The Haggard debacle has made it to the screen–the small one, anyway. Law & Order tonight focuses on a “Rev. Sterling,” pastor of “New Promise Church.” A gay associate is found murdered and things start to point to Sterling.
The more interesting thing is the portrait of the church that L&O paints. New Promise is more corporation than community. Actually a network of 125 churches, with more than 150000 members, New Promise has a CEO. When questioned about the murder, and about the surprising attendance numbers, the CEO replies, “You sell a good product, people want to buy.” He holds out a church brochure that features the handsome pastor prominently and promises deliverance from lostness, confusion, and homosexuality.
So the church-as-business critique has found its way out of our schoolyard and into the world. Seeing this caricature on L&O only confirmed my own disgust at that model of church. It was a caricature, sure, but caricatures are intended to exaggerate realities.
Sadly, NO Christian in this episode comes off well. The CEO’s secretary, who describes herself as “not a Bible thumper,” does the right thing by revealing a rumor that the pastor was gay. The pastor’s wife is a rube who shouts at police, “Why do you hate us so much? Is it because we have the courage to worship the Lord?”
The aforementioned rumor leads to a former lover, who reveals that Pastor Sterling is a fraud, a poser, who preaches Jesus by day but snorts meth and has gay sex by night.
Everyone’s ready to nail this sucker, and the writing is unbelievably heavy-handed. (The police lieutenant [S. Epatha Merkerson) tells the detectives to make the arrest public. “I want this hypocrite to feel some pain,” she says.)
This is another subject that will have to wait for a fuller treatment. For now…blecch.