Is House of Cards Critiquing Religion?

CARRIE A is licensed under CC BY 2.0

TV Show is as Much a Criticism of Unchecked Privilege in Religion as in Politics

The recent news that Greg Kinnear and Diane Lane are joining the cast of House of Cards has viewers even more excited about the Netflix drama show in which Frank Underwood and his associates are doing everything they can to create and maintain power in U.S. politics.

Months ago, the show was thought to be canceled with the ejection of Kevin Spacey following allegations of sexual assault. But as they say, “the show must go on.”

The show has made religion a common motif in the storylines. Frank Underwood, the constant plotting, conniving politicians, sometimes directly address God in his monologues to the audience. His moral stance is that power is the ultimate ideal. In fact, he criticizes God and spits at a statue of Jesus, saying he “isn’t buying” the ethic of love that is being taught.

In season 3, the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala artwork was featured. It is believed to have powers of healing and purification.

Some Christian writers have argued that this is a condemnation of a world without religion. That individuals would enter a Hobbesian world of being “brutal, nasty, and short.” But that misses the point. Frank Underwood does not act in a manipulative manner because he doesn’t believe in God. He acts because he has found that power is eternal and the only type of currency that really matters.

He consistently uses religion as a way to shore up his power. His behavior is no different from countless leaders since religion has existed. Religious wars, genocide, inequality, slavery, the list goes on and on for horrible atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion. Frank Underwood is repeating those traditions, albeit with a sly nod and wink to the audience watching.

The show also has a former sex worker find solstice and healing through attending church events. The show is indicating that religion and church is a tool. It can be used to justify evil or used to bring personal peace. I believe that the show is demonstrating that those in power are more likely to see religion as a tool, not a point of personal belief. Given how President Trump, a man who has never claimed or acted in a way that could be construed in the slightest as a religious man, uses religion to appease his base, it does not seem that far off a criticism.

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