Where is the Line with You? – Christianity and Family Guy

Now, I’ll be the very first person to say that I think many things about Christianity should be made fun of and made fun of on a regular basis. I also think many things about traditional media, the news, the office of the president, “serious art” and the like should also be made fun of on a regular basis.

Good comedy makes us see each other and ourselves in a different light. When the SNL team did the Lazy Sunday rap it made us giggle at not only the rap persona, but how geeks could sound so street (even being so silly. Rap, after all, is promoted as a form of poetry and life — and how that would look for two normal New York white boys.

When Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert take down government officials a peg, or call them to the carpet on issues in a humorous way (the Karmer vs. Not Kramer debate), I applaud.

I even enjoy when fellow podcaster George Hrab reads off his “religious moron of the week” segment.

Why? Because there are some things that should be outed as ridiculous.

Christianity though does take the contrary viewpoint in a world where “everything is tolerated but people who take a stand”. There is absolutes in my faith and when people start mocking me for having them – I take offense. Wouldn’t you?

So I was really disappointed with the recent “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven” episode of Family Guy in which one of the main characters, Meg, becomes a Christian because she’s stuck with the mumps for 5 days and her TV only gets the “religious station”. The episode goes through Meg trying to convert Brian (the family dog) and finally “outing” him as an atheist (which leads to Brian being shunned by the community who isn’t actively relgious but would rather say they believe in God than have an atheist in the community). The episode ends with Meg attending a book burning and Brian finally convincing her that there is no God because why would he make her so ugly and put her in a family that doesn’t accept her.

Sorry Family Guy, epic fail.

I do understand that Family Guy probably thought they were attacking the idea of extremism. Book burning and banning has never been on my list of things to do as a Christian. Neither has forced conversions and giving crosses to friends. But the last series of Brian convincing Megan there is no God was just plain offensive. It’s like saying any belief is wrong without having an intelligent discussion about it, and it attacked Meg’s outer circumstances and appearance. Instead of making it an open debate (which Family Guy and other pop-culture shows tend to do) they set up the tackle dummy and beat it down. As one commentor said on Wil Wheaton’s blog, “As an intelligent person of faith and theology student, I was disappointed in the Meg/Brian/God subplot, and how the show set up and knocked down a strawman Christianity that isn’t the rich, compassionate, thought-provoking faith that I know and love.”

Plus, as many people (not just Christians) have pointed out it wasn’t a funny episode (though the Star Trek Next Generation parts were funny).

I’m a pretty open individual, but this episode was just sad. It makes me wonder if Christians are the new minority. Believers in religion are now the only politically-acceptable punching bags.

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  1. Swoopy
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    You know I love you, and I think your criticism of the “Family Guy” episode “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven” was on point. But Christians are not “the new minority”. People who watch “Dollhouse” are. (I’m kidding – don’t hit me – besides I’m still watching it).

    However, on a serious note. If you lived in the South, you wouldn’t feel like a Christian minority. I’m not an “out” atheist here (except at meetings of the like minded). It’s semi-dangerous to do so. I live on a road with six churches and one Starbucks.

    Consider that in the 2008 election:
    65 million voted for Obama
    57 million voted for McCain

    A good percentage of that 57 million voted McCain/Palin because of Christian issues. That’s far from a minority. A poll released in early March of this year finds that 75% of Americans consider themselves Christian. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/03/09/us.religion.less.christian/) That’s a lot. While those of us who do identify as atheist/agnostic/humanist applaud the rising percentage of Americans who identify as not religious, the truth is that that while 75% Christian is 11% less than the same survey in 1990 – that 75% Christian does constitute a majority of Americans.

    Family Guy is not a barometer of American society. And while I liked seeing a non-theist represented on TV, I much prefer Greg House to Brian the dog.

  2. Posted April 2, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Oh I agree Robin. My dad and I actually talk a lot about how Media isn’t a good indication of what anyone but metro-people thinks (and a minority of those people aren’t in agreement). I just meant that Christians are the new media punching bag.

    I reminded people often that California is so different than most of the United States. Funny enough you can see this with Dollhouse. Someone on Whedonesque said, “Topher dresses funny.” And it took me a minute to realize that Topher’s style (which is pretty normal for hipster LA) was totally foreign to middle-America.

    And I like House’s portrayal. I also love that they don’t take an absolute with House, that he still sees things that question his non-theistic views without being demoralizing or petty on either side.

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