I wasn’t really sure how to title this, so let me explain what I mean. You know shows that have religious themes, and sometimes even characters who are firmly rooted in specific religious traditions, but avoid ever actually talking about that religious tradition? I can understand that writers and producers want to avoid appearing to advocate one religion or another, both because that can get, well, preachy, and it will probably lose the show viewers who don’t follow that religion. But sometimes it just gets silly. Let’s look at a couple of shows where Christianity exists, and sometimes plays a huge role, but where the J-word is never actually said.
Doctor Who is generally a very secular show, where science and intellect regularly triumphs over would-be gods. (I won’t get into the idea that the Doctor is basically a Christ figure here; that’s one for another OMPCR.) The Doctor has seen all sorts of religious figures, demigods, false gods, etc., in his travels, but he maintains a more agnostic/humanistic view personally. However, it’s a tradition for the Doctor to have his Christmas special every December 25th; how does that work?
Christmas has definitely reached a point in our society where it is both a discrete secular holiday as well as a religious holiday, so most of the time it’s easy for the show to escape these specials without a theological discussion. But when re-watching “Voyage of the Damned” the other day, I noticed an awkward part in the script. A so-called Earthonomics expert has just been explaining how Christmas celebrates the war between the English and the people of Turkey, and at the end of the day they consume the flesh of the fallen Turkey people (or some such nonsense), and the Doctor tells him it’s not like that at all.
The Doctor expounds on the idea of Christmas as a time for celebrating peace and love between people. When the ‘expert’ asks how it all got started, the Doctor shrugs it off as “a long story”, but mentions that he was there when it happened. First of all, what? The Doctor was there at Jesus’ birth? But more to the point, this moment didn’t have to be a proselytizing moment, but a simple “this is a holy day for a lot of Earth people, where they celebrate their God’s birthday, and it’s grown to be a celebration of peace and goodwill toward men” wouldn’t have been too hard.
The other show that’s very guilty of this is Supernatural. For Heaven’s sake (pun slightly intended), the show, although it does talk about creatures and beliefs from other creeds, is almost entirely based on a Judeo-Christian belief system, and features whole plot lines copy-pasted direct from the New Testament. “Cristos” makes demons wince; Church-Latin exorcisms send them away; angels who designate themselves ‘of the Lord’ are all over the most recent four seasons; the Book of Revelation is basically acted out on screen. But ‘Jesus’ is only ever used as a curse word.
I know that a lot of nonreligious people were worried by the advent of the angels in Season 4, thinking that the show was going to become a preachfest, but I think that the absence of the big J is has sort of become the elephant in the room. The show has set up a Heaven pretty much exactly according to Christian mythology, but without the Christ.
Can anyone name any other pop culture examples of a missing Jesus (or other religious figure)? Hit me up in the comments, and tune in next time to get some religion!