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Wildmon hopes ‘a million pagans’ watch ABC/Disney Easter special, but he won’t

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A key leader of the boycott of The Disney Company, Donald Wildmon, won’t be watching “The Miracle Maker” on ABC-TV Easter night.

“I hope a million pagans watch it, and I hope a million pagans get saved,” Wildmon told Baptist Press April 17.

But: “I’ll be watching something else. A boycott’s a boycott.”

The Wildmon-led American Family Association in 1995 became the first evangelical organization to call for a boycott of Disney over the entertainment conglomerate’s moral drift. ABC-TV is a Disney subsidiary.

“There would be no Miracle Maker had there been no boycott of Disney,” Wildmon said of the boycott’s impact on Disney decision-making. Describing the boycott as a long-term process, he said it “is being reasonably successful” thus far, particularly in dampening the company’s earnings during the past year.

Wildmon’s comments were made in response to an April 17 call by two prominent Southern Baptists, Jim Henry and Jess Moody, for Baptists to suspend the Disney boycott at least for Easter night in order to support the ABC special.

Wildmon said it is “not a major issue” whether a Christian watches the ABC special; only participants in a Nielsen ratings survey would benefit Disney economically.

“The Miracle Maker” is scheduled at 7 p.m. Eastern time, April 23. Using claymation and two-dimensional animation, the ABC Easter special presents the life of Jesus through the eyes of a sick 12-year-old girl who encounters the Messiah through different stages of his life.

Henry, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., and SBC president from 1994-96, said he had screened “The Miracle Maker” and “found it to be a true depiction of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This two-hour made-for-TV movie could impact millions of people, especially children.”

Moody, well-known former pastor of SBC churches in the Los Angeles area, said, “We should be grateful to ABC for having the courage and integrity to run a film aimed at children that clearly presents Jesus as the Savior of the world. … If a Disney company is extending an olive branch, shouldn’t we reach back with gratitude?”

The Southern Baptist Convention, at its 1997 annual meeting in Dallas, adopted a resolution urging Southern Baptists to refrain from patronizing Disney theme parks and retail outlets, as well as the entertainment conglomerate’s numerous subsidiaries, to protest Disney films and corporate policies regarded in many Christian circles as “anti-family” and “anti-Christian.”

Among key concerns about Disney’s moral direction: its openness to yearly “Gay Days” at its theme parks; the R-rated sexual, violent and anti-Christian fare of its Miramax film subsidiary; ABC’s embrace of Ellen DeGeneres as an openly lesbian lead character on a network TV sitcom; and Disney chairman Michael Eisner’s support of the homosexual movement’s political agenda.

Viewing “The Miracle Maker,” however, may not put a Baptist at odds with the boycott, Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said April 17.

“It has always been my contention and my understanding, articulated numerous times in print and interview, that this boycott means you don’t take money out of your pocket and put it in Disney’s coffers to help subsidize that which ridicules and attacks our biblical beliefs and convictions,” Land said.

“Thus the boycott never meant not watching ABC Television, although I have not found much, other than sporting events, worth viewing on that particular network in recent years,” Land said.

Following the SBC’s 1997 Disney stance, the boycott was joined by Focus on the Family, the Assemblies of God, Concerned Women for America and other religious groups. Also in 1995, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also began a Disney boycott over the Disney/Miramax film “Priest.”