Monday, February 26, 2007

On anti-Christian marketing and the current "tomb" hype

Down in the comments on the piece below, SlaveOfOne mentions that he(?) questions why I see an anti-Christian motive in the current hype surrounding "the Jesus tomb" and possibly even in its production and Easter release. Because I had not explained why I see it that way, I wanted to go over that more explicitly.

His comments "Let the evidence be seen, let the evidence be heard" -- this is in large part what I have called for myself. Still, some of the evidence that should be seen and heard includes the fact that some of the people claimed to be in this grave already have known grave sites elsewhere. While weighing opinions and evaluations, we should not forget the print comments from two of the actual archeologists in question to the effect that the current claims are unviable. One of the archeologists of the original site stated plainly that the current claims on probabilities were false claims, that the conclusions fail to hold up by archeological standards, and that he himself thought there was a profit motive in this latest film. (A profit motive in making a film, from the director of Titanic? Who'd have thought it?) Ok, I'm being silly, but this whole thing does make me roll my eyes, and I probably owe it to anyone reading to explain exactly why.

First, I was very nearly expecting something like this because recent years have seen a steady trend of releasing anti-Christian material -- and lately with media fanfare -- scheduled close to Easter. Examples shortly, but let me mention a few things: the media try to be audience-savvy, and the target market for these pieces is the growing anti-Christian market, such as folks who tend to buy the diatribes of the latest atheists willing to publish books saying that Christians are not only fools but dangerous ones.

Take a parallel example to watch how the markets work. Just as the parallel example, the existence of noticeable number of Christian apocalypse-watchers has provided a market for apocalypse books; but the market-watchers are savvy. So when the existence, durability, and profitability of this market became clear, an industry was developed to support it and feed it and profit by it. They also try to expand the market, just from a purely business standpoint of an industry that wants to see a profit: so the more apocalypse-watchers the better (from that perspective), and promoting those materials promotes apocalypse-watching. As a result, there is now an industry that gears itself to find and produce apocalyptic literature particularly tailored to people who consume apocalpytic fan fiction, if you'll pardon my flippancy.

In the same way, the growing anti-Christian demographic has been noticed as a market trend, and watching the production of such materials I have no real doubts that the market has established itself to the point where pieces are being created specifically for the anti-Christian market, that there is now a small industry devoted to finding and producing anti-Christian material. They probably have next Easter's piece planned already, and more in the pipe for later years. It's supply and demand. Now, looking at the production schedule, is demand for anti-Christian material particularly high at Easter, or is it just industry tradition like spring fashion shows? If you say neither, please consider a few things.
  • The movie of The Da Vinci Code was originally slated for release just before Easter last year; it was rescheduled for release in May (after Easter) only after they could not meet their original schedule.
  • Likewise last year a rather dated manuscript discovery, the Gospel of Judas, suddenly became news right before Easter. The rush to meet the Easter deadline -- and bypassing normal scholarly channels -- contributed to the fact that the original translation was faulty and perhaps at a few points misleading about whether Judas was really a hero.
  • A previous Easter warmup season had seen the release of the book The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, a collection of essays published largely by regulars at Internet Infidels and noted for its often-caustic tone and creative selection and interpretation of the facts. (Examples on request.)
  • Within that book, one of the individual chapters was originally released on the Internet Infidels website Easter weekend of 2001. I think the author originally published it on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, timing it as an attempt to rain on the Christian celebration of Jesus' resurrection. However, the material was not difficult to refute so there were at least two Christian responses up by that same Easter.
  • This year: another decades-old discovery suddenly becomes news right before Easter, touting claims long since dismissed by the actual archeologists involved.
All this around Easter: Coincidence? We can be charitable but let's not be naive; the Easter timing is no coincidence. The media has an anti-Christian market to feed, and is actively looking for and producing anti-Christian pieces to release annually around Easter. I'd actually been wondering where in the world this year's entries were when they finally announced this one, and I thought, "There they are!" Last year they had two entries, so they may not be quite finished this year. I think we should expect more of this in future years. I think, as with the apocalypse industry, it runs the risk of over-saturating; people will hear Chicken Little say the sky is falling until they cease to believe it. Likewise here I would not be surprised if a steady series of overreaching anti-Christian claims will eventually make people skeptical towards overreaching anti-Christian claims. Until that time, they will try to increase their market share by promoting anti-Christian views; that's what industries do when they have a product to sell.

You (SlaveOfOne) also sounded as if you believe there is insufficient actual evidence to make any conclusions at all about the tomb site in question. For my own part, I'll mention that Mary Magdalene's tomb has long been recognized as being in Constantinople, so I feel no qualms in saying that these current claims are going against existing evidence. Identifying a "Mariamne" ossuary as Mary Magdalene is also at least open to question; the New Testament never once refers to her (or any other Mary) as Mariamne, and Christian CADRE saved me the trouble of digging up the answers to a question I'd already wondered publicly, whether Mary Magdalene can be identified with Mariamne. The identification of a "Mariamne" or "Mariamene" ossuary with Mary Magdalene is a stretch just on the name itself, apart from the fact that she aleady has another tomb. That, along with the statements by the archeologists who have studied this material since its discovery in 1980, leaves me with no reason to take the current claims seriously. Look at the evidence, sure; give it a free ride despite the facts to the contrary, I don't think so. The current tomb has yet to rise above the level of an entertaining conspiracy theory.

I'm all in favor of facts and I enjoy a good piece of research. But as for a hardy and robust challenge, this just doesn't deliver; I'm not going to take a lightweight claim seriously just because they don't have anything better in the pipe for release this year. Probably the strongest thing they have going for them this year is an accomplished major motion picture director. We have to keep our perspective when a new claim conflicts with other facts already known. Even people who cannot consider Jesus' resurrection to be a fact for philosophical reasons would do well to look at the many other facts already available that contradict this particular claim. Assuming the film is correct about the Mariamne in the ossuary being married to the Jesus in the neighboring ossuary, it's simply another family with fairly common names.

Though have you noticed another stretched claim? Jesus wasn't married to Mary Magdalene in the first place. If it were the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene wouldn't be there anyway.


Hepzibah The Watchman said...

My concern is not for those who are believers, but for those who are not. If Satan can continue to keep unbelievers questioning the truth, then he has won their souls.

P.S. an after-thought said...

Do you think that the anti-christian literature, etc. is the work of satan against Jesus' kingdom on this earth? Or do you think it might have a more solidly earthly basis, such as some kind of anti-right-wing, as in Republicans-who-support-Bush, basis, in a round about way, an anti-war sentiment.

Am I making sense?

Weekend Fisher said...

Well, I'm not in a position to comment on what Satan's up to, I'll just say it would be his style. The two options you listed don't really exclude each other, but this has been going on far longer than the current war, since I remember one instance that dates before 9/11/2001.

Take care & God bless

BK said...

You are, of course, correct about the timing of anti-Christian material appearing around Easter. The same happens every year around Christmas. Usually, it is something like, "Was there really a star of Bethlehem?" and they always feature an interview with John Dominic Crossan or Marcus Borg or other members of the Jesus Seminar or other CINOs (Christian in name onlys) who proceed to expound on their theory of how Christians have been being duped for two thousand years. Oh . . . and there's also the one or two lines by a more conservative scholar to try to balance, but the conservative scholar is never William Lane Craig or J.P. Moreland or Bruce Metzger (who is now with Jesus), but someone who is usually more left of center than conservative (but compared with the Jesus Seminar types featured they seem almost reationary).

Oh well, enough of my rant . . . .