Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — The publication of my diatribe against what appears to be a cycle of Christian cinema on Cuba’s public television has prompted a good debate on several Internet sites. In this one, commentators have referred to the film Ben Hur. Without any reservations, I want to say that I saw and enjoyed it thoroughly, and I would never fret over its connection to Judeo-Christian religion. Other films have presented us with more or less free versions of beings from Greek and Scandinavian mythology and I have enjoyed them just as much.
The film about Noah’s Ark, starring Russell Crowe, was the epicenter of my criticisms. Had it been shown as part of a different kind of television programming – as part of an adventure film series, or a catastrophe film series, or films featuring Russell Crowe – I could have watched it with other eyes, without giving it the connotation I did. Nor would I have objected to including it in a cycle of films dealing with different religions, where it could well have represented Christianity.
It could have been handled marvelously as a cultural product, with its merits and defects, which a film critic could point out far better than I could. What I find objectionable, from every conceivable point of view, is that a group of people should favor a religious doctrine by manipulating the mass media in a presumably secular State.
As I write this, another Catholic ceremony, related to the Caridad del Cobre Virgin of Charity, is being broadcasted on television. The acknowledgement of this figure in the high echelons of the Church is of great significance for many people in our country. It would be fair and entirely pertinent to cover ceremonies of such importance through an informative piece.
I also would not object to seeing the Church employ its own means to divulge the mass celebrated for the occasion in its entirety. But I would expect rational practitioners of the religion to understand that the State should not surrender a space for public persuasion as strategic as public television.
This public space does not even belong to the State, that abstract entity, or the group of bureaucrats that make up the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT). It belongs to all citizens, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Abakua, Yoruba, New Age, Jewish, Muslim and atheist, who share a roof in Cuba.
I could perhaps understand a certain degree of compromise and raise no objections to the broadcasting of a Christmas mass, if days later the Yoruba Letter of the Year ceremony is also broadcast. But we should also not neglect other specific activities that may be requested by different religious groups – and also atheists – in an organized manner. This way, sharing the public sphere, we can exorcise the specter of intolerance that has caused us so much damage.
I am expressing a conviction that is shared by many others. Trampling on the secular and impartial nature of the State and the public media is trampling on the freedoms of all citizens of all creeds.
Such freedoms are curtailed when one religious message is imposed on those who do not want to receive it, through a television broadcaster that people pay for with their taxes and work. It creates an atmosphere of discrimination against other beliefs, making these less visible and devaluating them. Lastly, it undermines the very religious faith it seeks to favor, as the voice that calls on the believer is no longer the inner voice, or that of fellow believers, but of Big Brother, moved by its own, specific interests – interests that, as we know from censored history textbooks, ought not to be trusted.