I’d seen the trailers, and from those I knew it would probably be bad, but seriously as a practising Christian “Make Me a Christian” was enough to put you off Christianity totally.
For a start, the main front man for this self-proclaimed mission to save the sinful soul of Britain was George Hargreaves, leader of The Christian Party. A quick look at their policies, and you quickly realise this is your classic Christian in the Dawkins sense, in that he is a creationist, states that God wrote the bible, and has all your classic hang-ups with homosexuals – ironic then that he co-wrote Sinitta hit “So Macho”… He does have three assistants in this mission, another evangelical preacher, a catholic priest, and a female Church of England priest with the most bizarre taste in clerical shirts you will have seen, but in general George Hargreaves is the star of the show.
The poor souls that Channel 4 have chosen to throw to his particular lions den are a mixed bunch. Many are lapsed Christians, some have no faith background at all. Amongst them we have an atheist biker who had been through a Christian school and was unable to resolve the teachings in the bible with the way he was treated by the school. We also have a 23 year old lad whose girlfriend thinks they are in a committed relationship, whilst he is going out and sleeping around behind her back. They’ve also got a lesbian teacher, and a lap dancer who dabbles in wicca in her spare time, a Christian who has converted to Islam, and finally a couple of families, one with a teenage pregnancy, and the other almost your archetypal average family from the suburbs.
The one consistent thing between all of them is that they are looking for something, but they’re not sure what. The biker is most vocal about his searching, in that he is looking for answers to the questions brought about from his school experiences. Unfortunately Hargreaves doesn’t seem to be in the business of going off the planned agenda, especially not where awkward or difficult questions are concerned. After telling the assembled guinea pigs that he believes in creationism “because Jesus did”, when the biker starts asking difficult questions, the Hargreaves tactic is to talk over the guy, until ultimately he walks out. The rest of the participants to be honest seem rather glad that he is gone – from my point of view, the biker seems to be the only one that is challenging the narrow and extreme branch of Christianity that is being presented.
The forthright and hardline efforts to put over his agenda continue elsewhere. The Hargreaves technique on the lap dancer is to reduce her to tears telling her what a total sinner she is, at which point she goes to stay with her boyfriend for comfort. When she comes back, she gets grief for that too. The commentary hints at a number of underlying issues in the woman’s past, but rather than exploring and addressing those, it’s just Bible bashing. The clips for the programme next week show the same woman spending time on retreat with some nuns – hopefully we’ll see a lot more Christian love and compassion then.
Essentially, this is US style conservative Christianity with an English accent – beating people up and making Christianity to be primarily about rules and regulations – well at least the rules and regulations Hargreaves is choosing to follow.
Needless to say, this is just another in the ongoing stream of Channel 4 Crazy Christians programmes. It doesn’t have Stephen Green this time around, but Hargreaves theology is little different, coming from the same brand of extremist conservative Christianity that so poorly represents the majority of Christians in this country.
The Guardian review sums it up pretty well:
With his polarising views and divisive political campaigning, George is just the man to be fronting a makeover show, and the broadcast will doubtless be accompanied by the percussive sound of thousands of Christians enthusiastically smashing their foreheads against the wall with delight at the way they’re represented.
But then I guess mainstream Christians just don’t make the sort of edgy TV that Channel 4 are after…