Glee, Friends, and Ted Kluck’s Spitfire: The Kinds of Christians We Need on TV

Stephen Prothero recently wrote at CNN’s Belief Blog that Christians, like gays, are “coming out” on television.  He refers to the popular show Glee, which features a gay couple, a lesbian couple, a transgender singer, and a “God Squad” of Christians whose sole purpose seems to be to provide Glee creator Ryan Murphy a foil against which to make his arguments.  Prothero applauds the following conversation, which took place on the show, for showing Christians struggling with their faith and talking about the Bible:

Mercedes (Amber Riley) calculates that since “one out of every ten people are gay . . . one of the twelve apostles might have been gay.” Sam (Chord Overstreet) observes that “the Bible says it’s an abomination for a man to lay with another man,” prompting Quinn (Dianna Agron) go ask, “Do you know what else the Bible says is an abomination? Eating lobster, planting different crops in the same field, giving somebody a proud look. Not an abomination? Slavery. Jesus never said anything about gay people. That’s a fact.”

That it’s a theologically illiterate view of the Bible (the old Shellfish Objection is easily dispensed for anyone who has actually studied both sides of the issue), gives no coherent justification for a traditional Christian viewpoint, and never seriously challenges the prevailing assumptions of the show that homosexuality should be embraced and celebrated, does not bother Prothero because he shares Murphy’s point of view on these issues.  Yet, to be honest, if we cannot have the Bible discussed well on television, then I would rather not have it discussed at all.  I don’t really want Ryan Murphy teaching teenagers the Bible.

Glee's "Teen Jesus"

The larger issue this raises, however, is the way in which Christians have been “closeted” on television in the first place.  The great majority of Americans are Christian, and yet you would never know it from American television.  There are some welcome exceptions.  Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle (which features a hilarious youth pastor character) show their families going to church and sometimes discussing their Christian faith.  And on Smash, a gay character convinces his partner to wait on sex and come to church with him — which, although it’s arguably in service to a pro-gay message, is actually a decent plot element, and I certainly want my gay friends to be welcome at churches.  Yet the exceptions are few, and even in the exceptional cases one very, very rarely sees an articulate case made for Christian faith or for a traditionally Christian worldview.

This is not a complaint that we are not proportionally represented.  If that is so, we need to get in the business and make cultural products of such quality that they simply must be shown on television and on movie screens.  So this is not a complaint about the actions of others.  It’s just a question: What is the cumulative effect of all this?

The stories we tell each other matter.  I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the Danish writer Soren Kierkegaard, and early in his career Kierkegaard engaged with “tragedy” and “irony” not merely as literary/dramatic genres but as modes of life.  To take an example from my own childhood, imagine a class of gymnasts sitting on the floor and watching one video after another of an Olympian performing a skill they wished to learn.  By watching it done over and over, by entering into the “story” the video told, you are preparing your mind (and really your body as well) to perform the skill.  In the same way, Kierkegaard and many of the literary theorists of his day believed, when we watch stories unfolding on the stage or read stories in the pages of our books, we are seeing, and imaginatively entering into, practices and habits, attitudes and ways of being that we will subconsciously absorb.

Think of it this way.  The television show Friends showed a group of six men and women living in New York City and, from time to time, confronting serious questions about relationships, marriage, vocation, even death.  For those who watched the show: Do you once recall them turning to God with their questions, or even asking any question about God whatsoever?  I can recall one episode where Phoebe tried to poke holes in Ross’s confidence in evolution, but that’s about it.  Now, expand this out to dozens of television programs, scores, hundreds, where people are facing important, sometimes life-and-death questions, without once asking the ultimate questions about God and afterlife and salvation.  Thousands of characters confronting major life decisions, thousands of times, almost entirely without reference to God.

What is the cumulative effect?  We often talk about the rise of “nones” and the rise of agnostics and atheists and apatheists (people who don’t know and don’t care), and I wonder if the thousands of hours the average American spends watching television — when television is almost entirely scrubbed of references to God or compelling examples of people of faith — has an effect.  I don’t mean to deny other factors, including ones that reflect poorly on Christians themselves.  But to deny that this would have an effect is, I believe, to deny the obvious.  Are we training ourselves–and training our children–to confront life’s questions without reference to God?  When you see a thousand characters confront the question of whom to marry, and not a single one expresses that one should take this question to God, isn’t this sort of putting us through the motions?  Won’t we, like those gymnasts, end up mimicking the people whose performance we have watched and enjoyed over the years?

Which brings me to a book that recently arrived in the mail — Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, an Ex-Con, and an Unlikely Friendship.  Written primarily by Ted Kluck, it tells the story of a Christian writer working alongside an addict ex-con to fix a car and collectively put their lives together.  It’s “Life as a House,” if the house were a car.  It’s a story of discipleship, as Ted mentors the young man, and also a story of how God’s grace brings people out of bondage to sin and into a newfound freedom and truth.  It’s a quick read, written in a wry style (Kluck seems to have attended the Dave Barry Seminar on Comic Footnotes), with a painfully honest look at how one broken Christian “bro” (this may be the most common term in the book) can pour himself into a younger man in need of help — and, in the process, find healing himself.

Why aren’t stories like these told on television?  Rather than having a “Teen Jesus” on Glee to give some faux balance and provide the cue for loaded arguments against traditional Christian viewpoints, why not show a thoroughly traditional (and openly imperfect) Christian like Ted Kluck helping a person put his life back together?  These kinds of stories happen all the time — all the time – and yet I honestly cannot recall ever seeing a story like this on any television program made in the last ten years.   They don’t have to be saccharine, they don’t have to be hit-you-over-the-head rhetorical; they can just be matter-of-fact.  This is what people do.  There’s plenty of comedic potential in there — Kluck certainly mines a lot of it.  He’s written a couple essays online that irritated me, to be honest, and this is not exactly my style of book.  But it shows discipleship and evangelism, being a believer and being the hands and the mouth of Christ, in an honest, searching, nitty-gritty, realistic, funny way.  I appreciate that.

What would television look like if it reflected the American people and the things they believe, value and cherish?  And how can we expect our children to approach life’s major decisions with reference to God and what God has made known, when they have watched thousands of characters confront those same decisions with entirely different criteria in mind?

 

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • Jeremy Forbing

    While I agree with much of the later part of your essay, and I would love to see matter of fact portrayals of Christians acting outside of partisan political contexts in film and television, I have a question about your mention of easy dismissal of the “shellfish objection.” I always thought that while the commonly-used shellfish argument never told the whole story, it did point to the larger fact that the legal code in Leviticus was nailed to the Cross (Colossians 2:14). So I have always thought that the passages in Leviticus should not be cited in the argument about the Biblical view of homosexuality, and that Paul’s writings on the subject, while subject to interpretation, were the ones that were actually applicable to the discussion. Is my understanding less than complete on this one? This is not a criticism, I am honestly inquiring.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You know, Al Mohler is not always my cup of tea, but he does a nice job here addressing some of these issues here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/21/my-take-the-bible-condemns-a-lot-but-heres-why-we-focus-on-homosexuality/

      It’s just a short treatment of it, of course, but an effective summary of a much longer argument. I should probably write something longer on this soon.

      • Kubrick’s Rube
        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I’m sure he did.

          • Ian

            Fred Clark now has a reply to this post as well, here. He’s arguing that you are too quick to dismiss what you’re calling the shellfish argument. In fairness to him, in your post here you dismissed the shellfish argument without providing any counterargument against it (I’m not sure what you’ve written on the subject elsewhere).

            I find his argument plausible. In Acts 10, Peter’s has a vision in which he is commanded to eat animals previously condemned as being unclean. Peter believed that through this vision “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean,” specifically that gentiles, previously deemed unclean people, are free to become Christians. Do you disagree with Peter’s conclusion? It’s hard for me to see what interpretation of Acts 10 would allow one to say that purity laws concerned with people weren’t done away with at the same time as purity laws concerned with food.

            I’m familiar with some ways of replying to the shellfish argument, but they’ve tended to sound like special pleading to me. Would you mind elaborating on your reasons for believing that some but not all of the Torah’s purity laws are still in effect?

          • Ian

            I see you hint at what your reply might be in this comment here. I suppose what I’m looking for is a bit more detail. By what principle do you decide whether a rule remains generally applicable even after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? It seems pretty clear that Peter, Paul and the early Church in general believed that post-resurrection there was no longer anything unclean about gentiles, so clearly there is more than shellfish at stake here.

          • Laertes

            On the surface, Clark’s article seems awfully persuasive. I wonder if you’ve got more to say by way of rebuttal that “I’m sure he did.” I’m ready to be persuaded that Clark’s view is missing some important element. Are you ready to persuade?

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            I try to avoid responding to Fred Clark. I think I may be forced to, however, given my title appearance in a recent post of his.

  • David

    Spot on. But isn’t it painfully obvious that television DOES reflect the things the American people believe, value, and cherish?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      A bit of both, I would say. I think sometimes television is on the leading edge of cultural development, pulling the rest of American culture behind it. And other times it’s just reflecting what’s already out there. So I still think the “average American” would pray and attend religious services and make God’s will a part of their decision-making process a lot more than the average television character. Or maybe it’s better to say that the cultural artifacts emanating from Hollywood reflect that local culture, but that local culture stands in tension with larger cultural groups throughout the country.

      The studios seem to believe that they will turn people off by showing characters of faith, that they cannot depict one faith without offending or alienating the rest. I don’t think that’s really true. If they showed the six “Friends”, for instance, with some religious diversity, well, that would be very true-to-life and actually pretty inclusive.

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com James Williams

    Tim, when I was a kid, watching my favorite shows such as Star Trek, Starsky and Hutch, Lost in Space, etc, I had a similar question to your observation about Friends. In the real world, if I’m a cop of spaceship captain, and I need to catch a crook or meet the challenge of the alien, the first thing I should do is pray. Ask God to help me solve this crime. Ask God to deliver me from that black hole we’re headed for at Warp factor 10. Ask God to turn Lex Luthor’s heart toward Him.

    But TV characters don’t ask God, and in doing so, they are making a powerful theological statement: I’m on my own. I don’t need God. I will solve this problem myself.

    Even as a kid, I realized that this message, compounded over thousands of hours, was bound to have an effect. And it surely has.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Yep, exactly right. Very well put, James.

    • Monimonika

      Just out of curiosity, how would you pray if you were in an emergency situation such as heading at warp factor 10 speed towards a black hole? I’m asking if you would: 1) Pray to God FIRST in order to find a solution to your predicament? 2) Do your praying mentally WHILE(*) also taking responsibility as captain/cop to give much-needed orders to the crew? 3) Wait until AFTER you’ve done all that you’ve possibly can and then pray to God that He’ll make things work out? or 4) something else?
      Secondary question: In what way(s) can any of the above be portrayed in either a positive or neutral light on a TV show?

      (*) I’m of the opinion that this would be kinda distracting.

      • Monimonika

        By portraying on TV, I meant that it should be made clear to the audience that the cop/captain did pray at some point during the crisis, whether it be through body gestures, mental voice-over, a comment, etc.

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com James Williams

    cop of spaceship captain

    should be

    cop or spaceship captain

  • H Beard

    I do appreciate this article, but in the case of the Glee example, I have to say I believe the goal of that exchange in the show was to give hope to teenagers struggling with homosexuality and let them know they aren’t abominations and that not all people will treat them as such, which in my opinion, at the moment, does a much more profound practical good for the American youth culture than a well articulated debate on whether or not homosexuality is biblically a sin. For all intents and purposes, my response to that is, so? So what do you suggest these kids do? You just want them to *know* that they’re inherently wrong somehow? You want them to concede to you that something they can’t help about themselves equals a one way ticket to Hell? You want them to attempt proven harmful attempts to reprogram them to be straight? Or become homophobic and cruel toward other homosexual students as a coping mechanism? Offer me a good, logical, practical reason why it’s so important to defend the point as it applies to young people today and I’ll debate it with you articulately. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and I’m going with the approach that is healing and showing people that they are loved and accepted – which honestly, I think Jesus would have been super down with. I think the Christian faith has SO MANY GREAT things to say – I secretly loved 7th Heaven even though I was raised by an atheist, because it was about people behaving in a way that showed empathy, generosity of spirit, integrity for it’s own sake and the subtle rewards of those behaviors – something I strive for all the time and often have great heartache over seeing the lack of in others and our culture at large. Focus on the positives, the healing messages, the behavior of tolerance and goodness rather than the semantic fights about other people’s personal lives and I believe this person’s complaints will be answered. As Christians, I would ask yourselves: What is more important? Insisting gay people are wrong and controlling people’s sex lives, birth control and parenthood choices or lack thereof, or spreading the word of Jesus’ message of tolerance and love, and introducing people to the path that could provide so much direction, healing and goodheartedness toward their fellow man? Because right now, from the atheist/agnostic side of the camp who is listening pretty hard, I have to admit – I’m hearing a lot of hate and control and not a lot of the latter.

    • tony in san diego

      Thank you for this. These damn Christians sure get upset when someone else is sinning. Get over it. You are surrounded by sinners. You are a sinner. (The generic “you”.) Sin is God’s affair, and not any man’s. Man’s affair is to love his neighbor the same way he love’s himself.
      Hmmmm. perhaps that is the problem….haters do follow that dictum….but they hate themselves, so they hate others the same way.

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        I don’t know a single Christian who has any confusion over the fact that we are all sinners.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You’re projecting a lot of arguments onto me. What I said was, I would like to see thoughtful Christian characters who are capable of representing traditional Christian viewpoints, from hot-button issues like this to major life transitions.

      I have no doubt that the major key must always be proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and love. But I also feel that we’re called to uphold the truth as we know it, and whether I like it or not (I don’t) it appears to me that the truth is that same-sex relationships are not what we were made for. I honestly do wish it were different; it would be much easier not to have to deal with the hate mail.

  • Basil

    Not to be a Glee defender (I’m actually bored with the show), but is it a challenge to Christianity if homosexuality is “embraced and celebrated”? If so, why?

    Personally, I think it is a good and useful thing to show gay kids as normal, with all the same ups and downs as other kids, and I think it is important — especially given the vulnerability of those kids to bullying, social marginalization, and suicide (much of which encouraged by organized religion). If that sort of TV had existed when I was a teen, I think my life would have been a lot clearer at an earlier age, and a lot easier.

    As to the other point of representing religious beliefs on TV — I don’t think that Christian beliefs should be represented in a shallow and stereotypical way (and let’s be honest, most TV is pretty shallow). For a lot of people, religious beliefs are individual and personal. I think it would be very difficult to portray that authentically on TV. Given the incredibly diversity of religious views/experiences, I’m not sure how a TV writer would represent it without seeming to advocate one religious viewpoint over other religious viewpoints.

    That’s my 2 cents. Talk amongst yourselves, I’m vahklempt

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      No, Basil, I don’t disagree with any of that. I would just like to see a conservative Christian character who is actually capable of articulating and defending his beliefs well.

  • cowalker

    I don’t know if Americans who take their religion seriously would be interested in seeing attractive characters practicing a religion other than their own on TV. Would religious Christians want their children to watch shows that featured characters whose Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, pagan or Buddhist religion played a large part in their lives? I can imagine parents belonging to other religions having the same qualms. If you vividly depict a diversity of religious belief, including atheism, using appealing characters, with the “It’s all good” message, aren’t you basically saying, it doesn’t matter which religion you practice, or if you practice none? That seems to be what “Glee” is saying. As an atheist I’m all in favor of that message, but don’t you think that many Americans would hate it? Religious Americans have to be tolerant, but I doubt they’d want to hear that all beliefs are equally good on TV all the time. Ironically, Americans are protecting their belief by banning it from TV.

    Interestingly, the first two shows that come to my mind that have taken religion seriously were science fiction. In the X-Files, Dana Scully reconverted to her Catholic religion, while Mulder was hostile to religion. Conflicting religions and atheism were very important to the narrative in the Battlestar Gallactica series. Perhaps it’s only safe for TV to explore religion in another universe.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I don’t think there would be a strong objection to a show, or shows, that show a picture of religious diversity that basically reflects the American populace, and perhaps some would have an “it’s all good” attitude and others would have a “the differences matter” perspective.

      I know some folks got upset with a recent show that, they thought, gave a one-sidedly positive vision of Muslims in America. They thought the agenda was too strong and dispositive. I say: just represent the diversity, warts and all, and don’t be afraid of religious conversations. I think a lot of the film and television producers would be pleasantly surprised by the response they would get for that kind of approach. The aversion to showing people of faith taking their faith seriously on television is, I think, misguided.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        I don’t think there would be a strong objection to a show, or shows, that show a picture of religious diversity that basically reflects the American populace, and perhaps some would have an “it’s all good” attitude and others would have a “the differences matter” perspective.

        Have you ever watched Community? It does a very good job of representing a religiously diverse group, with the Christian character, Shirley, being the one most identified with her faith. In particular, I’d recommend the Christmas episode from the first season, named “Comparative Religion.”

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I’ve watched it, but only a couple times, and have not caught those dimensions. I’ll check it out. Thanks.

      • Moe

        As a Pagan who was a Pagan through the Satanic Panic in America, I think I should respond to Timothy Dalrymple’s claim that he “( doesn’t) think there would be a strong objection to a show, or shows, that show a picture of religious diversity that basically reflects the American populace, and perhaps some would have an “it’s all good” attitude and others would have a “the differences matter” perspective.”

        Guess again, sir. There are segments of Christianity that not only strongly object to any religion other than their own being portrayed positively but they also go after anything they claim is ” occultic” or ” demonic” such as Harry Potter. Meanwhile these same intolerant people whine about how “anti Christian bigotry” is supposedly so pervasive in the entertainment and news media.

        The notorious ” Gods warrior” mom and her reaction on ” Trading Spouses” showed her irrational fear of being anywhere near a non-Christian. And that fear was fed by those in the Christian community who deride other beliefs.

        Sure, I would love to see TV shows with characters of different faiths being portrayed truthfully and accurately. Wiccans for example are not like “Charmed” or Willow in ” Buffy”. But here is the problem, and I think you understand this. TV is about selling, ratings and about drama, which usually means conflict. Conflict could be adversaries or heroes versus villains. As for the latter, the blame of seeing people in certain faiths as villains comes from BOTH secular and religious shows.

        Wiccans and other Pagas have been portrayed as evil cultists in both secular ad Christian religious programs. For example, I’ve seen way too many Christian books, both fiction and ” nonfiction” that have portrayed non-Christians as the “enemy”. Seems to me if you want Christians to be depicted fairly and honestly, you might want to start by asking Christians to do the same to non-Christians of various types.

        Yes I am all for any TV program to show those of other faiths accurately, honestly and fairly. But the reality is that intolerance and just plain ignorance under the hands of hack writers is what the audience usually gets, not fairness.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Your evidence is the response of some woman on “Trading Spouses”? And, to be clear, was she placed with a pagan? I don’t doubt that there are some Christians who will object to some traditions. So tell me where the Christians were who were objecting to the sympathetic portrayal of a Jewish rabbi in “Keeping the Faith” — or of the atheist scientists in “Contact” or countless other movies like it — or of the Buddhists in Kundun. And yes, Harry Potter is an excellent example of how a series of books or movies cannot be successful if it shows something that some very small fraction of Christians consider occultic — because God knows Harry Potter didn’t make any money, right?

  • cowalker

    You give a lot of credit to American TV audiences! ;D

  • http://www.davidathey.com David A

    Hollywood needs an influx of 10,000 Christian writers that were educated at places like Thomas Aquinas College (CA), Thomas More College (NH) and Palm Beach Atlantic University (FL).

  • Kevin

    Religion or Spirituality is most often found in the sub-text of television. I am surprised you did not mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Six Feet Under, or Lost; all of which were largely coated in Christian overtones.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Of the three, I only watched Lost. I love the show, but it still didn’t exactly show a Christian character articulating and defending Christian beliefs well, much less on an issue like homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

  • Jeff Lintz

    You are correct concerning the effect; a numbing of the national culture as concerns Christian orthodoxy. But the problem isn’t an entertainment one. It’s economics. Christians concerned with the spiritual content of TV shows are less likely to be swayed by commercialism; the “raison d’être” for TV. There is no incentive for shows to respectfully represent orthodox belief. In fact, TV has a decided interest in promoting a culture that creates fiscally irresponsable consumers and seperates targetted demographics from traditional authorities. When Christian households become recognized as a large block of consumers willing to increase a show’s sponsers’ profit margin, then you can bet the content will change. That won’t happen while believers remain faithful stewards of God’s riches. There are other, more gullable, targets. It’s a Catch-22.

  • timothy

    In regards to the shellfish argument, I flatly believe that both you and Mohler are wrong in your interpretation of Peter’s vision in Acts. In fact, Mohler’s interpretation, and apparently yours, is based on saying that the biblical account of the visions and Peter’s interpretation of the visions are wrong.

    Peter realized that the visions were about more than just the foods Christians can eat. It was, in fact, about how we treat others. “What God has made, let no man call impure” applied to Gentiles, to Romans, to tax-collectors, lepers, prostitutes (you know, the type of people Jesus loved), and, yes, it also applies to gays.

    As long as the public face of “christianity” is dominated by the small-souled, hateful and merciless there will be very few sympathetic “Christians”. After all, the judgemdnt we give is the judgement we receive…

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’m not staking my claim on Mohler’s interpretation of Peter’s vision in Acts. That’s only one verse, but there has been, from the very beginning of the church, a distinction made between the elements that were made specifically to and for the people of God entering the promised land and the general moral principles, taught not only in one location but throughout the scripture in the old covenant and the new, that are not rooted in the particularities of one people at one time, but are rooted in the created order and valid for all people in all times. I’m not saying this because I accept your interpretation of Peter’s vision – I find it inconsistent with Peter’s later actions and writings – but because it’s more complicated than a single passage. It seems to me that Genesis is pretty clear about the intention for sexuality and marriage, and that Jesus affirms that intention.

      Because I believe that God created human sexuality for the bonding of male and female, I am small souled, hateful and merciless? Nice. How is it, then, that you’re the one leveling personal insults?

      • timothy

        You, personally, may well be a wonderful person.

        My ‘personal insult’ was clearly directed at a specific subset of ‘chritianity’ rather than any single individual. Your taking it personally probably says more about yourself than it does me.

        As to your statements defending a ‘Christian’s perspective that includes anything other than open-armed acceptance and unconditional love for everyone, all I can say is reread your gospels. I would suggest starting with the sermon on the mount.

        And, before you say it, yes, my responses to you are undoubtedly somewhat hypocritical. I am not showing you the open and unconditional love I talked about. For that, I apologize to both you and Christ.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          You know, I just happen to have read the gospels. And Jesus manages to love people will also illuminating their sin. I see no contradiction between loving someone unconditionally and believing that something that person does is against God’s will. I do it everyday.

          • Arakasi

            Yet you have completely failed to demonstrate that homosexuality is against God’s will

  • Helena Constantine

    If its easily dispensed with, then let’s see you do it. Start with these texts:

    You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.

    The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      One of your mistakes here, Helena, is confusing the concepts of clean/unclean with innocent/sinful. As any Hebrew Bible scholar can tell you, they are not the same thing. A woman is not sinful for having her period — but she was considered unclean.

      Besides, does Peter abandon the notion of sin after his vision? Does he say, for instance, that adultery is no longer sinful? Of course not. There are distinctions between the cleanliness code and the fundamental moral principles that are binding on all.

  • mcurt2s

    The World (as in the culture, or Zeitgeist) is a false prophet. See Jeremiah 14:14, 23:13-16, especially “For from the [false] prophets pollution has gone forth into all the land.” Twisted half-truths are put into the mouths of “Christian characters” to make them false prophets, too. Our solution is to be very discriminating in our media exposure, for whoever is a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    What we do hear, we examine through Romans 3:4 “Let every man be a liar, and let God be true.”

    I believe Christians should be “all-in” on creating quality entertainment that shows, more than it tells, the truth. And we should be even more committed to showing His victory and pure love with our lives.

  • Paul W

    “Thousands of characters confronting major life decisions, thousands of times, almost entirely without reference to God.”

    I think you overestimate the number of Americans who ever give any serious thought to such topics. I’ve lived all my life in the Bible Belt in some of the most conservative parts of the country, and while most people I know nominally belong to Christian churches and, if asked, profess their belief in Jesus and would say that their morals come from the Bible, I’ve never been witness to one of them invoke God or prayer in regards to any more major decision than their decision to start eating outside of the church building.

    Couple that with the fact that the vast majority of Americans don’t even attend church on a regular basis, and that the vast majority of church-goers have never actually studied a Bible or learned anything about how it came to be in the form of the book they take off the shelf once a week, it’s not surprising that television rarely captures those moments of people’s lives, *because next to no one would be able to identify with it*.

    If you are seriously proposing that your version of Christianity should be portrayed as “normal” on television, then you’ve missed much of the point of the New Testament. True Christians will never be exalted or embraced by society, any society. The Christianity embraced by politicians, televangelists, and family-values pundits is so far from the teachings of Christ it turns my stomach.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’m regularly witness to quite a few people, Christian and otherwise, who do think about God and sometimes even divine will when it comes to major decisions or major life passages. And if you thought the point was that I wanted my version of Christianity portrayed as normal, then you didn’t read very carefully. While I’ve run across your concluding sentiment a thousand times, the point was that it would be nice to see a conservative Christian on television who can actually articulate and defend his or her viewpoint coherently.

  • Bob

    I don’t know that “homosexuality” should be “embraced and celebrated” (whatever that would look like) but PEOPLE should be embraced, I know that. That’s the loudest, clearest, message in the Bible. One I struggle with every day, being a human myself.

  • Mike

    Consider that in the two series the author cited as examples of portraying Christian families, the same actress (Patricia Heaton) was the female lead. I don’t know how much influence she had on the scripts, especially on “Raymond”, but in real life she is a devout Catholic. She went so far as to walk out of an awards show due to the Ozzy Osbourne clan and their vulgar comments.

  • http://edinburgheye.wordpress.com EdinburghEye

    One in three American women have at least one abortion in their lifetimes: a majority of women who have abortions already have children.

    How often is this portrayed on American TV?

    Would you be happier if abortion were portrayed realistically, sensibly, without improbable prolife screechings over how awful it is, and without the current evasion of “convenient miscarriage” where a character would in real life have an abortion?

    American TV specialises in being inoffensive, and for the most part, the segment of the population that the TV makers work hardest not to offend are straight white men.

    You probably wouldn’t like it much if American TV worked on portraying American religions as realistically in all their diversity – the pastors who marry gay couples, the priests who run shelters for trans youths kicked out of their homes, the Christian superchurch profiteers who believe Jesus wants you to tithe to them, the union organisers who believe in socialist Christianity – so really, the lack of religion on TV is still to avoid offending you.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I actually would like to see more realistic depictions of abortion. The “convenient miscarriage” is a cop-out.

      And no, I’d be perfectly happy to see the diversity you described. It wouldn’t offend me in the slightest. As long as it’s true diversity, and not cherry-picking examples to support a partisan agenda.

  • mcurt2s

    I just have to add this. As I was driving my kids to camp and stewing over the pushiness of this world’s evil, “All this Glory” by David Crowder came on and took me up . . . where I can see that the angels of God are myriads, and thousands upon thousands. And there’s all this glory—more than we can do anything with.
    “In the middle of the mess, there is majesty
    In the middle of my chest, is the King of Kings
    While the world was waiting on
    A change to come along
    Light broke in
    Coming like a song

    All this glory
    All this glory
    All this glory
    In the middle of the night, all this light
    In the middle of the night, all this light here

    In the middle of the night, You are majesty
    To the middle of our plight, came the King of Kings
    While we were waiting on, Your love to come along
    Light broke in
    Coming like a Son

    All this glory . . .

    Jesus, God with us
    Jesus Christ has come, and I’m undone . . .”
    I bring you news of great joy which shall be for all people: For unto YOU is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 1:10)
    He has come to save us from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us (our common enemy, who is not flesh and blood);…to grant that we…might serve Him without fear, in righteousness and holiness before Him all our days. –Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:71-79

  • LRK

    I remember the tragic event of 9/11 and the response from people all over the nation to come together and pray. I remember flipping through the channels and landing on MTV in time to see the cast of “Real Life” standing together in a circle praying. Although I’m not an avid MTV watcher, this was the first time I saw anything remotely like this portrayed on this channel. According to national polls, 80 plus percent of the nation identifies themselves as “Christian”. Now, that is not to say they are identifying with “conservative” Christianity. Nevertheless, they are identifying themselves with the name “Jesus Christ” and that “religion”. That is MOST definetly NOT portrayed even remotely on the shows and movies being pumped over the airwaves 24/7. I find that unrealistic at least and highly suspect at worst. There seems to be an agenda in TV/Media to influence rather than to portray. What is portrayed is NOT even remotely representative of the majority opinion as expressed in public polls in this nation. I believe this evidence is obvious to the writer of this editorial as well as the majority of the public which objects to current programming.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Some great points there. Thanks for the comment.


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