With this year’s summer television apparently competing with the weather for dreariness, Katharine and I found ourselves almost glued to Make Me a Christian, which took the Tories broken society concept (embarrassingly, but rightly, dismissed by Boris Johnson as ‘piffle’) and argued that everything would be so nice if we adopted a Christian way of life.
Given that this was TV, the would-be Christians were a predicable bunch – biker, lap dancer, lesbian, clubber – who wondered if there might be more to life. Each week’s episode led with the claim that Christianity is built on love and tolerance.
Yet each week lead mentor, Reverend George Hargreaves, proved himself unable to follow through. Hargreaves shook his head at the lap dancer’s books of spells and silliness. ‘This is witchcraft!’ he exclaimed (not hard to spot as some of the books had ‘witchcraft’ in the title). What we needed from him was an explanation as to why her superstitions were any less nonsensical than his own. Hargreaves informed his mentee she was going to hell.
A Christian turned Muslim interested in switching back again introduced ‘devilish worship’ by allowing someone else to pray with him. And, predictably, Reverend George Hargreaves is no fan of girl-on-girl action.
It felt somehow inevitable that Hargreaves’ loved up tolerant Christian world would turn out to be a place where gay people were sinners and Islam and new ageism devilish. Yet it was not the hate and intolerance that did for Reverend George Hargreaves, but the failure to provide any intellectual justification for his beliefs.
Disappointment came because Reverend George Hargreaves took none of his followers on a journey towards epiphany; a sudden realisation that god is the thing that is missing from their lives.
Instead, the bible was simply presented as an off-the-peg rulebook. The pitch was a simple: ‘live like us for three weeks, accepting our values without question and you’ll find yourself in a wonderful place.’
That appealed to the parents of young children searching for a moral compass, but Hargreaves’ cheap, simplistic and so ultimately empty route to a different life isn’t for grown-ups.
The biggest cringe came when George took the clubber up a mountain to pray for forgiveness after breaking his covenant with god. The poor guy had no idea what a covenant was, George hadn’t bothered to explain. So he referred to a ‘confident with God’. But this faux Christianity was plenty good enough for Reverend George Hargreaves.