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CBS rejects Christian Internet site from advertising on ‘Jesus’ miniseries

NEW YORK (BP)–CBS has rejected commercials by the Christian Internet site iBelieve.com during the May 14 and 17 segments of its highly touted “Jesus” miniseries — as well iBelieve ads for any episode of “Touched by an Angel.”

CBS spokesperson Dana McClintock said the commercials were rejected because they were not “consistent with the expectations of a diverse audience” and would “commercialize” the mini-series.

iBelieve.com’s proposed commercial offered viewers a free Christian music CD if they registered at the company’s website. iBelieve was prepared to pay $450,000 to run two ads during the miniseries, said Jeff Fite, president of the Christian company.

“iBelieve.com felt that advertising on this epic miniseries would be a way for us to financially support moral network programming as well as an ideal way to reach those who would be interested in visiting our site,” Fite said.

CBS officials rejected the commercial on grounds that the ad’s content was too similar to the program and might confuse viewers.

To compromise, iBelieve.com offered another commercial that deleted references to Christian music, but CBS refused to budge.

CBS told iBelieve.com executives they would allow the company to purchase advertising as long as it was not during Christian programming.

Fite said that argument doesn’t make sense, especially when athletic companies are allowed to advertise during sporting events.

A number of iBelieve.com’s supporters agree. More than 22,000 people registered their support on the company’s website.

The epic miniseries, which cost more than $24 million to make, will be shown during the traditional ratings “sweeps” period. It stars Jeremy Sisto, Gary Goldman, Armin Mueller-Stall and Jacqueline Bisset.

The movie’s soundtrack features a wide variety of secular and Christian artists including Hootie and the Blowfish, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jaci Velasquez, 98 degrees, Michael W. Smith and dcTalk.

The movie earned praise from Pope John Paul II who congratulated the cast and crew for “a film that gives the men of our times a better knowledge of the revealed message, by giving a satisfactory answer to the questions and doubts they have in their hearts.”

However, the movie’s producers apparently did not include any evangelical scholars as consultants, according to their press materials. Protestants, for example, were represented by the Organization of Protestant Churches in Europe. Scholars also participated from the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.

The movie has received positive reviews from both secular and Christian movie reviewers, with the latter raising several theologically based questions.

“‘Jesus’ acquaints viewers with a Savior who was not only God, but also man,” wrote reviewer Phil Boatwright on the iBelieve.com website. “Here, Christ is portrayed with a sense of humor, having fun at a wedding feast, and being a man who feels every emotion all other men experience.

“Jesus may lack some of the spiritual wallop … but it is provocative, and no doubt the most spiritual program to air on major networks that night. It is worth watching and later discussing,” he said.

Boatwright, a Baptist layman, noted some purists and theologians may have some difficulty with the contemporary feel of the production.

Boatwright also pointed out that when Jesus meets John the Baptist, the miniseries depicts the Savior as asking, “Will you baptize me?” to which John the Baptist responds, “If you confess your sins and dedicate your life to God, of course.”

In the Bible, it states that John recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God” as he was coming down to be baptized, not after the baptism.

Boatwright also said viewers may be frustrated that John sprinkles Jesus, rather than submerging the Lord.

“Although it was a bit distracting hearing Joseph with a thick German accent, Mary’s English modulation as perfect as Henry Higgins, and seeing a Jesus as a earthy as a pop Christian musician, the movie presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people who may never have darkened a chapel door,” Boatwright wrote in his review.

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