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Petitions challenge blasphemous remarks


PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (BP)–A petition drive protesting off-color remarks by Emmy award winner Kathy Griffin is gathering steam, with the organizers preparing to take their cause across the Southeast and Midwest.

An estimated 60,000 people signed the petition in the first week of the campaign, which is aimed at collecting 1 million signatures, said Russ Hollingsworth, general manager of the Miracle Theater, one of numerous live shows in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Plans are being finalized to send several actors and staff members on a four-to-six week tour to gather more signatures and generating additional media attention, Hollingsworth told Baptist Press.

“When the culture is unwilling to show any respect for our Lord, it’s like a call to action,” said Hollingsworth, an elder in a Presbyterian (PCA) church.

“The issue is timeless: How do you do stand for Christ in a hostile culture? We’d love to get a million signatures that would be a significant bloc and spark a dialogue about how our faith and other faiths are treated [by Hollywood].”

The theater launched the “Million Voices for Christ” petition Sept. 17, the same day it placed the first of two full-page ads in USA Today to protest Griffin’s speech when she won an Emmy for “Best Reality Series.”

Sprinkling her speech with profanity and a blasphemous remark that used the name of Jesus, Griffin concluded, “This award is my god now.”

After the Catholic League condemned her comments, Griffin issued a statement through a spokesman saying she meant the remark as a spoof of celebrities who routinely thank Christ during awards acceptance speeches. Griffin asked, “Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?”

However, Hollingsworth and cast members of The Miracle didn’t think her comments were amusing. After learning about them, they decided they needed to not only protest but also provide a way for other Christians to express their views.

Their USA Today ad read in part, “Over 2,000 years ago Jesus was mocked and few stood up for Him. We at The Miracle Theater consider it an honor to stand for Jesus today…. Although others may choose to use their national platform to slander our God, we are honored as professional entertainers to stand for Christ.”

The theater’s parent company, Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Group, paid nearly $180,000 for the ads.

“The thing that drove us emotionally was the reaction of the audience,” said Hollingswoth, who hopes to present the petitions in a Hollywood location later this year. “People were laughing and carrying on, and there was no reaction from the media. We thought it was the right thing to do to make a statement.”

Two Southern Baptist cast members who are helping publicize the petition drive say their actions aren’t directed at Griffin but are intended to honor Christ.

Josh Anders, who plays the role of Thomas in “The Miracle” –- a Gospel-based production staged for 10 months of the year -– said while he was offended by Griffin’s remarks, they were simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“At the same time our culture is crying out for tolerance, they’re intolerant of Christianity,” said Anders, who attends Chillhowee Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

However, he also faults the Christian community for remaining silent for so long that they have become easy targets of those who hate religion or think there is nothing wrong with ridiculing Christ’s followers.

Anders emphasized he isn’t trying to censor Griffin, but at the same time he thinks people should be made aware that some things are sacred and shouldn’t be publicly scorned.

He asked if people would remain silent if someone slandered their mother, spouse or child.

“Those who have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ are very passionate about that,” said Anders, a graduate of Liberty University. “That’s how I felt when I heard what happened. I believe God was stirring something inside of [the cast]. That’s why so many of us came together and said, ‘We’ve got to do something.'”

Makky Kaylor, who plays Judas in The Miracle, said at first he wanted to shrug, “That’s just the way culture is today,” but then he began feeling appalled and motivated to action.

“I felt stirred by the Lord to stand up and say that there are people of faith in the arts and say, ‘Jesus is the source of my gifts and I give Him all the credit for that,” said Kaylor, who attends Pleasant Heights Baptist Church in Columbia, Tenn., and previously Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis.

The USA Today advertisements had done some good by helping believers unite and proclaim their love of God’s Son, Kaylor said.

Kaylor accompanied Hollingsworth to New York the week of Sept. 17, where they met with various news producers and other media figures to inform them about the petition.

As a result of their visit, TV talk show host Larry King held up a copy of the USA Today ad and asked Griffin about it when she was a guest.

Kaylor said he recognized the importance of speaking out during a scene in The Miracle soon after the first ad appeared. The actor credits God for showing him the significance of Judas having a choice between money and prestige or Christ.

Kaylor said when he portrayed Judas clutching the money bag he received for betraying Jesus, it was like saying what Griffin did: “This is my god now.”

“That’s what we’re going to have more of if we don’t stand up and say, ‘Jesus is my God,'” Kaylor said.

Hollingsworth said since they are normal people, too, even Christians need regular prompts regarding the object of their faith.

“We need to be reminded of what Christ did for our salvation and what it cost,” Hollingsworth said. “The phones are ringing and e-mails are pouring in from people, saying, ‘Thank you for doing this. It’s been a blessing to us.'”
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  • Ken Walker