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An evangelical father and church leader recently told me that his "must see TV" includes the news shows and weighty fare one would expect from an informed and discerning Christian. "And when no one is looking," he said, "I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He's not alone.

While never attracting a viewership comparable to Friends or other big network draws, Buffy has become a runaway cultural phenomenon. An aggressively loyal following discusses each episode online, debates future storylines, and buys merchandise from jewelry to action figures.

Buffy, which starts its seventh season Tuesday, has also crossed into mainstream influence and become a household name. (It's so ingrained into culture that earlier this year a chairman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies released a paper on terrorism called "Biological Warfare and the Buffy Paradigm.")

The teens and 20-somethings who watch the show say they do because it's well made and relevant to their lives. The show provides compelling stories with deeper meaning. They want top-notch entertainment but they also want to connect. Buffy takes their lives and struggles seriously. In addition, they are attracted to a world where, supernaturally, there's more than meets the eye.

Still, stigmas attached to the UPN show are enough to make any self-respecting adult hesitant to admit watching it. The silly name, the network (home of pro wrestling), and the fact that its about vampires can be hard to get past. But for Christians, there are added obstacles.

Last month the Parents Television Council (PTC) called Buffythe least family-friendly show on TV. This is nothing new. It was ranked third on last year's "worst" list, and other Christian parent groups often caution against ...

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