There is a new show, The Real O'Neals, and I am not really sure what to make of it. Our culture is transforming at such a fast rate, us Christians are quickly being left behind. This new show from ABC seems to be another, in your face, Christians are idiots, lets cram secular culture down your throats, sort of show.
And, on the surface, this show is just that. In fact, it is on the verge of being really insightful, rich, and a true commentary on image, authenticity, and even the church. But rather than being the sort of show that will actually have a voice in the cultural conversation, it goes for cheep gimmicks and caricature.
I GET WHAT THEY WERE TRYING TO DO: In the church, presenting well is the highest value. We Christians all put on a beautiful and perfect face for the world to see, but behind doors we are terrible hypocrites who work way too hard to manage our image. And the moral is that once we bring our garbage out into the light and be more authentic with each other and the world around us, then our humanity will be revealed and we will experience love.
Except that this isn't just the problem the church faces. Our entire culture works overtime presenting exactly who we want the world to see us as. Selfies are actually works of art produced perfectly sorting though dozens of photos and posted at the exact time that will ensure the maximum number of likes. Our entire culture is fake and hiding who they truly are.
What this show taps into is true for all of humanity, that the authentic is always better than the image, and to quit trying so hard to please others. And when that is your goal, you only crush those around you. Picking on the church as the one institution that does this poorly is a cheap shot and in an increasingly post-Christian context, actually misses the mark.
THE TRUTH IS: Anyone living in the real world already deals with all these issues every day. What is interesting about this show is that it is trying to be shocking and edgy, painting "Christian" families into some strange religious type. But Christians have been outed, we have no standing in society, and very little standing even in church circles. Every church already has plenty of divorced parents, kleptomaniacs, eating disorders and gay kids. This isn't new or shocking.
THE GOOD NEWS IS: We are already a full generation away from the "The Real O'Neals." This show will be short lived because it doesn't resonate with anyone's experience. Christians are having less and less influence in the pop culture world. Over 10 years ago a move came out that punched the church in the face and revealed its hypocrisy and judgementalism. "Saved" was incredible because culture was finally wrestling through these issues and showing the diminishing influence of the church.
This show does none of that. Every year, we get less and less attention. Evangelicals are simply a voting block to be wooed by politicians. We aren't right or have any true power. We are truly sidelined. This show is simply kicking us when we are already down.
But this is when it starts to be fun to be a Christian again.
We aren't "The Real O'Neals" we are the real followers of Christ. Because we have been so marginalized, we now can be the one ones who will slip in and quietly, through love, grace, mercy and kindness, we will be ushering in the Kingdom of God while nobody is looking. We will be the fragrance of Christ and offer grace and mercy to world in desperate need of both.
SO DON'T FREAK OUT: "The Real O'Neals" is simply a distant echo to how the church was once perceived. What good news that the caricature of this show has little resemblance to anyone's actual memories. (Maybe Xers from the midwest, but certainly not Millennials or Digitals)
So, enjoy the show, laugh at how our culture has absolutely no idea what to do with Christians, and let us simply model for the real world that the good news comes when we all actually become "The Real O'Neals." Where we give up pretending to be something we are not, and bring to light our hidden brokenness, where we can be truly authentic with one another and with God. And even more than being authentic, we can make space for God to transform us and heal us, and redeem the chaos that is our lives, through His Son Jesus!