Bristol Palin lit up the web this week with her demand that President Obama apologize to her for his supporter’s extremely crass remarks about her and her family. Her complaint resonated – it was shared 128,000 times on Patheos (temporarily shutting down the entire site), was on the front page of FoxNews, and was discussed by the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, and even Perez Hilton. Why did so many people have such a strong reaction to her post?
As a conservative Christian woman, the answer is quite clear. In recent years it seems people like me may be utterly maligned without so much as the blink of eye by the media. And if they’re Christian, they’re portrayed as heartless, intellectual lightweights to boot.
Based on Kim Gatlin’s book by the same title, this show promotes these tired old stereotypes. The show takes place in Highland Park, the swanky area of Dallas, and lampoons the rich, “Christian” socialites of the city. Texans are known for propensity for largesse: they have a big state, big homes, large ranches, flashy clothes, and mile-high hair. The women of GCB do not disappoint. Their hair is teased; their clothes, while expensive, are “tacky;” their cars are fast; they quote Scripture like it is honey on their tongues; and they are meaner than snakes. The GCB women could take the WWF in one round flat—and look like they belonged, too.
They aren’t like their sisters in ABC’s Desperate Housewives. In that show, which precedes GCB on the Sunday night lineup, close-knit neighbors fight, burn each other’s homes, and run over family members… yet they still re-enter the neighborly sisterhood. However, the GCBs are out for the kill. Amanda, the meanest of the mean in high school, returns to Dallas penniless after her philandering husband dies in an unfortunate, scandalous car accident. The other women, still seething from her high school triumphs, lie in wait to undo her.
They wear their Christianity like they wear their clothes: gaudily. Amanda’s mother insists she and the children go to church over Amanda’s protests.
“Cut the Commie crap,” she says, “My grandchildren are going to church so they can go to heaven. End of story. Amen.”
In her world, salvation is based not even on works but on position—on their place as Good Christians Who Live in the South and Go to Church. There is no real faith here. There is no gospel: an understanding of our deep sin and our need for a Savior. There is no understanding of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Instead, GCB shows a “Christian” culture at its worst, with all of the Christian trappings and none of its essence.
Amanda, the prodigal daughter returned from California—that haven of elite enlightenment–is the one who professes change. She’s the convert. Now she’s a nice person. Now, she’s different. Though we are not given any defining conversion moment in her life, the viewer is left to assume her sudden kindness resulted from finally escaping the oppression of the overly churched society.
Honestly, GCB made me look in the mirror. Hypocrisy is an ugly thing, and it exists in all cultures–all too frequently in Christian ones. Many people, as we say in the South, “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk” and consider themselves Christians because of who they are—not because of who Christ is. Our Southern culture is so steeped in Christianity that too often we find ourselves inoculated to it—resistant to the reality of our own sin and our need for a Savior.
Are Christians hypocrites? Yes. Are some just claiming the mantel, as I would say the GCB womaen are? Yes. Are some sincere believers who make really big mistakes? Yes.
Does that hypocrisy justify Hollywood’s constant lampooning? No. I take exception to both the caricatures of Christians and of Southerners. (I also take exception to the fact that Hollywood rarely seems to be able to portray Christians in an interesting way. This poorly written show relies on cliché and stereotype, and its mediocre ratings reflect it.) However, just as Scripture tells us that we will know Christians by their “fruits,” it also tells us that not to be surprised if the world “hates” us. I do not expect Hollywood to respect Christians or Christianity, but I do hope that some people see past the false veneer of GCB and realize that real people of true faith exist . . . as does their God.
And is there a double standard? Is it considered okay to make fun of Christians and Southerners when other groups are off limits? GBC proves it. As the Palins would say, “You betcha!”