Perhaps to pay back his sins from his time on “The Simpsons,” actor Hank Azaria is now taking grotesque pot shots at Christianity in his new IFC show “Brockmire.”
Azaria engendered quite a bit of criticism last year for voicing the character Apu on “The Simpsons,” some arguing his depiction of the South Asian man was an offensive caricature.
In this week’s episode of his IFC show, a comedy about baseball announcer Jim Brockmire, played by Azaria, the 54-year-old actor’s character darkens the doors of a Catholic Church alongside his co-worker Gabby.
Moments after the doors of the church are closed, they burst open once again as Brockmire and Gabby are quickly ushered out of the building, jeers following them.
“Why did you bring up the Holocaust?” Gabby, played by Tawny Newsome, asks Azaria’s character.
In response, Brockmire declares, “Well, the priest is the one who brought up a benevolent God. I thought that called for a rebuttal witness.”
“No,” Gabby replies, “you called Jesus the mayor of Auschwitz.”
“Well, I don’t wanna work with some thin-skinned God who can’t handle a little criticism,” Brockmire shot back.
What should have happened?
My immediate response to Azaria’s character’s comments was to be offended, and perhaps that’s appropriate, but a part of me also felt a sense of understanding.
It seems nearly impossible we’d ever see an actor’s character speak so brazenly about the deity of another religion, and that’s absolutely concerning, but the truth is Brockmire voiced the same feelings many real-life unbelievers and skeptics have about God.
Perhaps the lesson in this controversy — one that may (or may not) result in an apology from IFC or Azaria — is Christians need to be ready and willing listeners.
The late 20th century theologian Francis Schaeffer once said, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then, in the last five minutes, I will share something of the truth.”
Presuming Gabby, the co-worker who took Brockmire to church, is a Christian, she should have followed Schaeffer’s model, listening to her fellow radio announcer’s concerns, no matter how offensive they might have been, and then shared an element of truth — the Gospel — in a way that would make sense and meet Brockmire’s need.
It seems unlikely that would ever happen on a secular show like “Brockmire,” but rather than finding ways to be offended, perhaps we as Christians should pause to look for the teachable moments in our entertainment.
The media we consume is a reflection of our culture, and it’s screaming for redemption. Unbelievers are not our enemies. The sooner we realize that, the better.