Best wishes, warmest regards: Where comedy and theology collide

The Garaventa Center shares 'Why theology needs Schitt's Creek'

By Laura Heffernan | March 3, 2021 8:57pm
schitts-creek-with-text

Karen Eifler, co-director of the Garaventa Center, spoke about the wisdom we can learn from the sit-com "Schitt's Creek."

Collage by Jennifer Ng.

Images from Unsplash and IGN.

Harnessing the power of humor, the Garaventa Center teamed up with the Beckman Humor Project on Tuesday night to share with University of Portland students, staff, and faculty the lessons theology can learn from the witty, Canadian sitcom, “Schitt’s Creek”. 

The six-season series features the Rose family, who embark on a devastating, eye-opening, and hilarious “riches to rags” experience. After losing everything, the family is forced to live in a motel located in a town they bought as a joke years prior. The name of the town, of course, is Schitt’s Creek. 

Co-Director of the Garaventa Center and speaker for the night, Karen Eifler, spoke about how the show has brought her both laughter and tears. Through her experience watching the series, Eifler concluded that “Schitt’s Creek” presents a world that can share wisdom with everyone — wisdom about emotion, the role of human suffering, human interdependence, and love as self-gift. 

A recording of this virtual talk will be available here by March 5th. 

Below are some highlights from the talk:

Wisdom about emotion

“God might pull us into closer relationship with someone or something outside ourselves, literally tugging on our heartstrings to get us to turn our gaze outward to others, and maybe even upward toward the divine. Emotions are at the very core of what it means to be human — humane. Emotions are our burning bush taking over where words fail, and Schitt’s Creek is an all you can eat buffet of emotions.”

“Theology needs Schitt’s Creek because the laughter and tears it extracts from us by the bucket load are cleaning and point us to what we need to pay attention to and help make us vulnerable in some pretty life-giving ways.”

The role of human suffering

“How can a loving and all powerful God allow innocent people to suffer? The lack of a satisfying answer to that very human question is really tough on the discipline of theology and the practice of religion. It really can’t help that most of us do our darndest to avoid pain and suffering. In the long arc from losing everything to finding or rekindling enduring love and fulfilling work for all member of the Rose family, Schitt’s Creek, probably without meaning to, embodies the possibility that enduring some suffering, the thing we least want to have happen in our life, is a pathway into new life and flourishing.” 

“I don’t mean to suggest that any of us seek out suffering, as a goal in itself, but that Schitt’s Creek offers a gentle vision of the generative potential of enduring, and learning from our own inevitable suffering. And that is a fantastic tool for theology.”

Human interdependence

“If we can’t begin to imagine what diversity and inclusion and true interdependence look like, it’s going to be hard to make much tangible progress toward those eminently worthy goals. Schitt’s Creek shows theology and all of us what a truly inclusive interdependent community looks like without sermonizing or beaming a spotlight on it.”

“Theology needs Schitt’s Creek because it allows us to see what this side of Easter looks like, and in Schitt’s Creek, it sure looks like a place where people just show up for one another and do what’s needed to allow each person to flourish, according to their gifts, and then plow those gifts back into the community, as they’re needed”

Love as self-gift 

“Many times we see Schitt’s Creek characters and hearts and spirits shatter into shards, only to be picked up and refashioned into something even more beautiful by a person who makes an unselfish decision to love without reservation. That is sturdy stuff to contemplate and far from being diminished, by giving of themselves, Schitt’s Creek allows us countless glimpses of how agape love can make us even more fully, more robustly ourselves.”

“There is no danger that Moira Rose will ever fade quietly into the background as she empties herself into the town. David’s singular fashion sense never acquiesce to Patrick’s button down shirts and dockers. Alexis will forever have too many suitcases and annoying mannerisms. But Schitt’s Creek offers a bracing counterexample to those of us who might avoid generosity for fear of losing something of ourselves.”

Laura Heffernan is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at hefferna23@up.edu.

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