What If God Was One of Us?

God is a big player on network television these days. His name is brought up more now than in the mid-1990s, according to a study by the TV pressure group, the Parents Television Council (PTC).

But the PTC says any mention of a religious institution or a cleric was twice as likely to be negative than positive.

Here's what I'd say to the PTC in my best publicity-speak: If God is getting all that press, his PR guy must be doing a great job. If I were God looking for some better marketing, I'd hope they first spell my name right and worry about dogma later.

That's not enough, however. The PTC not only wants God and religion to be talked about much more on television, they also want positive treatment.

Three words are my response to all of this: Don't be greedy.

Despite all the talk about racy TV content these days, religion is a main topic on network TV. You only need to look at the solidly entertaining CBS show, "Joan of Arcadia," where Joan, a suburban teenager gets to speak and receive instruction from God who inhabits the souls of a number of characters including the school bus driver and a young punk in Joan's school.



Now, the show doesn't get the best of ratings, but CBS sticks with it because it has great writing and offers up thought-provoking moral questions and dilemmas. It not only makes you feel good and decent, but dare I say, ecumenical, sometimes.

The PTC looked at 2,344 mentions of religion in the 2003-2004 season. By its own research, 22 percent were positive, 24 percent were negative, and the rest were in between. Not bad in what is supposedly the worst of moral times on TV these days.

NBC was the worst network offender - with much criticism lodged against "Law & Order" shows. This also included an offending example in "Will & Grace" when character Karen joked: "Let's go buy that historic church and turn it into a gay bar."

Offensive? I don't know; maybe God likes to dance.

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