I’ve seen a few Christians recently getting excited about Chris Pratt talking publicly about his Christian faith. There’s a general belief within contemporary Christianity that the media and the broader public kinda resent us and want to keep us out of the public eye – so this sort of thing is received with joy by many Christians. For instance, here‘s a FOX News article on the talk. No, don’t freak out – just read it. It gets a little overexcited towards the end, but just read it and notice the general belief that mainstream culture hates Christianity. So that’s all well and good, but I wanted to talk about another time I saw Christianity on the screen recently – in Queer Eye.
The first episode of season two is called ‘God Bless Gay’, and honestly it’s the most moving representation of Christianity that I’ve seen in years. The Five went to a little town called Gay in Georgia – yes, 70% Protestant Georgia where the biggest denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention, who, uh, don’t really like gay people. This is one of the things about Queer Eye – the original series spent most of its time in New York, while this reboot spends time in more southern areas. The first series was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, and they went out and made over Trump supporters and had conversations with police about police brutality and the black community’s fear of being shot – it took these topics head-on. And now in this first episode they’ve gone to a town called Gay.
At the start of the episode they’re all in the car, and they’re talking about their, uh – their target? Their subject? Their person for the week. She’s a Christian woman, Tammye (yes, with an e), and the group are going to make over the church community center instead of her house. There’s a bunch of chat, and it comes up that Tammye has a gay son, who doesn’t feel welcome in the church any more after coming out. This is where the Five have a chat about their experiences with Christianity.
“The church is what I feel alienated by, not God. It’s a lot of the politics of the church that made me feel not welcome. That was people saying, ‘I love you, I just don’t accept your lifestyle.'”
“Not everyone in the church is that way. And not all churches are that way.”
“The point is let’s be open-minded.”
So they go to Gay, and they talk with Tammye, and Bobby doesn’t want to go inside the church and look around because he’s been so fucking traumatised by his experiences with Christianity that he never wants to step foot inside a church again.
“You know, I grew up really religious. There wasn’t a day I wasn’t at church. It was my life. Those people were my family. And I knew from a young age that I was gay. And I’d be down there at that altar every Sunday, just crying and begging God to not make me gay. And once everyone there found out, they completely turned their back on me.”
And they talk about how Tammye didn’t accept her son when he came out as gay, and how she eventually came to him and asked forgiveness for not accepting him. And it’s clear that all of the Queer Eye guys have experienced discrimination from the church, and that some of them are still really damaged by their experiences with Christianity – especially Bobby. And then Bobby goes and furnishes the community center for Tammye’s church, and I fucking sobbed. People in that church would have thought that being gay was a sin. If you pushed them, no doubt some of them would say that being gay will send you to hell – shoutout to Israel Folau, by the way. And yet here’s the Fab Five, building a community center for the church – here’s fucking Bobby Berk, who’s too traumatised by Christianity to step foot in a church building, completely renovating a community center for a bunch of Christians who probably think he’s going to hell. The humility and the grace involved in that act are just – I honestly don’t have the words. It embodies the self-sacrifice and self-giving of Christ. The quintessential Christian act, carried out by a gay man for a church that has forgotten what Christianity means. A church that hates him for his sexuality even as he demonstrates to them the holy Christ that they preach.
Meanwhile, Christian bakers don’t want to bake cakes for gay weddings. In New Zealand, my home country, Baptists and Presbyterians have banned their ministers from performing wedding ceremonies for gay couples. It doesn’t align with our beliefs, they say. We don’t agree with you and therefore we will not help you or support you. The support of Christianity is only for those who demonstrate Christian values.
So Christians are getting excited about Chris Pratt, because he talked about God and his faith and all the rest of it. But that’s not what they should be excited about. Bobby Berk embodies the life of Christ. He comes to a group that has scorned and rejected him. Even in the midst of processing his own trauma, he lays down his time and his effort and his skill to give them something that they do not deserve. He offers grace and blessing in the face of venom and hostility, and in doing so he embodies the love of Christ and exposes the Pharisaical heart of contemporary Christianity. How ironic that the most Christian thing on TV comes from a person who the Christian community has scorned and rejected. How shameful, Christianity.