Christianity was a huge part of my childhood. I have enormous respect for my Christian influences: namely, my parents and the husband and wife team of co-pastors at my home church. Even though I identify as an atheist now, I’m not a Richard Dawkins drone or a Bill Maher type who insists anyone who believes in a higher power is stupid. In fact, my opinion is that Christians who have reasoned and studied and come to their faith after introspection are far more worthy of the label “intelligent” than the often college-educated people who brush off religion as hoopla.
Maybe that’s why I have a hard time processing Lifetime TV show Preachers’ Daughters. On one hand, it seems like harmless fluff. The adults in the reality show aren’t overtly abusive or hateful to their daughters (in other words, it’s not Westboro Baptist Church). Some of the daughters even joke around with their parents about dating and their teenage desires.
But then I think what bugs me is that, ultimately, this show is playing into the popular notion that all Christians are backwards people with super conservative ideals. This is, frankly, not true — Preachers’ Daughters only sheds light on Evangelical Christanity, which is just one small sect of Christianity as a whole.
Andy Kopsa of The Atlantic reveals the statistics: “According to a study by The PEW Forum on Religion and Public Life, 26 percent of religious Americans self-identify as Evangelical Christians. In comparison, 23 percent identify as Catholics and 18 percent as a mainline Christian. Importantly, the PEW study goes on to reveal 59 percent of self-identified Evangelicals say the Bible is not only the Word of God, but literally true “word for word.”
Yes, over half of Evangelicals take the Bible at face value. But this equates to maybe fifteen percent of all American Christians. That’s not huge.
So when a show like this makes headlines, it upsets me that atheists, agnostics and those who simply haven’t been exposed to religion may see this as an accurate portrayal of all Christians. Don’t get me wrong, Preachers’ Daughters is a pretty damn accurate portrayal of Evangelicals. I live in the Bible Belt and see these attitudes and worse all the time. But this isn’t how all Christians are.
At the same time, there’s another level of damage that this show does. The fact that it’s not called “Preachers’ Children” speaks volumes about how far we — religious or godless — have to come regarding the way we view our daughters’ sexuality. Kopsa writes about how the daughters wear purity rings and how Christian companies make bank on purity products. I’ve attended an Evangelical wedding where there was a whole segment boasting that the bride had faithfully worn her purity ring all throughout childhood, much to the smiling satisfaction of the traditional audience. There was no mention of the groom’s chastity.
Why do parents, both religious and non-religious, freak out about their daughters’ sexual activity but nonchalantly insist that their boys will be boys? Preachers’ Daughters may be endearing at times, but I fear it’s just another step backwards for women’s rights.