Missing from the Media, Part 2: Christians, or Why It’s Okay to Like Us

In my last post, I wrote about the lack of good kids in today’s mainstream media, and just overnight, I have gotten great feedback from other good kids. They agree that TV characters aren’t as responsible or well-balanced as they used to be (oh, ’90s family programming, we miss you!), and we’d like to see characters whose behaviors and life choices resemble our own.

Personally, I have chosen to be a good kid because of my Christian faith. Like most (if not all) of the people who connected with my last post, I try to abstain from certain activities, behaviors, and attitudes in order to live a life that is pleasing to God. The Bible tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). I try to glorify God by reflecting his goodness and holiness in my actions and decisions.

As I wrote yesterday’s post and thought about my reasons for being a good kid, I realized that the media also lacks positive or realistic portrayals of Christians. Whether it’s a fictional character or particular Christian individuals or groups in news coverage, Christians in media rarely provide a positive representation of Jesus-followers. If people are basing their opinions of Christians and Christianity on the media, it’s no wonder why people hate Christians.

Marguerite Perrin, known as “the God Warrior” from Trading Spouses

When people hear the word “Christian,” they might think of the Westboro Baptist Church, who tote “God Hates [fill in the blank]” signs and use tragedy as an opportunity to condemn homosexuality, Judaism, Italy, or Barack Obama. They might think of Harold Camping, who predicts the world will end on May 21, 1988 September 7, 1994 May 21, 2011 October 21, 2011. They might think of Glee‘s Quinn Fabray, the deviously vindictive head cheerleader who balanced teen pregnancy with her responsibilities as president of the Celibacy Club. Or they might think of the sheltered and naive Rod and Todd Flanders from The Simpsons. Christians in media are seen as judgmental hypocrites or just plain crazy and stupid.

Mother Teresa

But what are Christians really like? According to the old song, “they will know we are Christians by our love.” We are not out to hate the world but to love it. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Not only does God love all people, He has commanded Christians to do the same. So when the media shows people who claim to love Jesus but hate everyone else, that’s not an accurate representation of what faith in Jesus is supposed to look like.

In the area of morality, media struggles to find a balance in its characterization of Christians. Fictional Christian characters are either naive or hypocritical. On one end of the spectrum, they are goody two-shoes who have been sheltered from a world of sin. On the other end, they disapprove of others’ actions while they are up to their eyeballs in identical immorality behind a facade of innocence. Most people are somewhere in the middle. We are not perfect, nor do we pretend to be.

If I could create a Christian character, it would be someone known for loving other people – all people. Someone who wouldn’t claim to be perfect but would still strive for moral integrity. Someone who stands by his or her convictions, whether it’s a matter of religious doctrine or moral standards, and respectfully disagrees with those who believe differently. Someone who is compassionate, generous, and kind. Perhaps someone who is passionate about social justice and doing something to change the world.

Apparently, Glee creator Ryan Murphy had plans in 2010 to create a Christian character for the second season. He told TV Guide, “We’ve taken a couple jabs at the right wing this year, so what I want to do with this character is have someone who Christian kids and parents can recognize and say, ‘Oh, look—I’m represented there, too!’ If we’re trying to form a world of inclusiveness, we’ve got to include that point of view as well.” Obviously, that plan didn’t come to fruition as fans prepare for the premier of the show’s third season, but Murphy hasn’t completely canned the idea. Winner of The Glee Project, Samuel Larsen, says that Murphy is considering casting him as an indie rocker that you wouldn’t expect to be a Christian but is.

If Christian characters on TV, like the one that Ryan Murphy might create for Glee, were more like the Christians I know (or what I believe a Christian to be), then people would realize it’s okay to like Christians. And if all Christians were more like the Jesus we claim to follow, then people would realize it’s okay to like Jesus, too.