I’m not sure whether it’s good news or bad that I never even got a casting call for the new “religion” series Canadians consider their prime-time viewing choice for Sunday nights. GCB (a.k.a. Good Christian Bitches – or Belles, depending on who you ask) is CTV’s hottest U.S. import, with over 1.3-million viewers watching its debut, and it continues to rate No. 1 in its 10 p.m. Sunday time slot.
This show, set in the Dallas suburb of Highland Park, is the new brand for educating the masses with what goes on in evangelical church life. True to that faith, which is eternally optimistic, we can thank ABC and CTV for a soap opera that gives us solid evidence that the Bible’s message is true; people are sinners whom God loves into redemption. GCB is a hit because in its own outrageous way, it captures exactly that – our elusive need to be forgiven and repaired.
GCB’s wealth, greed, lust, sexy bodies, beautiful homes and hot cars all made me pick up the phone and call my friend Jenni. She lives a few kilometres from the nearly 100-year-old Highland Park United Methodist Church. The church has a grand historic tower and caters to 13,000 members.
If there was cause for a parody of church in Dallas as hypocritical, backbiting, materialistic and self-centred, Jenni would know. She auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and was the beautiful star of At Home Live, a Christian television program she hosted with her Hamilton-born psychologist husband, Chuck Borsellino.
Jenni reminded me that Texans love to be characterized as big about everything – “for our diva-ism, our glam and sparkle, our commercialism. Bring it on, I can laugh at that,” said Jenni. “But my religion?” Suffice it to say she’s insulted by GCB, and has complained by e-mail to ABC and anyone who’ll listen.
CTV says the volume of Canadian complaints over GCB are “nothing out of the ordinary” and generously sprinkle the show’s sex-and-Scripture promos all through family viewing hours. Some American voices have called for a boycott, but I would challenge the insulted faithful to watch at least one episode of this painful depiction of Christianity. It’s good medicine for those who try to follow the teachings of Christ to be reminded that our actions are judged.
As I began watching, in my own faith-based optimism I thought, we can redeem GCB, for God’s sake, everything should be redeemable – but some obvious realities look insurmountable. Its misuse of the Scripture it quotes is blatant blasphemy and its church model is anemic. The program casts a pall of derogatory social conditioning on Christianity that is profoundly disrespectful. Its role modelling stands in sad contrast to the millions of hours Christians spend volunteering in Canadian churches. Compassion work, education, arts, sports, soup kitchens, addiction, marriage and grief counselling – this good Christian behaviour is just too boring for TV.
There’s an irony that this series would launch in the 40 days of Lent. In this pre-Easter season, Christians are challenged to deny themselves a few cravings so as to remember that “forgiven and repaired” occurs because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It’s a season of self-sacrifice over self-indulgence, a complete opposite choice of the Christianity you’ll find pilloried on GCB. I know which one I hope to see in a rerun next Easter.