Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Gimme God

The testimony of a sitcom Christian.

I watched a comedy the other night, only because Reign (medieval soap opera) wasn’t on. During The Big Bang Theory (the only sitcom I find consistently entertaining) I’d caught a commercial for my second-choice program, Mom, which showed a woman speaking to a crowd about the Holy Spirit. I told my husband it might be interesting to see how wrong they got it. How a bunch of unredeemed writers and producers would present the Holy Spirit to the viewing public.

For the first few minutes, I was impressed by the flow of conversation between the unchurched characters and their friend—a woman imprisoned for embezzlement who’d “found the Lord” in jail. A regular on the show had been entrusted with holding some of that embezzled cash for said prisoner, but had gambled it away. She confessed her sin, and the newly converted inmate forgave her. Not only that, Prison Lady thanked Gambler for getting rid of the money she’d stolen. Knowing the money was there for her was a temptation she was glad to be free of. Now she could depend on God to give her what she needed. It all sounded so right. Maybe there was a Christian behind the scenes. 

Fast forward two weeks to release day. Prison Lady is free, living with a friend and driving her crazy with the “Jesus talk." An AA meeting gives Prison Lady a chance to share her testimony, which turns into an ethnic-driven caricature of Christianity. Still, it contained bits of truth that left me feeling good about the tolerance of network TV. But then Prison Lady said something that blew the whole thing. A common, comforting slip, really. An ecumenical expression of God’s omnipresence. “The Holy Spirit is in all of us.”

Well, if God is omnipresent, is He already inside every living human being? Maybe in some way, He is. How can an omnipresent being not be everywhere?  But whether it was staff writers or consultants who added Christian content to this episode, I hope they cringed. I hope they know the Holy Spirit indwells the redeemed. And that is different. How? The rest of the episode, I think, revealed the difference.

Gambler decided to go to church with Prison Lady. Gambler’s mom, who harbors some anger against God, balked at the ridiculous step her alcoholic, gambling addict daughter was taking, because God had never done anything for them. But Gambler came home shaking a tambourine, singing a new song, and filled with…something. Her newfound joy had emerged when she realized Prison Lady’s prayers were getting answered in a big way. She had a good job, a new car, and now free room and board in the mansion of another friend.

This stuff worked. Prison Lady asked, and God gave. So Gambler started asking. When Mom got filled in about the Gimme God, a light came on in her eyes. But it wasn’t from the Holy Spirit.The last scene showed Gambler, Mom, and a couple of others who’d been enlightened by Prison Lady all lifting their hands and singing to the Lord. They’d come to church to get their wishes fulfilled.

As Christianity is portrayed by Hollywood, this was only half bad. There’s nothing wrong with people going to church to get their needs met. It’s just that sometimes, like the ladies on Mom, they don’t know what their needs are. They don’t need a minute with God. They don’t need Him to give them stuff. If that’s what God wanted us to know about Him—that he can supply us with stuff—then he’d just give us stuff. If you think God wants you to have nice things, your right, but you’re thinking too small. What we need—all of us—is not what God can give us. What we need is God. His indwelling presence. A relationship with Him.

There was some talk of Jesus during the episode of Mom, but nobody noticed that He was the answer to their prayers. Without Him, there is no way to God. There is no Holy Spirit in us. That’s the difference between God’s presence for the unredeemed, and God’s dwelling in the redeemed. One wants her needs met and asks God for favors. The other just spends time with her Father, knowing He won’t forsake her.

Now, don’t think I go too long without petitioning my Father. After all, the Bible says to delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 34:7)

But here’s what I’ve learned: You can’t delight in God if you don’t know Him, and He doesn’t give you what your heart desires, but rather gives your heart its desires.  Being delighted by God, your heart desires God.

So, does my heart fully desire only what God desires? Well, I waste time on a medieval soap opera (but I’m kind of getting over it) and I watch a comedy about a bunch of physicists? (Okay, I really like physicists.) As for the other show, I can take it or leave it. It might be interesting to see if Prison Lady continues in her commitment to Jesus, or gives up on Him when He doesn’t give her everything she wants. If she was a real person I’d tell her if she only knew what God already gave her, she’d be satisfied. Forever. It’s something I have to remind myself of once in a while too.

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting, and so on target! I always start writhing when Christianity is approached in secular shows because they so totally miss the point--and I know the writers think they have the point.