Friday, March 23, 2012

Picking Your Battles ~ Life Lessons from the GCB Controversy

If you watch anything on ABC you've probably seen the commercials for their new show, GCB. They're hoping it will grab the viewership of the ending "Desperate Housewives".

It is grabbing the notice of several people in the Christian community. This isn't very surprising and I'm sure it was even expected. A portion of the show takes place in or talks about church. Some people are causing quite a tizzy about it - calling for boycotts of the show, the network, and the advertisers. There are some calling for all Christian women to write ABC and demand they take the show off the air. Some see it as a violation of Christians everywhere, including Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and Peter Vallone, a New York City councilman.

Some people are digging in the trenches and preparing for battle. It's a battle I don't happen to agree with. If I thought these characters depicted every Christian female, then I would also think every dad in America was a clueless chauvinist lump being manipulated by a strong, crafty wife. (Take the family sitcom of your choice.)  I would think every doctor was an egotistical lunatic that jumped into bed with every available nurse. (Any medical show I've seen or heard of.)

But what if I did want to take aim at something? What steps do I think some of GCB's accusers should have taken before opening fire? The same steps we should always take before deciding to go after something.

1. Know Your Enemy

Once something snags your attention that you think might be worthy of the effort, get to know it. Learn it. Study it. Know what it is you are fighting against.

I've seen so many articles crying out against the show because of the name alone. GCB is based on a book with a curse word in the title. Now, I am not a fan of cursing. I don't cuss and I don't choose to surround myself with it. But I don't think it's the most evil thing anyone can do. To be honest, I am MUCH more concerned with the prolific use of "Oh my god" on television and in culture than I am having the word Christian next to the word bitch.

As to the charge that it is degrading to Christians, I've heard many other shows trash Christianity far more than GCB has. Of most of them I have seen only a single episode, or heard about it after the fact, so I won't mention them by name here. I don't know them well enough. But I will throw back a few years and pick up MASH. I was watching it in reruns a few months ago and was stunned by the number of times it was degrading to Christianity. If that's how it was three decades ago, imagine what could be on television now. But since it's not in the title, we aren't creating an uproar.

The problem is that some people are speaking out against the show without having watched it. They've seen the title and the previews and have declared it evil. I saw one article that listed several scenes to back up their point that it was a horrible show. All of the scenes were from the preview. She talked about a scene where a couple was about to go at it on a desk and they turned over the pictures before they did. The only problem with decrying that scene is that the couple in question was married and God's okay with married people having sex with each other. He encourages it, actually, even if they don't want a picture of Him staring at them while they do it.

The argument has also been made that none of the characters portray any of the aspects of a true Christ-follower. However, one character, Heather, is originally part of the scheme to bring Amanda down. She takes the time to learn the new Amanda, but is too afraid of having the others turn on her to actually befriend her. By the end of the second episode she declares herself to be Amanda's friend as well by attending her welcome luncheon. Seems like a Christian strength to me. Not that everything Heather does is perfect, and there's no indication that Jesus gives her the strength to make her choice, but it is a redeeming quality.

I have watched the show and I have read several reviews - both Christian and secular - from people who have actually watched the show. The consensus is about the same conclusion I came to. It's an over-the-top depiction of some of the characteristics of actual churchgoers that needs more depth and plot to actually carry it. It should have been a movie.

If I'm going to try a show I always give it three episodes. I've given it three episodes. Am I going to keep watching? Probably not. But not because I'm offended. Mostly because I'm bored.

2. Know Yourself

The main reason I'm not mad at ABC for coming out with this show is that the church handed it to them on a silver platter. No, most churches and churchgoers are not this outrageous or this obvious. But, there are elements of truth in all of the overblown characters.

I have heard people have an entire argument with out-of-context Bible verses. I have heard prayers that were intended to dig at certain individuals. I have even heard a disgruntled preacher use an entire sermon as a veiled insult. I have witnessed someone tell another person they had just been "out-Christianed". Couples smile at church and go home to a broken marriage every week. Gossip is frequently spread in the guise of prayer requests. We have cliques. We fail to forgive. We get caught up in fashion and appearance. We fight with our families. We argue over the color of the pew upholstery.

The fact of the matter is, that while you probably won't find all of these things meshed into one screwed up person like they are on the show, taken individually you can find an example of almost every hypocritical thing the show has depicted. While we might not like it, we can't fault them for calling us on it.

Before you go into battle, make sure you have a leg to stand on.

3. Realize That a Direct Assault is Not Always Best

The old adage that you can catch more flies with honey does not only apply to trying to get things that you want. It can also apply to battle. There's another old adage as well: Kill them with kindness.

Imagine for a moment that instead of calling for boycotts and saying the show isn't good enough to get worked up about (as some reviews have done) we take the higher road. What if we stood up and said, "Yes, we have screwed up. I saw myself in some of those things and I have had to ask God to forgive me. That's the beauty of the God. We can screw up and be human and He takes us back. This show is depicting some of the worst sides of the church. Yes, there are some bad things, but there's some really good things too. Why don't you come see the good side of Christianity with me Sunday?"

It's honest. It admits to falling down. It isn't taking the attitude of the holier-that-thou Christian. What if we welcomed people to come and meet the God that loves those ladies (assuming they were real) despite their hypocritical, messed up lives.

I think we would find that what might have been meant for evil, can be used for good. God has a history of doing that. (Genesis 50:20)

Every good general knows the importance of a battle plan. Sometimes the strangest, most ridiculous battle plans are the ones that work. If God could use some trumpets, lanterns, and broken pottery to conquer an entire city (Judges 7), imagine what he could do with the self-exposing honesty, love, and forgiveness in the face of adversity?

By the way, if you've never seen the show it's about a group of Christian-claiming ladies that declare war against an old enemy when she returns to town. They don't wait to see if she's changed. They don't try to get to know her. One mention of her name and they begin plotting her demise.

That sounds uncomfortably familiar.


  1. Romans 12:20 HCSB


    If your enemy is hungry, feed him.

    If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

    For in so doing

    you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

  2. Kristi - this strikes me as exactly the right way to approach media: thoughtfully, humbly, looking for the good and trying to understand the bad. Sometimes it's not worth doing, of course (not all shows or books are our, how to put it? our particular job, I guess), but when it's worth doing, this seems to me to be exactly the way to do it.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I appreciate this post!