Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, said the BBC programme, The Mystery of Mary Magdalene , presented by Melvyn Bragg would be hugely offensive to devout Christians because it amounted to the sexualisation of Christ .
He said it was all the more upsetting because it is being screened at midday on Good Friday, the moment the Bible says Jesus was put on the cross.
Lord Bragg, who describes himself as no longer a believer , argues that Mary's close relationship with Jesus was effectively airbrushed out of the accepted Biblical account by misogynist Romans. He points to a series of ancient writings
known as the Gnostic Gospels which were not included in the agreed list of books which became the New Testament. They include references to Mary being kissed on the mouth by Jesus, being his favourite and even, as one passage suggests, his wife.
Nazir-Ali accused the BBC of deliberately causing offense to Christians. He said:
This is going out at 12 o'clock on Good Friday which is exactly the time that Christians are thinking about Christ on the cross, this highly provocative stuff that really encourages a sexualisation of Christ with references to him being kissed on the
mouth by Mary Magdalene and it refers to her being his wife.
I am concerned about the misuses of very obscure Gnostic gospels to impugne the integrity of the Bible.
It is highly provocative in terms of its content for Christians on Good Friday and it attempts to sexualize Christ in the most offensive way.
The campaign group Christian Concern has emailed its supporters urging them to complain to the BBC. Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said:
Noon Good Friday is the precise time Christians are remembering Jesus' crucifixion. To air a programme which questions the purity of Christ is at best insensitive and at worst offensive.
Who is making such bewildering decisions in the BBC's religious programming department?
No doubt Andrea Williams is well aware that the head of BBC religious programming is actually a muslim.
The Daily Mail has served up the usual nonsense about a few nobodies being easily offended by trivial innuendo:
Viewers' fury at explicit Comic Relief sketches aired over an hour before the watershed
Dozens have complained to the BBC after it was aired The sketches included swearing and sexual innuendo Some have vowed not to support the cause again
It was classed as a family night of comedy for charity. But while the BBC's Comic Relief evening raised millions it also prompted complaints after ill-advised sketches containing explicit sexual references were aired more than hour before the 9pm
And the cause of 'dozens of complaints' [24 perhaps!]
At 7.45pm, Rowan Atkinson, playing the Archbishop of Canterbury, told viewers that Jesus said love your neighbours but it doesn't mean shag your neighbours .
A sketch from Call the Midwife followed with a reference to a vajazzle , a type of erotic decoration used by women and popularised in the reality TV show The Only Way is Essex.
Comedian Peter Kay also sat on his arse for the charity event leading to parents complaining that their children started using the term.
John Bishop quipping that Geordies all have rottweillers.
The BBC admitted pulling the repeat of the Archbishop sketch on its iPlayer service following a surge of emails and calls complaining about the offensive language.
Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the commons culture, media and sport select committee, said: I'm pleased the BBC has recognised this was a mistake and whether Ofcom decides to investigate further is a matter up to them.
Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, is assessing complaints before deciding what action to take [And no doubt treat them on their merits and bin them].
The Comic Relief sketch featuring Rowan Atkinson as the Archbishop of Canterbury has drawn about 2,200 complaints to the BBC.
Atkinson - playing a fictional version of the Church leader - compared boyband One Direction to Jesus's disciples. He also claimed praying doesn't work .
Around a quarter of the complaints were specifically about religious offence, with the rest concerned with pre-watershed language.
The sketch has since been removed from the BBC's iPlayer.
The BBC received almost 3,000 complaints in total over the charity fundraising night of programming. Other complaints over the event involved another sketch involving the popular series Call The Midwife.
We've received complaints from some viewers about the suitability of some of the content in this year's Comic Relief, with many complainants singling out sketches by Rowan Atkinson and Call the Midwife.
The BBC's response
Comic Relief night featured seven hours of live television and has become known for pushing at the boundaries of comedy alongside heartfelt appeal films. The team was faced with the difficult challenge of scheduling items so that they appealed to a
varied and wide ranging audience.
Getting the language, tone and content of the evening is therefore extremely important and the team closely monitor all the audience feedback as it comes in.
It was clear from this feedback that the Rowan Atkinson sketch was problematic for a number of different reasons, with many viewers noting the subject matter, the language used and its placing early in the evening. It is clear to us that this sketch did
not translate as we had hoped and as a direct result of viewer feedback we took a swift decision to remove this from BBC iPlayer.
With the Call the Midwife sketch we hoped viewers would appreciate the mix of different genres, comedy styles, (Miranda) and time travel (Doctor Who), and that it would be clear how absurd the sketch was - with the Midwife characters trying to attend to
a couple in a modern-day hospital setting.
We would now like to take this opportunity to say that we are sorry that any of the above offended our viewers. This year the programme was watched by a peak audience of 12.2m and raised a record total of over £75m, and the very last thing we wanted was
to take away from all of the hard work everyone put in. We will bear these issues in mind for all future events.
It has been played in full thousands of times over 30 years without causing a fuss.
But Elvis Costello's hit song Oliver's Army was censored to remove the word 'nigger' when it was recently played on a BBC digital station to the surprise of listeners.
The song, taken from the album Armed Forces , is one of Costello's best-known and has received endless plays across all BBC radio stations without any complaint...until now. The offending lines are:
When you've been on the murder mile
Only takes one itchy trigger
One more widow, one less white nigger
A listener who heard the edited tune on Steve Lamacq's show on 6 Music was prompted to complain to Radio 4's Feedback, stating the word was actually necessary for the song:
I do know the song inside out, as most people probably do, then all of sudden -- clunk- it had the n-word taken out.
The listener said that their understanding of the lyric was that it referred to British troops in Northern Ireland who used the phrase as a derogatory term for the Irish.
Former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read also criticised the decision:
I think cutting a piece out and changing the whole tempo of the music simply draws attention to it. If you don't like the sentiment or you don't agree with the sentiment then don't play it but to take the scissors and cut a bit out of it, I am sure Elvis
Costello might have something to say about that.
Everybody played it, there was no trouble, nobody thought about it and I don't think there were any complaints. It was just slightly post-punk so there had been an awful lot of stuff going down on record that wasn't playable, so this maybe compared to
what had gone before maybe seemed a little tame.
A 6 Music spokescensor said of the decision:
We are guided by our editorial guidelines and production teams use them to make decisions about language in songs on a case by case basis. We take into consideration a number of factors including the nature of the language, the station and its audience,
the time of day, editorial justification and the wider context of the programme.'