It's not often that Christians are portrayed as gracious brethren by the media. We can expect to be stereotyped and hated more often than not. John tells us that the world will hate us because we are not of the world (John chapter 15, verse 19). Clearly film and television script writers of Christian characters aren't Christians themselves, or we'd see more realistic depictions of sinners fighting sin and seeking joy in Christ.
Hit new show, Orange Is the New Black is set in a women's prison in America, where protagonist Piper Chapman is serving her sentence for drug smuggling. Soon after arriving at the prison, Piper meets Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett, the token 'Christian' in the show. Instead of being a compassionate figure of encouragement and support, she is the intimidating antagonist.
Pennsatucky is a violent and aggressive character with patience for no one. She shows no fruits of the Spirit but uses 'God' to exercise power and authority over her friends and acquaintances. Bullying, in the name of God. How glorifying. She takes scripture out of context and quotes it to inmates when trying to justify her sin. In one instance, even using a verse to warrant her plot of vengeance to kill Piper. Not only is 'Thou shalt not kill' one of the ten commandments, but the scripture she uses is clearly not a command to kill off unpleasant characters we cross paths with. Aye aye aye.
As well as using abusive speech and repaying evil with evil (1 Peter chapter 3, verse 9) this 'Christian' is also a raging homophobic. Which is just great because that's exactly how many non-believers already see Christians. They see us as old fashioned legalists who hate gay people because of our archaic beliefs that hold no relevance or truth today.
Aside from the fact that the Word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah chapter 40, verse 8; 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 25), Christians do not hate gay people. And if they do, then they should seriously examine their salvation. Christians are just as sinful as every other soul in this world, including those in same-sex relationships. We have just had our eyes opened by the Lord to our sinful nature, and consequent need for a Saviour. But this never justifies the mistreatment of others; if anything it should hasten us to minister love and grace to them, as they are without Christ. If it is not us that delivers the good news of Christ, then who will it be?
As opposed to lovingly pointing Piper to Christ in the Word, Pennsatucky tries to blackmail her in to being a Christian, wanting to baptise her in a sink. When her scheme isn't successful, Pennsatucky sees Piper's unbelief as unforgivable and then uses scripture to justify her desire to kill Piper. She then stabs Piper with a Cross shaped (!) weapon, claiming that she is an angel of God as she does it.
It's also notable to say that Pennsatucky probably couldn't have been a Christian to begin with. It was when she was at a clinic to get her fifth abortion that a nurse offended her, so she retrieved a gun from her car and shot her. Pro-life protesters outside of the clinic praised her for her actions (which again, Christians would not do) and hired a top end Christian lawyer to defend her in court. Pennsatucky saw this as divine intervention and after becoming the popular poster girl for anti-abortion, claimed to be a Christian.
But we know that in reality, faith comes through hearing (Romans chapter 10, verse 17) and if we do not hear how Christ's blood on the Cross covers all of our sin, then we cannot be saved. Christians can do all the good deeds in the world, but if they do not share the gospel with the lost, then they cannot lead them to the Lord.
If Pennsatucky and her concept of faith sound ridiculous, it's because they are. I personally like the show, but every time there's a scene with the deranged evangelist, I cringe. I cringe because although she is a fictitious character, she is still a representation of a Christian. Though believers will know that she is an inadequate representation of a Christian, unbelievers are often not to know. Because if they knew truly of the depths of the grace of God and what His death on the Cross did for us, then they too would be believers.
If they knew of salvation, sanctification and repentance, they would understand what it is to be forgiven and to fight sin. What being a Christian means. What it looks like. They would see for themselves the Body of Christ, as opposed to an oppressive religious institution. That it is about our only hope, and not hateful hypocrisy. Then maybe Christians wouldn't be portrayed as weapon wielding psychopaths, as in this case.
What hurts more than such depictions of disciples of Christ, is that such characters actually exist. Pennsatucky could easily be a member of the renowned Westborough Baptist Church for example, being brutally homophobic, racist and hateful. Such professing Christians only do damage with their false witnessing, claiming to know Him and to love Him when they have not heard the gospel and clearly not had their hearts made new.
We can find comfort though, in the midst of all of the world's distorted perceptions of us as believers. Because even if professing believers on screen and off appear to be disgraceful and shaming, He is still the Sovereign God. He remains our Creator and our Sustainer. He will always be the only constant, unchanging one. Regardless of all of our sin and shortcomings, of believers and non-believers, God is still glorified.
(God is glorified and I want to write to prisoners and share the gospel).
From 'Grace and Peace' by Sovereign Grace Music—
Grace and peace, oh how can this be
For lawbreakers and thieves
For the worthless, the least
You have said, that our judgement is death
For all eternity
Without hope, without rest
Oh, what an amazing mystery
What an amazing mystery
That Your grace has come to me
First published October 1, 2014
Scarlett Jones resides by the seaside and loves reading, films, craft and quality time with friends and family.
Scarlett Jones' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/scarlett-jones.html