Five years ago SBS screened a documentary series in which polar opposites lived together to supposedly gain an insight into lifestyles that contradicted their own.
But the title alone of Living with the Enemy flagged the kind of tone the show ultimately took. Last year Muslims Like Us took a wider and more balanced view of the diversity that exists within one faith.
Now it turns the cameras on another, as 10 Christians spend a week together sharing house in the “bible belt” of Sydney, in Bella Vista. Yes, Christians Like Us is a kind of Big Brother for Christians…
The 10 include everything from strict Catholics, to Anglican, Pentecostal and Mormon. There is the man who prays so often it includes in the car on the way to the house. There’s the female Anglican priest from Brisbane stepping into a Sydney diocese that frowns upon such. There’s the man who struggles to accept the Church’s view on his homosexuality. And yes, there’s a couple of guitars.
“I think prayer is one of the most incredible gifts God has given us,” says Steve.
“I’m truly terrified of feeling like a sheep amongst wolves,” says Hanna, a Mormon.
“I wouldn’t sit in a church in a fit,” says (another) Steve.
At a first group dinner a conversation about female priests and views on sexuality draw out some forthright views.
“I have friends who are homosexual,” says Marty. “But I get called a homophobe because I may not agree with something.”
“We’re not treating people with love,” Chris replies. “I’m a gay Christian. You don’t know what bullying is until you’ve lived that life.”
It’s clear some take their scripture literally while others see room for interpretation. While the atmosphere remains civil it’s clear this is a meeting of progressives and conservatives. Next day one will even describe them as being in two camps…..
On Day 2 there is a profoundly moving scene when they must broach the subject of sexual abuse within the church. Given there is no direct mention of George Pell it is obvious this was filmed before that verdict was announced. But in a big nod to the casting folk, one of the 10 reveals he was abused hundreds of times by his family priest. Where this revelation goes is deeply disturbing, not just for the other 9 in the house, but for viewers too. Watch the episode for this alone.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the religion with other scenes helping out at a makeshift food shelter for the disadvantaged, and a comedy stand-up night where the ability to laugh at oneself proves a considerable unifier.
“I’m here today as part of a religious experiment,” Daniel teases. “And I know what you’re thinking: Is it a cult?!”
Episode 2 will tackle issues including abortion and chastity.
While the series brings more understanding to the extremes that exist within the Christian faith, ultimately everyone is challenged on whether the things that bind believers is greater than those that divide.
“All we want is some clear modus operandi about how to live well.”
Christians Like Us airs 8:30pm Wednesday April 3 and 10 on SBS.