Campy: (Performing Arts / Theatre) consciously artificial, exaggerated, vulgar, or mannered; self-parodying, esp when in dubious taste. (The Free Dictionary)
After watching the first episode of ABC’s GCB, I think it would be safe to say that any concern that Americans will confuse this campy television show with the Southern Baptist Convention’s new nickname — Great Commission Baptists (GBC for short) — has, in hindsight, proven unfounded. Not that the concern was unwarranted. However, this mid-season series, which debuted Sunday night, is so campy that no one could reasonably conclude that this was intended to be anything but a parody of cultural Christianity — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Maybe because I just visited Dallas with my son or perhaps because I loved the high camp of the Ewings in the 1980s series, Dallas, I couldn’t help but find myself laughing out loud at some of the over-the-top caricatures of Christians portrayed by the likes of Kristin Chenoweth, Annie Potts (of Ghostbusters and Designing Women fame), and David James Elliott (formerly of JAG). All of the characters, except the two teenage children, were consciously exaggerated (and in many cases, vulgar) to illustrate the central premise of the show — that Christian’s are hypocrites.
Now, that’s not exactly a recently discovered fact that was heretofore hidden from the world. It is perhaps the world’s worst kept secret. Who knew that sinful people — even those who have been redeemed and given a new life in Christ — would struggle with hypocrisy? When people use the excuse that they don’t want to go to church because of all the hypocrites, I usually tell them that there will be one less hypocrite at church if they don’t come. That either results in a laugh or in an angry retort. Either way, truth is a defense.
Now, the bright side of the GCB parody (I am still talking about the ABC television show) is that Hillside Park Church — the place where all the central characters attend (one even sings in the choir) — is most assuredly not a Southern Baptist Church! Thank heaven for small miracles. If I were Episcopal or Lutheran or some other High Church denomination that is portrayed in this church, I might have reason to be upset. But, Southern Baptists can laugh their heads off, all the while knowing that the type of hypocritical behavior depicted in GCB would never go on in our churches. Just kidding!
Most Christians will probably not watch this show (in fact, we shall see if anyone watches the show over the next few weeks) because of its original title. While I would not recommend this show for a “G” or “PG” audience, this might be one of those shows that can be redeemed (similar to The Walking Dead). If you can get past the exaggeration and camp factor, then you could find truth within the parody.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we have encountered real-life people similar to some of the characters on GCB. Those that we have come face-to-face with — either inside the church house or in the community — may not be as artificial as Christians portrayed on-screen, but they are every bit as artificial when it comes to being followers of Christ. We often like to look at others and pat ourselves on the back for not being “as bad as they are.” We like to think that our communities, neighborhoods, schools, and churches are more perfect than they really are.
When one character says, “Honey, we live in a righteous community,” which apparently is somewhere in the Dallas area (Ft. Worth was not looked upon favorably), the main protagonist simply replied:
“Fun fact: Dallas has more churches per capita than anywhere on earth. Also, Dallas has more strip clubs per capita than anywhere on earth. 2 + 2 = a double standard!”
Ouch! That’s gotta hurt, especially if you live in Dallas. But, of course, this observation could apply to anywhere in the world. Churches, and those who seek to follow Christ, can be salt and light in a dark world, but the reality is that there are no communities that are truly “righteous.” It’s only when we understand just how unrighteous we are that we can begin to understand our need for a Savior. Perhaps GCB has it right, even if they don’t comprehend right from wrong.
But, GCB, like most of cultural Christianity, has no clue as to where to get the answers for right and wrong. Much like Kristin Chenoweth’s character, who was upset about what she knew about one of her friend’s husbands:
“If I know something and I don’t tell her, am I breaking a commandment? I’ll Google it.”
Why turn to God’s Word when you can just Google it? For all the controversy (I’m not sure there was really much outside of the usual suspects giving way too much free publicity to GCB in the first place) surrounding this show, ABC’s GCB really does parody our Christian culture in America. I’m afraid the show’s creators and writers may have hit closer to home than many of us would like. If it wasn’t so funny, it really would be sad. Sad indeed.