For Christians, is the irreverent, unrighteous HBO comedy a laughing matter?
For most of my life, pop culture and Christianity have resolved to exist separately together.
Though Christ figures and spiritual journeys were common enough pop culture tropes, the entertainment I was drawn to didn’t really concern itself with contemporary Christianity. And the Christianity around me stayed in relative cultural isolation, occasionally creating its own “popular culture” of music, literature, TV, and movies.
And mostly, this was a beneficial arrangement, a kind of peaceful truce.
Recently, though, as our cultural borders are blurring across spheres of society, the separate peace I enjoyed between the church I love and the entertainment I love began to crumble.
Growing up surrounded by both Southern Baptist and prosperity gospel principles, I’ve noticed the ethical fluidity that Christians can apply to money and wealth. Earlier this year, an Instagram account called “PreachersnSneakers” generated a firestorm of reaction when it highlighted certain evangelical pastors and their taste for expensive and culturally fashionable footwear. And for years, a similar ire has surrounded pastors who pay for private jets and mansions.
And now, this corner of the evangelical world—which sometimes feels like satire being played out in real life—has made its way to HBO, in its new series, The Righteous Gemstones.
Starring Danny McBride, Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, and the incomparable John Goodman, The Righteous Gemstones is a heightened look at a family of evangelical royalty. Think the Kennedys, but less polished, more Southern fried, and strategizing Jesus instead of politics.
As the series opens, they’ve just returned from a mission trip to China and they are settling in …