Christianity is CATHOLIC!

Christianity is CATHOLIC! June 12, 2012

That’s not triumphalism. That’s simply a fact about how TV shows typically portray Christianity.

Now and then, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists get a nod (even though the country is overwhelmingly Protestant). But Catholics have all the cool visuals and tchotchkes, so it’s always a priest you call for an exorcism. Also, by the way, all priests on TV call people “My child”.

Curiously, one gets the impression that, apart from the visuals, much of the dialogue is written by people who are flying blind as to how Christians actually talk and act. So, for instance, there was that recent movie in which Kathleen Turner was some righteous Church Lady in some Stalinist power struggle for some petty prize or other. Okay. I can buy that. But part of the comedy involved her (or somebody) giving out communion, accidently spilling hosts on the floor AND THEN KICKING THEM UNDER THE ALTAR TO CLEAN UP THE MESS.

Catholics were outraged and regarded this as deliberate desecration. I think it’s very clearly an artifact of a screenwriter dashing off a script without taking the slightest effort to tell the difference between Catholics and some sort of crackers and grape juice Evangelicals. My guess is the screenwriter is a complete and total outsider to the Christian tradition. Somebody who is looking in or at Christianity and sees some of the visuals, but who has no feel whatever for the interior life of the Catholic or the Christian tradition. It seems, not so much malicious, as merely clueless.

You run into this a lot in the media–the strange tendency to confuse Catholics with generic Protestantism. Crazy mystic nuns, for instance, who used to be homeless druggies but were “rescued” by the sisters and instantly admitted to the veil show up. It’s like becoming a nun is more or less the same as “making a decision for Jesus” like an Evangelical. Only instead of being given a Bible and told to find a “Bible-believing Church” as you would at a Billy Graham Crusade, you become a consecrated virgin, start piously prefacing your words with “as the Good Book says” and, ocassionally, have ecstatic trances.

Also, there is the tone deafness of the priest or Catholic who goes around barking passages of Scripture and citing chapter and verse before condemning somebody or something. Why? Because an Evangelical audio track has been overlaid on a Catholic visual. It’s the mistake that, again, only somebody standing outside the tradition would make.

Not that there aren’t good portrayals of Christians (good in the sense of “accurate”). One of the finest, best written, and best acted movies ever made is “The Apostle”. I don’t know how Robert Duvall did it–and I suspect he has to have some sort of personal experience with that subculture–but it is, hands down, the best portrayal of the subculture of American non-denom pentacostalism ever committed to film.

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