I’ve never watched the TV show Glee. However, a friend forwarded a couple of interesting takes on a recent episode of this teen life series. One character, a gay atheist (Kurt), encounters friends who are evangelical stereotypes. In one poignant scene, a girl invites Kurt to church and says it’s OK if he doesn’t believe in God, as long as he still believes in something “sacred.” Carefully avoiding Jesus songs, she joins the praise band and dedicates “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” to Kurt.

Over at the Christian Century blog, Steve Thorngate offered this interesting evaluation:

Once again, pop culture offers us more-or-less-evangelical Christianity meeting the secular other in the gauzy common ground of vaguely spiritual friendship. The writers’ insistent respect for all their characters (at least the adolescent ones) serves them well in this episode. But it would have been more interesting if its treatment of faith boiled down to something richer than simply dissolving the tension between those who talk to their personal friend Jesus and those who think that’s kind of stupid.

Though I agree with Thorngate’s take, I can’t help but think that the evangelical stereotype works because there’s enough truth in it. Judging by the recent Pew study (see Shane Rosenthal’s post), meeting non-Christians “in the gauzy common ground of vaguely spiritual friendship” is pretty much the norm. In that study, atheists and agnostics knew the Bible and Christian doctrine better than evangelical Christians. (Jews and Mormons came in second, evangelical Protestants came in third, and mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics were neck-and-neck with people identified as “no religion.”)

Is pop culture doing another number on us? Or is it just mirroring back to us the shallow sub-culture that we’ve created?