If you didn’t know, Netflix recently released a reboot of the seventies sitcom One Day At A Time which was produced by the prolific Normal Lear. This time the show features a Cuban family with a single mother who has returned from serving in Afghanistan raising two kids with her mother, all living in the same apartment. If you think it’s too different from the original sitcom featuring Bonnie Franklin, I would remind you that One Day At The Time was issue oriented humor–topical subjects such as feminism, sexism, religion and politics. While the humor isn’t full of knee slappers, there are genuine laughs and it is a welcome relief to see the new show has not backed away from dealing with issues using light humor. It has kept the spirit of the original show.
And so we have Episode 3: “No Mass.” I’m highlighting it because it is of interest to unbelievers of all stripes and also to unbelievers who know atheists, agnostics and others who do not identify with a religion. Penelope (Justina Machado), our single mother, tells her mom Lydia (played wonderfully by Rita Moreno) that she wants to skip church to take the kids for a hike on Sunday. Lydia insists Sundays are for church and there’s no budging on being faithful to the Lord and the pope. The argument becomes toxic enough that Lydia disappears from the household causing worry until Penelope tracks her down at church. There they try to reach a compromise–but another shock for the traditional mom, her daughter Penelope doesn’t want to attend church and doesn’t necessarily believe in god. For a Catholic mother this is not acceptable!
I won’t reveal any more because there are some good laughs and the humor involved put a smile on my face. It’s not mean-spirited or propaganda for atheism, which is why I say unbelievers can watch it with their unchurched loved ones and relate to the compromises they have had to make with a growing generation of unbelievers. What the episode does is open the door for discussion and simply acknowledges that not everyone is on the same page with their parents’ faith. It also shows that church may be akin to being uplifted by someone inspirational. If you find strength in a favorite sports star, a musician, an author, etc., that may be your pope or Jesus. The difference is there is no need to believe those that give you strength can offer you the impossible such as everlasting life or miracles defying medical science. Inspirational people are there to help you move forward with your life; they are not there to insult your rationality.