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Faith: As Not Seen on TV

Will there ever be a TV show that portrays Christians as normal, decent, struggling and complicated human beings? Certainly not in ABC’s new line-up. Reviewing the premiere of “GCB” for the Washington Post, Elizabeth Tenety describes what passes today for serious, empathetic programming about people of faith:

After mom Amanda Vaughn loses her Ponzi-scheming husband in a sexual rendezvous-induced car accident, the former “mean girl” moves with her two children from California to her “God-often-speaks-to-me-through-Gucci” mother’s house in Dallas…

[The show] is one part Church Lady, one part Desperate Dallas Housewives.

Carlene Cockburn, played by Kristin Chenoweth, is Vaughn’s high school nemesis and the show’s faith-filled antagonist, delivering witty one-liners…and Dallas diva-ness in a series that alludes to the excesses of Christian culture and depicts how religion is used, at least in some circles, to justify immoral behavior.

Any racial or ethnic group in this country as negatively portrayed on primetime TV would be up in arms–and rightly so. To be clear, Via Meadia does not object to the depiction of religious hypocrisy, an all-too-common phenomenon that is certainly worthy of dramatic treatment. Rather, we take exception to the fact that Christians in the media are almost uniformly shown as hypocrites, idiots, bigots and so on. As Tenety rightly asks of “GCB” (by now, you can guess the acronym), “where is the Christian love?”

Contemporary television and film producers go out of their way to paint moving, sympathetic portraits of everyone from bullied gay teenagers to sex addicts and Mafia wives, but somehow run up a massive empathy deficit when it comes to men and women of faith. And the occasional show that attempts to seriously grapple with religious themes, like NBC’s excellent “Kings” — which brilliantly retold the biblical story of King David in a modern setting — are poorly promoted and quickly canceled.

Christians, like other groups, will have to organize and work to get fair treatment from the media. Respect isn’t something they give you out of pity or a sense of justice. It is something you earn by thoughtful and effective organization and action, both political and cultural.

And if you want something done right, it’s often best to do it yourself. Christians and other faith groups maligned by the entertainment industry might look to the example of Israeli productions like Srugim. The show, a dramedy which realistically and sympathetically portrayed the lives of young religious Jews, was produced by filmmakers trained in the religious Ma’aleh film school and won the Israeli equivalent of the Emmys.

The vicious denigration of people of faith by so many cheap television programs and cheesy films is not and should not be something religious people take for granted or ignore. Other groups have changed the way they are portrayed in the media by a combination of shrewdly applied pressure and by promoting and developing talent within the community that can replace prejudice and schlock with compelling drama and true to life work.

If Christians don’t do this for ourselves, nobody will do it for us. It is time to stand up.

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  • Geoff M

    Well there was the long running show “7th Heaven”, which, while extremely cheesy and more than a bit preachy, did portray religious Christians in a good light.

  • Tim

    You know, one show that gave people of faith a fair shake was Friday Night Lights. There’s a scene in the pilot episode where the team’s running back prays during a very difficult time. The prayer doesn’t seem to have been written by a Hollywood writer. The actor, Gaius Charles, is a Christian who seemed to be praying extemporaneously.

  • Tim Fitzgerald

    I would submit that The Simpsons, surprisingly enough, treats Christianity very fairly. The neighbor (Ned Flanders) is a little goofy and naive, but he is also devout and pious and decent.

    Homer Simpson goes to church because it is Sunday, Rev. Lovejoy preaches because it is his job, but Flanders goes to church because he believes. That seems gfair enough to me.

  • Jim.

    More and more pundits are applying the “What if it were about Jews?” test to bring into focus exactly how bigoted these Christian-bashing shows are. I can only hope this goes mainstream.

    I agree though, that gross hypocrisy (for the sake of material gain or political status, for example) should continue to be called out and skewered. It’s been done at least since the publishing of “The Vicar of Bray”, and it can be very helpful in teaching people about holding to Scriptural truths — at least when they get the point of it.

  • ms

    What practical things can we do to protest this and get more approproate fare on our screens? If you have ideas, please post them here so I know what to do. I would emphasize, as WRM says, that we want realistic depictions of Christians, warts and all. Too often overtly religious work is treacly and sacharine. The reality is that most of us fail to live up to our beliefs and convictions, but I know I am a better person for holding them and attempting to live up to them than I would be without them. That’s the message that is being elided by Hollywood. It’s all about redemption, folks! Let’s get the message out!

  • Mike Anderson

    I suppose kidnapping a few anti-Christian TV executives and videotaping their beheadings is off the table?

  • La Marque

    Christians, Jews, and white males are the only groups left in politically correct America that hate crimes are not illegal. Many cultural Christians aid and abet the PC views.

    My guess is that after watching 15 minutes of GCB is that it won’t have a long lifespan. If it does, it will be only cultural Christians watching.

  • Eurydice

    You might try “Blue Bloods” – basically, a multi-generational soap opera about a police force family. It’s not in-your-face religious, but the characters are unapologetic and unironic about their faith (not to mention honor, duty and self-sacrifice). There’s xomething about Tom Selleck’s TV gravitas and maybe his enormous physical size which doesn’t invite ridicule.

  • Kansas Scott

    Good post. Oddly, one of the better episodes of a major TV show dealing with faith was from West Wing.

    An episode called “SHIBBOLETH” from the second season. It dealt with school prayer and Christian refugees from China. It’s hard to get the full picture from the script but it’s available at (if links are legal). In case links aren’t legal, here is a sampling of some of the pertinent dialogue:

    Can you name any of Jesus’ disciples? If you can’t, that’s okay. I usually can’t remember the names of my kids, or for that matter…

    Peter, Andrew, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas and James.

    Mr. President, Christianity is not demonstrated through a recitation of facts.
    You’re seeking evidence of faith, a wholehearted acceptance of God’s promise for a better world. “For we hold that man is justified by faith alone” is what St. Paul said. “Justified by faith alone.” Faith is the true… uh, I’m trying to… shibboleth. Faith is the true shibboleth.

    Yes, it is. And you sir, just said the magic word in more ways than one. Thank you.
    [They stand.] It was a pleasure to meet you.

  • John Barker

    Like most of commercial television, GCB is a contest between stupidity and vulgarity. The outcome remains uncertain.

  • Chris S

    While I agree with many of the ideas posted on this blog this is where I take a different opinion. Frankly I am quite tired of everything becoming taboo because someone is offended, be it religion, homosexuality, whatever. Maybe it is time that America take back its right to freedom of expression and untwist the big stick that is jammed up in so many peoples hindquarters.

  • Kale

    There are groups right now working specifically towards this end. Look up Act One: Writing for Hollywood. An impressive and ambitious mission, to be sure. However, I also think the deficiency in Christian formation makes this task all he more difficult. They can most surely use the support of the Christian community.

  • Amadeus48

    One of the best films in which Christianity is a redemptive power is the Robert Duvall/ Horton Foote 1983 masterpiece Tender Mercies. Duvall’s character is helped through his darkest hour by his new-found faith. Another film with a sublime Christian hero is Sam Peckenpaugh’s early film Ride the High Country, where Joel McCrea courageously goes to his maker justified by his faith. These films acknowledge that none of us is perfect, but our faith can lead us to better lives. If you haven’t seen these films, rent them now. If you have seen them, rent them again.

  • Xmas

    I was a little sad that “Kings” got cancelled. The story of David is so…amazing. I mean, if they were able to follow through until he was king, with all of the terrible things he does, it would have been great television.

  • daniela dixon

    So so very well put. I am, I’m afraid, not a person of faith, but I have tremendous respect for religion in society, particularly the role Christianity has played in western civilization. I am constantly horrified by the extreme animus against Christians. I recently heard female coworkers, all liberals of course, express the most vicious dislike of Tim Tebow based on his religious faith (and probably also his race). I hear these sorts of comments all the time, and these attitudes are vigorously promoted in our popular culture.

  • radioone

    The plot is so shallow it should be a Big Hit!!

  • M. Report

    Hmm…excepting the one word ‘normal’:

  • Vinny B.

    It isn’t just Christians. The way men are portrayed on TV is disgraceful. Dad is always a buffoon that can’t make the kids a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kids without lighting the entire kitchen on fire. Yet, Dad always has a job that pays well enough for him to provide a million dollar house.

  • Leslie

    Tom Selleck is NY Police Commissioner, 2 sons are cops, daughter is a prosecutor, they’re Catholic and do family church and dinner every Sunday. It’s an interesting cop show / family drama, balances both quite well. TOTALLY worth watching.

  • JWH

    I’m atheist, and I absolutely loved Kings. Is that wrong?

    But to my point. There was Seventh Heaven for a while, but that show was so sickeningly sweet that I don’t think it meets the “complicated” element of your formula.
    I don’t know if I can point to shows, but I can point to a few characters:

    Everwood, back in the day, also had an interesting flirtation with religious issues. One of the two doctors, Harold Abbott, was portrayed as a religious man. He was uptight, and he had flaws, but he was also a genuinely caring person once you got past some of his standoffishness. He was also an incredibly funny and engaging character.

    The most interesting episode w/ religious themes, IMO, involved abortion. The liberal doctor in town favored abortion in a general sense, but he couldn’t bring himself to perform one for the patient of the week. Meanwhile, Harold opposed abortion as a matter of principle, but he agreed to perform the procedure. It turned out that Harold (and his father before him) had long performed abortions on the sly for townies because they felt the service was sometime needed. The episode ended with Harold going to confession.

    At the time, it was one of the most nuanced episodes I’d ever seen on the topic. I was particularly glad to see neither doctor was presented as a caricature of his side of the debate.

    I would also argue that Ned Flanders, of the Simpsons, is a positive example. While his “hey-diddlys” can certainly annoy, he’s also one of the most compassionate characters in the series, and probably the only genuinely good person in Springfield.

  • BobJustBob

    I’m with Mike. If the Religion of Peacers have taught us anything they’ve taught us the best, easiest and fastest way to get the Lefty media to be gentle to you and your religion is to cut off some heads. And the bestest part is you only have to cut off a couple of heads at the beginning…after that it sells itself.

    Come on…you know it’s gonna happen.
    Nothing succeeds like success.

  • John A

    As noted earlier, Blue Bloods.

    And Saving Grace, perhaps even more so.

    Even though Dr. House considers every religion he comes across nonsense, that conflicts with just about every other character – regulars as well as guests.

    Hmm, I wonder why all I can think od are law-enforcement and/or medical?

  • Sandy Daze

    Agree on Blue Bloods. When was the last time you heard on a TV show, as a family sits to dinner,

    Bless us oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through Thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

    Also thought Joan of Arcadia, 03-05, was an excellent show; alas perhaps too good and was give the hook after several seasons.

    ABO – OMG,

  • Jim_inStL

    I got tired of being insulted (intellectually and culturally) and stopped watching network television. Life is better this way.

  • Ken

    I think Big Love on HBO has done a fine job (I’ve watched the first two and a half seasons so far). Despite polygamy not being “normal”, Bill Paxton and his family are portrayed as decent, normal, and complicated human beings, dealing with the world as best they can.

  • Sgt. Mom

    One of the very best shows which was honorable about faith – of all varieties or none at all – without being treacly, condescending or pounding your head over it – was Babylon 5. There were characters in it for whom personal faith mattered a great deal, some for whom it was something less than that, and some for whom it didn’t matter at all. The whole treatment of religious faith in that show struck me as being realistic and respectful.

  • buzz

    “Maybe it is time that America take back its right to freedom of expression and untwist the big stick that is jammed up in so many peoples hindquarters.”

    I’m assuming you misunderstand the point of the post. It isn’t that “everything becoming taboo because someone is offended”. Everything is fair game for satire. It’s that in this particular case the taboo seems to be in presenting a Christian is a positive manner. There IS a difference.

  • orthodoc

    I suspect that a good thumping of the writers/producers/actors, as done by proponents of the religion of peace (TM), would concentrate attention wonderfully.

    Looking at the ratings on IMDB, though, make me think this particular piece of trash won’t last long. It gets awful ratings from males across the board.

  • Mitch

    This is what comes of leaving the Anarchist’s Cookbook out of the biblical canon.

  • ajb

    We Christians need to be careful in how we react. We cannot be just one group complaining about unequal treatment compared to other groups. Our mission is higher than that. If we are treated worse than other faith or no-faith groups, but the world sees that our faith stays strong, it can help spread the Gospel. (Matt. 5:11-12) Scripture shows us plenty of examples of that, but no examples of heroes fighting for “fair treatment” of Christians that I can recall. We can still point out the hypocrisy of those who run the networks, hoping that it will help people see they shouldn’t trust those who oppose us. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to prevent injustice to Christians. But we can’t lose sight of the Great Commission. If we forget this while fighting for equal treatment, we may win a battle for respect but lose our purpose. I think it will take a lot of prayer and discernment before we simply “stand up for ourselves”.

  • georgia peach

    If the show has a serial killer more often than not, his Mother has a cross on her wall.Check it out and this has been going on for years.
    Joan of Arcadia was an excellent show probing God’s workings in the world.Lasted two years.I miss it still.

  • WigWag

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment, has the possibility occurred to Professor Mead that perhaps there is so little of the fare that he prefers on television because there are so few people who want to watch it?

    After all, producers produce filmed entertainment and cable and broadcast stations feature it for exactly one reason; to make money.

    If there was a market for filmed entertainment that treated religion in the manner that Professor Mead prefers wouldn’t someone be trying to fill it?

    Most cable systems have hundreds of channels not to mention outlets like Netflix, Apple TV and the Internet. With so many outlets and so few shows treating religion more respectfully, isn’t it likely that most audiences simply don’t care.

    We all know that the United States is a nation filled with devoutly religious citizens. Given how few television shows treat religion respectfully isn’t the most likely reason that even religious people don’t care for shows that treat religion as respectfully as Professor Mead would like?

  • Janis

    If you want to see how far TV depictions of Christians has fallen, then just take a look at some of the old Andy Griffith shows from the early 60’s. Faith, church, reverence for God and morality was a given, not an occasion for mockery. People were routinely depicted as having all kinds of faults and failings, but church was the one place that was given its proper respect.

    It’s what I watched growing up and thought nothing of it at the time– it reflected the reality of daily life and attitudes in my world. Watching it now, I marvel at the full-throated and sincere writing on that show when it came to faith, family values, and simple morality. 50 years later, a show like GCB is a clear sign of how far we have fallen away from all of that. And are much the poorer for it in total. It’s time to fight for not only better stuff on TV, but to fight for a return to a culture that is based on truth, not lies, on virtue, not cleverness, and on a morality that can nurture children instead of corrupting them.

  • Fred

    All of the shows have some sort of friendly-to-Christians moment. But the “faith” displayed is clearly artificial once you watch the show for an extended period of time. In general, the characters exhibit no repentance, gratitude or foresight. When they do commit a sin as in “Blue Bloods” (since it was brought up) recent fornication episode with the main character, they show no serious remorse (perhaps some slight embarrassment at getting caught, granted). The characters in general consistently show ingratitude at knowing right from wrong or the challenges inherent in winning that knowledge. They show no gratitude at all in knowing how to live a life in peace with others or the benefits of a life of self discipline. We pay to be insulted. We work very hard and spend that hard-won money to reinforce our natural tendencies toward sexual immorality, fits of rage and selfish ambition which serve to make us easy to predict and control. Instead of characters that are forewarned by Christian teaching of the weakness of human body and mind, we watch people provocatively dressed and high on drugs or simply tired that “make mistakes” as if the mistakes couldn’t be seen a light year away. Or moronic, religious people who fail to prepare when confronted by others who have made it crystal clear that they wish them harm (if you must go through the dark alley woman, carry a serious weapon). After a while I think it is worthwhile asking why the religious leaders, pastors, preachers and priests (not Hollywood writers) consistently fail to teach their flocks not to be tread on. The South used to teach a particular brand of Christianity to slaves many years ago. It’s funny how the modern church leaders preach the same brand today. The North won the war but the South showed the North how useful certain perverse versions of Christianity could be. Yes, Christianity deserves respect, more than anyone can appreciate. But I’m not sure “people of faith” do.

  • Donald Sensing

    And then we have liberal firebrand Mike Malloy, who said on his radio show after last week’s tornadoes ripped through the South:

    “Their God … keeps smashing them into little grease spots on the pavement in Alabama, and Mississippi, and Arkansas, and Georgia, and Oklahoma,” Malloy says in his broadcast from Friday. “You know, the Bible belt, where [in a mocking voice] they ain’t gonna let no [profanity] science get in the way, it says in the Bible, blah blah blah blah blah. So, according to their way of thinking, God with his omnipotent thumb reaches down here and so far tonight has smashed about 20 people into a grease spot on highway 12, or whatever the [profanity] highway they live next to.”

  • DocinPA

    I am frankly surprised that anybody watches any major-network programming. (Unless it’s football!)

  • Terry L. Burr

    We are normal, decent and struggling, but not complicated.

  • Allan

    I’ve never watched television much, but I’m aware of a few shows that promoted decent family values. “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven,” both with Michael Landon, apparently not a coincidence. Also “Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman.” I’m sure there were others.

  • Tennwriter

    We seek justice and mercy which is not the same as being uptight. Imagine everyone in your town walked around, and used you as the butt of their jokes, even when you were not remotely involved, even in cases where your actual behavior was the dead opposite of what they were making fun of you for.

    Now if some folk occasionally used you as the target of their wit, your advice might be reasonable. But after a certain point, the attarcsk are injustice and lying.

    Oh, BTW, Kings was dreadful. For one thing, the tiny part I got said that David accidentally chucked the grenade down the Goliath tanks cannon.

    Read the Bible. David killed Goliath, and there was not one bit of accident about it. It was deliberate, thoughtful, backed up by faith and considerable skill, and rightous outrage.

    It takes some nerve taking a Warrior King like David, and trying to turn him into a Peacenik Accidental Soldier. You might as well turn William Wallace into a hippie, and William T. Sherman into a spokesperson for Code Pink.

  • Christy

    Don’t Mormons have their own vigorous movie industry?

  • gus3

    Bring back “Father Dowling Mysteries”.

    Or “Lanigan’s Rabbi”. The titular characters were Jewish and Irish Catholic.

    #6 Mike Anderson: Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds keeps saying “that’s how it is when you don’t behead people occasionally.”

  • don

    On the other hand will there ever be a TV show that portrays, say, Afghan Muslims normally as the young males shoot their way through the Hindu Kush against the infidel invaders, killing civilian foreigners regardless of sex in suicide operations while ensuring the natural social order of things with honor killings of their wayward women and girls who dare mimic western life styles of the rich and irrelevant, and with copious references to Koranic passages for justification? Surely in a multicultural diverse democratic nation such as America entertaining bigotry shouldn’t be limited to just one tolerant social group?

  • SDN

    “Babylon 5” did an excellent job; I particularly recommend the episode “Passing Through Gethsemane”.

  • PTL

    Portrayal of normal people is not the rule on TV or the movies. If you you check the biographies of show business people you’ll find that most, if not all come from dysfunctional families. That’s all they know.
    They lack knowledge or experience of everyday
    life, and have no moral compass. They envy those who do. The comedies are not funny and the dramas are not dramatic. Most of them grew up watching television. They are mostly
    illiterate as to literature’s classics.

  • Thom

    Count me confused – why is any committed Christian still receiving or watching the networks? No watching = no revenues. The Waltons and Little House were about the last quality programs. We reap what we sow – 40 years of public education/indoctrination in hating or ignoring God has to eventually show up as mocking us…right? Or not?

  • R.C.

    “Should not ignore?”

    Okay, fine, but what can you do?

    1. You can speak out boldly against it; but you will never be heard because the high ground of mass media are controlled by the secular left;

    2. You can create your own alternative media in which you will be heard; but in that case your listeners will be those who intentionally adhere to your recently-created alternative media, which means they already share your views, and you are preaching to the choir. It’s comfortable, but it leaves the left in charge of the rest of the world, so whenever you step outside your alternative media ghetto you’ll be running a gauntlet;


    3. You can go to war, and simply kill anyone whom you know to be to the left of Joe Lieberman, provided you can demonstrate (as is generally the case) they’ve at least once tried to impose their leftist will on the rest of us through government compulsion.

    If all the conservatives did that simultaneously, of course, the left would be gone tomorrow. But it won’t happen, because conservatives aren’t like that. Conservatives have most of the guns and don’t use them against leftists; leftists are afraid to learn to shoot but they’ll use conservatives’ respect for authority to prevent an uprising and herd them into the slaughterhouses. Conservatives would be ashamed not to put down an armed uprising by some in their midst.

    I lean libertarian because I believe that it’s immoral to initiate force against those who’re doing something wrong unless it’s a forceful kind of wrong. If they aren’t using force, then persuasion is one’s only moral recourse: One may not be the first to escalate to forcible methods. So, I’d never be up for that third option.

    But after the last 75 years of the left using the blue social model to support (by compulsion!) their cultural agenda, the temptation is there. After all: They initiated compulsion first.

    Granted: I recognize it as a temptation. It’s one I’ll resist. Going to heaven when I die is rather more important than changing the culture here on earth, even if setting my priorities that way means the left gets to forcibly cram their agenda down my throat from now until the day I die. I’ll just keep spitting it back at them and saying, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

    But were I a leftist, I’d be careful about what I said around a socially- and economically-conservative folks who were either (a.) not so good at resisting temptation, or (b.) atheist. Conservatives do have guns, and if they’re going to be vilified for being right-of-center no matter what they do, then…? Just as soon hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, right?

  • SVT

    Way to completely miss the point, Chris.

  • S P Dudley

    Things don’t change unless you can provide a better alternative. Most important thing is for conservatives and libertarians of all stripes to formally come together. We need a solid alliance to stand not only against this sort of cultural bias, but also firmly in favor of a better vision that all of share pieces of every day.

    Be Brietbart.

  • Penny

    20 wrote: I’m atheist, and I absolutely loved Kings. Is that wrong?

    Me too. It was great TV, a beautiful story, great acting.

    A current show I like is Last Man Standing. The family’s religion is just mentioned casually in passing, but they go to church, etc. One of the daughters had a baby out-of-wedlock and the the parents love her and the baby but disapprove of what happened. She lives with the parents. The dad is kind of an outdoorsman gun nut, and the mom had kind of a rambo daydream sequence I really liked. Normal people. Good writing. Tim Allen and Nancy Travis play the parents.

  • Sardondi

    As bad as is our popular-culture heroes’ ubiquitous denigration of Western culture in general and Christianity in particular, it is much worse in the UK, which as a socio-cultural outlier of the the US, has about a 5-15 year lead on us.

    It is sad to listen to anything with “BBC” in its name these days, in which the stock villains aren’t WWII Nazis, or Cold War Stalinist moles (who after all actually did turn Brit intel inside out for a generation), or even contemporary Islamo-terrorists. No, the worst villains BBC can conjure today are politically conservative American Evangelical Christians. This means that the smug young things now running The Beeb see about 100 million Americans as terrifyingly evil, and the chief threat to world peace.

    Well, at least we can enjoy the obtuseness of the posh head-poofs at that state-ly run medium, whose raison d’être’ is the heaping of contempt on the religious beliefs and philosophies which made the BBC’s long existence possible.

  • Celebrim

    “Well there was the long running show “7th Heaven”, which, while extremely cheesy and more than a bit preachy, did portray religious Christians in a good light.”

    LOL. No it didn’t. I’d rather the outright hateful propaganda. Seventh Heaven was in many ways much more insulting to me as a Christian, because the way it distorted and denigrated was on a more subtle level. Frankly, I don’t worry to much about what happens on TV any more. It’s clear I’m not the intended audience, and so I don’t watch – cable or network. It’s all gone now.

    One of the basic problems is that even if they wanted to, they couldn’t portray Christians respectfully. They don’t know any. Indeed, they really don’t know anything. They are having an internal dialogue with their own community that has nothing to do with with reality, but simply repeats and parrots its own narrative.

  • ThomYorke

    I like the way Christians are portrayed in Lars and the Real Girl. They get it, are understanding, and are largely non-judgmental.

  • David

    I found an easy solution: stop watching (most)TV! I watch the weather, history channel and nature channels, and then only rarely. I read. I find the stories in books far better than anything portrayed on TV. If people would just reduce their TV watching, especially prime time, the TV network executives would sit up and take notice. Even though the GLBT mafia controls Hollywood, it’s still about the money.

  • Orson

    As a lifelong atheist, I enthusiastically agree with WRM. This organizing and lobbying effort NEEDS to be done and done continually for many years. Our Western values are at stake here. On that, even Christian and worthy atheists can and should agree.

  • ptet

    “Christians, Jews, and white males are the only groups left in politically correct America that hate crimes are not illegal…”

    Seriously? /facepalm.

    As the comments on this thread show, there are shows that portray religious people in a good – or at least fair – light.

    There is also a whole industry producing a huge volume of pro-religious television, including drama. Why has that not reached the mainstream? One, because much of it isn’t good enough. (We do believe in a free market, yeah?). The other is because much of it is simply not aimed at a mainstream market.

    If you guys want special treatment then fine – but be honest about it…

  • EvilBuzzard

    No. Belief in God makes you hated by the people who mass-produce the stupid and insiped shows that appear on TV and Cable. That explains why I’ve all but dropped out of that aspect of American Culture.

    You can’t even see a Disney kids movie any more w/o being brainwashed in some way with political or societal messaging. I imagine many people have done what I’ve done and written mass entertainment off for the most part. It would explain why Hollywood continues to lose money and influence every year.

  • Dan in Philly

    “The Middle” does show a middle class family, chrisian but not making a big deal about it. Pretty much like most christian families I know.

    I guess that’s why a show like “Modern Family” which has very cardboard and one trick pony characters gets all the awards, and a really funny show like “The Middle” gets ignored.

  • Patricia

    Blue Bloods is good, but why did they leave out the “through Christ our Lord, Amen” at the end of grace? And then they had a story about a murdered young hooker, and of all the suspects guess who did it? The Christian mother, of course!

    I have hopes for Southland. Cooper was talking to his AA sponsor, and God was mentioned in a non-ironic way. Spirituality is a big part of AA so I hope to see more.

  • Ted Craig

    The Middle. The Hecks often consult youth minister Rev. Tim Tom, who manages to be both goofy and wise.

  • prairie wind

    The BBC comedy series, Coupling, had a wonderful episode in which Jane confronts Christianity. The show is a bit like the American Friends–young, attractive people meet and…couple up. As soon as they introduced a Christian character as a love interest for Jane, possibly the most ‘easy’ of the women characters, I was afraid of how the show would treat the Christian. To my delight, they did NOT use him as a joke, but as a way to discuss Christianity. It was wonderful, watching him talk about his faith with Jane.

  • Key Payton

    Many of the TV-show episodes y’all have praised above had Jesus-followers somehow involved in the creative process, either as showrunners, network execs, producers, writers, or leading actors.

    There are NUMEROUS steadfast believers working to shine Jesus’ light in the entertainment industry; I know of at least 1,000 in L.A. alone, and that’s just me.

    But because TV is hugely “team-driven,” the believers on those writing-producing teams must creatively find a way to keep the whole team working (i.e., make sure the shows get good ratings), or they will be dismissed from the team and replaced by someone who is NOT a believer but can “bring in the dough.”

    It’s a tough creative road, so please pray passionately for all the Christian writers and producers currently working in Hollywood!

  • Gerald Owens

    Agreed on Babylon 5 being an excellent Sci-Fi series that treated religion sympathetically and fairly. A really terrific episode is “No Hiding Place”.

  • Peter Dietz

    Last night on Little House On The Prairie, the mother of the family at the center of the show asked God in a prayer of assistance to help her to not disappoint her husband. It is refreshing to have real practicing Christians portrayed on the tube.

  • ptet

    EvilBuzzard @ 97

    “…Belief in God makes you hated by the people who mass-produce the stupid and insiped shows that appear on TV and Cable…”

    Let’s file that one under standard-issue paranoia, shall we. Practically every group you can think of can complain about its treatment on TV. Gays, blacks, women, motorcyclists, gypsies all have cause to moan. When, ever, is an atheist ever portrayed positively in a tv drama. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone at all?

    Blame uber-capitalism and the rush to the bottom of the market if you want to blame anything…

    “That explains why I’ve all but dropped out of that aspect of American Culture.

    I’m not American, but I do think America produces some of the best TV in the world. “Mad Men”, “Game of Thrones”, “Homeland” and “Boardwalk Empire” are imo some of the best tv ever made. Yeah, there’s a lot of gunk too, but then lots of people watch it…

    “You can’t even see a Disney kids movie any more w/o being brainwashed in some way with political or societal messaging…”

    Try changing the words “Disney kids movie” with the words “Church service” and see how that makes you feel.
    Seriously, the notion that Christians are somehow the most repressed group in America is beyond hilarious.

  • ari

    Psych!!! Psych!!!! Psych!!!!

    It is hands down the most awesome single television show going right now!!!!

    The main character is a goof- a young man working on his business and his character. He owns a business with his best friend. The dad is a smart, tough, competent, grouchy dad. The friend has a family! They have Christmas shows! They have a heroic Catholic priest making jokes about the exorcist movie! It shows them in sunday school, or praying, or singing hymns,…. and it’s all texture. There aren’t sermons, which is cool-I go to my church, my friends go to their church- I don’t know what their sermons are, but I know they’ve got a cross on the wall. That’s what it shows- normal, funny, healthy people with a faith life that is alluded to, but not preached on.

    My kids love it, their friends love it, other people love it. It’s like this total secret handshake club of awesomeness!

  • Kris

    Tying this into the Mormon threads, I have the movie “The Other Side of Heaven” in my eventually-watch list. Anybody want to dissuade me?

  • pa

    The Bernie Mac Show (2001–2006) presented Christian values quite well. Bernie played a stand-up comedian who had custody of his sister’s three children, while she was doing hard time for drug crimes. Throughout the series, he emphasized teaching old-fashioned values and standards to his new family, much against their will. He and his wife did not have children of their own, and the shock of what it takes to raise respectful children informs much of the comedy. Bernie became a stay-at-home dad, so the opportunities for conflict with the kids were constant. His efforts to teach to traditional standards, including religious values, were a major feature of nearly every episode, not just an understated side issue that is taken for granted. Bernie was often hilariously inept and his methods were sometimes misguided, but his objectives were unimpeachable. I don’t believe I have ever seen a primetime show that so openly and vigorously promoted conservative parenting.

    He sent the middle child, a boy, to Catholic school, a plot point that provided numerous opportunities to discuss religious faith in favorable terms. I was most surprised and impressed by an episode in which the 10-year-old boy gave an accurate account of the doctrine of salvation. The transformation of the rebellious and defiant teenage daughter into a responsible, capable young woman was an inspiration for real-life parents who are tempted to give up the fight with their own children. I always thought the show demonstrated great respect for religious values, in the context of a flawed and funny family.

    The Bernie Mac Show also did not shy away from discussing black racism, the dangers of class envy, and other inflammatory issues that are seldom portrayed from a conservative viewpoint. I was sorry to see the series end, and I was very sorry to learn of Bernie Mac’s death at just age 50. I doubt that he was on the political right in real life, but his TV show certainly upheld standards that are rarely treated with respect by TV these days.

  • LoriM

    Interesting thread of comments. I am encouraged by the names of different shows with decent Christian characters in them – will have to check them out. We are enjoying Last Man Standing (mentioned above) and I remember Tim Allen’s other hit show Home Improvement also occasionally showed the family attending church.

    The commenter who mentioned the involvement
    of Christan writers and other staff- in many of these shows inspires me to encourage and pray for these folks. If I were younger and had better contacts, I might even try my hand at it myself. Ha.

  • John

    The Middle is one of the few shows on now that shows the family as normal,though struggling, and religious in a low key way.The Rev Tim Tom is a great character. The Simpsons, and That Seventies Show were two others, though the best example is probably King of the Hill. All of these except the Simpsons also show the fathers in a positive light as strong able men.

  • Denicia Kasey

    There were many shows from the past that depicted moral behaviour while facing and solving many common behavioural misconducts. On the Andy Griffith show, Otis was the town drunk and their were many criminals and crimes that found it’s way into the storylines. Characters had to deal and solve these problems while avoiding swearing, and just plain smutty behaviour. Not always did they achieve these goals unscathed without some kind of questionalbe behaviour.
    Point being programs of fifty years ago still had their immoral issues to deal with but the amount of bad conduct the main characters could use to solve these issues was limited to a few white lies and maybe an exasperated sigh and roll of the eyes.
    Christians hopefully are instituted enough in their faith that they can discern the futile efforts of media trying to portray them in hypocrisy. The main concern is how to diffuse the populous watching that this is not in line with the Christian faith. Keep in mind many people have no idea what the christian faith is all about and this is certainly another obstacle to overcome in trying to win over an unbeliever.

  • midwestnorwegian

    PBS’s recent “documentary” about the Amish was by-and-large quite fair and even sympathetic. I was surprised. But, they were trying to make a documentary…

  • ptet

    Denicia Kasey @ 70

    “Christians hopefully are instituted enough in their faith that they can discern the futile efforts of media trying to portray them in hypocrisy.”

    That’s a bit of an odd statement. Some Christians are hypocrites, just as some black people are drug dealers and some gay people mince around screaming like little girls.

    Media, especially drama, focuses often on the darker side of life… But people like happy endings too.

    “The main concern is how to diffuse the populous watching that this is not in line with the Christian faith.”

    Do you really think the message of a program like “GCB” is that all Christians are hypocrites?

    I think your statement does a disservice to Christians – and everyone else.

    Yes, it would be good to see more positive Christian (and black and gay) characters in the media… ut I don’t think assuming that everyone-is-out-to-get-you is a good way to bring that about…

    “Keep in mind many people have no idea what the christian faith is all about and this is certainly another obstacle to overcome in trying to win over an unbeliever.”

    It’s not the job of a tv producer or tv network to win over unbelievers. Maybe unbelievers don’t want to be “won over. Did you ever think of that?

  • lhf

    Add the portrayal of the IRS agent in Boardwalk Empire. Naturally he beats himself with a flail, abuses his wife, steals money from one of his targets and speaks as the secular left imagines Christians speak. The portrait is ludicrous.

    And I’m not even a Christian or religious.

  • ptet

    “Add the portrayal of the IRS agent in Boardwalk Empire. Naturally he beats himself with a flail, abuses his wife, steals money from one of his targets and speaks as the secular left imagines Christians speak. The portrait is ludicrous.”

    The agent is not portrayed as a “Christian”… He is portrayed as a nutter (and a fascinating character too, I think).

    What about the Catholic priest in Boardwalk, who counsels Margaret Shroeder? Or the baptist minister? Or the nutter agent’s wife for that matter? They are all positively-portrayed Christians trying to do their best. Or are we only counting the hits, and not the misses…?

  • ari

    Quantum leap. we have it on disc. it’s old. scott bakula is a scientist who travels through the baby boom years making things right. He says that he thinks that “the big guy upstairs” is in control of their experiment. It’s not being shown on television. It was worth it to us, to buy the DVD set.

    It’s a Donald Bellisario production. So it’s got really good production values, excellent dialogue, really good acting, good scripts.

    I don’t know about Magnum, PI, but we bought the DVD set for it, b/c it’s also from Mr Bellisario’s production company. It’s Tom Selleck, when he was a young man. He’s in Hawaii, after Vietnam. He’s got a tough older British mentor, he’s got two good friends, also former military. We thought, at minimum, it would be good for the boys to see men being brave and strong and true- and having a guy good time. We’re not raising wet noodles. No clue on the Christian content. The man content is pretty terrific.

    Hey- if you’re a good writer or production person- let it be known! somehow! We are consumers, obviously- and are willing to see people pitch different things. They don’t always have to be pitch-perfect to succeed. They have to be “good enough”- that’s all- good enough to kick back and watch on the sofa on a Thursday night. There are lots of shows, there’s lots of shows on cable- take risks!

    I mean, I found Psych from an article in the Wall Street Journal, picked up in the lobby of the bank, trying to figure out if I had $1.50 or $3 in the account, near the end of the month. The article mentioned four shows- our family liked one of them. I’ve told people- and they go tell people. I’ve even told them about the shows we don’t watch- and they love them.

    and then, seeing an interview, while surfing the net, and the writer for psych mentioned belisario productions- a whole new show- and now another.

    it doesn’t have to be perfect every time. creating stuff is like plate-spinning. sometimes it crashes- but some good plates? a reliable spinner? we’re willing to try again, on the next project.

  • Denicia Kasey

    “That’s a bit of an odd statement.”

    Christianity does represent a peculiar people.

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