Among my favorite things in life are... Music. And stories. Pop culture. Laughter. So I enjoy shows like Glee that give a glimpse of what our society is thinking while being fun at the same time. But like everything else in our culture, I constantly think about how it relates to the truth: God reaching out to us through the person of Jesus. Sometimes, our culture tries to directly address these issues. Such was the case last week.
So as I settled in with my pad thai to watch last Tuesday's episode of Glee, I was apprehensive. The previous week’s Britney episode was a weak plot with weak music, and I was not thrilled with the promos for this one because they showed a plot where Finn burned a grilled cheese sandwich and believed it produced an image of Christ with magical powers. They called it a "Grilled Cheesus" (GC). Now I don’t expect the world to present a Christian world view and I think it’s important for me to know what they ARE saying (especially as a YoungLife leader working with teens)…and I do enjoy the show…so I watched.
I was very uncomfortable and even offended with the GC plot…but I have to reluctantly admit it was funny at times. But you know what? If there was any plot in the show that presented truth, it was the one that was intended mostly for comedy: yes, the GC! Surprised? More on that later.
In the more serious thread of the show, Kurt's father had a heart attack and in the aftermath we discovered that he does not believe in God. Now some think the show was promoting an atheist agenda; I disagree. It was presenting something even more contrary to the Gospel – the idea that true faith is inclusive of all religions and that it does not matter WHAT you believe; it only matters that you do. We saw this as Kurt’s hard line on atheism softened as he went to church with Mercedes. And as Sue shared her reason for hating religion with Emma, but at the end (after a heart-to-heart with her sister that softened her bitterness) was ok with the religious stuff and let Will off the hook. And at several other points.
So, to me, on the question of atheism vs. faith, the show sided with faith. Good news, right? However, it sided with faith without an object. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as helps you. If someone you love is sick, have three friends of different faiths pray to their respective gods so that you have them all covered. Sing songs that are not about Jesus, but a “God” so general that he has no power. The key conversation to this world view was the one between Sue and Emma. She (and the writers) proclaimed it to be arrogant to believe in a God who would send people to hell for believing the wrong thing - a definite distortion of the Gospel.
I guess I noticed this so much because it is symptomatic of the biggest lie that is being promoted in our culture today. The lie that there is no such thing as objective truth. That it only matters that your beliefs help you. I think way too many people today (even many Christ-followers) have forgotten that truth is truth. Something is either true or it isn’t. For example, either Christ bodily rose from the dead or he didn’t. To try and break through this mentality, I’ll often point out that I could be wrong about that, but I am either right or wrong. It is not possible that I am right and they are too. Amazingly, most people have difficulty processing this.
So that, not the irreverence, was my biggest problem with the episode. On the positive side, it did graphically illustrate this world view. And it did ask the right questions. I loved the fact that it ended with Joan Osborne's song asking the question, “What if God were one of us?” It's the right question and the answer is, "He was - in the person of Jesus!" As a group, the Glee kids (and even Sue) were brought right up the point of asking the questions that could lead to a relationship with God. A place where (if it were real life) the Holy Spirit could speak to them about how their longings and questions are answered in the person of Christ. I firmly believe that God works even through those who are against him, and he could use this episode as a springboard for conversations that would actually lead to the truth. But I would never recommend watching it to a young Christ-follower or to one who had not studied the Bible enough. I always need the solid foundation of the Scriptures as context to interpret culture. Always.
Oh…the Grilled Cheesus plot. Believe it or not, I thought this irreverent plot line was a wonderful picture of how we all mold Jesus into our image, one that is convenient for us. We construct our own faith system that justifies our lifestyle and our daily choices, instead of letting God mold us. Finn protected his idol and used it to promote his own selfish desires. Aren’t so many of our prayers like that? I thought the plot was brilliant in that it used absurd prayers that even the biggest skeptic knows no true God would entertain – winning a game (ok, I’ve done that one), helping him with his sexual promiscuity, and knocking out his QB competition. Here’s the deal: the "God" that the world rejects is often the one we have created, not the true God. And the world sees that hypocrisy -- it's no wonder they say "no thanks". Just as Finn eventually was disillusioned and ate the sandwich in the closing scene. But isn’t it great that we serve a God who will never fail us? I pray that God will chip away the parts of my faith that I’ve made up myself and leave only the truth. I need him to help me throw away my Grilled Cheesus and serve the real Jesus.