GCB Can't Be That Over-The-Top

Yeah, OK, OK, I get that GCB is going to be a send-up of drunk bitchy Christian women in the Park Cities. I'm all for that. I just hope the comedic voice of the TV series doesn't serve to obscure the fact that it's true.

Alan Peppard had a funny piece in The Dallas Morning News yesterday about all the Dallas/Park Cities links. Prediction: Far from being outraged, Park Cities women will be thrilled. The association with glamour and glitter will be well worth the cost in basic respect.

I missed the pilot. We've got it set to record from here on out. Other prediction: If it's amusing, I'll be hooked immediately.

But I will still want people to remember that a characterization of Dallas and the Park Cities in particular as a center and even the possible birthplace of contemporary Christofascism is not over the top. It's true.

I spent some time this morning searching unsuccessfully for a Brit documentary done back in the 1980s (maybe you can help?) tracing the roots of the American religious phenomenon called prosperity doctrine. The guy doing the documentary traced it back to Dallas and the late pastor of Dallas First Baptist Church, W.A. Criswell. There was an absolutely fascinating and appalling interview with Criswell in the film.

The term, prosperity doctrine, covers a spectrum of beliefs, from the salutary at one end, to the benign in the middle, all the way out to toxic on what has become the far right of today.

At the good end, it's the idea that you'll do better if you act better. Maybe that's nothing more than a restatement of the doctrine that individual destinies are shaped by individual values, a notion discussed as social science in a David Brooks column in today's New York Times.

At the bad end, it's the idea that Jesus actually cuts the checks. If Jesus loves you, this you'll know: He will make your income grow. The obverse would be that Jesus looks down his nose on the poor.

That idea -- the toxic one -- is central to the new Christofascism, which teaches that the world is divided between winners and losers. The winners are rich Christian bitches, and the losers are just in the way.

My memory of the documentary is somewhat fizzed by the passage of time, but I do recall a great scene in which the documentarian sits in Criswell's office at First Baptist while the camera scans walls and table-tops chockablock with priceless art works and Christian tchotchkes.

The guy asks, in his best Brit fake-fair tone, about all the opulence. He points out that Jesus lived among the poor. Does Criswell's display of wealth not pose a sort of conflict with the values of modesty and charity espoused by Jesus?

Criswell says not at all. He observes that back when Jesus walked the Earth, the church was still a start-up. Criswell gestures around at his Midas-like display of moolah and says, "Look what we've been able to accomplish since then."

Today the notion of God as venture capitalist has spawned an entire ideology, cloaked in Christian robes but with the Crusader's sword firmly in hand, ready to behead anyone who gets between a good Christian bitch and her money.

If Dallas is going to get some attention on this score, I say we should get all the attention we deserve. Anybody who thinks the values expressed in GCB are only an over-the-top joke hasn't been watching the Republican presidential primary debates.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze