Dispatches from the Creation Wars

PBS Flirts With Reconstructionist?

Over at Talk2Action, Barry Lynn has a rather astonishing post about an upcoming PBS show called Wall of Separation, a show that appears to promote the standard religious right vision of church/state relations (including the notion that separation of church and state is some sort of modern liberal lie). The show is produced by Boulevard Pictures and written and directed by Brian Godawa. Godawa, it turns out, is affiliated with the Chalcedon Foundation, the home of Christian Reconstructionism. Lynn writes:

Godawa did movie reviews for a time for the Chalcedon Foundation’s Web site. Those of you who follow religion and politics will recognize Chalcedon as the nerve center of Christian Reconstructionism, the most militant wing of the Religious Right. Godawa also was a featured speaker at the American Vision’s “2006 Worldview Super Conference,” a Reconstructionist event.

Reconstructionists detest democracy and hope to usher in a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America based on their reading of biblical law. They are best known for seeking to impose the harshest penalties of the Old Testament penal code: the death penalty, for example, for gays, adulterers, fornicators, witches, incorrigible teenagers and those who spread false religions.

I don’t know if Godawa calls himself a Reconstructionist – his reviews have been removed from Chalcedon’s Web site — but his perspective is definitely pretty far out.
His Chalcedon review of the critically acclaimed movie, “Brokeback Mountain,” calls it “a brilliant piece of subversive homosexual propaganda.” By depicting gay men as “manly” instead of “fey queens,” he said, “It’s the normalization of the freakish minority.” He charged that “homosexualism” is “an ideology and religion whose goal is to overthrow the Christian paradigm of morality.”

Godawa added, “Society SHOULD suppress immoral behavior and it does so on many fronts. So if homosexualism is immoral, then yes, it should be suppressed, just like child molesting, its ugly step-brother hidden in the closet, just like adultery, just like promiscuity.”

Nice. A Reconstructionist theocrat lecturing the country on separation of church and state. Now I’ve seen it all.


  1. #1 Robert
    June 13, 2007

    Well, there went my respect for PBS

  2. #2 Gork
    June 13, 2007

    I’ll bet at the same time Godawa supports the war in Iraq, which is mass murder intermixed with some rapes and thefts. I don’t know he’s a hypocrite, but my money says he is.

  3. #3 Jon Rowe
    June 13, 2007

    Almost all Recons are opposed to the war in Iraq.

    I’m all for diversity of point of view. But…that they would turn to someone like this…it shows simply government incompetence.

    Then again, they might do a good job. If they feature respectable scholars — Hamburger, Hutson, Dreisbach — it might be a good show.

    But the minute the drag out clips of the late RJ Rushdoony, or any of his bunch….

  4. #4 mark
    June 13, 2007

    PBS did air Privileged Planet a while back, and every pledge drive includes at least a few lecturing woo-woos, so it should not be too much of a surprise. Perhaps PBS could air a video of an actual stoning, such as occurs from time to time in other religious nations, to convince Americans of the righteousness of Christian Reconstruction.

  5. #5 BobApril
    June 13, 2007

    I have to object to Gork’s characterization of the war in Iraq. If we Soldiers were all the mass-murdering, raping, thieving criminals he implies, then I’d be rich, and divorced (my wife wouldn’t put up with that rape stuff). We’d also be completely done in Iraq, leaving it either a barren wasteland or the 51st state, repopulated by U.S citizens – and we’d be taking a lot less casualties along the way. Killing people is easy, and we’re well trained for that. Policing them is several orders of magnitude more difficult. There’s plenty of bad apples in the Armed Forces, yes – though probably less than in our own cities. And there’s far too much “collateral damage.” But save your vitriol for the people that sent us there, and the people who voted them in. When we put on the uniform, we agreed to fight in any legal war – and while this one may be ill-considered and unwinnable, it is certainly legal under the rules as written.

  6. #6 David C. Brayton
    June 13, 2007

    BobApril–Very well put.

  7. #7 Ed Darrell
    June 13, 2007

    A few PBS-affiliated stations aired “Privileged Planet.” To the best of my knowledge and checking, it was never a network feed.

  8. #8 Grumpy
    June 14, 2007

    FWIW, PBS also has a show called “A Brief History of Unbelief” — Bill Moyers previewed it a few weeks ago — though I haven’t seen it on my local listings. Too bad, ’cause I’d like to see it. It’s like the TV version of “The God Delusion.”

  9. #9 Prup aka Jim Benton
    June 14, 2007

    Y’know, if you object to PBS because of the religious beliefs of the people of Chalcedon, they might argue that they were worth airing. On the other hand, if you point out that Rushddony and other members of Chalcedon — but not North — are also geocentrists, this might be more powerful in demonstrating how big crackpots they were. See, among others, Bruce Wilson’s Talk2Action article:

  10. #10 Mark Cortner
    June 14, 2007

    Some iformation needs to be disclosed about PBS and this program, for I too jumped to conclusions and had a minor discussion with the management of my local affiliate. First and formost, this IS NOT a PBS production. It is what PBS describes as an “extra program”. It has not been nor will it ever be programmed on the PBS Network. It is on a list of a number of programs that PBS pays little or nothing for, that affiliates may choose to take at no cost and run if they wish. In broadcast parlance it is a “fill” program. Many affilates may choose to never air it. The OETA (OK. Ed. TV Authority) chose to run it once and has no present plans to run it again.
    I watched this program. It ran on a “digital subscriber tier” channel on the cable system in Tulsa at 2pm on a weekday. I recorded it an watched it that evening. I am guessing that along with a couple of law professors I was about 33% of the total audience. I was pleased to see that the program did include remarks from Rev. Lynn. I have been a member of Americans United for many years. I have little or no tolerance for “Evangelista, Theocrats”. On the whole this documentary was balanced. It did cover the three basic concepts of interpretation of the establishment clause. It used quotes from ministers, academics and a few polical types. Jounalistically, it was sound. I was unhappy that it did not come down on my side of the issue, but then it did not come down on anybody’s side. It was just a documentation of why there are factions on each side. As usual, I fealt that (the lay people) interviewed were mistaken in their interpretation of various quotes and historical events, but the program prefaced those comments as their “feelings, opinions” etc. As journalist’s and documentarians the producers covered their proverbial six. However, time was given to the side that Mr. Brayton accurately describes (I agree) as “reconstructionists”.
    From my chair watching this program, anybody that considers themselves stakeholders (and we all should) in this argument could claim either victory or defeat for their team at the end of the program. It was in fact a glass half full.
    Mark Cortner,
    Tulsa, OK.

  11. #11 Phil Bransom
    June 28, 2007

    As a producer for PBS and one who assisted in getting “Wall” on PBS, I thought a note would be in order. PBS has a set of editorial standards and policies we must follow. One of which is to present content that will bring controversy to the viewer. It’s not about shades of gray but delivering viewpoints that will stir discussion and debate. Given the google searches on “Wall”, it is obvious it has accomplished this. The true thinkers enjoy the banter and are not threatened by one producer’s viewpoints. Below are two of the standards we must follow and I believe “Wall” fits in. Unless we want to make the “Private Broadcasting System” versus “Public Broadcasting System”, we need issues that make us question, ponder and think.


    C. Diversity
    To enhance each member station’s ability to meet its local needs, PBS strives to offer a wide choice of quality content. Content diversity furthers the goals of a democratic society by enhancing public access to the full range of ideas, information, subject matter, and perspectives required to make informed judgments about the issues of our time. It also furthers public television’s special mandate to serve many different and discrete audiences. The goal of diversity also requires continuing efforts to assure that PBS content fully reflects the pluralism of our society, including, for example, appropriate representation of women and minorities. The diversity of public television producers and funders helps to assure that content distributed by PBS is not dominated by any single point of view.

    F. Courage and Controversy
    PBS seeks content that provides courageous and responsible treatment of issues, and that reports and comments, with honesty and candor, on social, political, and economic tensions, disagreements, and divisions. The surest road to intellectual stagnation and social isolation is to stifle the expression of uncommon ideas; today’s dissent may be tomorrow’s orthodoxy. The ultimate task of weighing and judging information and viewpoints is, in a free and open society, the task of the audience. Therefore, PBS seeks to assure that its overall content offerings contain a broad range of opinions and points of view, including those from outside society’s existing consensus, presented in a responsible manner and consistent with the standards set forth in these Standards and Policies.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    June 28, 2007

    The problem I have with your defense of the show is that it could defend any show with any content whatsoever. It’s fairly typical bureaucrat-speak – one man’s show full of false claims and nonsense is another man’s “challenging” or “courageous” view of the issues. You could use such vague statements to defend any show, no matter how absurd or counter-factual the content may be. As I wrote in a post a few days after this one, there is room for an objective program that looks at the tension between the strict separationist views of Jefferson and Madison and the non-coercive accommodationist views of Washington and Adams. But a show that makes claims like this:

    “The United States is a society based on the rule of law. And our Founding Fathers believed that if they did not base their laws on a higher authority, then whoever was in power would determine what the law said. They called this `tyranny.’ Their higher authority was the Law of God – the Ten Commandments.”

    Is simply nonsense no matter how you rationalize it.

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