Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christians: The Usual Suspects

I don't watch that much TV, but I've seen more hypocritical, abusive and self-righteous Christians on the tube than I've ever met in real life. So it's quite refreshing when someone decides to write a script in which Christians are portrayed as ordinary people. Not perfect, not super-saintly, but ordinary.

A couple of weeks ago The Office aired an episode entitled "Christening" in which two of the main characters have their daughter baptized. I find it interesting that a sitcom would venture into this territory, and that the most unpleasant people at the baptism were the show's other main characters: mostly cynical, snide, and self-centered, they were completely oblivious to the significance of the event being celebrated by their two colleagues. A real a**holier-than-thou attitude, if you will pardon my phraseology. Granted, their behavior was in keeping with their conduct in other episodes, but I am so used to seeing Christians depicted as the villains of the piece that their normality in this episode was remarkable to me.

Snide cynicism was not the only response to religion in the show; one character who admits he and God have "a lot of catching up to do" is shown later facing the altar of the empty church and asking plaintively of the Almighty, "Why d'you always gotta be so mean to me?" Another character is literally carried away by his yearning for the joy and camaraderie he sees among the members of the church's young adult group, but later realizes that, as another colleague pointed out earlier, "Church isn't a party." For a 25 minute sitcom, I thought they packed in some serious thoughts about religion.

The other show where I have lately observed the rare and exotic "Ordinary Christian" is a new program called Blue Bloods, which follows four generations of the Reagan family, several of whose members are or were New York City police officers. I have seen four or five episodes, among which can be found scenes of  characters saying a Catholic grace before meals or pausing to pray in a church.  In one episode ("Smack Attack") the sex abuse scandal is mentioned without the implication that every priest is either a molester or covering up for one. Really, you have to see it to believe it. Mr. B. and I always have a chuckle when a priest has to be questioned on your average cop show: the detectives wander into the church and the Padre comes scurrying out from behind the altar as though he lives there. Blue Bloods is guilty of this visual cliche, but I'm willing to cut them some slack, given how much I've been enjoying the show.  The bad guy hasn't yet turned out to be a Christian fundamentalist working for Big Oil, and Tom Selleck lit up a stogie in the second last episode. What's not to like?

Here's hoping for more script writers who are willing to step outside p.c. bounds.

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