The most inane reality TV show yet (yes, a dubious distinction) will start airing this weekend in Britain. It’s called “Make Me a Christian.” Just reading about it makes me want not to be a Christian so I can strangle the producers with a clear conscience.
Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote that “hell is other people.” Personally I think hell is other people in reality TV shows. Or maybe it’s other people who come up with ideas for reality TV shows.
“In this three-part series,” Channel 4 explains in a press release. “A group of volunteers give up their normal lives and attempt to live like Christians for three weeks.”
The 13 volunteers (that’s right, 13 — I can’t wait to see which one turns out to be Jesus) include an atheist biker, a lap-dancer who likes expensive shoes, a Muslim convert, a young womanizer, two middle-class parents too busy for their kids, an unmarried couple expecting a child, and a lesbian who’s into witchcraft.
What’s so absurd isn’t the cast of potential converts, which you might find at any reputable tent revival. What’s driving me to distraction is the show’s notion of what makes a Christian.
According to Channel 4, the busy parents will be asked to spend 15 minutes a day with their children, the lesbian will be asked to get rid of her explicit photos and books, and the young womanizer will be asked not to “look lustfully” at a girl. “Can they embrace Christian ideals and learn to live in a different way or will their old lives prove just too strong to resist?”
The Revelations Will be Televised.
I suppose we can’t fault TV producers who are trying to make a buck for thinking that Christians are merely people who get straight A’s in behavior, or that becoming a Christian means cleaning up your act in three weeks or less.
Even church leaders have a hard time deciding what it means to be a Christian. Some say you become a Christian in an emotional, born-again instant, others say that being a disciple of Christ is a lifelong process of spiritual discipline. Some say it’s all about your own personal beliefs, others that it’s all about doing for others. Some say heaven is only for certain kinds of Christians, others say hell is for people of other faiths.
So what makes a Christian? I’m not talking about what makes a hypocritical Christian or a superficial Christian or a dogmatic Christian. Every Christian (and person of faith) falls short of the mark and many seem to ignore it completely.
What in your view makes an authentic Christian? What is — as Channel 4 put it — the Christian ideal?