As promised by the trailer (which I included in an earlier post), the show delivers breathtaking imagery from around the Catholic world while offering some down-to-earth language along with an overly-intellectual approach to Catholicism. As was suspected, there are plenty of times when one can feel free to hit the mute button and simply be amazed at the visuals alone. Some examples of this include seeing Fr. Baron praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the end sequence involving the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
If Catholicism suffers from anything, it is not so much from bad theology as from the fear of offending anyone. This is bad philosophy. We see this within the first two minutes of the first episode when the title appears: Amazed and Afraid: Jesus Both God and Human. Here we see the traditional description “God and Man” is changed to “God and Human” in order to reflect our politically correct, gender-neutral culture. Anything which may not sit well is skirted around. If, for example, society gets offended by the all-male priesthood, then Catholicism will just pass it by and move on to another more acceptable topic instead of addressing it head-on. Along these lines, the twelve Apostles are no longer described as twelve men but rather as twelve people.
With the exception of the Pope, the role of the Apostles – and thus their successors, the bishops – is also downplayed. Fr. Barron tells us that the very first mission of the Christ was to gather the twelve tribes of Israel. But he describes this gathering solely as Jesus’ policy to associate with sinners. Jesus is thus the model of tolerance and acceptance. No mention is given of the twelve Apostles, the image par excellence of the gathering of the twelve tribes of Israel. Also suspiciously absent is the Devil. When Christ comes as a warrior, Fr. Barron tells us it is to fight against human selfishness, hatred, and violence. Whatever happened to the promise of Genesis 3:15? Wasn’t the serpent’s head to be crushed?
As of episode one, Catholicism may leave some people – especially our grandparents – scratching their heads over some missing elements of the Catholic faith left out or strangely described by the very intellectual Fr. Barron. The episode does, however, deliver very sound Christology while presenting the viewer with a challenge: to accept Christ or not. The visuals are the strongest element to the show. In the end, the sacramental nature of the faith means some things just cannot be hidden or confused. Sometimes beauty makes truth more accessible than the most erudite theologian.