The Bible – A History on Channel 4: Ann Widdecombe on the Ten Commandments

Traditionally Sunday telly has succumb to the paltry existence of accommodating religious programmes on the Beeb, tacky family films clogging up most of Five’s schedule and soap omnibuses all round. It’s a depressing day to be blanking out in front of the googlebox especially for those people who suddenly realise after two hours of Coronation Street that the weekend has evaporated into the ether and they’re back in work the next morning. It’s best to spend the time doing something more worthwhile.

But if on the off chance there’s nothing else to do make sure you avoid any show that boasts Ann Widdecombe as host, it might just be the bleakest downer to mark the closure of the weekend. The Conservative MP puts forward her viewpoint of the core Christian text in The Bible: A History, with her focus on the importance of the Ten Commandments and why they should be re-introduced.

Realistically though it’s mainly an excuse for a despondent old gasbag to bemoan modern society and the people in it for living a life they choose rather than following the rules and teaching of an ancient book. These arguments are brought up every generation, as referenced in this documentary, and are best kept to the pages of the Daily Mail for its closed minded readers.

Ann Widdecombe on the Ten Commandments

Widdecombe leads to this point with the familiar story of Moses and how he came to write down the ten basic rules passed to him by God. That’s according to the Bible of course. This is where Widdecombe’s commentary on The Bible: A History starts to unravel as she speaks about the Old Testament as if it’s fact and happened as it was written (all contradictions intact).

Her blinkered viewpoint and reluctance to accept other opinions is infuriating. When a scholar suggests that her research and lack of archaeological remains shows that Moses didn’t write sections of the Bible Widdecombe is personally offended and asks sarcastic questions alluding to Moses not existing. The scholar can’t be certain, and Widdecombe smugly declares her victory against a sceptic.

 

Of course nobody knows for sure, the point of history is to find evidence of what happened in the past and not just go along with one manuscript because it agrees with your opinion. It still doesn’t stop her moralising after hearing a mother’s harrowing tale of aiding her son suicide due to his suffering with Huntington’s disease, using it as an example of how killing could be made legal. It’s not quite as simple as that, and thankfully she does acknowledge the complications of the situation to some extent.

Ann Widdecombe vs Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens

Science be praised for Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens popping in for a quick chin wag – to put it lightly – following a public debate on religion. Both put forward rational thoughts on biblical teachings, not saying that the basic principles of the Commandments are absurd but taking the Bible as a whole without picking out the best bits is ridiculous. Hitchens becomes so enraged by Widdecombe’s pompous attitude that he walks out.

Admittedly this has no more been a review than what could be viewed as a personal attack on Ann Widdecombe but it’s hard to take anyone seriously who seems adamant to push their lifestyle on others. The series as a whole is a good idea if it does represent all sides of the discussion on Christianity, not merely acting a soapbox for one parliamentarian who wishes mankind to be dragged back to an era where understanding of the world was very basic and slavery, as Fry points out, was fine and dandy.

There is a problem with violence and frivolous spending at the moment but oppressive laws backed by religion are not the answer. If 3,000 year old rules suit your way of life that’s fine, don’t think it’s okay to thrust them upon everyone else. Where’s Richard Dawkins when you need him?