For a few seasons, Seinfeld – that brilliant, inventive TV sitcom – was a cultural blockbuster, creating catch phrases and situations that millions across North America embraced and used as their own ‘insider’ language.
The episode that fascinates me concentrates, in part, on the relationship between principal character Elaine Benes and her boyfriend, David Puddy.
Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds out Puddy (Patrick Warburton) is “religious”. This sets up all sorts of conversations between the two, plus other principal characters Jerry and George Constanza.
Here’s a sample of dialogue:
Elaine: I borrowed Puddy’s car and all the presets on his radio were Christian rock stations.
George: I like Christian rock. It’s very positive. It’s not like those real musicians who think they’re so cool and hip.
Elaine: So, you think that Puddy actually believes in something?
Jerry: It’s a used car; he probably never changed the presets.
Elaine: Yes, he is lazy.
Jerry: Plus, he probably doesn’t even know how to program the buttons.
Elaine: Yes, he is dumb.
Jerry: So you prefer dumb and lazy to religious?
Elaine: Dumb and lazy, I understand.
First off, ye gotta love George’s casual dissing of Christian musicians and his breathtaking ignorance. Did you know, for example, that singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn is a Christian? I’ve never heard a single critic knock him for his artistic ability.
Second, the notion of Elaine preferring a dumb and lazy boyfriend to one who is “religious” is not only funny, it’s a remarkably accurate assessment of our culture. From what I can tell, most people would rather spend hours debating the behaviour of Charlie Sheen or Lady Gaga than even think about spirituality and life’s big questions.
There’s no doubt that celebrity antics hold the same sort of fascination we feel when we drive past a car wreck. But in the end, does it make any difference in our lives?
Some more priceless Seinfeld dialogue:
Elaine: So, you’re pretty religious?
Puddy: That’s right.
Elaine: So is it a problem that I’m not really religious?
Puddy: Not for me.
Elaine: Why not?
Puddy: I’m not the one going to hell.
Yikes! If any serious Christian has used words like this with you, I apologize here and now. It’s no exaggeration to write that anyone who takes his or her faith seriously is never blasé about the fate of friends, family, and loved ones. I’ve eaten veggie burgers that tasted more real than the Christianity Puddy displays.
Real Christianity sacrifices itself in the same way serious Christians believe Jesus took on our failures and misdeeds when Roman authorities hung him on a cross. In the Bible, real Christianity says “First we were loved, now we love. God loved us first.” If you encounter a person who seems somehow different because he/she knows this amazing truth, then you’ve met the real thing and I hope you walk away thinking about your life and your fate.