2. It Mocks Christians … Or Does it?
The Gemstones take the Christian message around the world, but they use most of the church’s proceeds for their own benefit. The Gemstones fly private planes – named “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit.” They live in mansions on a compound – each child has a house – and they drive fancy cars. Rev. Eli Gemstone alone has 15 maids.
The church members, though, are clueless about the Gemstones’ out-of-control lifestyles. (During a Sunday morning presentation on missions, Rev. Eli says, “If you’ve ever wondered why tithing is important … up there on that screen is why.” Church members then open their wallets.)
Behind the scenes, the Gemstones are hypocrites. Eli Gemstone aims to steal members from other churches. His son, Jesse Gemstone, parties and cheats on his wife. (We learn of a video circulating that shows him snorting cocaine with prostitutes.) No one in the family, it seems, is a true Christian.
The plot made me uncomfortable – many viewers will assume most real-life pastors are hypocrites, too – but creator/director Danny McBride says his goal wasn’t to mock Christianity.
“When Hollywood takes on religion, they make the mistake of lampooning one’s beliefs,” McBride said, according to Deadline. “For us, it’s about lampooning hypocrites – people who present themselves in one way, an act differently in another. I don’t think that’s something that’s relevant [only] to the world of religion and televangelism but the world we live in: People who present themselves one way on social media and present themselves in another way.”
The Righteous Gemstones tries to balance this hypocrisy by showing us a true believer: Rev. Johnny Seasons, who pastors the Baptist church down the road. He doesn’t live lavishly. He preaches about God’s love. He turns the other cheek. (“The Gemstones … are an absolute disgrace to all ministries,” Seasons says, labeling them “conmen” and “hypocrites.”)
Yet Seasons doesn’t receive enough screen time. The Gemstones’ hypocritical message dominates.
Photo courtesy: HBO