Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. Oslo shooter watched Dexter. Among the excerpts from the Norwegian terrorist’s so-called manifesto reportedly was this: “I am currently watching Dexter, the series about that forensic mass murderer”
Comment: Of course, no TV show is to blame for the actions of a lunatic but, still, a guy like this is unlikely to be spending him time watching reruns of The Waltons.

Then there’s this…

2. Dexter to find religion. From The Wrap: “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall, along with co-stars C.S. Lee and season six guest stars Mos Def and Colin Hanks, were on hand at Thursday’s Comic-Con panel for the Showtime series. One word — and theme — permeated the conversation: Faith.
Noting that Dexter will start to grapple more heavily with the effect that his murderous tendencies have on his son Harrison when the show returns in October, Hall noted, “I think that’s a big engine at the beginning of the season — that Dexter has tendencies that he doesn’t want to pass on to his son.”
The remedy, Hall revealed, will involve “giving him some kind of spiritual grounding.”
Series executive producer Sara Colleton echoed the sentiment, saying that a big part of the upcoming season is “initiated by [Dexter’s] desire to find faith. It provides him with a lot of avenues that he explores.”
Hal(l) and Colleton’s assertions fell in line with the theme of the season six trailer that debuted during the panel, which played out gruesomely to the soundtrack of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and ended with the tag line, “He’ll make you a believer.”
Comment: Will faith cause Dexter to repent and change his ways?  We’ll see how this plays out — but, alas, religious serial killers are pretty much par for the course on television and at the movies. The big surprise here is that Dex wasn’t a right-wing Christian from the get-go.

3. Ricky Gervais plans to play God. From The Wrap: The non-believing “Office” mastermind took to his blog Thursday to share some details about “Afterlife,” the new show he’s planning with “Dexter” producer Clyde Phillips. The comedy is about an atheist who dies goes to heaven…Not the typical, wise, benevolent God — that’s Morgan Freeman’s thing, Gervais notes. His own version will be “an arrogant, wisecracking son of a bitch, who thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread. … Actually he thinks he’s the best thing ever because… well, he is. (He invented sliced bread by the way.)”
Comment: This isn’t the first time Gervais has broached the subject of God and faith. In The Invention of Lying , he created a world in which everyone tells the truth — until his character realizes it’s possible to lie, including about the existence of God and an afterlife.  It was a cute and funny idea for a movie that, in my view, derailed when it veered into the atheistic view of believers as unthinking simpletons.
Anyway, with atheists increasingly taking on notions of God and faith in the movies and TV, would it be possible for a believer (Christian, Jew, whatever) to take on atheism in a TV comedy. How about a show about a lovable-but-cluelessly smug atheist who makes his living writing books debunking religious belief but who is, meanwhile, missing the miracles taking place all around him?  The show could be ironically titled The Atheist’s Guide to Life.  HBO, call me. 

4. Bill Maher’s act getting old fast. Andrew Klavan writing for City Journal: Comedian-commentator Bill Maher has been getting a lot of attention lately for trying to get a lot of attention. He generally goes about this by using sexist hate speech against attractive, powerful, and intelligent conservative women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, calling them female vulgarisms, for instance, or, as most recently, hosting comedians who fantasize aloud about sexually abusing them. Yet another attractive, powerful, and intelligent conservative woman (gee, there are a lot of those, aren’t there?), Ann Coulter, who is Maher’s friend, feels that these childish displays should be ignored. “I am sick of this show getting so much free publicity just because they use the f-word, the c-word, say something stupid,” Coulter said on FOX News’s late-night show, Red Eye. “All they are saying is, ‘I hate Michele Bachmann,’ ‘I hate Sarah Palin.’ Except they’re saying, ‘I [expletive] hate Michele Bachmann,’ ‘I [expletive] hate Sarah Palin.’ And then conservative blogs and this show say, ‘Oh, they use the f-word,’ and then they get 8 billion times more viewers.”
As so often, Coulter makes a good point.
Maher, who is only just so funny and only just so bright and only just so popular, seems rather desperately to be turning himself into a moral Elephant Man in an attempt to draw the gawkers. The dignified reaction would be to walk on by, warning the children not to stare at the poor fellow because he has an affliction, God bless him.
Comment: Well said.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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