Jesus 'too controversial' for Silver Screen?

The Christian Post, which bills itself as "the largest Christian newspaper in the world featuring world," is not known for original reporting. It's certainly no Christianity Today in terms of journalistic quality. They are largely scrapers, rewriting the news as reported by other media outlets and appropriately given credit. It is, however, a decent clearinghouse for Christian news. What is fascinating is that this isn't always a bad thing. At least not when compared to an originally reported story as confusing and dull as this one from the Orange County Register.

The subject of the story was a commercial that Compass Bible Church made to attract people to its Easter service. The ad was rejected by a local movie theater because it was "too controversial" -- a phrase that, even if it's what the theater said, basically means nothing without specific details.

And the reader is not given a single detail until the sixth paragraph of a story that is only 12 paragraphs longs. Even that section is pretty muddled.

Turns out the video, which the church published on YouTube and you can watch above, flashes doubts about Jesus' death and resurrection -- "the disciples stole the body," "perhaps the disciples hallucinated" -- and asks "Did it Really Happen?"

This certainly doesn't seem "controversial." I mean, this is Orange County, the Land of Saddleback Church. Though I would find this ad to be a little odd before the showing of, say, "Hall Pass." Still, it didn't violate the guidelines Compass was given -- basically no drug use and no sex, which might actually make this church ad controversial.

Anyway, the OC Register delivered these details and this story in the most circuitous manner possible. On the other hand, the Christian Post, while apparrantly borrowing all facts from ABC, delivers the news like an old pro in a story that is twice as long:

A pre-movie advertisement promoting an Easter church service was banned from local theaters because of its mention of Jesus.

Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif., created the 30-second ad to air for three weeks on 45 movie screens across Orange County starting April 1, paying more than $5,000, according to ABC.

The commercial posed questions about what some conspiracy theorists believed may have happened to Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Claims like "the disciples stole the body" and "Jesus didn't actually die on the cross" were mentioned.

It asked moviegoers "Did it really happen?" And ended with "Why we actually believe in the resurrection."

But the money was returned and the ad was pulled for its “controversial” material, mainly its mention of Jesus, and its failure to comply with specific guidelines set by National CineMedia.

By comparison, the OC Register story didn't even mention the content of the ad until the paragraph that would have come after the last paragraph above. The Christian Post also didn't make the mistake of referring to the ad as "too controversial" at first and offering no further details. The opening line of this story actually stated why theater execs thought the ad was controversial: its mention of Jesus.

What is the religion-reporting lesson here? I'm not sure. But I do know that if newspapers want to slow the loss of readers to Internet start-ups (the Christian Post was founded in 2000), they need to stop doing a worse job delivering the news.

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