we overlook the mountain of anti-Christian bigotry, the stereotypical negative portrayals of Christianity, and the positive portrayals of atheism that inundated this show. ========================================== Let’s encourage one another and strengthen one another to be more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. American Decency Association Bill Johnson, President P.O. Box 202 Fremont, MI 49412 PH: 231-924-4050 www.americandecency.org

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