Proof that we need more religious comedies

(RNS) – Most of the time, watching Christianity as it is portrayed in Western media feels like witnessing a particularly bleak funeral. Dramas are the standard genre for religious media, usually tackling heavy topics of deconstruction, abuse, indoctrination, discrimination, sin, or anything else that explores pain and asks really tough questions. .

There’s nothing wrong with that, overall. Art is one of the best ways to explore life’s difficult questions.

It’s just a shame that the number of heavy and heartbreaking religious shows and movies far outnumbers the number of religious comedies. As contradictory as it may seem, Christian comedies are often not popular with Christian audiences because many are afraid of not being taken seriously.

“God’s Favorite Idiot,” a new comedy from Netflix, is a breath of fresh air.

The show was written and created by Ben Falcone, longtime director and collaborator of his wife Melissa McCarthy. Falcone and McCarthy star as Clark and Amily, co-workers at a tech support company who also have a budding relationship.

Ben Falcone as Clark Thompson in ‘God’s Favorite Idiot’. Photo by John Platt/Netflix © 2022

In the opening sequence, as Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” plays, a celestial cloud sets off a lightning bolt that strikes Clark. It’s a very flashy way to start.

Before long, he begins to shine – and line up “Sign of the Times” everywhere, sometimes against his will. He can quote the Bible lightly and takes on the favorite scent of everyone around him. During a visit from an angel named Chamuel, Clark learns that he has been chosen as God’s messenger. Its mission is to share a message, create believers, and in doing so help God win a heavenly war against Satan.

These details probably make it clear that “God’s favorite idiot” is not a biblical account by any precise means, but rather based on vaguer concepts and stories. The Bible is explicitly referenced several times, but that’s about it.

Modern prophetic narrative is familiar to religious storytelling, used in movies like “Bruce Almighty,” novels like “The First Phone Call From Heaven,” or shows like “God Friended Me.”

Usually, a key message of the story depends on why God chose said messenger: selfishness, a need for hope, and a lack of belief are some of the reasons for the aforementioned shows.

Melissa McCarthy as Amily Luck, left to right, Ben Falcone as Clark Thompson, Usman Ally as Mohsin Raza, Ana Scotney as Wendy and Chris Sandiford as Tom in

Melissa McCarthy as Amily Luck, left to right, Ben Falcone as Clark Thompson, Usman Ally as Mohsin Raza, Ana Scotney as Wendy and Chris Sandiford as Tom in ‘God’s Favorite Idiot’. Photo by Vince Valitutti/Netflix © 2022

So why was Clark chosen?

According to God, it is “sweet and simple like pecan pie”.

That’s a good way to describe it. Clark loves his father and his two cats. His relationship with Amily is full of affection and respect (probably because Falcone and McCarthy have been married for over 15 years, so that sort of thing comes naturally). His collaborators unequivocally support him in his mission and maintain friendly interpersonal relations. It’s all very warm.

This is perhaps the main idea of ​​the show – anyone can be a messenger for God. Even the “idiots”.

What makes Clark God the number one pick speaks volumes about the show’s message, which is rooted in love and acceptance.

“I need you to let people know that God is real and that God is good, and that everyone, that is all religions, is actually absolutely right about God” , God says to Clark in the men’s room at work. “I’m okay with all the flavors, unless you’re completely crazy or using my name to hurt people.”

It’s a nice interfaith and objectively wholesome touch, which can perhaps be considered the biggest hit of a show that doesn’t concern itself too much with the various facts and figures of theology. Assessing it alongside other religious accounts reveals that it is not truly spiritually rich.

Magda Szubanski as God, left, and Ben Falcone as Clark Thompson in

Magda Szubanski as God, left, and Ben Falcone as Clark Thompson in ‘God’s Favorite Idiot.’ Photo courtesy of Netflix © 2022

And as comedy? Frankly, it’s only OK. The rhythm is sometimes strange, some things are over-explained and others not explained well enough.

It’s not as theologically rich as ‘The Good Place’, and it’s not as funny as ‘The Righteous Gemstones’, but it’s an enjoyable in-between comedy with a handful of laughs and several great moments with a cast. well-used characters. .

The bottom line here is that “God’s Favorite Idiot” isn’t just comedy, and it’s not just religious. It’s a rare combination of the two that isn’t too judgmental or too boring. It’s worth a look, if only because its rarity brings something new to the table.

It’s also a reminder that not all stories with a religious message have to be dark or existential. Sometimes they can – and should be – as sweet and simple as pecan pie.