1998 NCC News Archives

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Two Television Specials Look at Race in Religion and in Media
Documentaries to Air on Odyssey and Network Affiliates in Fall '98

NEW YORK, May 1, 1998 --- At the close of the 20th century, The National Council of Churches is producing two one-hour documentaries that explore how the church and the media - both pivotal institutions in the conveyance of contemporary values - have reflected the spiritual and cultural diversity of modern American life.

"The millennium is getting a lot of attention these days, but in two years we also will enter another century," said Dave Pomeroy, Director of Electronic Media for the Council. "The National Council of Churches is marking this occasion with two programs that survey the incredible events of the last half of this century that have changed forever how we see ourselves."

Just around the mid-point of this century, in the early 1950s, two events coincided to change irrevocably the nature of community. The first event, the arrival of the television set into most American homes, reframed our perspective of the world. The traditional town square - church, school, town hall and almost invariably all white - was pushed beyond unknown boundaries into the electronic town square of television, commercial films, computer and the Internet with the capacity to reflect a much broader and far more diverse sense of community than most of us lived in. To look at the big picture of how media have shaped our sense of ourselves and others, Race and Media (working title) goes to the big screen to explore how Hollywood values reflect the breadth of American society.

Produced for the NCC by the United Church of Christ, Race and Media delves into the personal visions of those women and men who used film to bridge racial and cultural divides. Through film clippings and interviews with well- known producers, writers and actors, the program uncovers the professional commitment and personal challenges that inspired great works of multi-cultural and multi-racial understanding. For an historical context, Race and Media also uses archival footage to take a retrospective glance at how media have dealt with race over the years. Race and Media then turns to the viewers - the consumers of media images and messages -for the final judgment. In conversations with ordinary folks across the country, Race and Media assesses the capacity of media to transform lives.

Second Program to Air on ABC

The second mid-century watershed event was the 1954 Supreme Court decision - Brown vs. The Board of Education - legislating the immediate end of segregation in American schools. In churches across the country, the decision had a profound and unsettling effect, in essence, calling Christians to task. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which unequivocally demands inclusivity, was being preached almost 2,000 years later in congregations deeply entrenched in racism. The racial chasm in local congregations and national denominations provoked the now infamous description of the 11 AM worship service as "the most segregated hour in America."

The second NCC program, Racism and Reconciliation (working title), examines how several faith communities are coming to terms with the racism in their midst - almost 50 years after the Supreme Court decision. Produced by United Methodist Communications for the NCC, the program tells the stories of people working towards reconciliation where moral actions have lagged far behind legal imperatives. This dissonance was no better exemplified than in the recent church burnings that shocked both the general population and faith communities into the reality of persistent cultural and institutional racism. Some of the stories in this program emanate from the extraordinary outreach to rebuild burned churches and the changes that took place in those communities. Race and Reconciliation also will visit churches where people of many races worship together, sometimes in multi-lingual services, as models of encouragement for other communities. Race and Reconciliation discovers and tells stories of the kind of personal transformation that inspires broader institutional reconciliation.

Race and the Media is the fourth of four programs in the annual Horizons of the Spirit series and will be distributed to ODYSSEY and NBC affiliate stations in September 1998.

Racism and Reconciliation is the first program in the annual Vision and Values series and will be offered to ODYSSEY and ABC affiliates stations in October 1998,

The Horizons of the Spirit and Vision and Values series are presented by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission of which the National Council of Churches is a member along with The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the Southern Baptist Commission, and the United States Catholic Conference. The programs in both series are distributed to ABC and NBC affiliate stations for optional clearance within 60 days of the broadcast. Please check your local

listings for exact time and date in your area.

Contact: Mary Byrne Hoffmann: Tel: (212) 870-2574

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