Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — Over the past few weeks, several people had mentioned they had seen a film dealing with biblical issues aired on Cuban television’s Sunday movie segment. This past Sunday, I turned on my TV to catch the end of a feature film starring Russel Crowe and dealing with the myth of Noah’s Ark.
Many people complain of what minors are exposed to in certain TV programs that reflect realities they are uncomfortable with. Let us direct such criticisms at this film about the Flood as a mental exercise.
The god of the Old Testament gets angry because the world’s creatures (which He created) have behaved badly. Let us ignore the contradiction or inconsistency that stems from the fact this all-knowing god should gave predicted this turn of events the moment he booted Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. He goes on to administer a (holy?) remedy: the veritable destruction of the entire planet, a flood that sweeps everything in its path, including children, women and old people. The film relies on much sensationalism and visual effects which succeed in conveying the traumatic message that one should not mess around with Jehovah the Exterminator.
Let us carefully go over this matter. It is by no means my intention to engage in an anti-Christian diatribe or anything of the sort here. I do, however, have reasons to be annoyed over the selection criteria used to air this film.
Cuban television is an official, State and public institution for which the government is fully responsible. And the Cuban State is secular, if we’re still to believe the constitution. Articles 8 and 55 of the constitution establish the separation of Church and State, equal rights for all creeds and religions and the freedom Cuban citizens have to profess any or no religion.
In view of this, it is questionable that an official of Cuba’s Radio and Television Institute (ICRT) should choose to broadcast materials that are partial to a specific religious doctrine, during a regular segment. It constitutes a violation of the religious freedom of those people that do not profess that particular creed. Incidentally, it also violates the freedom of those individuals who do profess it (in a less obvious manner), for it contradicts the neutrality that any public, collective or plural space ought to maintain.
I repeat – and will continue to do so for as long as it’s necessary – that I am not moved by any anti-Christian sentiments or a wish to censor religious discourse. I insist that people ought to have full freedom to consume, produce and divulge the religious materials they wish, as individuals or a congregation. Owing to the history of our people and culture, it will nevertheless be quite difficult to censor true works of art that stem from a religious background.
To mention some simple but solid examples: the paintings of saints at museums, the poetry of Saint John of the Cross, Gregorian chants, a sweet ave maria…these are part of a cultural heritage that we treasure, and the fervor it awakens in many of us is something we hope to convey to the new generations.
We should also not discard the possibility that, sometime in the future, some of the religious films and other contemporary artworks become a part of this heritage because of their merits. That said, we should not be too hasty and begin to use regular television segments to air works that are explicitly doctrinaire and which have not yet reached the status of lasting respectability in terms of their ability to awaken human emotion.
I again stress the responsibility of a secular State, which must treat all creeds equally. No one can deny the existence of similar works that are related to beliefs from Cuban religions, the Muslim faith, New Age creeds and others, similarly respectable ones in our country. Are we going to say that, since some have more practitioners than others, they ought to enjoy more rights?
This trend is coupled with those occasions in which State television has decided to broadcast Christian masses during Christmas. This is one way to begin naturalizing the discrimination against other creeds and atheists.
Let us not forget that a religious doctrine commonly conveys a package of moral and ethical concepts that do not wholly agree with those of other doctrines or of people who profess no religion, and that, all too often, these concepts are exalted to the detriment of the spaces and faculties of others. It is our duty as citizens to prevent and oppose this violation of our freedoms and rights.
To conclude, I commend any religious congregation for carrying out their worship and proselytism sincerely, through their own means, even those who look upon me as the most insignificant of beings. But I want the Church out of State television.