Its a programme about the role of Christianity on anti-semitism: the Jews, we are told were persecuted and murdered throughout the middle ages and beyond because they killed Jesus. The programme explores the responsibility of Christianity for the ill-treatment of Jews.
Of course, the fact that Jews could be persecuted or killed in the name of Jesus is very disturbing for anyone with any kind of sensitivity. It really is a shame that Christianity could not have more universally deplored the treatment of Jews as another example of scapegoating, on a par with the scapegoating of Jesus.
On the other hand, I have long been convinced that ideology (whether Christian or not) simply doesn't have that much power to control people's behaviour. I'm not saying that we are not influenced by our faith position - of course we are, but we also shape that faith position. I'm pretty confident that the persecution of any group occurs primarily for social, political and economic reasons, and ideologies are shaped to support what people want to do, rather than the other way around.
Anyway, on to the programme. It has, of course, all the typical hype of religious broadcasting - pretty conventional ideas (like Jesus was a Jew or baptism was originally a Jewish rite) are heralded as though they were groundbreaking new discoveries! I like its desire to restore Jesus to his original Jewishness. The programme asks:
"How does it harm a Christian's faith to restore Jesus to the jewish world in which he lived? Jesus never once expressed the intention of starting a new religion. His ambition was to renew Judaism, to reawaken it to its own grandeur, not to abolish it."
It was pretty poor, though, in its presentation of Paul. It presented now discredited scholarship as though it were accepted fact. Paul we are told was anti-Jewish. No quotes or evidence were given and I presume the TV makers weren't thinking about "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile we are all one in Christ Jesus". It is now commonly accepted that Paul wasn't critical of Jew per se (in Romans, for example), but Judaizers (Jewish Christians who claimed Gentile Christians should be circumcised etc). Paul was as thoroughly Jewish as Jesus was, and like Jesus, was not trying to start a new religion, but seeing the true expansion of Judaism to the whole world. Christianity wasn't a religion at all until some time after Paul's death.
Hints at animosity to some Jews is evident in the New Testament - I don't deny that. Post 70AD texts were written just as Judaism was throwing Christians out of the synagogue. But anti-semitism itself is a creation of the Middle Ages and served the political and social agenda of the middle ages.
Will Christianity, I wonder, ever recover its tarnished image or forever be seen as the tool of oppression? I wonder if Channel 4 will show the other side of Christianity - the way it has been a tool for liberation and equality as much as oppression. What can Christians do today to present an alternative vision of what Christianity is all about?
The programme can still be watched here.