Jesus Christ, Video Star by Adam Butler (May 1998)

We didn’t want Jesus, but that didn’t stop Him. And we weren’t the only ones. With the speed of a forest fire and the cunning of a deadly plague, Jesus has spread all over Alabama, infesting over 1.7 million homes. And your state might be next. It all happened just a few weeks ago . . .

Let’s imagine that Dr. Bob Cosby, a retired physician and evangelical Christian, sat back in his chair, exhausted from a long day of converting heathens. His organization, the Jesus Video Project of Alabama, had almost raised enough money and was finally seeing its plans come to fruition. Bob smiled and closed his eyes, anxious for the moment that his dreams would become a reality and everyone in the Heart of Dixie would be a member of the One True Faith. He was unable to hold back his tears as he imagined the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, Methodists, and Catholics of Alabama sloughing off their heretical ways and joining in a beautifully nondiverse, unoriginal song of subordination, self-denial, and religious dogma. Remembering that Southern Baptists have yet to saint anyone, Cosby wondered if he would be the first to receive that recognition. He popped in the latest Marilyn Manson CD and slowly drifted off to sleep.

It was understandably easy for Dr. Cosby to sleep; he lived in a nice warm house and has eaten three healthy meals a day since before he can remember. Unsusceptible to the dangers of homelessness, it was easy for him to forget the people who sleep in cardboard boxes, under newspaper blankets, or on steam vents. Prevented by his religion from worrying about the physical world, Dr. Cosby seemed immune to the problems of humanity, save its need for “salvation.” Thus it was very easy for him to sleep, knowing that his organization just wasted $5.5 million to send every house in Alabama a video about the life of Jesus.

Which is more important: people or their religion? To the Jesus Video Project, the answer is clear. Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, eradicating the diseases that kill our friends and family–all of these things take a back seat to proselytism. Individual lives are unimportant until the very last nonChristian converts. Only then can one begin to worry about human beings instead of souls.

But have no fear, gentle reader; this grotesque waste did not go unnoticed by Alabama’s freethought community. In an attempt to bring light to its nonsensical motives, the Alabama Freethought Association publicly criticized the video distribution. Our argument was simple: the purpose of the project was to convert Alabama, but the majority of Alabamians were already Christian! If one placed them aside, as well as the hundreds of individuals who didn’t own VCR’s and the thousands who will dismiss the video as “junk mail” and trash it without even a second glance, one was left with the Video Project’s target: a handful of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and freethinkers who, despite the past endeavors of similar nearsighted religious programs, were probably quite content with their personal philosophical outlook.

Nevertheless, these were the poor unsaved souls that the project aimed at “saving.” I suppose the JVP believed most or all of these people would convert upon hearing the story of Jesus–but let’s be honest. Has anyone in Alabama not heard the story of Jesus? Whether they are Christian or not, I imagine very few individuals have escaped hearing the legends surrounding Jesus’ birth, life, and death. And I would be very surprised to find anyone who did not already know the myth of Jesus’ resurrection and his supposed “message” to us humans. But for one reason or another, a small group of Alabama residents didn’t bite when they heard the myth for the first time. So what makes the JVP believe that the VHS version of the story will do what the Bible could not? I can’t help but remember a few lines Judas sang in Jesus Christ Superstar:

“You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned

“Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?

“If you’d come today you would have reached a whole nation

“Israel 4 BC had no mass communication.”

Who knows? Perhaps Judas was right. (Now let’s hear the Southern Baptist Convention admit that!)

As astounding as it might sound, the Jesus Video Project ignored our comments and continued as scheduled, mailing every house, apartment, and dorm room in Alabama a video whose pathetic special effects were only overshadowed by the awful performance of its actors. The video, which was originally produced in 1979, is distributed by the Kampus Krusade for Khrist and at least settles one thing: those of you who supported Beta videocassettes and laserdiscs were way off base. VHS is God’s chosen format.

It didn’t take long for the Alabama Freethought Association to respond. Promising to “recycle” the videotapes and donate them to local nonevangelical charities (such as public schools and AIDS outreach programs), we established drop-off points all over the state and publicized our “Hands that Help” campaign (named after Ingersoll’s famous quote, “The hands that help are better far than lips that pray”). Condemning the act, Dr. Cosby responded to our project by comparing it to “turning in your Bible for recycled paper.” Despite Cosby’s request that people donate unwanted videos to area churches, the Alabama Freethought Association’s video count is already in the hundreds with no sign of slowing down.

But the plague doesn’t stop here. Said Dr. Cosby, “Of course, our dream is to one day convert the world.” The National Jesus Video Project appears to be pleased with what they have seen, and they plan to expand the project nationwide. Perhaps your state is next. And don’t expect it to only cost a measly $5.5 million, either. States like Texas, New York, and California have larger populations that will demand more videos and postage than little old Alabama.

Once again, freethinkers must rally against the soldiers of ignorance. Let the Jesus Video Project know what you think! Tell them the welfare of human beings is more important than their religious beliefs. Tell them to start saving people instead of souls. Tell them all of this and hurry, because Jesus is coming and he costs a fortune.

Foundation activist Adam Butler is a college student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he directs a freethought student group and works with the Alabama Freethought Association, a Foundation chapter.

Freedom From Religion Foundation