Our next door neighbors until I was around 13 or 14 were Lutherans. We were not. Their son was a year older than I, but we were best friends during most of that time. They were active in their church, but did not at any time make an issue of it with me or my family. After they moved away, their son, Jerry and I drifted apart, but it had little to do with religion. We just moved in different directions with our interests and activities. For instance, Jerry paid attention in class and received As and Bs, became a pharmacist, an executive and community leader. I spent a great deal of time staring out the window and frequently scratching where it itched and received the consequent Ds and Fs, and well, here I am in my basement writing this drivel. A truely qualitative difference.
Over the last few years it seems that christians have been coming out of the woodwork. I know they've always been around, but they weren't usually so obvious about it. Now, everywhere you go, christians seem to make themselves conspicuous. Most certainly it had pretty much everything to do with the political swing to the right this country has endured over the last 12 years or so - at least since the '94 mid-term elections. There are christian bookstores, christian gift shops, christian restaurants. One such establishment here serves pretty good food, but the piped in music is a constant din of 'happy, upbeat, ain't we wonderful that god is great and loves us all' pop junk. Here in Indy there is a christian appliance repair business, a christian tree trimming business, christian lawyers, dentists and doctors, and a even a christian pawn shop. (or shoppe - if you like.) I'm sure there are many others.
Whenever a commercial building or store front in a strip center comes up vacant, within weeks or perhaps a few months it almost invariably becomes some kind of church. Churches of all sizes and denominations are popping up like mushrooms. And then there are the "mega churches."
Even the hated Hollywood TV moguls buckled under the pressure and paid homage to christians with the unbelievably sappy and even more unbelievably successful Touched By An Angel and its less successful spinoff Promised Land. A plethora of other spiritually based shows hit the air waves over those years and some remain. The premise of Touched was that god sent as many as 5 or 6 angels to put some pathetic bastard's life back on track. It would generally be some upper middle class yuppy type who is having a substance abuse problem, who's marriage is on the rocks and the fellow has lost his right to coach daughter Muffy's soccer team. So all these angels work their slight of hand and, BINGO!, after a proper amount of agonized soul searching while sitting amongst the ashes and gnashing of teeth, Mr. Yup discovers god's grace, and his life achieves heavenly bliss. My problem with the conceit of this show was its having angels so involved with someone's relatively trivial problems while millions of people remain starving and dying all over the world. How many of god's angels are looking out for them? Oh, of course, I'm forgetting, most of those folks aren't christians, are they? Guess they aren't covered by the proper 'holier-than-thou' insurance policy. Tough luck for them. They didn't read the fine print. Programs like Touched By An Angel just add to the absurdity.
The only one of those programs I found palatable was Showtime's Dead Like Me with Mandy Patinkin. At least it had an edge. The main character, Georgia Lass, an 18 year old slacker is struck dead by a toilet seat from a falling Russian space station, and then is drafted into service as a grim reaper. That's pretty good.
And, of course, we were also blessed with Mel Gibson's even handed The Passion of the Christ. Mazel tov!
People of all faiths have come to brandishing it like a badge of honor. In time, if left unabated, they may come to wield it more like a bludgeon.
I do sense a change in the wind. As approval ratings for republicans across the country are plummeting, it seems that public attitudes toward religion are also shifting, if only slightly. A couple of the new network shows I've seen (namely Studio 60 and ER) have openly christian characters who are looney or at least a little ditsy.
Of course christians will be up in arms about such a shift and will continue to point fingers angrily at the liberal media for unseemly attacks on the godly.
I believe, and I assume most non-believers would agree, that religion and a belief in god are the stuff of fantasy. Wishful thinking. A giving over one's earthly humanity in favor of cowing to some mythical, king-like, supposedly all forgiving, yet ultimately vengeful lord, who is going to make things all better for eternity. But you gotta give it up for him completely, or he will drop the dime on you springing open the trap door beneath your feet sending you sprawling headlong into the broiling abyss of hell. You damn well better get it right!
In other words, the derision is earned.