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Is Homeland anti-Christian?

The terrorist drama is excellent television but its world view is bizarre

By on Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The first series of Homeland is over, and we now have to wait until the autumn for the second series. For some people, which may include myself, it is going to be a long hard summer.

Homeland is good. If you haven’t seen it, then a box DVD set would be the ideal present to yourself. But Homeland, like a lot of addictive substances, is not necessarily good for you. There are a few rather spooky things about it that I have noticed.

Firstly, everyone in it, or nearly everyone, is far too good looking. As one of the characters remarks, Brody’s wife is “hot”. Indeed, she is played by the uber-beautiful Morena Baccarin who is of Brazilian extraction.  Now there is nothing wrong with an actress being beautiful, but I reckon that your average US Marine sergeant’s wife looks more like, well, a younger version of Hillary Clinton. Again, the house, the children, these are all too perfect. That house in particular – not an unwashed plate in sight. Then there is Brody himself. My friend Isabel, who would like to remain anonymous, said to me in serious tones: “There is no doubt that Damian Lewis is a very attractive man.” This is a great morale booster for redheads around the world, I am sure. But again, is it really necessary to give us such a feast of eye-candy? Isn’t all this subtly manipulating the viewer?

Lewis’s red hair, and his Christian name, and his good looks of course, as well as his thespianism, alerts me to the fact that he is obviously a Catholic. I can find no evidence of this online or elsewhere, but I am sure he is a Catholic, though he may well be lapsed. This gives piquancy to the recent revelation for the al-Qaeda bunker that Catholic Ireland is ripe for conversion to Islam. Brody is a convert to Islam, though his family is Church-going American Protestant. I have written about this before: this conversion seems too simple to me. 

Again, would Brody agree to kill Americans to avenge the son of a terrorist, and show so little remorse about leaving his own family? In the end, it is the intervention of his daughter that saves him, but this familial tie kicks in at the eleventh hour. The idea that Brody, or anyone else for that matter, would care about the children of others, more than his own children, is bizarre.

And here is the point. In the worldview of this series, the children of others are more important. Little Issa counts more than the Brody son, whose judo match Brody can pass up in favour of blowing himself up. What I mean is this: this worldview constantly plays down the tie that binds us to our nearest and dearest, and constantly plays up our obligations to those we have never (or hardly ever) met. But in purely practical terms, we will always feel more bound to those we actually know and live with. The community that counts is the community know, and for most this will be the family. It won’t be distant peoples. Of course we should feel for distant peoples, and deplore their ill-treatment, but we are hardly likely to do this if we are indifferent to those closest, physically, to us.

We need to understand the parable of the Good Samaritan properly. The Good Samaritan helps the stranger, which is excellent. But it is my guess that he was someone who habitually helped all he met, particularly his own family and neighbours back in Samaria. In the same way the priest and Levite must have been habitually selfish people, rather than kind charitable types who just that once failed to live up to their habitual virtues.

The chipping away of natural ties, which can become channels of divine grace, is a habitual strategy of the anti-Christian Left.

Is Homeland anti-Christian? In this subtle sense, yes.

There is another subliminal message that the series carries. The great crime, the original sin, if you like, is the killing of the boy Issa, who happens to be the terrorist mastermind’s son. (The fact that the terrorist put his own son in danger by his choice to be a terrorist, is very fleetingly touched on.) The name Issa, as most people will know, is the name given to the character in the Koran whom Muslims identify with Jesus.  Therefore the series subtly links the Holy Name of Jesus with the child-victim of American imperialism and indifference to human suffering. It is a way of suggesting that the Vice-President of the USA is as bad as Judas and Pontius Pilate.

Homeland is good, very good, but, I submit, to be approached with caution.

  • licjjs

    I have enjoyed ‘Homeland’ tremendously too, but I found the story-line becoming more and more incredible as time went on.  Like you, I find it exceeding hard to believe that Brody – even though he had worked up a relationship with the boy Issa over a few months, or even a year or two – who had been tortured and imprisoned in a hole for so long, and, who being a marine must have known all too well the problem of ‘co-lateral damage’, would have decided on the suicide bomber way of revenge.  I also complained to Channel 4 about the use of the name of Jesus as a ‘swear word’ given the context of extreme respect for Islam and Judaism in the programme: ‘Take off your shoes’ says Carrie to the Chief of Police who is investigating the ‘co-lateral’ killing of some people in the mosque.  Brody’s duplicity and his killing of his fellow turned marine in cold blood at the behest of Nazir makes the blood run cold.  Only the lives that they, Nazir and Brody, think are valuable have to be preserved.

  • Lazarus

    ‘In the worldview of this series, the children of others are more important.’ 
    Not sure I agree. Brody is talked out of killing himself precisely by his love for his own daughter. What is portrayed is the classic tragedy of being pulled in two directions: 
    love for his family; and love for …something else.

    And it’s in that ‘something else’ where I’m not quite sure that Homeland works. Is it love for a (supposedly) righteous cause? Love for another (surrogate) son? Or just a variety of Stockholm syndrome? The best sense I can make of it just now is that in Brody you simply have a broken individual trying to piece together his values and personality after an incredibly traumatic episode. On that level, I think it works well and isn’t anti-Christian. Where I worry somewhat is the hint sometimes that it’s less complicated than that: he’s just converted to a new world view and is just a sleeper waiting to spring into action. If that is how it develops in the next series, then I’ll change my opinion. But at the moment, I’m afraid I’m enjoying it immensely (and the eye candy factor is, I regret to say, part of that enjoyment!).

    Damian Lewis has been spotted at Anglican services:

  • Kate Brewster

    Obviously a Catholic? Nothing obvious about that at all. He was, in fact, raised an Anglican but I’m not sure if he still practices.

    “The idea that Brody, or anyone else for that matter, would care about the children of others, more than his own children, is bizarre.” 
    Well we know that in real life people with families DO go and blow themselves up, so while the reasons may be hard to understand, it’s certainly not an implausible situation to portray. We also have to remember that Brody has spent more time away from his children than with them. His son didn’t even remember him (think back to the first episode when they were reunited – he shook his hand and said “pleased to meet you”). Abu Nazir and Isa represented the only love he had known after five years of torture. 

  • Recusant

    I saw one episode. I thought it was hammy and boring. Why not just show repeats of the A-Team? I preferred that.

  • simontmn

     I reckon that your average US Marine sergeant’s wife looks more like, well, a younger version of Hillary Clinton”

    ?!? How many soldiers’ wives have you encountered? My wife was just commenting a few days ago about how they all seem to be blonde and good-looking, even when their menfolk are decidedly not.  We were speculating that perhaps being a warrior still sends some kind of evolutionary fitness message that attracts good-looking women. I’m quite certain that the average US Marine sergeant’s wife is *much* more attractive than a young Hillary Clinton.

  • simontmn

    People with lots of siblings, in cultures where suicide bombers are applauded, blow themselves up (Pinker S., The Better Angels of Our Nature, 2011).  There is an evolutionarily adaptive explanation – it raises the mating prospects of their siblings, and hence of their own genes.

  • buckingham88

     An alternative evolutionary adaptive explanation could also be that they  have problems interpreting the association between reality and their own needs, this disassociative state becomes pathological and addictive and a deep psychiatric illness leading them to kill themselves and others.
     Consequently they select themselves out of the human race.
    There are a couple of families in Melbourne that are a good fit.Since the 70′s they have wiped each other out and the two left are in jail.Their origins are in a valley in Lebanon.

  • Parasum

    I think it’s over-advertised – but have never watched it, so can’t comment on the question asked.

    “The chipping away of natural ties, which can become channels of divine grace, is a habitual strategy of the anti-Christian Left.”

    ## They can also become obstacles to God’s Will – as the gospels make clear. Jesus was not an affirmer of “family values”.

    “Lewis’s red hair, and his Christian name, and his good looks of course,
    as well as his thespianism, alerts me to the fact that he is obviously a

    ## Even though one has not seen anything of the series except the same old trailer, that still seems a very strange sentence.

    “That house in particular – not an unwashed plate in sight.”

    ## Of course – the man of the house is in the US military. *Ergo*, his domestic appointments will reflect this. Seems a reasonable explanation.

  • Parasum

    Mr T’s Mohican was definitely eye-catching LOL

  • Rex

    And being blonde makes you good looking? Hello pot this is kettle.

  • simontmn

    No, but here in the UK the typical soldier’s wife is both.

  • johnnewbery485

    He also belongs to that  sub-set of the muslim world that drinks beer and has random sex with women other than his wife. Or is that just a cover for his true beliefs?
    Oh, and killing his ‘best-mate’ at the behest of a phone-call? Well poor old super-sniper was now a liability and would eventually be picked up and with the help of a little water-boarding divulge the identity of Brody. So he had to go!

  • Aurelius

    Steven Pinker being a noted expert in sociology.

  • coventrian

    Possibly the most stupid article I’ve read for months. Assuming someone’s religion on the basis of forename and hair colour has to be the lowest point of a very low argument. 

  • Jcstubbs

    There was one outright Catholic slur earlier on in the series but I can’t say that the whole thing is overtly anti- Christian. There is plenty of sexual content though and profane language, perhaps we are too jaded to notice. It could be argued that it is anti-Islamic as the central character is a convert who intends to commit an atrocity against his own country.