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.