When Burnett and his wife -- both devout Christians -- approached History Channel with their blockbuster-budget labor of love, they struck a deal to include a group of fundamentally conservative religious advisors to serve as an interfaith panel of experts.
"We weren't qualified to teach the Bible, but we knew plenty of people who were," said Burnett.
The group assembled included pastors Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, Bishop Michael Sheridan, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly and Reverend Samuel Rodriguez.
To really get at the heart of Jesus' parables of love and acceptance, the producers felt, they had to drive home the message of fear, intolerance and cruelty in the scriptures. Burnett's rabidly conservative, literalist, commercial and vocally anti-gay team strove to create the most accurate imaginings of the Bible's tales.
Noah's ark, for example, was created using elaborate CGI to fully demonstrate the true scale of the fabled vessel.
"We know the ark measured 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits and its height 30 cubits," Burnett explained. "And we know the archaic cubit was determined as the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. So, about 18 inches. That's absurd, though. The ark never could have contained its cargo at those dimensions. Given that races of giants and 700-year-old humans still existed during the antediluvial epochs, we conducted a great deal of historical research to more or less arrive at the average person's forearm being about eight feet long. That would then justify the capacity of the ship."
The first concept sketches of Satan were admittedly different as well, the team revealed.
"We wanted to show Satan as a creature of sin and deceit and corruption," Osteen said. "Something despicable and reviled. A pariah. Our first thought was that he should be gay."
The original Satan was envisioned as a poncy male go-go dancer attired in drag. A renowned Brazilian fashion designer who specializes in making costumes for Rio's annual Carnival was hired.
"But then we learned over half the workers on the crew were homosexual, so we scrapped that idea," Osteen added.
Actor Mel Gibson also auditioned for the part of The Prince of Darkness, offering his own interpretation.
"Mel showed up in Orthodox Jewish attire. Yarmulke, big hat, black robes, prayer shawl, chest-length beard and a bloody axe for some reason -- the whole shebang," Burnett recalled. "Even though the Jews murdered our Savior, from my experiences working in Hollywood, I knew the production would be shelved immediately if we had continued in that direction."
The interfaith consultants then spent another three months performing collaborative theological studies until ultimately arriving at the decision to cast Satan as a black man.
"You know, the answer was right in front of us the entire time," Osteen told reporters. "The Lord works in mysterious ways, it's true. But we're very confident with our final selection. The evidence has been overwhelming throughout Earth's 6,000 year history. Islamic terrorists have plagued and attacked Christian civilizations since The Crusades. Then there's demon worship in places like Barbados, and voodoo in Haiti. The unsavory and often violent pagan practices in the tribal recesses of Africa, the Dark Continent, offer further proof. In the end, it's difficult to picture a better adversary for the wholesome, blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus than a swarthy black man. The fact that the actor may bear a passing or even striking resemblance to our president is coincidental. I mean, they all look alike."
2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.