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Glee, Sorrow, and Searching

Or, Further Thoughts on Grace & Love

This week's episode of Glee centered around religion and spirituality, which  naturally caught my attention even more than a typical episode.  My heartstrings got tugged in a lot of conflicting directions as the characters wrestled with faith and their differing beliefs.  Glee didn't go out of its way to answer any big theological questions or to raise one path over another, but it did display some beautiful, heartwrenching themes.

There were two main plot lines: one about Kurt, a boy whose father ended up in a coma, who maintained that he did not believe in God, and Finn, another boy who saw the face of Jesus in his grilled cheese sandwich and began to pray.  While at first these seemed like overdone caricatures, this turned out to be a very complex episode.  Kurt, the boy whose father was near death, pushed away his friends when they offered prayer and hope.  But I think the most beautiful thing about it was that his friends didn't give up on him. 

I've been a believer in God for so long that sometimes it is easy for me to forget that there are people who honestly struggle with the idea.  I used to argue with such people, and try to reason with them.  Though backed with solid theological apologetics, I'm not sure I ever persuaded anyone to follow Jesus through arguments.  Likewise, no one in Glee talked anyone else into seeing spirituality their way.  But they did try to be respectful and honest.

As is the case in every Glee episode, the cast sang: this week, they sang songs that reflected their feelings about faith.  Finn, after finding out that God does not speak through grilled cheese sandwiches (according to the well-meaning guidance counselor) sang REM's "Losing My Religion."  His girlfriend Rachel, a Jewish girl, sang "Papa Can You Hear Me" from Yentil to express her conflicted feelings.  Mercedes and her church choir sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to Kurt to let him know he was not alone.  But perhaps the most moving song for me was when all the kids sang "One of Us," Joan Osborne's once-ubiquitous 90's song about God.  This came after the Glee club had been warned not to sing religious songs of any kind during school (a side topic that stirred up old indignation from my fiery days as an outspoken Christian in a liberal California high school).

I used to hate that song: "What if God was one of us?"  It didn't make sense to me, because I believed God had become one of us, in the person of Jesus, and the person she describes in the song was not how I pictured Him.  But today when I heard it, in one of those moments that God keeps shining a light on to show how I've changed since those aforementioned high school days, I realized I kind of liked it.  I remember being so indignant about it, and how the Christian magazines I read were also ripping on it.  But now I think, it's kind of an amazing question.

"What if God was one of us?"  To an atheist or agnostic, it's kind of an interesting idea.  Perhaps because of all the cartoony representations of Jesus we get in the world, they've never stopped to think about what it would mean for God to actually be like one of us.  I don't know.  But the whole song is full of interesting questions.

What really got me were the lines "What if God was one of us?/ Just a slob like one of us/ Just a stranger on the bus/ Trying to make his way home/ Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone."  For the first time, I heard them as kind of a challenge.  After all, didn't Jesus say that whatever we do to the least of these, we have done to Him?  What if we stopped looking at those around us as faceless, and remembered that they are people, made in the image of God, searching and lost and messed up and broken, just like us? 

This doesn't make our life any easier.  We will meet people, like Kurt, who have been through so much in life that the idea of God doesn't make sense.  They may want our friendship but not our God, and like Mercedes, we won't win them over with a perfect argument, or a heartfelt song.  (But what is the alternative?  Giving up and burning that bridge?)

THIS, my friends, is why Grace (or vitamin G, as I like to call it) is so important.  We will face moments like the ones depicted in this episode of Glee.  And we will have to choose how to respond to hurting friends and family.  It's not a magic potion that will make everything better.  But Jesus also said that Christians would be known and identified as such by their love.  Tell me: when was the last time you saw THAT in a movie or a TV show?  When was the last time you saw that in real life?  Most of the time, Christians are known for their arrogance, hypocrisy, and tendency to judge.  Oh, and for being crazy.

We have gotten so caught up in being "right" and seeming righteous that we've neglected things of deeper importance.  Like...go on, say it with me...grace.  And love.  And wouldn't it be cool if we actually were known for our love?  Our deep, profound, crazy, inexplicable, supernatural love?  Because if I were to stake my life on something that actually would change even the hardest hearts, I'd bet on Love.

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