If you were a television executive, which program do you think would offend the most viewers across America?
The first is a children's show featuring digital vegetables that sing and dance and tell silly parables. Each episode ends with a Bible verse and a witty tomato's reminder that "God made you special and he loves you very much!"
The second is a prime-time special in which Madonna sings her enigmatic ballad "Live to Tell" while hanging on a disco-mirror crucifix and wearing a crown of thorns.
If you decided that it's the vegetables that are too hot to handle, then you're on the same wavelength as NBC. Terry Mattingly, Scripps Howard News Service
The following is the sordid tale of a proselytizing vegetable and a misunderstood rock and roll diva. Viewer discretion is advised.
NBC plans to air a tape of Madonna's "Confessions" concert during sweeps week in November. When told that some Christians found Madonna's act offensive at one point she rises on stage hanging from a huge mirrored cross, a crown of thorns on her head NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly said he had "no problem" with Madonna's act and would air it unedited.
Meanwhile, Bob the Tomato has run afoul of NBC's religious sensitivity censors. According to Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer:
Where we got into trouble was ... where Bob says, 'And God can give us strength, too.' The NBC people said we had to take that out... What God does in the past is OK as long as it stays in the past. But if you cross that line and say that God can affect your life in the present, then that's too much. Scripps Howard News Service
For her part, Madonna a former Catholic who now practices the faintly-Jewish religion known as Kabbalah now says her faux crucifixion has been completely misunderstood.
My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing. Madonna explains shocking crucifixion scene
Heartened by her close relationship with the Savior, Pope Benedict immediately nominated Madonna for sainthood. "The church needs sexier saints," Benedict is reported to have said.
Really, I'm all out of outrage when it comes to Madonna. I'm just glad she isn't copulating on that cross, though I'm sure the idea probably occurred to her.
Since the beginning of her career, Madonna has never hesitated to break any taboo that might gain her publicity. Over and over again, she has shrewdly combined religious symbolism and graphic sex to create controversy and publicity, and it has worked. She is a self-promoter par excellence.
Madonna's newfound interest in Kabbalah is a perfect match for her anti-conventional spirit. Kabbalah teaches that God cannot be known, cannot be understood, is not relational, is not even present in any tangible way in the material universe.
God is so completely "other" that at best we can only sense "its" emanations, and (like the Gnostics) we can only know anything at all about this god through the teachings of a few enlightened rabbis.
Cross or no cross, this is the sort of non-threatening "faith message" that NBC can get behind.
Bob the Tomato, unfortunately, talks about a different sort of God. Bob's is a very present God, a God who loves us, a God who has a plan for us, a God who lives in history and wants to know us and save us from ourselves. Kinda makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?
If only Bob weren't so darned wholesome, he might get more respect in Hollywood.
Do you suppose anyone at NBC has realized that Bob the Tomato never wears clothes? Is it possible that at this very moment, Madonna is collaborating with Bob and Larry on a "Naked Vegetables Tour?"
Illustration credit: The New York Times