This week, my second favorite show on air right now, Glee, took on an explicitly religious theme. And it was interesting for me to see the wide range of comments on Facebook about the episode from my wide range of religious friends (and by wide range of religious friends, I mean wide range of Episcopalians). Some loved it and some hated it. I personally felt irked by it, not for the show itself, but for how accurately it represented the misguided approach to religion that many Americans take.
To begin with, there was the quote by my favorite character, Kurt Hummel, whose Dad suffers a serious heart attack and his friends reach out to him with spiritual support. Kurt initially gets defensive and asserts his atheism. Because I can’t find the exact quote online, I know it went something like “Most Christians don’t believe in gays. Or women. Or science.” It’s a point where I see where you’re coming from but I also don’t. Yes, most Christians who make the news do so as a result of being anti-gay, anti-women and anti-science. But the living, breathing Christianity I know tries to embraces all people just as God created them, albeit always a work in progress.
Who’s to blame here? Is it the media for only shining light on the radicals and therefore painting us all with the same brush? Or is it us for not more loudly proclaiming a gospel that’s so good that it transcends any box we might put it in? Or maybe the mystery of the Gospel doesn’t appeal to the shrinking attention span of the American public.
Okay, that was my “gays can be Christian, too” bit, and now I’d like to delve even deeper into what this episode of Glee highlighted: the idea that faith is something we build up when times are good to sustain us when times are bad. Oddly enough, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.
Most Americans live such cushy, secure lives, we’ve somehow fallen into the trap of thinking that suffering is avoidable. Where and when did we come up with this notion that with enough faith we can avoid suffering? (And let’s not forget the even-worse cousin of this thought- that suffering is a punishment from God.) Jesus repeatedly told us of God’s affinity for the marginalized and vulnerable. So when the events happen in our lives that bring us to our knees (and it’s bound to happen at some point), why does this seem to cause people to turn away from God and not too God?
Maybe this is the way Hollywood always seems to portray it. But if I’m whining about Hollywood painting all Christians with the same brush, maybe I should be more specific. Glee, Kurt Hummel, yes, but…