‘Glee’ on Religion

Did you see Glee last night? The hit show, known for its unique blend of comedy and biting social commentary, outrageous scenarios and touching moments, took on the topic of religion. To be honest, as much as I typically love Glee, I was pretty skeptical going into this episode.

I believe that Glee is almost uniquely positioned in today’s youth culture to speak truth to its viewers. For the most part, I think the show is fairly responsible with that role. Glee has received criticism from some Christian sources for its treatment of hot-button issues like homosexuality and its portrayal of Christians, and, truthfully, the show has taken a worldly viewpoint on some of those issues. Add to that that the show is, in some ways, art imitating life in a culture where ‘spirituality’ is hip, but not necessarily Christianity. The result is sometimes what you’d typically expect – inclusive, humanist, but devoid of real Biblical truth. On the whole, though, I have found Glee to be very honest and, at times, surprisingly conservative in the views it expresses.

Here is the rundown of last night’s episode…

The Gist – Finn made a grilled cheese sandwich which seemed to bear the image of Christ. He dubs it “Grilled Cheesus” (say what you want about sacrilege, that’s pretty clever) and prays to it. His prayers are seemingly answered, leading him to believe that God is taking a personal interest in his life, and granting him prayers in return for Finn convincing Mr. Schuester to dedicate a week of glee club to spiritual songs.

Meanwhile Kurt’s dad has a cardiac arrhythmia and ends up in a coma. Kurt declares his discomfort with “spiritual week” because he doesn’t believe in God, mostly due to the Church’s typical position on him due to his homosexuality. Throughout the episode he is continually confronted with his friends’ spirituality in their attempts to comfort him and pray for his father.

These two characters eventually find a sort of resolution. Finn, after speaking with the school’s counselor, end up feeling alone and confused, no longer sure that the things that have been going the way he wanted them to are the result of God’s intervention. Kurt agrees to accompany Mercedes to church, where she speaks an important, albeit watered-down, spiritual truth to him – we all need something to have faith in, something to hold on to. Kurt chooses his father and their relationship, and seems to come to terms with spirituality as a whole.

The Good

  • This episode of Glee treated the subjects of God, religion, and spirituality with its typical mixture of humor, cutting social commentary, music, and touching personal moments. To me, this says, “Hey, we’re talking about life here, and these issues are as much a part of life as anything else.”
  • The culmination of Kurt’s storyline in this episode found him coming to terms with the idea of having faith in something greater than himself. It’s a step in the right direction, and one that I think many people can make without having to stretch themselves too far.
  • I was so happy to see a show address the idea of prayer as a bargaining agreement between us and God. Finn’s journey in this episode, aside from being the comic relief, pretty closely mirrors what a lot of spiritually immature people go through in their spiritual life.

The Bad

  • It was exactly what I expected out of Glee, but I was still a little disappointed to see that, in the end, Glee’s message was “Just believe in something.” There are worse messages out there, but I’m just not a fan of the pluralist, it’s-all-the-same-anyways, kind of message.
  • It would have been nice to see Finn come to some sort of resolution in his faith life. After Emma convinces him that his grilled cheese sandwich hasn’t actually been acting as a conduit for God’s power, Finn feels abandoned by God. Unfortunately, the show never resolves that in any way. To me, it was a disheartening message to people who are going through the same faith struggles that Finn was.
  • About halfway through the show, Glee brought up the whole “separation of Church and State” issue. The proponent of that separation on the show was Sue Sylvester, who shared honestly that her own lack of faith sprang from her experience praying that God would make her Down’s Syndrome sister normal, and seeing those prayers unanswered. Sylvester challenges glee club, who apparently backs down with no mention whatsoever of a student’s actual rights on religious matters in school. In the end, Sue has a conversation with her sister, who tells her that she believes in God, and asks her if Sue wants her to pray for her. Sue agrees, and even appears to have a change of heart. However, the separation of Church and State issue is not even touched after that, leaving viewers with the impression that it’s a settled, cut-and-dry issue.

Overall, this episode was a lot less offensive to me as a Christian than I thought it might be. There were some very powerful moments, like when Kurt recounted to the glee club his memories of his father’s powerful and comforting hands, then sings a very emotional version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles. And it was awesome to see Kurt’s friends be persistently loving towards him, even when his own emotional turmoil caused him to be a pretty big jerk for most of the episode.

In the end, I think “Grilled Cheesus” handled the topic of religion and spirituality about as well as one could hope from today’s pop culture, though that’s not saying much.

What about you? Did you watch it? What did you think?

Peace.

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