So I watched Glee last night…and about half way through the episode I was having a bad case of déjà vu about their portrayal of God, faith and Christianity; it just seemed like they were perpetrating all the cliché statements of pop culture concerning faith. I felt as though the whole foundation of Glee (i.e. the plight of the underdog) had more depth and more integrity than what was playing out before my eyes.

My hope was restored as the show concluded as there did seem to be an attempt to present a balanced perspective; no solid conclusions were reached but there was balance.

All of this has me thinking about the role that prime time television plays in educating our culture. If I were not a person of faith I may have finished watching Glee last night and been somewhat perplexed. Is faith really worthless? Is there really no God; Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) certainly had a convincing argument to support this fact. What about supernatural things taking place in our world today; are they really as ludicrous as a ‘grilled cheesus”?

I think that we all (myself included) need to take a step back from prime time television to realize that its purpose is not to educate but to provide lighthearted and satirical entertainment at the end of a busy day. These programs give us a moment to exit the constraints of the real world where the rules are changed and characters are free to say and to do what they wish. In a stuffy world of confusing political correctness and nauseating conversations about proper etiquette, the genre of shows like Glee help to provide relief and humor from all of this; to this end they do accomplish their task.

There is an unfortunate and undesirable side effect related to the humor and comic relief brought about by prime time television; many people actually believe everything they hear.

The writers of last night’s episode of Glee managed to fill the show full of clichés and stereotypes related to having faith and not having faith. There was the appearance of the image of Jesus in a physical object (the ‘grilled cheesus sandwich’), there was the classic ‘I asked for it and God did not answer, ergo he does not exist’ argument, there was the notion that keeping faith out of school is a good thing, there was the extremely trendy statement ‘God created me a homosexual and yet condemns me for this very fact’, and a host of other popular statements. There was enough reality and emotion in what was presented for the viewer to be almost convinced that this is the way the real world actually is.

The thing is, the writers of this episode of Glee were under no obligation to provide a balanced ‘peer reviewed’ perspective of faith and of God. Prime time television in general is under no obligation to ensure the complete accuracy of the information that they present and they are under no obligation to resolve every dilemma that they raise. Their genre is one of entertainment and not education; however this distinction is becoming muddy in our present day.

I am sure that some will commend Glee for confirming God’s non-existence last night without realizing the subtle nuances that were present and without really examining the arguments that were raised. Let me (gently) correct the record as one who works in and studies faith and God: none of the arguments and/or dilemmas presented on Glee last night were new, nothing presented on Glee last night is as simple or as clear-cut as it may have appeared, and no new conclusions or syntheses about faith and God were construed by the characters on the show. It certainly was entertaining, but that is all.

I commend the writers of Glee for achieving somewhat of a balance last night. Emma Pillsbury’s (Jayma Mays) reminder that although God works and speaks in mysterious ways, but probably not through a grilled cheese sandwich, was a tactful way to dismiss the ‘grilled cheesus’ while not dismissing faith. I also commend the writers for demonstrating the faith of students like Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) as firm and unwavering. Finally, I think that it was in good taste (and balance) that once Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) seemed to accept prayer as a legitimate expression of sympathy and grief we see his comatose dad begin to respond to his son’s presence for the first time.

I am not sad that this show aired, in fact I am somewhat glad. Glee’s whole foundation is built around exposing stereotype and cliché in a comical fashion. The basis of the show is about the competition between sports and arts in a local high school and the typical students involved in each. Last night’s episode placed the topic of faith and spirituality in the minds and conversations of the general public and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

To fix our confusion of the genres of entertainment and education I think that conversation and blogging such as this is so necessary so that once we jump back into the real world we can make sense of what we saw and perhaps dreamed about just the night before.

What do you think?

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