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Lord Cruise vs. The Oprah

God or the Girl

On TiVo's recommendation, I'm checking out God or the Girl. We'll see how it turns out, but here's how I'd summarize my reaction so far:
I find manipulation distasteful.
I find manipulation in the name of God detestable.
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I hadn't heard of this show; I only have "limited basic" cable, which basically means I get networks and nothing else. Reading the "about the show" synopsis, it sounds like the sort of thing, that if done right, could be really good--the question's one I've struggled with for a decade now. But somehow I doubt that they'll do it right at all.
In terms of production and sensitivity, it does seem like it's being done right so far—I don't feel as if the show itself if trying to push an agenda or is overly slanted in a particular direction (I could be fooled, no doubt, but I generally tend toward the skeptical).

But what these four guys are going/being put through is prepostrous.
  • One guy comes from a family with seven brothers or so in which the parents push unmarried sons toward the priesthood "so they'll have one." He's (probably unwittingly) a complete jerk to a girl and finds himself stunned when she gets fed up with him. Then he decides to go on a pilgrimage to Niagara Falls and is so indecisive that he puzzles over a menu when a restaurant owner wants to feed him.
  • Another has been taken under the wing of his priest who comes across as so insidiously passive-agressive that he gives me the creeps. This young man also dreams of being a teacher and is in love with his girlfriend, while his "mentor" calls these "issues" and takes potshots at anything not going his direction. Thankfully, this guy seems to have escaped the trap and accepts a teaching job, with his priest coming alongside and verbalizing his disappointment with his choice.
  • A third is part of a Catholic fraternity dedicated to "doing things for God." These guys are in some kind of spirtual/testosterone haze (pun intended) most of the time, which their priest capitalizes on by telling him that a good step in his discernment process would be to make and carry an 80-pound cross 22 miles to another church. This poor guy also articulates his decision as being between the priesthood and married life, even though there are no signs of marriage anywhere on the horizon. Because men either get married or become priests, right?
  • The final guy seems a bit taken with himself, making note of his financial and lifestyle "success" before going into campus ministry (where he is humbled by having to raise his own support, which he completely sucks at doing). Then it's off to Guatemala, without regard for the fact that he knows around a dozen words in Spanish, but he's presumably there to help, as well as help his own discernment. What's making me most sad is that this guy's situation seems to be the best in the bunch, because we don't see him getting jerked around quite as much as the other three.

As I said, the show doesn't seem to be painting anyone as a bad guy at all, but the whole thing is creeping me out. It's definitely opened my eyes freshly to how manipulative the church can seem, and I have new compassion for people who've been abused in big and small ways because of this.
This is why I watch so little TV. Especially "religion" on TV. My parents or other folks will periodically ask me if I watched such-and-such primetime network special on Jesus or whatever subject. Why should I? It's just going to be ignorance at best, blasphemy at worst.

If I were directing/producing this show, I'd turn it into a teaching tool to get Christians in general -- not just Roman Catholic aspirants/seminarians -- to start thinking about celibacy and matrimony as vocations, not merely as ways to suit ourselves. This seems to be what Paul is driving at in 1 Cor and I sure wish someone had been around to teach me that when I was younger.
The only situation I really disliked was the second guy you listed - how manipulative the priest seemed to be. As if the only answer that guy could reasonably come to if he were truly listening to God would be priesthood.

I didn't like how he didn't address the man's concerns, just brushed them away. Like when he brought up his girlfriend, and the priest said that she could still be his friend. I...I don't think he's getting it.

I didn't watch the entire show, but I saw most of it. And this guy is in the only situation that really disturbed me.

Also, and this is just semantics, but I hate how they phrase things in the previews. They qualify. "I'm giving up relationships with women". I wish they'd say they are giving up romantic relationships. The last thing the church needs is room for misinterpretation.
I watched four of the five episodes because I just couldn't look away (I don't think the fifth has aired yet). That case bothered me the most, but if I'm honest, I have to admit that I think there was just as much manipulation with the guy whose priest told him to make and carry a cross. The whole situation seemed to be fueled by a desire to see how "radical" they could be, often without any apparent regard for what God's actual purposes might be.

I think it's rotten theology to believe God needs stunts or that sacrifice has much value simply for its own sake. The guy sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor as a "sacrifice." Why? Maybe there's a great reason that just didn't make it to television, but if there isn't, it just seems like undirected silliness. Everyone from the priest on down seemed to be getting thrills off of challenging each other to stunts like this. Without a purpose, I don't believe that has any more value than standard fraternity hijinks.
I don't know. God has told people to do some pretty radical things in the past. Like walk around a wall or build an ark. And I have no proof that these guys are counted among stories like these, but I have no proof that they aren't. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt and don't want to say, "God doesn't work like that". And I think, in the end, if this guy who is carrying this huge cross around believes in his heart that it's what he should be doing (as he said he does after prayer, and his friend said he agrees with after listening to his reasons), then even if he's completely missed the mark, God knows his heart.

This totally reminded me of this passage in scripture.

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." Colossians 2:20-23
I watched it, too. There were parts I really liked. I did not like that second situation you mentioned. That priest was pushy, and he was not listening to what the kid was telling him.
I felt bad that all these kids didn't realize they could both honor and live for GOD while being married. They didn't have to be priests.
Totally. And (surprisingly) I'm liking the show; I'm just not liking a lot of what it's showing me.
When I read the premise you linked to for the show I thought "how incredibly interesting" because seeing people on the edge of important decisions and understanding how they come to them is a topic I enjoy, seek out and learn a lot from. I find myself relating to my fellow humans more deeply when these topics are addressed well.

I find manipulation distasteful.
I find manipulation in the name of God detestable.

I wholeheartedly concur.

Based on your description I think this show would piss me off completely. It sounds as if it would push every one of my hot-buttons.
It is both interesting and infuriating. I have actually found myself yelling at the television.
what does this say about Tivo's opinion of your "preferences" ? ;o]
It's actually not bad. I like the show; it just showed a fair dose of stuff that ticked me off. But I'm interested in how it finishes up. The guy who gave up his business career is especially interesting to me; God seems to be moving powerfully in his life through his mission trip to Guatemala. It's beautiful to see his heart open up to others and find deep beauty among those who are poor by the world's standards.
I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed reading the discussion on this entry (well, the majority of it). I had heard of the show but never watched it until right now, actually. It's on A&E at 3:00 and 4:00 today.

Maybe I'll add some more comments later. Thank you for drawing my attention to the show.