MERRY BLASPHEMY? Proposed Sitcom Tarnishes this ‘Holy Season’

Some celebrants refer to it as “the most wonderful time of the year” (thank you, Andy Williams.) Others style it “the season of light” or “the holy tide” (see: “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen”.) So, what’s the discordant way certain Hollywood folks chose to welcome Christmas this year? Why, announcing the development of a brand new television series which couples a cherished religious concept with gutter-level profanity, of course!

ABC just unveiled plans to release Holy Sh*t, a “workplace comedy … executive produced by [actress] Mila Kunis through her Orchard Farm Productions”. “[A]ctor-comedian-musician Nick Thune is set to co-write, executive produce and topline” the sitcom, which will apparently revolve around the zany antics of the “staff of a struggling church and their edgy new pastor … as they fight to survive in the modern world.”

Sounds positively primed for a spell of weekly sacrilege, doesn’t it?

(Clearly, the network’s failed efforts with 2012’s quickly cancelled GBC (“Good Christian B*tches”) didn’t wise-them-up to the blockheadedness of Christian-bashing comedies. I’m wondering if inspiration for this project was drawn from TV Land’s similarly egregious Impastor — another stab at humor via formerly off-limits, sacred topics. Lamentably, it seems “off-limits” has, nowadays, morphed into “no limits”.)

Seriously: “holy” and “sh*t”? Time was, marrying those two terms would’ve been considered, at best … tasteless? Inappropriate? Insensitive? — even by the most bottom-line, hard-boiled, carnal-minded Tinsel-Town mogul. Then again, I keep forgetting today’s pop culture routinely classifies traditional, Bible-believing Christians the one remaining demographic they can ridicule with impunity.

“Holy” is supposed to connote that which is particularly related to God, the “Holy One”. Try out these definitions: “specially recognized as … sacred … consecrated; … dedicated … to the service of God, the church, or religion; … saintly; godly; pious; devout; … having a spiritually pure quality; … entitled to worship or veneration” (Dictionary.com).

In the Christian scriptures, the most common Hebrew and Greek words translated “holy” suggest the notion of being “devoted”, “consecrated” or “set apart” to God. In other words, it’s an enshrined, deeply venerated sentiment, reserved for elements connected to the perfect, glorious Creator of the Universe.

Again, it used to be a given that God’s name — and variations on same — weren’t to be bandied about dishonoringly, or even carelessly, in respectable company; neither as outright curse words nor sloppy verbal filler. In our current “OMG” generation, however? Sacred references are habitually and thoughtlessly banged around: to add spice to casual conversation; as color in popular entertainment; for emphasis in this era’s ubiquitous cyber-babbling.

God-talk, meanwhile, ought to be reserved for prayer, worship, or sober discussion of eternal verities. But for jazzing up a quip? Stuffing a blank spot in song lyrics or supplying material for a verbal explosion? No, no — we “self-righteous” types continue to believe “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” actually means it — even in snarky, trendy 2016. And that it implies a further prohibition against pointlessly jesting about godly terminology and those truths it conveys.

The Everlasting One evidently places great store in what men speak, weighing heavily the fruit of our flapping gums. Desiring to communicate with men, He, accordingly, designed men in His image; to be communicative beings themselves. We’re thus enabled to read, write, speak. God monitors how we steward that invaluable capacity; how we employ it (Matthew 12:36).

Turns out, it’s really true: “Words Matter“, Our present-but-soon-to-be-decamping President at least got that one right.

So, yeah: a comedic series titled Holy Sh*t and focused on “a struggling church and their edgy new pastor” which, in our libertine age, almost certainly will earn its chortles by plunging headlong into the cesspool? Kinda appalls me.

TV Batman-sidekick Robin favored a serial catchphrase: “Holy (fill-in-the-blank), Batman!” I’ll give Burt Ward the benefit of the doubt and assume his character never meant any intentional super-hero impiety. But debasing a hallowed, heaven-ratified term to just another clever wisecrack? Nah, not cool. And that was fifty years ago; how much worse has this bent toward borderline blashphemy gotten since then?

Not long ago, I was watching a Downton Abbey episode in which “Daisy” (Sophie McShera), was startled and blurted out, “Oh, my God!” Rounding on her with a delightful Scottish brogue, “Mrs. Hughes” (Phyllis Logan) scolded, “I’ll not have the Lord’s name taken in vain!” Notice, no f-bomb was dropped, no imaginative obscenity launched, “merely” a flippant exclamation using the Deity’s name; and someone took undisguised and sharp exception to it? Wow — how unexpected is that?! How anachronistic! How refreshing. I’ve long chafed at the coarsening of ideas — and language — that are supposed to be preserves of “the sacred”. It was nice to have someone else share my discomfort, even if only a fictional character in a much-viewed drama set in post-Edwardian England. I guess, these days I’ll take whatever encouragement I can.

In a recent op-ed, author and Professor of Cognitive Science at UC/San Diego Benjamin Bergen claims, “[There’s no] proof that exposure to ordinary profanity – four letter words – causes any sort of direct harm [in children].”

Well, isn’t that super! Exactly what the twenty-first century’s already rotten zeitgeist needs: more encouraging of filthy talk, more feculent fuel for the off-color fire.

Frankly, this move by ABC would bug me even if it was announced on March 3rd, a summer’s dog-day or a week before Thanksgiving. From God’s perspective, a day is a day; there’s never a time when it’s okay to dishonor Him with our words or works. That said, from a purely human vantage point the Christmas season remains a few weeks in which — even in increasingly secularist Western Civilization — the focus is on a Holy Heavenly Father sending his Holy Son to earth to live a Holy life and willingly embrace the death penalty for decidedly unHoly human beings. Hijacking a key piece of that scenario and slapping it alongside a scrap of scatology? Really bad form. And dangerous, if the God of Love about which we so blithely talk at holiday time is also a God of righteous wrath.

It’s regrettable executive producer Kunis manifestly missed one of the central lessons of The Book of Eli, a 2010 big-screen vehicle in which she starred. That movie, superficially an apocalyptic actioner, nonetheless presented an uncommon reverence for the Holy Bible. It’s doubtful that film’s protagonist, the eponymous “Eli” (Denzel Washington) would’ve approved of Ms. Kunis’ current comedic effort. It’s downright certain the Holy God whose Holy character she’s mocking does not.

Image: Shutterstock; ID:535831651; Copyright: tommaso79

Share if you agree this is a lousy way to welcome in the Christmas season.

Steve Pauwels

About the author, Steve Pauwels: Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH, opinions editor at ClashDaily.com and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake. View all articles by Steve Pauwels

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