Got religion? Glee does. Fox's tweeny-bop, High School Musical wannabe, pop-sensation churned out tonight's greatly hyped, "Grilled Cheesus," episode. But maybe just for tonight we should we call it Glee-sus. Cheesy? Definitely, but not as Gouda (pun intended) as tonight's episode.
Hold on, wait a minute. You watch Glee? Yea, I know. It doesn't look good; a hockey-loving, sports enthusiast, dude who watches Glee? At the risk of losing serious street cred, I must admit...I watched Glee. Call it a guilty pleasure; call it mindless entertainment. I call it writing inspiration for a blog post. And if that makes me a gleek, then I can take the Limburger. But seriously, I watch this kind of stuff because my youth group is watching it. And if they are watching, it's good to be informed and well-versed in order to communicate the Gospel to young these young Christians who dare to be Lutheran in a rather bazaar culture, that frankly, needs to be addressed with the baptized, catechized, confessional Lutheran mind. So, be in the cheese, but not of the cheese.
With that little disclaimer out of the way, we now return to our regular scheduled blog post. There it was prime time: "Spirituality" - whatever that means - was spread (ok, that's the last one...maybe) all over the episode. Strange religious figures lying in a pond of a Velveeta covered, slightly burned sour dough Grilled cheese sandwich (or Grilled Toasties for all you Hoosiers!) is no basis for a system of religious belief. Thankfully the veracity of the Christian faith rests on more than the existential culinary experiences of a hormonally, scatterbrained teenager. But that's exactly where the episode begins. Finn (yea, I'm that nerdy that I know the names) discovers "Jesus" in his grilled cheese sandwich. It's "Grilled Cheesus;" it's a Genie in a bottle; it's a super-divine means of granting my every wish from second base to instant popularity - no, sorry, Finn, it's just a grilled cheese sandwich and a gross one at that by the time you ate it at the end of the show (ew, seriously, who eats food after it's been in the boys locker room?). Finn's religious experience opens of the fondue pot on all sorts of religious opinions, most of which are problematic:
Finn is enamored with his new found spirituality and thinks that by praying to his provolone God that he can receive all kinds of favors. Quinn relied on generic God to get through her really tough year, you know, what with being pregnant and all the boyfriend drama. Puck is a rather apathetic, into religion because it's my heritage kind of Jewish connoisseur of all things Billy Joel (or any other artist who claims Jewish heritage). Mercedes actually goes to some kind of Baptist, Gospel church. To which he even invites Kurt - the one who hates religion because they are nothing bigoted homophobes and fairy-tale dreamers who worship a flying spaghetti monster. Even the New Atheists have made their mark on pop-culture (more on the flying spaghetti monster another post). Mercedes actually invites Kurt to church which is good, since his father just had a heart attack and all. But she brings him to the one church where no one mentions the Name or sings anything about Jesus, the one guy who could actually bring some hope and comfort to a tragic situation. Instead they sing that old Lutheran hymn, "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water." Thank you St. Simon and St. Garfunkel. I'll leave all comments about trendy, pop-culture, wannabe-hip praise services aside. Consider this a relevant fail. Everyone seems to be getting their religion on in this episode, that is until Sue Sylvester comes in to play the separation of church and state card. Which usually means: "don't force your religion on me but please step aside as I force my atheism on you."
The episode had all the usual arguments against Christianity - it's fantasy, it's just a coping mechanism; it's just your opinion - and so on. Every caricature of Christianity was represented except the real thing. They wheeled out all the usual arguments for being "spiritual," but the missing ingredient still comes down to the basic question: is it true? Is Christianity true? No wonder so many people in Christian churches really are losing their religion (also played during this episode). When Christianity loses its factual, historical, verifiable footing you might as well worship Grilled Cheesus. Ask the question this way - the way St. Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15...If Jesus did not rise from the dead what does that mean? But you have to turn it around: if Jesus did rise from the dead, what would that mean? It would mean it's true and that all experiences, no matter how spiritual, must be measured by the historical facts of the resurrection. And that means that even when something tragic happens, like family members who have a heart attack, or a sister who suffers with down syndrome or you wind up pregnant at 16 or when life just plain sucks, you don't go running for the door and leave your Christian faith in the garbage can with yesterday's lunch. No. Contrary to Sue's diatribe on her failed prayers. Papa can hear you (yes, I had to quote Babs since that awful song made it into the show). But He prefers to be petitioned like this: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name..." He's the One we really look to. Thanks, Mercedes, but Whitney Houston's "I Look to You" just wasn't very comforting. I don't blame Kurt for walking out on that number. Who is "You?" What if God was one of us? That's right! You all knew it was coming. They even saved it for the last song of the show.
So, I saved it for the closing lines of this post. It was just too cliche not to sing it; too trite and oh so...wait for it...that's right, cheesy. Thankfully we don't have to wonder, or depend on really, really, really bad songs from the 90's to know that God is with us. Immanuel. Jesus Christ the Word made tabernacles among us, flesh - for you, "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2). And that, my friends (and fellow gleeks) makes all the difference. God born in our human flesh. God lived our life - perfectly for perfectly rotten sinners. God breathed our poisoned sinful air. God suffered for us. God walked to Jerusalem carrying our iniquities, our burdens, our griefs and our sorrows - all our diseases. God died on the cross so that He might call you His own. God rose from the dead. God baptizes you with water. God feeds you the flesh and blood of Jesus in simple bread and wine. God is present in Word and Sacrament for you. For you. That's the Gospel in a nut shell - Jesus for you. Heaven on earth for you. Life and salvation for you. Death and resurrection for you. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15)." Now there's a real reason for glee.