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December 9, 2009

Is Glee "Anti-Christian"?

What one of America's most popular shows says about us

Nothing says wholesome, family entertainment like a group of teenage misfits doing jazz squares. But since last May’s exuberant post-Idol premiere, FOX’s freshman series Glee has some of the nearly half million who downloaded that exuberant cover of “Don’t Stop Believin’” wondering if, as a recent Time article suggests, the show is actually anti-Christian.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, however, that a show conceived by Ryan Murphy, the man known for pushing boundaries on Popular and the controversial Nip/Tuck, would quickly generate controversies of its own. Call it “the ick factor”: the show’s two main story arcs center around Mr. Schuester, a teacher/choir director who’s stuck in a marriage so bad you find yourself rooting for him to leave his wife for the perky guidance counselor, and Finn, a quarterback-turned-baritone who accidentally got his cheerleader girlfriend pregnant. Did I mention that she’s a committed Christian (who interrupts their make-out sessions to pray) and the president of the celibacy club? And when her very religious parents find out about her pregnancy, they kick her out of the house. Ick, indeed.

If a show portrays Christians in a negative light, is it "anti-Christian"? This is the question Nancy Gibbs asks in her Time article, “The Gospel of Glee: Is it Anti-Christian?” While acknowledging the show’s reinforcement of negative stereotypes, she ultimately argues against the thesis: “It insults kids to suggest that simply watching Characters Behaving Badly onscreen means they'll take that as permission to do the same themselves. The fact that Glee is about a club full of misfits already makes it ripe gospel ground; Jesus was not likely to be sitting at the cool kids' table in the cafeteria.” She’s right; what we need to worry about is kids seeing characters behaving badly without repercussions. But this is not the case in Glee; its portrayal of struggling teenage parents offers an embodied, complex exploration of the consequences of sin.

She goes on to conclude, “The point lies in the surprises that jostle us out of our smug little certainties and invite us to weigh what we value, whatever our faith tradition.” It makes me uncomfortable to find myself rooting for even a fictional married man to leave his wife, but still I find myself struggling to reconcile my own beliefs with the action unfolding on screen. Is this cause for alarm with the show, for portraying a complicated situation without an easy resolution, or is it in myself, for being exposed in my baser instincts? I’m helping the show make its point—I am the “hypocritical Christian” it critiques. We can be quick to jump on obvious red flags, but it’s often the subtleties of a well-made work that draw out the true message. They don’t make for easy sound bites, but they’re often there if we’re willing to do the work.

Glee airs its fall finale tonight at 9/8c on FOX. Are you still watching? What do you think about the idea that the show is “anti-Christian"?

Related Tags: Glee


The phrase "anti-faith/race/gender/etc." is always an awkward one for me, because I find it's often used to simply denote a negative portrayal. While portraying something onscreen in a negative light can walk a fine and often blurry line between actively denouncing it - that is, being "anti" - the two are still separate messages.

That Glee chooses to restrict its portrayals of Christians to negative ones is unfortunate, and I can't comment on it directly as I've watched very little, but I think the real question here is whether or not the show, in those negative portrayals, sends the message that the Christian faith itself is evil, destructive, useless, or that anyone who adheres to it is an idiot who does nothing with their faith but harm others. In my mind, that is what makes a show "anti-" anything.

I've been moved many times watching Glee. It is exceptional writing and character development.

But, yes, you are correct - they portray consequences often and realistically. Including uptight Christian parents who shun their "perfect" pregnant daughter. (I've seen that scenario in real life WAY too often.) And including the exposure of the truth about Finn NOT being the father of the baby. Very sobering moments...

I've watched a number of episodes of Glee since its beginning. I, too, was looking forward to the musical aspects of the show, and, generally, have not been too disappointed even though the music values of a 62-yr-old (me) don't line up very well with the contemporary music scene. I did not notice that the parents were particularly "Christian," unless it was in name only. But I have struggled with the show's themes of accepting homosexuality, belittling abstinence before marriage, premarital sex, the abortion issue - all of which stand in opposition to Biblical teaching. Plus you have a dysfunctional marriage, a budding romance between a married man and an unmarried woman, to say nothing of the rotten attitude and "the end justifies the means" attitude from Sue. I was glad to see her receive her just desserts last night. although I doubt that we've see the last of her.
All in all, it is apparent that this show makes no pretense of being receptive to Biblical teaching. I am torn about how much I will continue to watch.

The consequences portrayed may be realistic, but the scenarios in and of themselves are too far-fetched to swallow. In particular, the "faked" pregnancy that lasted up until the Dec 2nd episode *and a doctor blackmailed into going along with it* -- that just didn't sit well. If you're going to have a show with real consequences, make the setups slightly more realistic, eh?

All that said, I do very much enjoy this show, if only for the musical numbers. In the most recent episode, when Will's wife admits she's seeing a counselor and is admitting her flaws, that was the first real moment, and the first time I thought "we shouldn't be hoping for a Will and Emma relationship." But of course it happened. Of all the characters in the show, Will was the most noble, the one that we might actually look to as a sort of role model. But in his mind, apparently, the marital relationship *is* about having certain feelings.

Before I go on, Will went through a type of betrayal that is entirely unrealistic, but the point is that he was lied to about something VERY BIG for a LONG time. To some, that may be grounds for divorce. But what of his wife? Did she act the way she did because of a possibly *clinical* anxiety disorder? At this point, what happens to "in sickness and in health?"

Outside of outright adultery or abuse, Christians shouldn't be hoping to see married people divorce (real or fictional). Whether or not what Will's wife did counts as "abuse" is borderline. It certainly isn't physical abuse. But that level of lying and betrayal may well be considered emotional abuse. In any case, I do not think I like where the plot is going.

What IS worth noting is that Finn isn't married to Quinn, and considering the lies she held for so long, he does have every reason to leave, and probably should. I'd like to know what happens to Quinn now that both her family and Finn have rejected her; where does she live now?

I am constantly bewildered by the Christian community believing that television and movies produced by the secular community should have their characters act as Christians. To distinguish between fiction and reality appears to be a problem with many Christians and when the fictional characters do not portray Christian values, then we must vilify the show as "anti-Christian" and warn all believers to stay away from it. I believe the problem may be that Christians look into the mirror and don't like what they see and want to throw the mirror out. For a Christian girl to be a Christan, yet practice premarital sex and become pregnant, to me, doesn't fall far from reality in our day and age. For self-righteous Christian parents to throw out their daughter because of what they may think other Christians may say because of their daughter's pregnancy is a sermon within itself. The Bible tells us that judgment must first begin in the House of the Lord. Maybe we want to reject it, because a secular writer placed a story line in his program that made us face the truth of our own hypocrisy...

Disclaimer: I only saw a few pieces of a few episodes, so I speak out of ignorance. Judge my words accordingly.

I can appreciate that a great deal of the show is ironic and satiric. This style has a grand tradition of misunderstanding; after all, Johnathon Swift was attacked by many for advocating baby eating in his "A Modest Proposal," even though what he was actually arguing for was more humane treatment for the Irish.

That being said, what disappointed me in the bits that I saw was that the wife character was the only completely flat, unsympathetic character in the whole show. While everyone else, from the cheerleader to the cheerleader coach, had quirks or points that made them seem halfway human at points. From what I observed, the wife never did. I did not like the fact that I was being encouraged to root for a man to stray. Here's the deal: if she's that wacko, I can't believe she just got that way. At some point in his life Will really liked that type of person. He made that choice; the fact that he regrets it now doesn't excuse him from his commitments.

I can understand irony, I can understand comedy: I can even believe that woman is abusive (she's definitely crazy). But don't present a marital problem as a deep issue to ponder or satirize if one side is always "right" and "selfless" and the other side is completely "wrong" and "selfish." That's not ironic or even funny: it's poor characterization. For me to laugh, I have to first care.

No disclaimer needed here...I have watched the entire season, and a few episodes and songs many times, the talent on the show is amazing and addicting...as a consumer my family likes Glee...a lot,

My kids have been involved in the theater world and we enjoyed many aspects of the program. Almost every character in the program represents realistically the type of kids that get involved in drama. Yes it goes over the top, and is not totally believable, but it's a spoof, a comedy, that is what it is supposed to do.

With that being said it is constantly underhandedly insulting Christians, the one group I feel quite unfairly represented in the program. Many wonderful, kind, and loving Christians get involved in theater. I am insulted that it not represented in the show more realistically. Most Christians are not homophobic right wing fanatics (though we disagree with the sin, we love and care for the sinner), and it is offensive to constantly be portrayed that way in the arts and Christian don't protest enough about it. We just take it as par for the course, we were told by the Lord Himself people would hate us for Righteous sake and representing Him.

I do think that the show can cause you to be deceived if you are not careful. There are numerous underhanded comments and the way the scenes are written to make the Christian feel like the "bad guy". For example Finn a straight guy was supposed to be accepting of the fact that he has to share a room with the gay character Kurt who is attracted to him and decorated the room like a harem.

Sorry Finn has a right to be uncomfortable rooming with someone who has feelings for him...gay or straight...would this have been acceptable if the genders were opposite? NO...a responsible parent would never think to put a teen girl in a room with a teen boy when they have feelings for each other...is this not the same situation? The world wants us to see the relationship as equal and if that is the case, then why would anyone think it ok for two people of opposite orientations share a room together???

That scene though did though springboard our family into a discussion...gays in the military...the show clearly showed the realistic discomfort a straight man has rooming with a gay man...though to get the drift you had to be a critical thinker and for most teens today just don't have enough of those skills...

Like anything you need to watch it with a critical eye and with your kids and discuss it afterwards...

I watched the entire first season of Glee as well as the first episode of season 2. I don't really think that the issue is whether or not Glee is anti-Christian, but rather if, as servants of Christ, we have any business watching shows that are filled with unholy acts that spit in His face. I love Broadway show tunes, and was a swing choir gal myself, but I seriously question how it glorifies God for any Christian to watch this show. Watching evil portrayed as evil is one thing....watching evil and having it portrayed as lovely is quite another. This whole show is icky.

It humors me to see that some people here actually think Glee is supposed to be generalizing and showing the entire world populace through these children (and adults).

Yes, there are different kinds of Christians. There are those who are loveable, respectful and respected, and can follow the rules of their religion faithfully. However, there are also Christians who are the complete opposite. These people can be quite nasty.

Yes, there are couples who possess lifelong dedication to their spouse/partner. However, there are still those who just cannot hold onto that romance. Taking "Will"'s side, how would /you/ feel if someone you're married to but is weakly emotionally bonded with leads you on for eight-nine months saying that she is pregnant with your child.. then later you find out it was a mere scheme to keep you leashed?

I think people should calm down a bit. It's just one of many entertainment shows-- can't please everyone when you only have a single flavor of candy, right?

Some people seem to not understand that this is showing how worldly things are, this is not portraying real Christians but people who go around and call themselves Christians but don't really live a Christian life.You can tell a Christian by the fruits of their spirit.Also it is not a religion but a personal relationship with God, the religious parents show what happens when you stray from God and focus on religion.For the others I assume most people can figure it out.