In mid-February, NBC's Saturday Night Live aired a video short promoting a fictional film titled "Djesus Uncrossed." The sketch was a loving, over-the-top spoof of several Quentin Tarantino works, including his 2012 Oscar-nominated revenge film, Django Unchained. SNL host Christoph Waltz (who won Best Supporting Actor at the 85th Academy Awards for his role in Django Unchained) plays a resurrected Jesus of Nazareth, who goes on a blood-soaked rampage against his Roman oppressors.
Here's the sketch:
And here's a screenshot of Waltz in character:
"No more Mr. Nice Jesus," says Jesus.
This is just the latest satire in which the son of God is portrayed as a righteous ass-kicker doling out death and justice. For example, the Comedy Central animated series South Park has armed Jesus. Fox's Family Guy has depicted the savior in his underwear flying through the air with both barrels blazing John Woo-style, with Chris Tucker as his sidekick.
Predictably, SNL's Jesus-Christ-as-revenge-killer video didn't go over well with some—and certain advertisers with NBC supposedly took notice, under pressure from religious conservatives. Offended viewers (and people who just heard about the video) also took to Facebook and Twitter to demand that companies advertising with NBC pull the plug on commercials airing during SNL. The American Family Association, a Mississippi-based Christian-values group, led the charge, and this week they declared victory: On Tuesday, AFA blasted out a press release that JC Penney and Sears, two of America's biggest and oldest retailers, had dumped SNL. AFA took credit for this supposed win in the culture war: "We applaud Sears and JCPenney for their wise action to stop funding damaging material such as the skit that mocked our Lord Jesus Christ on Saturday Night Live, and we encourage our constituents to thank these retailers as well," AFA president Tim Wildmon declared in the statement. (The statement includes a note sent to AFA by a Sears representative stating that "[g]oing forward our ads will not run in this form again around SNL.")
"This whole concept of using a weapon for self-defense is rooted in the teaching of Christ," AFA's spokesman said, defending gun rights.
Coverage by multiple news outlets bought into AFA's supposed victory. Yet, despite the organization's claims, representatives of both retailers have stated that their companies aren't really pulling advertisement from the NBC comedy program. In an email to the Huffington Post, the director of corporate public relations for Sears clarified that the retailer would not be featuring any more ads on online versions of the Christoph Waltz-hosted episode. "While going forward we may advertise on the broadcast, we've taken steps to ensure that our commercials do not air online exactly as they did in this situation," the email read. (Sears also noted that their ads did not run during the episode's initial television broadcast.) JC Penney sent a letter to HuffPost with a nearly identical statement. Meanwhile, an unnamed source told E! News that "[n]either company has contacted the network [about pulling their ads]" from TV broadcasts. (NBC did not respond to Mother Jones's requests for comment.)
In statements sent to Mother Jones, AFA continued to claim that JC Penney and Sears have seen the light, and that it's all thanks to AFA and its supporters: "These retailers' actions were a result of AFA and our supporters and radio listeners," Wildmon stated. "We have not been able to find any other groups that asked them to remove their ads. The actions of both Sears and JCPenney speak for themselves as they have removed ads from SNL, online and/or broadcast."
The American Family Association regularly devotes its time to railing against what it deems indecent or "blasphemous" popular television. AFA's radio broadcasts typically focus on subjects like how science says homosexuality is bad for your health. And this "DJesus" episode is hardly the group's first run-in with JC Penney and Sears: In early 2012, their "One Million Moms" project campaigned fiercely to try to get JC Penney to drop comedian Ellen DeGeneres as their spokeswoman due to her conspicuous gayness. AFA has attacked Sears for promoting bestiality, zoophilia, and "explicit nudity."
AFA's most visible spokesman is Bryan Fischer, one of the group's leaders. He is known for his radio segments and his bomb-throwing on Twitter. During one radio broadcast last year in which he defended gun rights, Fischer insisted that "this whole concept of using a weapon for self-defense is rooted in the teaching of Christ...Our Second Amendment is rooted in the teaching of Jesus Christ." He also said during the show that Jesus warned his disciples that they may soon have to defend themselves with "lethal force."
Now, what might that look like?