Make Me a Christian August 6, 2008

Make Me a Christian

On Channel Four (in Britain), a new reality show will be running over the next three Sundays:

Make Me a Christian follows the three-week journey of thirteen non-Christians who also include a witch, a Muslim, an unmarried couple with a child on the way, and a family of six, as they get to grips with Christianity through a number of Bible studies and mentoring from an ecumenical team of church leaders.

The series documents the changes that occur within each of the participants as their perspectives of Christianity and the meaning of life are challenged by the lessons that emerge in each of the Bible studies. By the series’ end, some participants even make a commitment to pursue Christianity further.

The “mentors” are led by Reverend George Hargreaves, who “thinks Britain is in a state of moral decline and that a return to a more ‘Christian’ way of life would stop the rot.”

If this show is anything like typical Christian TV programming, though, it’ll be unwatchable (or just laughable)… just a horribly produced “remake” of secular TV shows.

And what’s up with the depictions of non-Christians?

As stated, the cast includes: a witch, a Muslim, an unmarried couple with a child on the way, a “lesbian who sometimes sleeps with men” (isn’t that a bisexual?), a playboy, a biker/tattooist/atheist, and a lap-dancing manager… the implicit idea being that there is something wrong with being GLBT or another faith or non-religious. Obviously, these Christians believe that, but many others do not.

They also seem to assume “True Christians” would never fall into any of those categories.

Believe it or not, there are normal, functioning, intelligent atheists out there. Just like there are Christians with lots of serious problems. This show’s oversimplification ignores all that.

Also: Is there a “winner” on this show? Do they kick people off each week for not transforming enough? How do they know you’re sincere if you convert? What’s the prize for winning? Because if it’s “eternal salvation,” I’m just not that intrigued…

At least there is a lot of tension:

The mentors visit the volunteers in their own homes, to get a picture of their lives and to give them guidance. The parents are asked to spend 15 minutes each day with their children. The lesbian is ordered to get rid of her explicit pictures and books. The young man and his pregnant girlfriend are given some instruction in the basics of Christianity. The lap-dancing manager is discovered to have more than a passing interest in witchcraft and magic — her books and ceremonial paraphernalia are taken away. The womanising 20-something is persuaded to agree not to ‘look lustfully at a girl’. The biker, so far, is challenging every instruction and the others are beginning to get fed up with his refusal to listen.

Of course, we see televangelists “converting” people all the time.

If this show is original at all, it’s because it focuses on the victims, not the Christians.

Frankly. it’d be much more enjoyable if the cast members argued against what their mentors were telling them, debating the merits and pitfalls of Christianity.

That’s something you don’t see nearly enough on TV.

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  • llewelly

    … “lesbian who sometimes sleeps with men” (isn’t that a bisexual?) …

    I suspect they will use ‘sometimes sleeps with men’ to protray her sexuality as ‘not serious’, in order to aid in a portrayal of her sexuality as ‘a kind of rebellion’, ‘a (sinful) choice’, or some other such nonsense. Reading the intro, at least, clearly shows that they attack her sexuality.

    I have known a few bisexual people who prefer to refer to themselves as lesbians – arguably, a bisexual person is both homosexual and heterosexual. But the Kineseys proved years ago that our customary labels ‘straight’, ‘gay’, and ‘bi’, are gross oversimplifications at best. In short – if I didn’t suspect their motives so strongly, I’d argue against nitpicking their terminology.

  • Richard Wade

    What repulsive coprophagia. The participants seem to have been “selected” (if it isn’t all a complete fiction) to fit ridiculous negative stereotypes. Why don’t they go all the way and include a stingy Jew, a lazy black and a thieving Latino? This may have some interesting reactions from the British Muslim community if the Muslim converts. The producers are probably hoping for some ugly incidents and demonstrations.

    We are witnessing the death of a wonderful word in the English language, the word “reality.” These so-called reality shows are so contrived, so staged, so full of producer manipulation in utterly artificial situations that competing programs are eschewing the word. I just saw a news program ad where the slogan is “Not reality, actuality.”

  • Darryl

    Richard, good evening. I see you are in fine form as always (“coprophagia?” I prefer ‘rhaphiskephalai’ with a rough breathing mark over the rho).

  • gmcfly

    They can go on and on about the transforming power of Christ, and yet they are doing it ass-backwards by making their targets conform to the rules first. There’s no organic growth from conviction into action. Instead it’s good old paternalistic rules and regulations.

    I’d like to see a show where people of various (non)beliefs try and convert a group of random individuals of all backgrounds.

  • I don’t know Mr. Mehta… This actually bothers me, and I’m usually one to just be fine with everyone doing their own thing so long as it doesn’t affect me directly. But this…
    The cast of non-christians isn’t just an oversimplification, it’s a group of negative stereotypes. It doesn’t matter how they act on the show, the audience is just going to feed off it no matter what happens, and use the actions of these characters to reinforce their own misconceptions.
    It shouldn’t, and doesn’t matter that it’s going to be shown on a “christian” network. Just imagine the uproar if the positions were reversed.

  • Desert Son

    An example of modern commercial television programming exploiting, with the consent of the exploited, a group of individuals in the service of generating market shares in an economic model where schadenfreude produces revenue?

    “I’m shocked, SHOCKED! to find gambling going on at this establishment!”

    No kings,


  • Jen

    My guess is this show will be as boring as someone actually trying to convert you- very boring.

    That said, I might watch it if, and only if, none of them convert and one of the Christians is revealed to be a witch/lesbian/whatever.

    I just saw a news program ad where the slogan is “Not reality, actuality.”

    Actually (actuality?) you must have seen an ad for a show on TruTV (formerly CourtTv). I don’t think they have any news shows besides Hollywood Heat, but I could be wrong.

  • I’m pretty sure that this is a follow-up to last year’s Make Me a Muslim. Maybe, next year, we’ll see “Make Me an Atheist”?

  • cipher

    “Viewers will be deeply moved by the participants’ personal journeys. I believe that a major nationwide evangelism initiative could be launched on the back of this series,” Hargreaves commented.

    Yeah – I guess his ego isn’t too inflated.

    Funny how you never hear Buddhists come out with crap like this.

  • Vincent

    I noticed the one they described as “atheist” “is challenging every instruction.”
    It’s probably because he’s the only one questioning.

    “Throw out those posters of naked women”
    “because God doesn’t like you having lurid thoughts”
    “prove to me there is a god and he doesn’t like that and I will”
    “you’re just being difficult!”

  • My money’s on every single contestant apparently converting to Christianity by the end of the season, then we never hear about them again.

    Taking bets now…

  • I say we shoot a “test my faith” reality series and bring in all kinds of persons of faith for six months.

    Then we simply make them ask themselves honest, critical questions, and put them in scenarios that challenge their faith, and score them based on how well they line up their faith with reality, from a secular perspective.

    Then we try and find a public access station somewhere that will air it.

    Any takers?

  • Derek:

    I believe you got a very interesting show idea there, but will only get producers to put money on it if you promise a 3-round boxing contest between participants at the end of every episode, or something like that.

  • David D.G.

    This isn’t just a train wreck — it’s a totally contrived train wreck.

    ~David D.G.

  • I am sick of these sorts of programmes, it’s like we’ve given up on anything remotely resembling serious television in this country. I’d recommend looking up George Hargreaves, he is leader of the Scottish Christian Party and extremely homophobic, using this in his campaign to unseat a gay Green MSP at the last election, yet he wrote the lyrics to an 80s gay anthem –

    I don’t think I can bring myself to watch the programme. Channel 4 used to be so good, it’s such sensationalist rubbish now.

  • Maria

    “A lesbian who sometimes sleeps with men (isn’t this a bisexual?)” lol, don’t expect the ignoramuses doing this show to know or care about the difference. This show is pathetic

  • Daktar

    Dammit, this is from the UK? One of the major things I like about this country (our increasing secularism) and suddenly this? Still it does seem a natural thing to show given the current religious debates here. For those not in the know (very few of you religiously clued up folks I should imagine) the Anglican church is currently undergoing serious turmoil regarding female bishops. Schisms are threatened, so this sort of thing is actually relevant for the moment. Other than that, I too would like to see a show with a bit more debate and discussion rather than blindly obedient reality TV. Fitting that C4 would put on a show about conforming to religious rules when they have another show about conforming to arbitrary rules in the form of unwatchable tripe Big Brother.

    Katherine said,

    I don’t think I can bring myself to watch the programme. Channel 4 used to be so good, it’s such sensationalist rubbish now.

    They have gone off the rails. There’s occasionally a good documentary or comedy on there (plus 4OD is brilliant for finding good free programmes), but it’s mostly crap. I wish they could get a couple more of Richard Dawkins’ documentaries on there, they were entertaining.

    In any case, I might give this a look. For laughs if nothing else.

    EDIT: Speak of the devil, check out what they’re showing at eight o’ clock monday night.

    Nicely done, C4, you’ve redeemed yourself somewhat.

  • This makes me nauseas. How unbelievably hateful and prejudiced. I think it’s staged and designed to bring in religious viewers. If they wanted a real show they would have picked Dawkins or some other educated Atheist. My money is on these people being nothing more than actors and they will all be *converted*. It makes me sad that such disgusting drivel can even manage to get on the air.

  • I think they should be a programme Make me an atheist or Make me a Humanist in which people come along and learn about EVOLUTION/AGE OF THE EARTH/CHARLES DARWIN/PETER ATKINS AND GREEK PHILOSOPHERS

    Lucas Ball
    Worcestershire Humanists

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