I finally gave in and watched the first episode of Rev last night. Very funny, as you would expect, and yet it also left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. As far I see it, the Rev Adam Smallbones is the only the latest incarnation of an old, old subject – the holy fool. He is puzzled by the world around him and seems out of step with everyone else, but we are drawn to laugh with him and so gain some insight into our own human condition.
And as such, a vicar like this is precisely the sort the world of the media is comfortable with. Inoffensive, not too challenging and with not too many awkward beliefs. I understand that in the second episode he sort of ends up blessing a gay marriage. That is, after all, what a TV vicar would do. I long for the day when evangelicals are not shown as either hypocrites or fundamentalists, but as people who take seriously God’s word and try to take it seriously in a world that denies its authority. We too have our own sense of puzzlement and being out of step with the world – but no mainstream media outlet would ever portray our life, even with all its comic moments. It would simply be all too threatening.
So will I watch Rev again? Probably – if only because it shows me what the world thinks a vicar should be like, and I will be able to explain why I am both out of step with the world and the church that the Rev Smallbones represents. Of course I could be completely wrong – the next few episodes could show people coming to a living faith and the church growing, but I have my doubts.