GCB: ABC’s Campy Parody of Cultural Christians

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.

5 comments for “GCB: ABC’s Campy Parody of Cultural Christians

  1. March 5, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Didn’t realize it had already made its debut episode. I don’t care which faith is caricatured if it is indeed a parody that makes fun of Christians. While we all fail in our walk with Christ, I don’t know that a show like this can better the conversations we have with the unbelieving world. It’s an uphill battle being a Christian as it is, with angry Christians wearing “Jesus” tee-shirts and spreading their emotional mirth upon waitresses and slow sales clerks. Oh to be saltier and of greater wattage.

    Well, Howell, “truth is unkillable”, as our friend’s site says, and as my momma use to say: “if the shoe fits, wear it”. Hate it when they pinch my toes, though. selahV

  2. March 5, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    Howell,

    I agree with much of what you wrote here. I watched out of curiosity and laughed a number of times at the over-the-top characters. I actually thought it was more of a commentary on Southern, Wealthy “First Church”-type churchgoers than real, middle class Christians. And it looks like the writers had high-church United Methodists in mind given that the sign indicated that it was a “United Memorial Church”. While there are certainly some aspects that were reminiscent of real people I’ve met in the Church, the “campy” aspects and caricature in the main actors clearly led the audience away from any true sense of reality.

    • March 5, 2012 at 9:54 PM

      D.R.,

      I wasn’t thinking Methodist, but you might be right on that. At least it wasn’t Baptist 😉 This was so over-the-top that I don’t think that many people will mistake the characters on GCB with “real-life” Christians, although there are certainly kernels of truth in the exaggerated caricatures. And, I don’t think that anyone’s going to confuse the ABC show with the new SBC nickname, GCB. Thanks for stopping by tonight. Hope you have a great week and God bless,

      Howell

  3. CindyG
    March 8, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    I also agree with most of what you said. There are many that use the fact that they went to church on Sunday as license to behave however on Monday – Saturday. I will just say as a Christian who strives to live by the words of Christ, yet rarely goes to church anymore, I enjoyed the show and LOL many times.

    • March 8, 2012 at 7:52 AM

      Cindy,

      Thanks for reading. I appreciate you sharing this morning. While GCB is “over-the-top” in its portrayal of Christians, there’s no question that people live as you said — coming to church on Sunday, but then living quite differently the rest of the week. I must admit that I found myself laughing out loud several times as well. As the pastor, I know that there are no such things as perfect churches (and certainly not perfect pastors 🙂 ), but I still believe that the local church, even with its flaws, is the best place to find encouragement and growth in our Christian life. It’s hard enough being a follower of Christ in our culture today. It’s much harder when we try to do it on our own. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

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