Recently, my wife and I were writing when Glee came on after The Simpsons. Instead of simply acknowledging it was on, we were a little more attentive. This episode was … well, different. We were interested to see how the episode, “Grilled Cheesus,” would unfold.
Many topics surfaced during the episode. One of the most prominent was the separation of church and state. The episode sets up the issue by the cheerleading coach, Sue, recruiting a fellow atheist, Kurt, to file a complaint about the glee club for singing religious songs. Many evangelicals would find it obligatory to focus on this given their record on the issue. Honestly, as long as Christianity is allowed to be preached and practiced, followers have more than enough freedom to practice their beliefs. Forcing others to accept messages isn’t biblical anyway. It is biblical, though, for a Christian to assume their message will not always be accepted.
So, what was the most significant topic of the episode? Kurt, by invitation, attended Mercedes’ charismatic evangelical church. Before her amazing performance of “Bridge over Troubled Water,” Mercedes singled Kurt out in the congregation and explained that she knows people sometimes believe in different things. Consoling him, she explained that it is cool he had his own opinion about “religion,” but he had to believe in something. Adding to the inconsistency, members of the congregation agreed with Mercedes.
I’m not debating which philosophy is right or whether or not there is a God. I simply disagree with the false portrayal of fundamentalist Christianity as a new age and further evolved Christian church. A basic foundation of the movement’s doctrine, evangelizing, was missing. I’m not objecting to the liberation of the conservative Christian movement because I am a part of the evangelical church and the movement to liberate it. I am objecting to the fact that an evangelical church was portrayed in a way that is contrary to its basic identity. Glee’s script implies evangelicals tolerate the belief in the absolute antithesis of Christianity. This is absurd and should be seen as absurd by both Christians and non-Christians. Fundamentalists, all too often, are intolerant of other beliefs. Mercedes’ line “You gotta believe in something” would not be something you hear in the type of church portrayed on the show.
So, why did the writers not correctly represent the church’s beliefs? Was it because they did not know better? I doubt it. Christian fundamentalism has spread far and wide throughout this country. Was it because they did not want to offend viewers with a message that claimed to be the one and only truth? Indeed. Christian fundamentalism is considered so radical it cannot be both purely portrayed in its entirety and accepted by the secular world. This episode obscured the real identity of evangelical Christianity. The writers of the show may have dodged some controversy, but not portraying evangelicalism in its true light might have negative implications relative to their intentions, which were, essentially, to bring society as a whole closer to the truth.