GCB debuted on ABC Sunday night placing tired stereotypes of southern Christian women in the spotlight. The plot centers on cleavage-bearing, cross-wearing, self-professed Christian women with larger than life personalities.
Controversy has plagued this show from its inception after a handful of name changes. It initially inherited the name of the book that inspired the show — “Good Christian B*****s.” The network took some heat for it and changed the named to “Good Christians Belles” before finally settling simply on the acronym “GCB.”
The main character is former “mean girl” Amanda, played by “Talladega Nights” actress Leslie Bibb. The show opens with her unfaithful, ponzi-scheming husband dying in a car accident. Amanda, left with no other options, packs up what is left in her California home and moves herself and her two kids back to her hometown of Dallas, Texas, but not everyone is happy to see her. Amanda becomes the target of catty gossip from the Christian women in the community. Ringleader of the group, Carlene Cockburn (played by Kristin Chenoweth), is constantly spouting scripture and looking for ways to exact her revenge. The show sets up this ongoing juxtaposition of people who change, like down-to-earth Amanda, and those who don’t, like over-the-top Carlene.
The show alludes to the excesses of Christian culture and depicts how religion is used, at least in some circles, to justify immoral behavior. Hollywood might say it’s a satire of a certain type of self-proclaiming Christian. But Dr. Michael Peterson, a Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Asbury Seminary, says he thinks this show is another attempt for Hollywood to discredit and degrade Christianity. Peterson explains further, “This is not done by honest argument and debate but by caricature and parody in order to create and strengthen an unexamined cultural assumption that Christian faith is either full of pretentious hypocrites or gullible believers spouting simplistic formulas.”
This show’s portrayal of Christianity is concerning because as the media’s influence grows, the influence of Christianity is declining. A Gallup poll reports a near-record high percentage of people – seven out of 10 — who think religion is losing its influence in American life.
In speaking with Dr. Peterson about GCB, he called the show destructive and grossly unfair, but he nailed the issue down quite simply: “The pity of the matter is that the behavior of some professing Christians provides ample evidence for the stereotype that is then used against all Christians.”
There’s no doubt the show can be damaging to Christians. But when viewers switch the TV off and all eyes are on our behavior, how do we respond? I hope the last thing we do is let the injustice of the accusation dictate our behavior. Instead, perhaps we use the moment our co-workers and peers reference the show as a time to get to know their experiences with Christianity.This show could spark a conversation. This could be your opportunity to say, “I’m sorry” to someone who has been hurt by this kind of “good Christian.” It’s a powerful phrase that expresses you care. It could be a gateway to sharing a God so compelling he can redeem and change us and give us a more meaningful life.
What are your thoughts: Helpful to start an important conversation or irrevocably harmful to the image of Christianity?