Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Glee Finds God

I wasn’t sure whether to address this or not, but since the excellent blog, The Manga Curmudgeon, provided one point of view, I thought I’d chirp in. 

Fox’s hit show, Glee, has a religious-themed show last night.  It’s focus was on Kurt, a gay member of New Directions, the name of his school’s glee club.  His father has had an aneurysm, as conflict ensues as the many believing members of the group try to offer him comfort through their prayers, which atheist Kurt wants no part of.

First, the good.  My wife and I wondered aloud all day whether we’d watch the show – while satire and plain poking fun at religion is commonplace in media nowadays, it’s still difficult for many Christians (including us) to watch.  In the end, we watched and flipped off parts that we didn’t like so much (particularly Finn’s Cheesus storyline).  But all in all, I thought the show took Christianity seriously – something I can’t say happens with many shows and films. 

However, the shows creator and writers don’t seem to understand Christian spirituality.  I suppose it would be like me, an Asian American, writing about what it’s like to be black; I can research and I can see the cultural or societal view of being black, but it would be quite amazing if I could write about the true experience.  Thus, the characters become hollow, if not demeaning, caricatures of Christians.  Most of all, we see most of the characters, who have done very unChristians things throughout the series, acting as if Christianity is an important part of their lives.  Is it, or is it just an incidental part – more of identity and belief?  After all, no anime fan would claim to be so and then never watch anime or read manga.

Also, as is mentioned on The Manga Curmudgeon, Mercedes brings Kurt to her church and addresses him and the congregation through a brief talk and song; but where’s the followup?  Where’s the understanding?  Where is the compassion?  Where is CHRIST?  Perhaps Mercedes would have addresses the questions, if this was real life: but this is a show, and the focus was on song, not on showing the heart of a disciple of Christ.

James, the brother of Christ, wrote the following words 2,000 years ago:  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  Faith can easily be replaced in this verse by prayer, which is a symbol of faith, since believers have faith that God is hearing them, that God will answer in one way or another, and that answered prayer is not a coincidence, but contains God’s involvement.  Yet, all the Glee characters do, for the most part, is pray.  No one offers tangible help.  Jesus never left it at prayer – He prayed and healed.  In the same way, prayer convicts believers to not leave the world as is.  Believers should not settle for the injustice of the world, but do something about it.

This is why last night’s episode rang hollow.  And I believe the show’s creator wanted to do more, but let himself be hamstrung by a lack of knowledge about the Christian faith and by the need to center the show around popular songs that mostly didn’t fit (Losing My Religion?  One of my favorite songs, but a real sellout song for the show). 

And don’t get me started on Finn’s flip-flopping of faith based on the grilled Cheesus…there was a simple, profound lesson that could have been given there, but which was missed entirely.

I’ll end with this.  Despite all of the weak points of the episode, one (and maybe just one) scene rang loudly and true.  Sue’s visit with her sister provided her sister and opportunity to say something profound about God.  Just because things don’t go our way doesn’t mean God doesn’t care.  Sue’s sister is more at peace with the world than Sue will probably ever be; her disability is not something holding her back, and she loves God despite it.  Similarly, God loves us despite our anger, dislike and even hatred toward Him.  As a Father is pained when his children do things to hurt themselves, God looks down with sadness as war, murder, and all sorts of evil things happen on our planet.  We know this through Jesus, God in flesh, who wept when His friends died, feeling the same emotions we do.  And yet, he lets us do things on our own, trying to figure it out, hoping that we’ll learn from our mistakes.  And one day, He hopes to welcome us all home.

What do you think?  Did Glee address religion tactfully, tactlessly, or in a place in between? 

Read The Manga Curmudgeon’s views on the episode: Hate on them

5 thoughts on “Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Glee Finds God

    1. Thank you for the comment! I would say this, and most of my posts, are a mixture of my thoughts and things I’ve learned. In fact, they’re probably more the latter combined with my personal application. This post, for instance, collects a number of ideas I’ve studied and taught over the years, particularly from my recent reading of “Prayer: Does It Make a Difference” by Philip Yancey.

  1. As an Orthodox Jew, it stings when Rachel seems to think “Papa can you hear me?” is a legitimate Jewish prayer. But then again, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” is certainly not a Gospel song. What about Psalms? They’re pretty deep and appeal to most people–even if none of them are currently used in pop songs. 😛
    And how on Earth could anyone think “What if G-d was one of us” is a religious song at all? It ring heretical to my ears…always has.

    But the most offensive thing about the show was the “cheeses” thing, and it was handled horribly. This episode seemed to offend most religious people, athiests, and gay people that watched it. A mean feat for one episode of Glee.

  2. Thank you for the perspective – I wondered how the focus on Rachel’s faith, which seemed to be “thrown in,” would be received.

    I would have LOVED to see the group sing one of the Psalms. Ha – that would never happen, of course! But man, the honesty and forthrightness of many of the Psalms would certainly spark some great discussion if one was sung. 🙂

    Oooh, the Joan Osborne song…ending the show with it showed that the creators did not have people who practiced their religion seriously as a main core audience for the episode. I have mixed feelings about the song, but I now it’s just simply offensive to many with it’s lack of reverence. Just an aside – if I remember correctly, Osborne was Buddhist when she sang it, or converted shortly after it’s release.

    The Cheesus thing was…gosh…I don’t have words…

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