Signs of a Delusional Mind
These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .
a first-century chuck norris
Because we don't have a dining room, my wife and I eat on the couch at our coffee table; thus, sometimes we flip through TV channels while we eat supper.
The other night we came across a show, which a quick web search revealed is not without controversy. It is called The New Normal and its overarching plot follows a girl and the gay couple for whom she is a surrogate mother. The particular episode we happened upon had themes of family and the religiosity therein. The gay couple, David and Bryan, was prompted to begin a search for godparents for their unborn child, thereby exploring memories and emotions of their more traditional upbringings. As you can imagine, there were plenty of pokes to be had - one scene in particular fed upon the current cultural sentiment as David says to the first potential godparents, 'Religion requires faith, and I'm more interested in facts.' Shortly after, as the lesbian couple declines the godparent offer, one of the female characters goes on a tirade about how God took a 'divine dump' on her dream because she physiologically can't have any children - an unfortunate sentiment too many Christians relate to.
Bryan, who was raised Roman Catholic, eventually finds himself in a confessional - ostensibly out of obligation to the tradition. 'If we're getting serious about finding godparents,' he later tells David, 'we should probably get serious about finding God.' Admittedly, I was preparing myself for the worst as the scene began. What sort of conservative fanatic are they going to portray in the character of the priest? What stereotypes and fallacies are they going to attempt entrenching further into North America's increasingly secular psyche?
At the end of the scene I was speechless - I was surprised and quite impressed. Instead of the usual disparaging images made of the church and Christians in general, the exact opposite happened: the priest character made some of the most insightful summations of the Christian faith I have ever seen on prime time television - in fact, he passionately defended his beliefs with such a sublime understanding of theology I have rarely seen from mainstream Christianity.
Bryan: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been.. 20 years since my last confession. Commandment wise.. I have pretty much done'em all except for kill someone and covet my neighbour's wife.
Priest: Oookay.. Three Hail Marys. Have a nice day!
Bryan: Oh, I'm.. I'm sorry. Um, is.. is.. that's it..?
Priest: Well, if you're not going to take this seriously I'm gonna get back to playing Angry Birds.
Bryan: Oh.. Okay, um. My partner and I are having a baby and we're looking for godparents. But I don't think I can find a spiritual foundation in others if I can't even find it in myself. So that's why I'm here.
Priest: So.. you're gay.
Bryan: Uh, yah, I guess I should've lead with that.
Priest: Ah, I get it. I committed my life to a man as well.
Bryan: Ehh, that's really funny. I'm actually talking about an actual man that I actually lay with. Leviticus-style.
Priest: Well, contrary to popular opinion, being gay isn't a sin. The - the church is not anti-gay.
Bryan: Yet, any chance he gets, the Pope treats gay marriage like Amanda Bynes treats pedestrians.
Priest: Oh, yah, the Pope. C'mon, haven't you ever had a loveable old uncle who popped off intolerable comments at a family barbecue?
Bryan: Can't you get fired for saying stuff like that?
Priest: I don't know if you've noticed, but it's pretty hard to get fired around here.
Bryan: [Laughs] I was raised Catholic. I love the tradition, I love the ritual. I mean, don't get me started on the Stations of the Cross. But, you guys don't accept me. So.. what am I supposed to do, Father. I mean.. You tell me, where do I go?
Priest: Well, there are plenty of churches specifically geared to your community.
Bryan: Ugh, rainbow flags and tambourines. I don't want to be forced to use a separate water fountain. Why can't the church just be accepting of all people?
Priest: We are. We embrace everyone, just like Jesus.
Bryan: Oh, you know what? You toss Jesus' name around, but you don't exactly practise what you preach. 'Cause Jesus wouldn't have judged people based on their sexuality because Jesus loved everyone!
Priest: Oh, wrong! I never bought that 'Jesus is a blissed out hippy' crap. The man was pissed off. He walked into temples, told them they were doing it all wrong and wrecked the place. He was the Chuck Norris of his day. Except his beard wasn't nearly as well groomed.
Bryan: Well, as true as that might be, Jesus also said 'turn the other cheek.'
Priest: Which didn't mean lay down and take it. In those days, 'turn the other cheek' was an act of defiance. It meant, 'I will see your insult and raise you a suck it!' He saw hypocrisy and injustice and he said, 'Seriously? You guys are idiots! This has got to change!'
Bryan: So, you're saying the church can change?
Priest: Well, it would! I've seen gay people battle discrimination, and march for marriage equality. They demanded the right to defend their country - but for their souls? Nope. They just give up, walk away. Jesus was a fire, son. How 'bout you?1
The way this debate was handled has actually piqued my interest. Is there a theologian contributing to the script or at the least a well-read writer? For the priest character alone, I would consider seeing where the show goes if Christianity ever comes up again. If more primetime programs portrayed Christians less stereotypically, the church might actually garner a bit more respect (we certainly know the global church isn't doing itself any favours). Even at the end of the episode, when Bryan has returned to the church and the priest initiates a conversation, we are left with a positive outlook.
Bryan: Hey, since when did they let girls be altar boys?
Priest: Altar servers. Yah, happened in the mid-nineties. Took a few thousand years, but, y'know, things can change. If somebody's willing to fight for it.
The show has challenged us Christians to live up to the image depicted of us. And because of that we really should be asking ourselves why a secular program has to remind us how we should act. Why did they get it right and we're still getting it wrong?