Christian Women in Mainstream Media

Tricks the Devil Taught Me, photo by Carol Rosegg

The other night at the theater, I got that sickening feeling. Not again! I was watching the usual depiction of Christian women as hypocritical gossips. Why do Christians and especially Christian women get such a bad rap in movies, plays, TV?

Chris and I were at the play, “Tricks the Devil Taught Me” by Tony Georges at the Minetta Lane Theatre. The play was overall good, but the scene with the church ladies was comically grotesque as the women feasted on another family’s misery, gossiping about town teenagers. They delighted in discussing another couple’s rocky marriage and the potential there for “sin.”

In another scene, one woman who sang for the church choir said she sang only for the money. The church choir was simply a conduit for money, not a spiritual experience.

I know, work with, worship with, sing with (although I wish I was good enough to sing in a choir!) Christian women. (“I knew JFK and you are no JFK.”)

The Christian women I know are anything but mean, shallow and sin-loving. They are thoughtful, hard-working, joyful. They organize peace vigils, letter writing campaigns to end wars. Christian women feed the hungry and wash the feet of the homeless. (Do I exaggerate? Not much.)

Christian women laugh together in bible studies but not at other’s misfortunes; we laugh at our own struggles to be human. We try for transformation, to be more loving. Conversations are about compassion, hope, redemption, grace, struggle, not sin.

My experience with Christianity must be quite different from other writers’ experiences.

I also do not believe that one sect of Christianity is better than another. I was raised Catholic; married in the Lutheran church; baptized one child Episcopalian; baptized the other two Presbyterian; consider myself Methodist.

“Love ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out.” That is the message on a tee shirt my friend Nancy gave me when she was moving. The gift and the message epitomizes my experience of Christian women — a nonjudgmental, generous and active Christianity.

When I see how Christian women are depicted in popular media, I could cry. And I feel defensive. Hey, I am not conservative, stupid or mean. (Although, occasionally, God help me, I do gossip.)

I wish that I did not get that sickening feeling when I see how Christian women are presented in plays and movies. The way I see myself is far different from the reality that is presented to me. I do not recognize myself; that makes me very sad.

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9 thoughts on “Christian Women in Mainstream Media

  1. This is interesting MB. I’m wondering if Christian women are depicted more unfairly than women in general?

    And do you see similar depictions of Christian men? Are they not as maligned? Or in a different way?

    I’m not challenging your position…I’m really interested to know your thoughts. I suspect you see more theatre than I do…so I’m curious.

    1. I’m not sure. I suppose Christian men are also laughed at as hypocrites. In my life I’ve met more Christian people who were like Dorothy Day or Daniel Berrigan than like Tammy Fay or Jimmy Swaggert.

      The jokes around Christian people, in general, seem to be about how stupid and emotional they are. Not how committed to peace movements or ending poverty or serving neighbors they are. grrrrrr!

      Dead Man Walking had a great character — of a religious person, a nun, who had depth and was committed to justice. Oh, and the movie Romeo. And Gandhi. Off hand, that’s all I can think of. But they weren’t comedies.

  2. I also saw this play and I had a very different experience than what you had. I think the point is that there ARE those Christians out there who are ruthless. The play certainly didn’t make me feel like they were going after all Christians, just the “bad” ones. The ones in it for the wrong reasons. The main character in the play is devoutly Christian and she stands up for her beliefs in the scene with the other ladies. I thought it was well done. Particularly because it’s so hard to stand up for yourself when you are surrounded by people who disagree with you.

    1. Llauren, that’s interesting. Maybe you’re right. I have to think about it. She did stand up for herself, and it’s true that’s difficult. But you don’t have to put someone down to lift yourself up.

      She turned to alcohol and bad mouthing people much more than turning the other cheek or choosing compassion and kindness. Or even forgiveness of herself (and others).

      One more thing — whenever any character mentioned the words ‘bible study,’ it was said derisively.

  3. I think part of the reason for these negative portrayals is that society in general has trouble distinguishing between people who call themselves Christian (but are clearly not) and people who are Christians (but have some bad habits that they’re working on). Unfortunately, I think people come into contact with far more pretend Christians than they do real Christians. And so, when they portray Christians (women or men) on the stage, screen, or page, they’re drawing on their experiences with pretend Christians. It’s frustrating. But, I’m encouraged to hear about other women who are trying to combat the misconceptions about Christians (and Christian women in particular)!

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