A little earlier today I posted a link to this article about the BBC Sitcom “Rev”, I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about such a post but mainly because I have a strong dislike for the Guardian rather than because I had a fore-sense of the response I would get.
It’s seems my post, or more accurately the original author James Mumford, has caused some consternation with his comments among my followers. Indeed it seems I may have transgressed the unforgivable sin: Forgive me Father for I have blasphemed against the Holy Rev.
I do like Rev. though I admit that there is much I actually cannot bear to watch, it is just too close to the truth much of the time.
The article points out, quite correctly in my view something a number of commentators have also noted: That Rev depicts the Church how it would be if it were not for the presence of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Rev Adam lives and ministers in a world that is devoid of grace, friendship and fellowship. I know that ministry can be a lonely and isolating environment. I know that some Churches bristle with gossip, rumour, back stabbing and bile. But in all of this there is God, the spiritual aspect of life in Christ. There is also the wider Church, the love and support we receive from the body of Christ outside our own context both from family and friends but also colleagues and fellow clergy.
I am not naive enough to think that the programme makers are doing anything more than making entertainment, I can cope (well sort of, I can put up) with the inaccuracies: the constant present of an Archdeacon (Really, when was the last time you saw one in the wild?) and the constant threats of closing an empty Church (the chance would be a fine thing for many ministers). Yes. Rev is a comedy not a documentary. But it is a comedy that has managed to make itself devoid of the central reason for the existence of it’s main character. It’s Arkwright without a shop, Butterflies without a disinterested husband and two teenagers, it’s Big Bang Theory without Science.
There are moments when it remembers that Adam is meant to believe in God, and even occasional suggestions that God might actually exist (most evidently of course in the Liam Neeson episode). But mostly the series treats God in the same hackneyed and unimaginative way that the new atheist movement does – as Adam’s “Imaginary Friend”. Yes the Rev talks to God, but even he mostly admits that God doesn’t ever answer and seems to have no expectation he will, the narrative treats prayer as Adam talking things out to himself. I wonder what on earth drove him into ministry, did he have a sense of call, or was it just a pragmatic decision ‘I think I’d like to be a vicar, I fancy a terrible “salary”, a below par house, 70 hour weeks and 5 weeks less rest days a year than most other working age people’?
But like Vicar of Dibley – a programme I loathed and which I believe undermined wholly the Godly, dedicated women ministers I know – (Dibley did, to be fair, help to normalise the idea of women priests at a time when the concept was new to England) Rev misses something. And it is something fundamental. It’s is the Raison d’être of the life of any believer. Faith in God and expectation in what He is going to do.
Is it good TV? Yes.
Does it show Christian ministers in a good light? That’s both debatable and probably irrelevant.
Does it show the church in a good light? No. It doesn’t in anyway depict the Church I know.
My biggest sadness is that it accentuates all that is wrong with the Church but rarely shows the good that the Church is and does. It is a caricature of the God’s chosen vessel of the gospel and a pretty sad and poor caricature at that.
This saddens me, but most of all I can’t help but feel that there is a secularist agenda in it’s depiction of the Church. The Church of Rev is outmoded, irrelevant, bitter and deeply unsettling. And this more than anything is what I dislike about the series.
Sure God’s Church today has a lot wrong with it, but it remains a place of hope, sanctuary, care, love and most of all Godly faith. I for one would like to see that come through in some small way before the series finally draws to a close.