BBC defends Eastenders’ controversial Christian plot

The BBC has been forced to deny that a plot involving a pastor in Eastenders is “anti-Christian”.

Lucas Johnson, played by actor Don Gilet, is a Pentecostal pastor with an obsession with Scripture who has already murdered a love rival and is abusive towards his wife.

The BBC admitted it had received complaints from viewers who feel the current storyline is offensive to Christians.

In a statement the BBC said Lucas was “certainly not intended to be representative of Christians”.

“He is a very damaged and dangerous individual who has created a twisted version of the Christian 'faith' in his mind to hide behind and to convince himself that his actions are acceptable. As the story unfolds, we will see other characters questioning Lucas' claim to be a Christian.

“As Lucas has become increasingly unhinged, his obsession and reliance on the Bible and the scriptures has become increasingly frantic and desperate. This represents this character's emotional breakdown, and it is very clear that this is absolutely not normal behaviour.

“In episodes yet to broadcast, we will see the characters Grace, Mercy and Dot - all three of whom are Christians - question and discuss Lucas' frame of mind.”

The Christian Institute said the plot was “anti-Christian”.

The BBC and other terrestrial channels has been accused in recent years of marginalising Christianity and portraying it in a negative light, while the programming for other faiths has been positive.

Last year, Christians fought to defend the purely religious character of the popular Thought for the Day slot on Radio 4 when it was suggested by humanists that the BBC open up the programme to non-religious speakers.

At its General Synod in February, the Church of England called upon the BBC not to cut its religious broadcasting and expressed its “deep concern” at the number of hours being given to religious programmes by not only the BBC but all of the terrestrial channels.

Synod member and former BBC Radio Cumbria producer Nigel Holmes said that the BBC “seldom” showed worship on TV and that it suffered from a “lack of innovation combined with marginalised scheduling” when it came to religious content.

At Easter, the BBC’s head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, admitted that TV programming for Easter 2009 “could have been better” and that the BBC had “listened” to complaints, but defended the number of hours on the BBC dedicated to religious programming.

“This year there are 164 hours of religious programming,” he said. “If you look at the broader broadcasting ecology what’s happening on ITV Channel 5 Channel 4 everyone is turning their backs on religion and the BBC isn’t doing that and the programming goes out on prime time.”