The Bible miniseries: History Channel's take on the Bible not for kids

The Bible miniseries produced by the History Channel is a disappointment for any family hoping for a new way to share the Bible's stories with their children. The Bible miniseries, not altogether surprising given the History Channel's relentless ratings focus, sensationalizes the Bible's stories. Angel ninjas? Really?

History Channel
History Channel's 'The Bible' miniseries aired March 3. The show's production continues the History Channel's movement away from informative historical programming into sensationalist presentation not suited for children.

The Bible, in addition to being the basis for various religious beliefs, is a fascinating historical conglomeration of stories that can teach us about the customs, times, travails, and conditions of the ancient Middle East that create a social context for modern day news, like the plague of locusts currently hitting Egypt. However "The Bible" miniseries on the History Channel so graphically depicts a predictably selective collection of the stories that some parents may not want kids to view it.

"The Bible" miniseries, for me, is less about what you believe and more about what you believe your family will take away from watching this series. After watching the first installment and trailers for upcoming episodes, I think that if you’re not willing to let your elementary-school child watch "300" and the "Twilight" series you should steer clear of this as a family viewing session.

Also, if you’re looking for lessons and emotional content this is a wash. It’s more of a highlights reel of the Bible. It covers the same shopworn scenes traditionally seen on television, adding nothing to the mix but more blood on the sands of time.

As a parent and a writer, I think that the sacred text is so woven into our social dialogue that you should share it for historical and social context even if you’re not a believer.

Without the Bible headlines and news stories, this past year would be doubly confusing since we have frequently pondered the apocalypse and news folks often use the word “biblical” to describe events. A case in point is the report today from The Atlantic Wire that reads, “As if we hadn't already seen enough Biblical events this year, a plague of over 30 million locusts swarmed over Egypt's cities and farms just three weeks before Passover begins.”

It adds, “But put your apocalyptic fears to rest. This happens every year as part of the locusts' natural migration pattern, though this year's swarm is especially large. That doesn't mean Egyptians aren't freaked the heck out by millions of nasty bugs buzzing through the air at all hours of day and night, possibly descending upon the agriculture fields where they're known to destroy entire crops, just like in the actual Passover story.”

My father was Jewish and my mother Roman Catholic, yet both read the same biblical highlight stories we see in the new mini-series. Despite their religious differences, they each agreed on what stories are child-friendly: the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, David and Goliath, Passover (which scared the daylights out of me as the first born in my family), Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah’s Ark, Moses and the plagues on Egypt/the Ten Commandments, and selections from the New Testament, which included the birth of Jesus and the Easter stories.

However, when a parent reads a Bible story to a child, the parent frequently simplifies the language and finds a lesson in the story being read.

The History Channel series created by Mark Burnett and his wife, "Touched By An Angel" star Roma Downey, appears to have gone for the ratings with graphic blood-and-gorey smiting, special effects, and black and red clad “angels” that bear more of a resemblance to the Vulturi clan of vampires in the "Twilight" films than anything I ever pictured as a child.

In the Hollywood Reporter review of "The Bible" miniseries the critic writes, “Sometimes it stays true to scripture, but then does things like adds angels with ninja skills to spice things up. That's one thing the Bible itself really doesn't need — it's a complex and lyrical work full of prophecies and call-backs and a sense of being one, organic, intertwined story. Unfortunately, "The Bible" is fractious and overwrought.”

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My concern is that I don’t want my child to be “overwrought” by the History Channel’s sensational book to movie adaptation of what is often referred to as “the greatest story ever told.”

Perhaps that’s the parenting answer to this incarnation of biblical tales: Avoid the History Channel version and go right on telling them to your kids.

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