Make Me A Christian – Episode 3 and Review of Series

You will learn nothing about Jesus with the show

You will learn nothing about Jesus with the show

Episode 3

We start off episode 3 in a run down church. Joanne tries to get Aaron to realize that it is about getting the church running for the last part of the series rather than the long term future. Aaron’s mum told him at the start that she had not brought him up to “believe that crap”. Father John visits the Mum (Michelle) at her pub, who has been ill (possibly cancer), to get the family on side – starting by giving them all rosaries.

Father John reckons that the Virgin Mary appears to people even now. It is not about proof but experience of faith according to Father John. Which is one of those circular reasons that means anything can be considered true. Father John sends a letter to Michelle saying he has prayed for her and he is not trying to convert her or her family. She invites Father John back – who suggests the anointing of the sick.

She receives the sacrament of the sick at Father John’s church in Manchester. He says that God does work in our lives otherwise he would be mad doing what he does. It is a pity he feels that the work he does in his community would only make sense with a God (perhaps the dressing up only does with one). A week later Michelle gets the all clear.

Martin has decided to not attend a Sunday service – seeing it as a waste of his time. He spends his time constructively down the greasy spoon (it is implied he is here during the service but maybe that is not the case). During the service Kevin raises his hand to receive a brochure – the singing has really inspired him. Laura made a joke about communion last week (I was hungry) but the service has made her feel bad about having done that. I must have missed that because that was not included in previous episodes – you begin to wonder how much of the experience has been edited out.

Laura has found a London church that accepts homosexuality. George is not convinced because it denies the power of god to change sexuality to what it was in the first place (presumably to make babies). Now a flash back to Kevin and his fornicating ways – now they have sent him to a Christian group rather than the usual night clubbers.

Going bowling Kevin asks one of the women how she controls her urges, to which she has no answer as she drinks her Red Bull. Kevin has left his girl friend in ignorance of his infidelity. George and Wale have told him to sit down with Lindsey and tell her what has been going on. It is not made clear how that encounter goes.

Laura has gone to the church she has found. A match made in heaven where faith and her lifestyle go hand in hand. The Reverend states that Jesus never said that a woman cannot love a woman – but Laura has doubts over which version of faith has it right and remains at cross roads. Joanne sends her to a convent; hoping that the silence will help her listen rather than bombard with questions. The idea is retreat as Laura chooses which way to go; rather than being in a community of sexually repressed women.

The family having been asked to host a community BBQ. The idea is extending brotherly love by loving thy neighbour. After a slow start, in one hour it is busy and people seem to be having a good time.

The group go to a crematorium to ponder the question of whether death is he end of it. Belief in god, and the supernatural is often based on this question. They are shown remains from the other day – Laura dives straight in to pick up some bone. Martin says when you are dead you are dead; but he could be wrong. There is no discussion accept being left with do you want this life to be all there is? Which is not the same as saying how can you possibly know anything beyond death with any certainty.

Wale wants to show Martin that religion is more then talk, taking him to a salvation army. The idea is Martin helping out for the day with the elderly. Despite his misgivings he has some banter with them as he picks them up then serving them food. For Martin helping people is good and Christians doing that cannot be knocked. George suggests visiting a dentist (Martin has a phobia to a point of using pliers; and has no front teeth). He ends up with false teeth and Martin is happy that George arranged that for him.

We come finally to the service at the church that has been closed for ten years – and they invite people in the neighborhood. All the participants are involved and give their own testimonials on the experience. Martin has been more open. Laura is now more worried about the things she does understand and thinks there is a higher power. Faye feels more humbled and wants to keep in touch with the mentors. Kevin feels more respectful of women.

Joanne wanted to be left out of the series

Joanne wanted to be left out of the series

Review of the series

The presentation of this show leaves a lot to be desired. About a fifth of the time is spent going back on what has been done before. Understandable for later in the series for people that have missed previous episodes – but this was the format in the very first episode. It seemed more about filling in time and hopefully catching people channel flicking to see what followed after the commercials.

This was plainly not a documentary. There was never any captions on screen. So ironically while you were constantly reminded what the participants had been doing (and having their stereo types reinforced) it was not always clear where they were or even who they were talking too. This fitted the reality TV style of the show – all we needed to know was the Reverend was a lesbian rather than what her name was.

Rev Joanne wanted her contribution to the series to be pulled. Laura has complained in the comments on previous blogs that it did not show her conversations with the mentors about the issues she had. The series was fixated on sex and telling people how they should live their life rather than suggesting that Christianity was a community way of living. The series never attempted to answer Martin’s question in the first week why he should accept anything in the Bible being true.

They only showed three testimonials at the end, while the narrator suggested that they all had done. One wonders whether that was because the ones shown were positive, and the others were not or if it was done for editorial reasons. Whatever they were, not interviewing all the participants at the end or even the mentors did not make sense if we wanted to see how far in making people a Christian the show had succeeded.

This seems to have been about entertainment rather than serious look at Christianity in the twenty first century. Each episode started with suggesting that Britain had an epidemic of sex and lawlessness sweeping the land. All the show proved was that being a part of the community, taking an interest in the vulnerable and neglected, and having positive self esteem were important. Not for one moment did this show that it needed Christianity to make these things necessary.

The mentors made clear that what Christianity was necessary for was salvation, and acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God. It was not clear whether that part of the show was accepted by one an all. What was on display was that George and Wale were obsessed by sex, Joanne wanted people to understand the purpose behind things and Father John found a connection with people through his faith.

This show may have been different if it had just been Joanne and Father John. Virgin Hester coming to the show seemed to be the focus on sex – yet with Pick-me-up-sticks instead of foreplay and suggesting to Kevin that his behavior was about excess energy. She was sent up by the production team. A nice looking girl waiting for marriage before having sex. Fine if that is her choice, but she was made to look a fool. Giving them “The Game of Life” would have been a good one (while that is a rather secular game, I supposed pick-me up-sticks is too).

This was a missed opportunity. The characters looked self absorbed by the experience, rather than as a community answering questions together. The mentors looked like religious reps in a holiday village keeping people in line, rather than actually going one on one with people about questions of faith.

George came across as an arrogant, sexist, homophobic. He did one good turn for Martin with the false teeth, though Martin seemed to be the only person in the group challenging the validity of belief. That part of make me a Christian was not answered. It seemed to boil down to accepting the dogma that someone had; and the volunteering as a justification for having that dogma.

In all it was at least more watchable than big brother but a missed opportunity. With fewer participants (who wanted to become Christians) and a focus on the title rather than gimmicky tasks this had a promising premise that was left in the wilderness for too long never reaching the promised land.

Episode 2 can be read here.

Episode 1 can be read here.

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4 Comments

Filed under Religion

4 responses to “Make Me A Christian – Episode 3 and Review of Series

  1. Chris Engle

    I take your point that there was not too much in-depth examination of the issues raised in the programme, but if you think about it; each issue raised would be a documentary series in itself. Hint, hint, channel 4:-)

    But having watched all 3 episodes I was impressed by the candour and reality of all that took part. It wasn’t overly contrived and that made the series very watchable.

    As a Christian myself, I had cringing moments especially when the dogmas against abortion and homosexuality were brought up. I would encourage Laura not to be put off by these assertions but accept that just as she is a teacher with at least one area of expertise and a generalist in others, so Bible teachers tend to be the same way.
    The views expressed on this subject were not the result of extensive study but merely a repetition of learned theology (someone elses point of view).

    Those moments aside, the most impressive aspect of the mentors were their willingness to work and cooperate with one another, given the fact that they hailed from different denominations.

    I hope we’ll see a follow-up program 6 months from now to see if this introduction to Christianity actually sticks.

    Chris

  2. Joanna (NOT the one from the show!)

    Go Laura!
    Joanna Jepson took legal action (unsuccessfully) to make channel four cut her contribution. I think she thought she was getting into a respectable documentary, like the Monastry. She is one of the many Christians who believes gayness to be fine, and this should have been shown!
    There is a group for young gay christians called YLGC which is great for support if anyone felt upset or worried by what they saw on this programme.

  3. Will

    As someone who believes in and practices sexual abstinece until the day I get married I was very pleased to see to see channel four had included a piece on this in the program make me a christian.
    However I think they missed an opportunity with the lovely hester they could have had a complete show on the subject. I for one would be Interested to know if there are many more people who believe in and practice abstinence.

  4. If that is what you want to do as an adult, then go for it. If you Google I am sure you could find social events for like minded people near you, where walking someone home afterwards and asking you in for coffee means a hot beverage as opposed to a hot night.

    The problem is when people force that on others.

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