Support the Café

Search our Site

When the church meets reality TV, beware

When the church meets reality TV, beware

Jonathan Merritt sees a growing number of “reality” shows that focus on the church and wonders if this trend is really a good thing.


Kate Shellnutt, editor of the Christian women’s site “Her.meneutics“ and self-described reality television watcher, expressed discomfort with shows “which highlight a particularly lavish Christian lifestyle.” But, she says, we shouldn’t dismiss the genre outright.

“Reality TV has become such a powerful culture force that there’s almost no escaping the references, one-liners, stars, and merchandise. We can’t help but respond, challenge, and engage the genre as Christians,” Shellnutt says.

But other Christians, like Craig Detweiler, associate professor at Pepperdine University and author of “A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture“, aren’t so sure. He says that the early days of reality TV offered Christians unprecedented exposure since it drew casting from the “fly-over district” between New York and Los Angeles. But the genre quickly veered toward extremes.

“Shows like ‘Preachers of LA’ and ‘Snake Salvation’ play into Christian stereotypes in unhelpful ways…. The temptation for the reality TV cameras to capture a caricature remains daunting,” Detweiler says.

Other Christians who are thinking about the intersection of faith and entertainment are even more cynical about the genre.

Brett McCracken, a film critic and author of “Hipster Christianity” and “Gray Matters“, says the genre itself is problematic because it has always been about exploitation, stereotypes, caricatures, and vanity for the sake of laughs and ratings.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café