The lives of the faithful have increasingly become fodder for reality television. See Lifetime’s short-lived Preacher’s Wives; Oxygen’s Preachers of LA (Tagline: “Living the God Life”); and Preacher’s Daughters, which follows three teenage girls navigating the travails that befall those unfortunate creatures born to pastors. As churches grow in size and cultural influence, they can also become good (or poor) entertainment.
Now, NBC has ordered the pilot of a drama from Liz Heldens, creator of such TV shows as Camp and Mercy. This show, Salvation (not to be confused with Snake: Salvation, Terminator Salvation, or “Supernatural” Salvation) takes place at a Texas megachurch and ”will delve into “faith, family and corruption,’ revolving around a lead character whose husband dies under mysterious circumstances.”
Thewrap.com reports that the show’s producer will be David Janollari, the producer of Six Feet Under, who will surely bring some life-and-death drama from that show to this. One interesting detail is the name of the main character: Jennifer Strickland will be the central figure in Salvation, according to thewrap.com and other sources — a woman “who has to defend her children, church and religious beliefs after her husband dies under mysterious circumstances.”
A quick Google result of the name yields another Jennifer Strickland, also a Christian and a former fashion model who now speaks to young women across America about how destructive the modeling world was and how to turn to God to recognize their real beauty.
Strickland aside, I’m curious to see how the show will fare. I doubt I’ll be watching, and I bristle at the suggestion that megachurch politics (which certainly exist) might lead to physical harm or death. Megachurches, which absolutely face difficult issues of power and ego on their own, are not quite the halls of power of Congress or the Pentagon. So the “corruption” the show’s writers speak about will be interesting to watch unfold. I mean, we Christians may be a terminally nice lot who avoid confrontation and leave passive-aggressive voicemails for each other, but it will take some seriously skillful (or manipulative) storytelling to pull off a television show like this.
Then again, maybe Reformed pastor John Piper meant something else when he famously tweeted, “Farewell, Rob Bell,” about a fellow pastor with whom he disagreed. Perhaps there is a seamy underbelly of evangelicalism with a mob and plenty of hit men ready to take out anyone who doesn’t affirm supralapsarianism. That scenario seems more possible to me than the world suggested in Salvation.