30 Days – Part 1 of 2

30 Days is a show on the FX network hosted by Morgan Spurlock from Supersize Me. The premise is that one person lives ouside his/her comfort zone for a month to see what happens. Previously, for example, a straight guy (and homophobe) lived with a gay guy and a devout Christian lived with a Muslim family.

It’s like Wife Swap. But good. And much more serious.

This Wednesday at 10:00 (EST), the episode will feature an atheist living with a conservative Christian family. The description on the show’s website states:

Brenda grew up in Topeka, Kansas, where she was raised as a member of the United Methodist Church and attended services every Sunday with her family. She has been an atheist for more than 20 years and feels that this country is opporessive and discriminatory towards atheists. Brenda holds several degrees, including a Ph.D. in psychology and previously worked as a counselor.

Brenda and her husband Mark, who have been married for 20 years, are raising their 4 children as free thinkers. For 30 Days, Brenda will live with Scott and Tracy Shores of Frisco, Texas, who have three children and are expecting another. The Shores are evangelical Christians and attend the McKinney Fellowship Bible Church. They pray everyday and host a weekly bible study in their home. While with the Shores, Brenda will attend their church, take part in their bible studies and introduce them to a group of local atheists in Frisco.

Brenda hopes that her participation in 30 Days will provoke discussion surrounding what she believes to be prejudice that she, her family and other atheists experience because of their chosen lack of religion. Her last name is not used to protect her privacy.

I had the opportunity to meet Brenda, the atheist in question, a few months ago at the Secular Student Alliance convention and I am hopeful they will showcase her and her family in a positive light (on a side note, her kids are adorably cute). Something similar happed on Wife Swap last year when an atheist and Christian wife traded places. The atheists’ portrayal on that show wasn’t the most wonderful image booster ever seen.

Then again, it is strange to see the show sending an atheist to live with a Christian family. As someone on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board said, that’s like sending a gay guy to live with a straight family. The person already knows that world. Maybe it should’ve been the other way around.

But the show’s taped and done.  Should be interesting either way!

[tags]30 Days, Morgan Spurlock, atheist, Christian, Supersize Me, Kansas, Internet Infidels, IIDB[/tags]

  • jim

    be sure and keep Helen and I updated on feedback on this show

  • Karen

    Interesting! Thanks for the heads-up. I am looking forward to the show and to your friend’s take on how the participants felt about it.

    As always, these shows are edited for maximum drama, which means conflict and emotion, and I think often the “true picture” of what happened doesn’t necessarily get conveyed. Anyway, for Brenda’s sake, I hope she (and her hosts) get portrayed fairly.

    I wonder if Spurlock tried to find a Christian to go into an atheist household and didn’t get any takers? Because yes, it does make more sense for the atheists to host – since their world view is certainly lesser known. And I have a feeling that many/most FE Christians would feel that they’d be risking putting themselves “under Satanic oppression” if they lived with atheists for a full month.

  • Siamang

    I disagree.

    I think this set up makes more sense from a purely television aspect.

    Atheists don’t DO anything.

    Christians go to church, go to bible study, go to choir practice, go on missions, etc.

    So just a better visual for a television show.

    If a christian stayed in an atheist household, what would happen? They could just be sitting on the couch quietly reading their bible while the atheists play scrabble or monopoly, or watch a couple episodes of “House” on TiVo.

    This is better tv.

  • Siamang

    Following up… (wish this had an edit ability!)

    Sermons, singing, music, lots of people in a church, people praying, getting baptized…

    Plus the change of scenery. Some scenes are in the house, some in the church, some at choir practice in the church music room. The ability to edit a scene to church organ music… Amazing Grace… Jesus is Just Alright With Me…

    It just makes for better television.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Besides making for better television, I think it’s about time Spurlock did a show where a “progressive” person is immersed in a “conservative” environment. So far it’s always been conservatives having to learn to open their minds to more progressive views. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a progressive myself, but I’ve still felt like the shows were pretty one-sided: the conservatives get stereotyped while the other side is shown in real-life detail.

    Unfortunately it seems (from the previews at least) that this episode is still not so much about the atheist learning to see things from the Christian point of view as it is about the Christians learning how to accept an atheist. That is not a bad thing at all, of course, but it’s still rather different than the premise of the other shows where the immersed person will hopefully learn to appreciate the foreign culture they’ve been immersed in.

    But as for the assumption that the atheist is already familiar with the Christian culture, is that necessarily the case? Wasn’t the whole point of your experiment, Hemant, to find out what you might be missing in regards to Christianity? And are all atheists necessarily ex-Christians? I work with a girl right now who was raised her whole life as an atheist and says that she’s never bothered to investigate any religions. She might be someone who’d benefit from being immersed in a religious environment for a month, just to expand her horizons a bit.

    Peace,

    Mike

  • http://www.friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Mike– I know what you’re saying about atheists not necessarily coming from Christian backgrounds. The point I was trying to make was that even those from non-religious families usually do have an idea what Christianity is all about. We see it so many places (preachers on TV, Christian friends, the Simpsons, etc.)

    It might have been vague, but I did know a little about the Christian world. My experiment was to see if the churches offered anything I hadn’t expected or considered. Which is more in depth than I think 30 Days will go.

    I’m curious what the girl you work with knows about Christianity. Surely she has some idea of what it’s all about. I agree she’d learn a lot from immersing herself in the culture, but I’m curious what she’d find that she didn’t know about.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Hemant,

    As soon as I saw the previews for this episode, my first response was “They stole Hemant’s idea!” :) But what I like about your experiment over theirs is that you got to see a wide diversity of Christian expressions.

    As for how much the girl I work with knows… I really can’t say. I haven’t wanted to be too pushy about bringing up religious topics with her since she didn’t really seem interested in talking about them.

    -Mike

  • Karen

    I disagree.

    I think this set up makes more sense from a purely television aspect.

    Atheists don’t DO anything.

    Christians go to church, go to bible study, go to choir practice, go on missions, etc.

    Well, some atheists don’t do anything. But the woman that Hemant met at a conference obviously is in more “active atheist” mode, so I imagine maybe she goes to atheist group meetings or humanist society functions, etc. An atheist family might also attend a UU church, or participate in church-state separation activities, belong to Atheists United, attend skeptics lectures, etc.

    So, for dramatic impact, they couldn’t pick a “do-nothing” atheist family, they’d have to choose differently. But since the participant was a regular churchgoer as a young person, just going to church won’t present a huge culture shock for her. Unless her hosts belong to an extremely “out there” church.

    I guess we’ll see tonight! ;-)

  • Siamang

    I agree! I’m excited. I hope it’s not a disappointment.

  • Eliza

    Start making the popcorn!

    (Good for Brenda. I think I would have popped a gut if I’d been put in the home of an evangelical Christian family for a month. They would have kicked me out of their weekly Bible study, that’s for sure! ;) )

  • Emily

    I saw the show tonight! I thought it was great. They portrayed both sides fairly, I thought. I really LOVED Brenda. She is so gentle – she says everything I’d want to say, the way I wish I could say it. (In real life I’d be rolling my eyes uncontrollably…)

    Did anyone else notice the phrasing of some of the Christians’ questions?
    Like, “Would you accept that Jesus is the son of God….”
    or
    “What did Christ ever do to you?”

    I thought this was interesting because a long time ago, I noticed something. Most Christians do not really *believe* in atheists. They believe that deep down, atheists believe in God…but are denying his existence for some reason….spite, maybe. The phrasing of some of the questions Brenda was asked gave this away.

    I can understand it in a way….because I often think, “But….deep down they know it’s all B.S., don’t they?”

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » 30 Days - Part 2 of 2

  • Siamang

    What happened to the part two post?

    It was on before… was it pulled?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Part two needed a couple edits that I’m unable to do, so it is pulled for now. It’ll be back soon. :)

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » 30 Days - Part 2 of 2 and more…


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