rev: a non-specific vicar?

29 07 2010

I have written before about the brilliant observation and humour of Rev, and 5 episodes in it is still good. It isn’t rip-roaring, but it meanders through story-lines in an intentional manner, devoid of canned laughter or more poignantly sometimes, canned tears. But there is an issue: as one vicar-friend pointed out, though Adam’s humanity is portrayed excellently, is there any sense that he has something others do not? His prayers are wonderfully honest; but are they ever answered? Is the God he believes in actually real?


Maybe the issue can be explained like this. Often I am asked by people without my faith “what made you become a vicar?”. Maybe because I am young, unexpected-looking, or a bit rubbish at my job. Anyway, they ask, I answer. When I am feeling mischievous, I answer with “God”. God called me. This is usually met with a slightly confused look, which I allow for a while before I rescue them from the religious lunatic they just awakened and say something safer. They often understand things like ‘calling’, or ‘I enjoy working with people’, or ‘I like the variety’. They don’t understand that God essentially dragged me unwillingly into it! Or that I don’t like church. Anyway…

The simple answer “God” is more uncomfortable because it has a huge and treacherous unspoken background – that this person believes in God, that they believe God speaks and is real and is actually involved in ordinary everyday life. It is a little… specific. What they prefer is a safer, less specific vicar who keeps things nice and vague, speaks about God not Jesus and preferably actually just church, and who is prepared to do God (or rather, religion) on behalf of them so they don’t need to.

In Rev, I think the thing that will always be missing (for some), but is to be expected and maybe even endearing, is that Rev is the portrayal of a Christian as understood by people who aren’t, but who are sympathetic to the idea. He is what sympathetic people think we are. So Rev understands the idea of calling, of earnest faith, of talking to God – and understands lots of issues vicars face – but it falls short of actually understanding faith, because the faith is not real. It cannot be, because it is a sitcom and not a documentary; it is acted, not real.


So Adam has a deep sense of calling, and an earnest faith. But that faith will always be a bit non-specific. And that is what most people (outside church? inside church?) want from their vicar – earnest, busy and committed, but safe, non-specific and spiritually undemanding. He is enthusiastic about church and about people and about ‘making a difference’. But is he enthusiastic about people meeting and being transformed by Jesus? Is he himself transformed by Jesus, in the sense that he is given supernatural patience to manage the crises that come his way?  You decide.

So I think Adam portrays the closest people can come to understanding a person of faith, if they themselves do not share that faith. Again, he is what people think we are. Scary thought! And he is believable.  Focusing on the humanity rather than the spirituality means more people can relate to him; otherwise it would become even more like an in-house training video for clergy or a promo for following Jesus and no-one would watch it. It is a sitcom after all. And maybe we should all be show a bit more humanity…!

I am therefore intrigued to see what a crisis of faith looks like to people with this understanding of faith to start with… apparently this is the theme of the final episode, which I await with anticipation!

………………………………………..

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8 responses

29 07 2010
edgsoni

I’m really enjoying Rev, too. I’m not sure that I share your analysis that “the thing that will always be missing is that Rev is the portrayal of a Christian as understood by people who aren’t, but who are sympathetic to the idea.”
I suspect there are hundreds of ‘Christian’ vicars who are sympathetic to the idea of God but are struggling to reconcile it with their walk of faith/doubt and their routine church experience. The sitcom may be ‘more real’ than the reality in some respects because all vicars are, to some extent, actors. Aren’t they?

30 07 2010
Kevin

You may well be right – there is a lot of acting that goes on, partly justified, partly not. There is certainly a lot of struggling to reconcile the theory with the practice… and if they had chosen to portray an overtly confident and non-angst-ridden vicar it wouldn’t have been nearly so interesting – or real.

30 07 2010
Fran

or maybe the script writers faith is very very real, he is after all showing the ‘frustration’ of church life, faith life and frustration of prayers unanswered.
yes we crave transformation by Jesus Christ.
yes we believe in the Holy Spirit turning things around in the world we live in.
But….we still see daily accounts of weird and awful things that face humanity. Yesterday a woman is discovered to have killed 8 of her babies cause she didn’t want any more and couldn’t use contraception…..what a place to be in. Knowing that was something you had done over nearly 20 years! Terrible actions, but surely also terrible guilt.

What is transformation – what are we looking for – and how will it come to us. Is it perhaps already with us and we just need to notice it….is it in our attitudes and our view of the world….if so then i think transformation is apparent in REV. Choosing not to boot out Colin the other week after his cheeky fondle ….transformed attitudes? Being honest about humanity…and not trying to be anything other than who he is ….transformed attitude?? Talking about sex as part of life and not hiding it under the carpet like a dirty piece of rubbish….transformed attitude???

pause for thought. ‘and I know my call despite my faults and despite my growing fears’. Mumford and sons lyrics

30 07 2010
Tweets that mention rev: a non-specific vicar? « the blog of kevin -- Topsy.com

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kevin Lewis, Kevin Lewis. Kevin Lewis said: Do people prefer a safe and non-specific vicar? Is this what is wrong with Rev.? http://fb.me/Enka9YRl [...]

30 07 2010
Scott

I confess that I watched one and a half episodes and then switched it off! It felt far too depressing and unrealistic in many ways.

I won’t comment any more since I think I need to watch a bit more to make a balanced judgement. I will just stick to more realistic programmes like 24 and the A team. By the way has anyone gota spare truck-load of vegetables I can borrow?

30 07 2010
Kevin

I also confess that it is a bit depressing – maybe that’s why I like it!

There are certain unrealistic elements to it (!), though comparisons to the A Team are appropriate – he manages to make a congregation out of an alcoholic, a cassock-botherer and a cynic, not unlike BA making a weapon out of a packet of strepsils, a spade and an elephant tusk. Comparisons with 24 – a day seems like a year, the team are unreliable and someone always comes back from the dead.

30 07 2010
Fran

i have a large courgette that might soon fit in a wheelbarrow! whats it for?

3 08 2010
Kevin

Here’s a comment from my mate Andy who’s a (young!) vicar like me and put this on Facebook but i think it’s worth a read:

It is interesting, I watched the world cup, in a local pub wearing an England shirt and sunk a pint or two… One of the lads from Church let it slip I was the Vicar whilst I was in the bog… totally different reaction just a couple of min…utes later… A Vicar who belongs to a different generation -mid 50’s- and is both posh and grumpy is totally safe… but a Vicar who grew up in a street like they did, went to a school like theirs, is the same age as them, like the same sort of music as they do… all this is actually profoundly uncomfortable! Why? because when people think of Christians as ‘people like me’ they can’t be written off as easily… can’t drop them in a box marked ‘other’ or ‘different’, the painful reality is that if I meet a Christian who is in many ways like me then it raises the question, ‘could this be me?’

That is to say, if we are exactly the same as the person we are talking too as a Christian then this too raises the question ‘what difference does this make to your life?’, somehow the tightrope is acting as an ambassador of Christ, uncompromisingly living for him whilst being rooted and grounded in the reality of the real world… Wow, what a challenge!

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