Wednesday, October 06, 2010

'Cause I've gotta have Faith? Or according to Glee, a gruyere on whole wheat.

*Spoilers ahead. If you watch Glee and haven't seen this week's episode yet, you may want to save this post for a later date.*

My husband and I don't go to church. My children have only been in a church for Christmas service and the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are not usually invited into our home. Jesus is a name we invoke only in fits of pique and other than the occasional blaspheme my children have little knowledge of the presence of Jesus Christ or God (dammit).

Mr. C was raised Congregationalist, went on retreats, sang in the choir, and participated in youth programs led by his parents who were youth leaders. I was raised Catholic, we were Saturday afternoon Catholics to be specific, and while I also spent many, many hours in the church, even attending a Catholic elementary school and singing in the chorus myself, I have my own reasons why I don't support or follow the teachings of the Catholic church any longer. Good reasons, I might add, but that's between me and God for the time being.

Yes, I believe in God or I try to anyway. To this day, I still want to believe in the existence of a higher power. But I struggle with His (or lower case, his) existence.

The fact that we haven't thrown our hat into the church-going ring, that we haven't adopted a local church of our own, that we haven't exposed our children to the teachings of the apostles and the New Testament, is a thorn in my Mother in Law's side and if my mother and grandmother were still alive, I have no doubt it would bother them too. Mr. C's mom is a spiritual woman who thinks that families are stronger for having a church to grow up in and around and my mother and Gram, God rest their sainted souls, held steadfast in their belief that the Catholic church, though hypocritical it may be, was the way to go.

I cannot, in good faith, hang my hat on either of those beliefs.

Last night I sat down to watch my favorite show, Glee, and Glee did something it rarely does - it disappointed me. I spent the entire hour watching the show horror movie-style: With my hands over my eyes, splayed fingers allowing only glimpses of the train wreck to get through, such was my fear that the writers of the show would "go there". They did. Well, almost.

Glee Tackles Religion is not something I thought I would ever see. Glee tackles Prince, yes. Glee tackles the musical stylings of Burt Bacharach, most definitely. Glee takes on the existence of God and the importance of allowing Him into your heart? *sigh*

The gist of the show was this: Finn gets hungry and makes himself a snack and upon inspecting the toasted cheese sandwich he cooked on the George Foreman, he sees the face of Jesus. The Grilled Cheesus. Praise gouda.

Finn decides that it's a sign and begins to pray to it for typical teen things - Please let him get his position as quarterback back, Please let him feel up his girlfriend. Spiritual things like that. Then Kurt's dad has a heart attack and ends up in a coma. This is when the host really hits the fan.

You see, almost everyone in the Glee club believes that God is good, God is great, God gives us chocolate cake. Not only that, but everyone needs a little God in their heart to get through life's trials. Everyone, that is, except Sue (more on her later) and Kurt who, bless his atheistic heart, believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and deems a morning at Mercedes' church is worthy only because he can wear a fabulous hat. "Very Christ chic," he says when appraising the congregation.

For her part, Sue has her own reasons for not believing in God and I'll give the writers props for making this a real issue and not a punchline. She worshiped her disabled sister and other kids made fun of her. Why would a God let something like that happen?

I don't have a problem with finding comfort in faith. In her darkest days, my mother found much comfort in God and the church and I respected her for that. What I have a problem with is how the show portrayed the only two non-believers as flawed, sad people who might eventually be swayed with the right miracle. To that I say, shame on you, Glee. And shame on you for that over the top "Papa, Can You Hear Me" number.

Does faith = God? God = faith? Are they two great tastes that taste great together? Personally, I believe you can enjoy your chocolate without your peanut butter and your faith without a God.

I need to ask, do we really need religion, or even the belief in God, to be sympathetic, well-rounded citizens of the earth? Can an agnostic, an atheist, a secular humanist, be seen as a person who can be trusted to find their own way and comfort without the presence of a higher power?

I've already asserted that I am not an atheist because I want to believe there is a God, though I have dabbled in Atheism in my younger days. I do not consider myself a Catholic, though I was baptized in that religion, or even a Christian, though I believe in and practice certain Christian principles. Do I need to be converted and will my children miss the benefit of a religious upbringing or even thanking His Almightyness for the mac and cheese at dinnertime? I don't have an answer for that and though I think some might have a strong opinion on this, we both know there are no hard and fast rules concerning faith.

The thing I think the producers and writers of Glee missed last night (emphasis on "I think", maybe I saw it differently than you did) is the presence of faith without the belief in God or religion. I believe in the beauty of nature, the soulfulness in my dog's eyes, the beauty in my daughters' laughter. Is that God's work? I'm not sure but it gets me through the day. I'm sure Kurt believes that music can move you and the right outfit can make your whole week. Sue believes in the power of discipline and... well I'm not sure what else Sue believes in but she loves her sister with a fierceness that displays a tiny bit of the good person hiding somewhere under that track suit.

The only points redeeming last night's show was the fact that Kurt did not "find" God when his father moved his fingers. He did not go to Jesus and neither did Sue, though she allowed her sister to pray for her. And that musical number with young Kurt? Tear. Jerker. But I don't feel like the point was driven home - Kurt didn't believe in something he couldn't see but he could reach out his hand and hold his father's. He believed in that. They missed the mark asserting that there are many people who don't need the presence of God or religion to be good people and whether some like it or not, their reasons and methods are sound.

There's no clean way to wrap this up. I have no desire to go into Thomas Henry Huxley's views or to debate whether God is dead or running for office in the Republic party. If going to Sunday mass grounds you and helps you be a better person, please continue. If a walk in the woods is enough to keep you from going postal on your neighbor and his barking dog, I'm all for it. If you feel the need to ram your idea of faith down my throat, don't let the door hit you where Buddah split you. Keep your dogma on a leash but let's talk about it like rational, thinking adults.

In the strangely coherent words of Puck, "It seems to me true spirituality or whatever you call it is about enjoying the life you've been given."

My name is Tania and I don't believe religion is for me right now and I'm not sure I believe in a single God, but I do believe I would enjoy a tasty grilled Cheesus right now.


Lauren said...

I found a potato chip shaped like a 3d heart once. Bygones. I thought Glee was pretty pathetic. Although I appreciated the mockery of praying to a grilled cheesus. But friends of mine were crying over this episode. WHAT?

Unrelated: Martha Stewart made a grilled cheese on Oprah yesterday and included apples and sage. That sounds so delicious.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Lauren - I like the cut of your jib. Sandwiches and chips for everyone!

Draft Queen said...

I am not a viewer of Glee (please refrain from throwing things at me) but I share your sentiments on religion, which is to say: I have no idea exactly what I believe.

Anonymous said...

I found it kind of...'almost'. I think they missed a very unique opportunity this week. They could have made something special out of the whole topic, but instead I do agree with you that it kind of seemed like the ones who didn't believe in God had something wrong with them. Not the usual 'everyone should be accepted in their own way' thing they often stress.

I watched a recent Oprah show about real modern families, and your post here made me think of something someone said:
LINK to the Oprah website article on it

In short, Oprah had on Lisa & Christine, a lesbian couple. Lisa gave birth to their twins 4 months in, Lisa was pregnant via IVF with twin made from her eggs and the sperm Christine froze when she was originally a man named Chris. Chris is now a transgendered woman.

To say assume this is a complex situation that people may get their feathers ruffled over is an understatment.

But what struck me the most was when Oprah asked about how their families felt about the situation. Lisa replied along the lines of:
"I'm not looking for acceptance. I'm looking for love."
Lisa's dad has different religious & political views than what the reality of his family is. So instead of he & his daughter coming to some philosophical head, they simply allow their faith in each other's love guide the relationship to a comfortable place for both.

To get back to Glee, I think if they took this kind of philosophy and applied it to spirituality/religion/God...that the kids may be on their search or questioning things or whatnot, but if everyone believes in Love at least it's a kind of Faith we all have in common...well, I think the show would have hit home with a lot more people, and been more enjoyable to watch.

Whether you're an athiest or agnostic or strong believer in a higher power, if you believe in Love you have Faith.

Liz Jimenez said...

I definitely catch your point, though I saw it a little bit differently. I was VERY glad that Kurt was not magically converted by any of his friends' prayers or efforts. I thought his discussion of why he didn't believe in God were pretty darn reasonable (if a little angry, but justifiably so). I also totally agree that the "Papa Can You Hear Me" number was AWFUL and just another excuse for annoying Lea Michele to do a Barbra number.

BUT, I do think the end with Kurt's discussion with his dad was pretty good - that he doesn't believe in God, but he does believe in his family and how special that is. That worked for me, that was his sacred space.

And I totally bawled for the majority of the episode, but it was over Kurt's dad, not the somewhat awkward handling of religion. Oh, and the pregnancy hormones probably had an impact, too. :-)

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

@Let Me Start By Saying - Good points all around. I do feel like that's where the show was headed but as @Goddess in Progress pointed out, close but no cigar. (So to speak)

I watched it a second time with more openness and I do believe that's the point they were trying to make. Maybe those of us who have felt judged by not having religion are more sensitive to the happy God-ness of it all. Regardless, it was a tough subject to tackle in 42 minutes.

Molly said...

I cried when Kurt sang I Want To Hold Your Hand.

But for the most part? I was just over it. We don't go to church or temple. My mother is Jewish. My father is Catholic (sort of). My family is as un religious as we come.

I believe in God, personally. But I also believe in the collective unconscious. I believe that we are all connected on a subconscious level. I believe in putting out good energy into the world. I believe in being kind. But I also think it's presumptious to assume that one religious has the answer.

I also believe that Chris Colfer is a phenomenal actor.

The religious singing about God made me feel like I accidentally tuned into the religious radio station in my car. You know when you're bopping along to a song and then the chorus starts and its like "Jesus is my savoiorrrrrrrr" and my mom goes "whoops. next"

That's how Glee felt.

Issa said...

I've never seen Glee and I am not basically I wanted to applaud you for writing this so well. That's mostly it. :)

I believe in something. I'll call it god, for the sake of argument. I don't however believe in religion. I am not a fan of people, even on a TV show making it seem like other peoples beliefs aren't okay. I don't know why we can't all believe how we want, or not believe if we choose and it be okay.

Sandra said...

Loved this. Don't love Glee any more. As you know, I sat there with you (well through twitter) cringing. I might even go so far to say I was offended. The producers took a risk with this subject matter and it just didn't work. I wish I could be more contemplative about it like you. I do know what I believe and what I don't and was just pissed that my fav show got all preachy mcpreacherson on us. xo

Fairly Odd Mother said...

The older I get, the more I hate organized religion. No, wait, I meant HATE. I think it divides, steals, lies and creates scapegoats. The number of people in history killed because of religion? Staggering.

Faith? Is great. But organized religion scares me.

And, I stopped watching Glee after Season 1. I'm kind of glad I did.

(and can I just give you a woot woot! I think I've read TWO posts from you this week! U R Back!)

SciFi Dad said...

I'm going to self-promote (just a little) and link to a post I wrote on faith over a year ago.

I also thought that Glee crossed the line from irreverent to bad taste, for what it's worth. (Although Kurt's line about religion not thinking very highly of gays... or women... or science did make me laugh out loud.)

But I did appreciate the fact that I got backup for an argument I made years ago, when my daughter named a Barbie doll of hers "Cheeses" (my wife insisted it was "Jesus", and my fault, as she never says that).

The_EmilyB said...

This is a great post Tania and I kinda wish I wrote it :) I do think, as per your comment, that people who have been judged for lacking in the religion department are more sensitive to it.

I'm still not sure about the Glee episode. I watched it terrified that they were going to convert Kurt which would have seriously pissed me off so when they didn't I was incredibly relieved.

I liked that in the end they had Kurt accept other people's prayers for his father and as someone who isn't into organised religion I sometimes find it awkward when people want to pray for me.

I never felt like they offered Kurt up as flawed because he was religious - I think Kurt & his father are two of the most honest, real, whole characters on the show. And I agree with Molly that Chris Colfer is a phenomenal actor.

Do I think Glee fell short of the mark? Yes slightly (and I agree they so should have killed that Rachel number) But am I happy that they (and hell the Fox network) offered up a conversation on religion that was multi-faceted (even if it was only slightly)? Yes. It was flawed but it was a prime time actual conversation about faith, and has lead to several real life discussions that have made me think.

Avalon said...

Agnostic here.

Don't have faith, even if George Michael says I gotta'.

Used to love a good grilled cheesus before someone else's God allowed another type of God ( surgeon) screw up my insides.

Don't watch Glee.

Somehow still managed to raise a child to be a good, well-rounded,symapthetic person. Without the assistance or hindrance of any formalized religion.

Major Bedhead said...

I was very relieved that they didn't convert Kurt. The entire episode I was waiting for that to happen, especially when he went to church with Mercedes. I didn't realize I was sort of holding my breath the entire episode up until then.

I also didn't see them saying that the only people who didn't believe in God were flawed, I thought they depicted Kurt and Sue honestly, although Sue's reasons for not believing seem to be rooted in a childhood resentment rather than adult reasoning. She can still feel that way but she doesn't seem to have explored it beyond that, although I could be wrong. Sue is a bit of an enigma.

I liked the episode, for the most part, except for the dire Rachel number. And I consider myself an atheist, for whatever that's worth in this opinion.

SUEB0B said...

I think it is interesting that the fastest growing group in the US is "spiritual but not religious." Many people have kind of gotten over the idea of people telling them what to think and calling it holy.

I feel very lucky that I grew up in a non-religious family. My parents were highly ethical - they always tried to do the right thing, even when it was hard/inconvenient/embarrassing. They taught by example. I couldn't even tell you what their beliefs about God are/were. They taught me that kind of thing was private, and I'm glad they feel that way.

I've written a lot about my struggles with church and some of the beliefs about affirmations etc. I went to church looking for community, though, not for belief, so as long as my church doesn't demand I believe something, then I'm ok with it.

Ericka said...

well said.

i was glad they didn't convert him, but i was annoyed with them for trying. and i cried during at least one song, but i felt manipulated so it made me mad too.

i don't believe in organized religion. my dad was a foster kid and spent some "quality" time with a couple of men of the cloth, and if god exists, and heaven and hell, they are feeling pretty toasty right now. like suebob, my parents are very ethical, moral people and they raised me (as well as they could) to be the same. i think i turned out fine.

Nichole said...

Hmmm. I haven't seen this episode yet, and honestly I wasn't exactly trying to watch it. I never miss an episode of Glee, but I feel almost exactly as you do about religion, so this episode made me nervous and sad without even having seen it yet.

However, given what you've told us in this post I think I can bring a different view to the table. I think perhaps what the writers of the show were trying to do was cause a movement of understanding and acceptance in our general population. Perhaps, given that so many of the people out there are religious or Chirstian, they were trying to speak to those people as a way of informing them that there are folks out there who don't necessarily believe what they believe and at the end of the day that's okay. I think the fact that Kurt wasn't converted points to that. If Kurt had been converted, the religious would have seen that as a victory for Jesus and therefore would have learned nothing and spouted off into "I told you so"'s.

I also think maybe the episode might have been a retelling of someone's own personal experiences at school. I for one didn't have it easy going to a school composed of mostly Christian's in the rural mountains of West Virginia USA. I didn't step foot in a church until my senior year in high school, and even then it was only because my boyfriend's mom wouldn't let him date me if I didn't go to church. I think separation of church and state, and church and school, is a hot topic and will be for as long as our country lives, and maybe that's what they were going for as well…to show that sometimes it isn't exactly okay for a school choir to sing churchy songs just because 10 out of 12 of the students like church. What about those other two kids, who don't practice religion? Are they expected to adapt and adjust or miss out because they are the minority?

Food for thought. I can see how the episode would be annoying, but it definitely got us talking, didn't it? And maybe the other side is talking and thinking a little more clearly about issues as well.

I think you've inspired me to talk more openly about how I'm feeling over on my blog, which has been neglected again for some time now. :D

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jess said...

I grew up in the church (and I do mean, "in" -Christian school run by my church, church 3 times a week + youth group on Fridays and a parent in church leadership- and I stayed committed for years because I knew something about this was real and it wasn't what I was being taught in Sunday school. I spent years searching for other people who believed but were willing to ask questions that didn't have approved answers to them.

I found some, but they're few and far between. And in between are many, many people who judge everyone by some sort of standard that was made up by a bunch of white guys who claimed to be speaking for God. It stinks and I'm pretty sure it pisses God off too.

I believe in God and I believe Jesus was his son, and I'm convinced that if Jesus was here now a lot of high and mighty religious folks would not recognize him, because he sure as hell wouldn't be hanging out in church. He'd be having dinner with decent people who aren't sure what to believe but try to do the right thing anyway.

The next time a religious person tries to make you feel small for not going to church or pretending to know all the answers, tell them, "Ur doin' it wrong."

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Anonymous said...

So many people don't care about global warming. They disregard the need for conservation and instead drive SUVs. They don't care about the Federal deficit/debt (outside of partisanship) and they don't care earning $400k for an $80,000/year job will eventually bankrupt the country. They have voted themselves $400k pay and retirement packages, loading up their friends on the payroll during the boom 90s through the real estate bust while all services which the program were intended to fund now get cut to pay for it.
They think they are going sometime during/at the end of this life, and disregard the poor souls who are left behind.
Sounds like the Italians who were used to plan World War II and the Holocaust.
These are the people who will be here in the United States when bankruptcy is declared and society deteriorates into chaos. And they will deserve it.

Another feature which the Gods offer as a clue is very foreboading and ominous. Mt. Zion is a mountain to the north of Diablo (the eye of The Beast) and one which has a working quarry at its base. Consistant with the decay we experience in society, Mt. Zion is being eaten away, slowly stripped of its resources, until one day paradise will be gone forever.

The gods used the Italians to ruin life in the 20th century.
The gods used the Italians to ruin life in A.D. with The Church.
The Church controlled Western Civilization. As the largest land owner in Europe they controlled the monarchies. They were responsbile for slavery, revenge for African invasion and rape of Italy. They created religious discontent, ultimately leading to the disfavored dumping ground known as the United States.
And each generation of these Italians were sold on "earning", only to be reincarnated as a lesser life form subsequently, punishment for their evil.
"The West Bank, where the end of the world will begin." With xtianity.
And they were reincarnated into the ghetto to be punished as crack babies and in drive-by shootings, both intentionally inflicted on the black community and poetic justice for inflicting these horrors on their hated enemies.
On their brothers.

i don't care if you did escape the last Big Bang.
The last 10,000,000,000 Big Bangs.
I would systematically exterminate your kind for exploiting me like you did.
You would be clone hosted so I could kill you over and over.
I would burn you at the stake so often you would beg me to let you die.
"You deserved it." Considering how you pushed me into all my offenses I suspect it was no different in prior lives.
Fuck you.

I will forever regret and resent being picked for this event.
Minimized, not optimal.
I may not have learned as much as I have but I WOULD have gotten more done and made more progress, and at the end of this life that's all that matters. We are all reincarnated and must re-learn about the gods and their methodology.
This is the worst possible senario in my life.
Despite your attempts to force your positioning I will take my hatred forward to the next life.
The empty promise is I will have a real chance of going, and if I retain this experience there is no way in damngod motherfuckers that would ever be possible. Secret is they have the freedom to remind me of this life, "executive priveledge" retained, sabotaging all progress up to that point.
This is a lost cause. They are degenerate filth who positioned in a guarentee to fail, ensuring the are not to blame for their failed promise.
I am better off without them.

They remind me of the behavior they created in my adolescence, much like molestation or stealing, which they used in their positioning.
I would dispose of the gods if I had the chance.
The upside down star is my symbol. There is of course no Satan. That's just the gods with different clothes on.

Matt Dickinson said...

Thanks for mentioning Burt Bacharach.

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