Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Glee-ping the Faith

It doesn't really need to be said, but not all Christians are anti-science, sexist homophobes. The intelligent among us know this. We believe it. And yet, I find myself compelled to point out this truth on a semi-regular basis. The liberal media—including many publications I respect—as well as friends and acquaintances remind me all too often of the many ways in which people of faith—and thus, faith itself—fall short when it comes to open-mindedness and acceptance. And so, even though most of us know that we cannot and should not pigeonhole an entire cultural group, we still slip into the prejudicial mentality that, ironically, has been attributed to, not directed at, the religious. This is why I was impressed (and a little surprised) by this week's Glee: because even though the wrongness of this stereotype, too, should be implied, many liberal Americans still get a bad taste in the mouth at the mention of religion. I can't quite say I blame us, but I can't quite say I don't.

I admit that I have something of an ulterior motive in writing this, as I had exactly the kind of upbringing that normal (read: non-religious) people imagine when they hear the words “prayer meeting” and the lesser known “Christian music bonfire” (OK, this last one is but a nod to my beloved Arrested Development). The brand of religiosity present in my childhood and adolescence was not malicious or violent in any way, but subtly ostracizing and unwittingly sanctimonious? You betcha. I've since toyed with everything from religious humanism to agnosticism, because that is what you do when you are a thoughtful, liberal 18-year-old with “Devout Protestant” on your birth certificate and scared shitless of being labeled a narrow-minded science basher like “all the other Christians.” Lately, though, I've been getting a wee bit defensive—thank you, adulthood—because try as one might, it's not so easy, this business of denying thy father (heh), but I suppose that's my cross to bear (heh, heh). Don't get me wrong: I still have a chip on my shoulder so big and resilient I'll likely never be fully rid of it, but I like to think I am relatively comfortable with the complexity of my faith at its current state, namely, that while I might not know definitively what I believe, I do believe in God (on most days), and even though I am skeptical about any one too-specific mythology about the divine, it is this skepticism that I am ultimately grateful for, and even though this makes me about 5% afraid for the state of my soul, I am about 95% willing to ignore that fear in favor of my definitions of goodness and morality, in spite of the slight possibility that they will cause me to one day die an eternal and fiery death, though I'm almost positive this is not likely. To skim the surface.

But back to Glee. Sure, this season has been somewhat disappointing and the “I'd like to share my feelings through song!” method of segue into said song is wearing thin (I mean, seriously, Papa, can you hear yourself?), but I enjoyed this episode on the basis of sheer guts; it's not easy to broach a controversial topic to begin with, let alone doing so on a show known more for schtick, less for depth. (Also, the music was fantastic, although a song as awesome as REM's “Losing My Religion” did not deserve to be associated with a plot point as ridiculous as Finn's disillusionment with his grilled cheese Jesus.) And yes, part of me was happy to see a public discourse about faith on non-conservative programming, more specifically, a discourse that neither exalted nor denigrated religion, because God knows I'm sick to death of those. Did the episode reveal more than an occasional trace of the after school special? Of course. But we have to remember we're dealing with Glee, and this rainbows and unicorns stuff is their bread and butter.

The primary conflict this week was between Kurt and the rest of the gang, over their offers of prayer for his ailing father and Kurt's deliberate refusal of any and all faith-based help. The reason the episode worked so well was that it absolutely did not attempt to provide an answer to the “To pray or not to pray?” question—nope, no moralistic agenda here, folks. Instead, it simply pointed out what we supposedly already knew: that in a crisis, some will pray and some will not, and that the faithless can be just as close-minded as the faithful. Kurt was wrong to alienate his friends and they were wrong to pressure him, end of story. Most importantly, he did not go from atheist to believer during the course of an episode, and that's a trap a different show could have easily fallen into. He merely realized that a principle has no place in the simple matter of a friend who, to paraphrase Kurt (and Lennon/McCartney), just wants to hold your hand. And that's something we can all agree on. Not that it needed to be said. 

1 comment:

  1. I think if I got a grilled cheese Jesus, I'd be scared shitless into believing in God all the time...

    Thanks for the thoughtful review (especially since I did not watch this week's episode b/c I was at work).