"Glee," an incredibly popular phenomenon, recently explored spirituality on the third episode of this season. When Glee club member/Quarterback, Finn, sees an image of Jesus in his grilled cheese sandwich, he starts praying to what he calls "Grilled Cheesus." The Glee Club members end up sharing their individual spiritual beliefs, including Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, and a few mash-ups of other belief systems, as they attempt to deal with the sudden heart attack of Kurt's father.
My first response was shock at the sacrilegious nature of the theme, but I quickly realized that the episode gave me important insight on the types of beliefs in our world today. I am surrounded each day with people who have similar beliefs to my own. How can I ever know how to engage with and respond to those whose beliefs aren't my own?
One important scene was between Finn and Emma, the school guidance counselor. She doesn't make fun of Finn's vision of Jesus in the grilled cheese. Instead, she gives sound advice about the way God communicates with us. She explains away the bizarre coincidences that Finn was inappropriately attributing to God after he prayed to the "Grilled Cheesus." As Emma says, "God works in all kinds of mysterious ways, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't spend a lot time trying to speak to us through sandwiches."
Meanwhile, Kurt (who happens to be gay) visits a church service with fellow Glee Club member Mercedes. Mercedes sings in the choir of the all black congregation. She asks the congregation to pray for Kurt's dad and for Kurt. She acknowledges that Kurt doesn't believe in God and prayer, but she says, "Life is too hard to go through alone, without something to hold on to and without something that's sacred." Kurt is noticeably moved by the love and compassion and acceptance shown to him by the members of the church. A lady sitting next to him grabs his hand and another smiles at him from across the aisle -- love and compassion Kurt often doesn't receive in the secular world he encounters each day at school.
One of the final scenes is incredibly touching. Cheerleading Coach Sue Sylvester is visiting her older sister in the assisted living home. Janie has Down Syndrome. When the girls were young, Sue would pray to God to make her older sister better. Sue turned her back on God because he didn't answer her prayers. The following dialogue takes place while they play checkers:
Sue:"Do you believe in God, Janie?"
Janie: "Do you?"
Sue: "No, I don't."
Janie: "Why not?"
Sue: "Because when we were little girls, you were perfect in my eyes (Janie grins big here), and I watched the world be cruel to you."
Janie: "God never make mistakes. That's what I believe."
(Sue becomes visibly emotional.)
Janie: "Do you want me to pray for you, Sue?"
Sue nods, "Yeah, that would be nice," and chokes up.
Kurt doesn't change his stance on God by the end of the episode, but he does acknowledge that prayer is good and that the prayers his friends have offered up are good. Even ever stubborn Sue Sylvester realizes that God may be more real than she ever thought.
I almost didn't watch this episode of Glee, but now I'm glad I did. I'm glad for the insight into the many ways that others in our society think about God and religion and prayer. I'm glad for the encouragement to reach out to those who are different than I am and to never hesitate to pray for those around me, even when they don't know I'm doing it.
For a synopsis of the episode, click on the title of this blog post.