The underlying unfriendliness of “God Friended Me”
By: Alex Helms, Assistant Arts & Life Editor
Featured image courtesy of CBS
Religion is never an easy subject to tackle. One’s faith can be a deeply personal relationship so closely tied to culture, and when disagreements arise over such life-affirming beliefs, it can feel wounding if your worldview and identity is rejected. However, even though aggressive non-believers exist, a lack of faith is not attack on faith, nor is it simply a repressed, resentful form of faith pretending to not believe in something which it actually hates.
Despite this, these are ideas present in many pieces of popular Christian media, such as the box-office hit “God’s Not Dead,” which was coincidentally satirized on the 30th season premiere of “The Simpsons.”
The surprising success of religious films like “God’s Not Dead,” that literally villainize atheists as bitter God-haters, along with the revitalization of conservative voices in this country have likely lead to the creation of CBS’s latest comedy-drama “God Friended Me.” The show follows the life of Miles Finer (Brandon Micheal Hall), a vehement atheist who finds himself mysteriously connected to strangers in need through messages sent from a Facebook account known only as “God.”
Even with a young lead cast and a social media heavy premise, “God Friended Me” feels tailored to a much older audience. In the first episode, Finer’s’ friend Rakesh Sehgal (Suraj Sharma) complains about how dating apps like Tinder and Bumble only make people his age miserable. Finer, speaking to an older man in the episode but practically turning directly to the audience, remarks, “Be glad you didn’t grow up with social media.” It’s Sehgal’s parents, not new apps for young adults, who find love for their son with older cultural practices, setting him up with an Indian woman they approve of.
Finer’s podcast, “Millenial Prophet,” is also criticized by a parental figure, his reverend father no less. In his father’s eyes, Finer is “taking away people’s hope,” not even helping anyone on an individual level. And it is through the course of the episode that he learns just how he should help people and give people hope, through “God.”
Living under the same roof as someone in the church, Finer was raised religious, but as a child, he lost his mother in a cruelly ironic accident – a car crash on the way home from a life-saving cancer remission diagnosis. Finer’s atheism is portrayed as deep anger rather than disbelief. When he claims that his father is lying to the people he claims to help in church, the Reverend concludes that “What I know is… is that you’re angry.” And just like the other child-parent subplot within the episode where a woman resented the parent who had abandoned her as a child, a clear metaphor for Finer’s central religious conflict, the two characters were able to reconcile.
The reasons for believing or not believing in God should not be easily dismissed, but a show that thinks little of irreligious people and the intelligence of younger generations might be.