CBS’s newest show, Living Biblically, is a sensitive look at faith and religion while being a humorous reflection of an exaggerated living out Bible rules literally. In actual fact, it has some wonderful catechesis about faith, God, prayer, and morality.
Created by Patrick Walsh based on the New York Times bestseller by A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (2007), the show presents Chip Curry (Jay Ferguson) who decides after the death of his best friend and hearing he will be a new father, that living a mediocre life is not good enough. He wants to be great. Although Chip has not opened a Bible in twenty years, he resolves to do a “soul cleanse” by living 100% by the Bible. He goes to confession to his priest, Fr. Gene (Ian Gomez) who tempers his excitement and, along with Fr. Gene’s friend Rabbi Gil (David Krumholtz), his “God squad”, offers Chip guidance on truly understanding faith and the Bible. When they meet in a bar (a rather trite reference to all the priest, Rabbi, atheist jokes, since Chip’s wife Leslie is an atheist), Fr. Gene tells him regarding prayer to, “stop focusing on the mechanics” and to learn how to, “surrender yourself.” Some of the best catechesis comes from their conversations, albeit in a humorous and joking way. I simply couldn’t stop laughing throughout the entire episode, being the obvious believer that I am.
There are many undeniably Catholic elements to the show, besides having a priest as a main character, such as the non-literal interpretation of the Bible and clarifying Jesus’s sayings as part of a whole body of teaching. Executive Producer, Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), grew up Catholic and wanted to have a television show for the very unrepresented demographic of 80% of the world’s population that profess some religion, with about 70% as Christian. He said he always wanted to do a comedy about faith and religion, not mockingly, but to talk about these “hard issues” in a way that secular culture can absorb. And that is effectively done through comedy.
Some of the most religious people I know have hearty senses of humor and I think that shows how faith brings happiness. If we can joke about the quirkiness of our spiritual lives, then we are being faithful followers of Christ, who by the way, did not lack in this very human characteristic. Just consider his tongue-in-cheek comments to the Pharisees about being “white-washed tombs” or about Herod whom he calls, “that fox.” Jesus does not mince his words in this particularly sarcastic manner. He also makes people chuckle with such great lines as, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, would give him a snake?” (Lk. 11:11). Jesus lacks no wit and neither does the show Living Biblically. Surely, this is a refreshingly comedic look at religion, something we have not seen in a long time.
One of the most amusing moments of the series comes in the third episode when Chip realizes he is addicted to his smartphone and must remove all “false idols” from his life, according to the Bible. So he smashes it and returns to a 90s fanny pack filled with a watch, calculator, camera, map, compass, bible and beeper, as an “old school” replacement of his smartphone. Chaos ensues, and presents a humorous commentary on our digitally obsessed culture.
Cleverly written scripts draw the audience into Chip’s radicalism and his amusing conversations with his atheist wife, Leslie (Lindsey Kraft). Although she refuses to see that God really is answering Chip’s prayers, she goes along with his desire to be a better person, and that is the wonderful message of this show. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the season and simply to laugh at the fun-loving and amusing things we do as religious people while living our lives for God.