I just watched Priest Idol a programme in which Father James McCaskill, a naive middle-class priest from Pittsburgh in the US, takes over the last remaining church in Lundwood, Barnsley in Yorkshire. Lundwood is seriously rundown with high levels of unemployment and a serious heroin problem. The graffiti on the church reads 'Fuck God'.
I was all ready to be outraged by the attempt to manipulate people into thinking that God offers hope. However I couldn't really summon up any indignation.
I was highly amused by the comedy vicars. The previous vicar of the parish is a key character, he's incredibly camp and desperate for the new vicar not to succeed where he had failed. Meanwhile the boss vicar (or whatever they're called) enlists a marketing agency (Propaganda!) to try and sell God. The camp vicar is not impressed with this and says that Jesus made do with a few thick helpers. Yes, he called the disciples thick, this has to be seen to be believed.
I couldn't laugh at James though, that would just be cruel. I spent the whole program saying bless him, poor lad. If I'd been in the village, I think I'd have gone to church and rounded up a few people for him. He was so far out of his depth.
I couldn't even accuse him of indoctrinating school children. They weren't just disinterested, many of them actively disbelieved. One said they couldn't believe that God had created the earth and another compared God to the tooth fairy.
I did get angry at one point though. An interviewer asked James's mother if she thought he would succeed in increasingly the size of the congregation. She replied that James wouldn't do it, but the Lord would do it through him. Poor lad. He's going to work so hard to beg and bribe people into that church and his mum is going to give all the credit to God.
Now back to our regularly scheduled sarcasm and godless indignation.