The Return of the Religious In ‘The Young Pope’

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.”

When Julian Barnes, the man booker prize-winning British novelist, penned the above quote, he echoed something within much of the heartbeat of modern secular society. It seems in all of our “liberation” of the absurdity in religion, we still yearn for the divine order to be true.

The writer and director of TYP is not, to my knowledge, a religious person, but the aesthetic of the show dominates. You might even say the religious symbolism is the main character. TYP is also being featured on HBO, so there are scenes that make one grateful for private viewing so as not to be embarrassed by the pressing of the fast-forward button. In other words, though they are very few, watch with caution.

The following are 10 reasons that you might enjoy The Young Pope:

  1. The intrigue surrounding what appears to be a corrupt pope is simply good advertising attempting to play on the psyche of secular America, by appealing to what we think we know about religious leaders – leading us to actually watch a show about a Pope who, while very rigid, is not necessarily a reflection of these typical tropes.
  2. The Young Pope takes on the subject of a series of doubts that are nested in faith, promoting a faith that takes the risk of giving oneself wholly to a Christianity we do not completely understand.
  3. The subjects of memory, parenting, and the loss of innocence are shown as very real drivers in the choices we make on a daily basis, even if one is the Pope.
  4. While very narcissistic, Pope Lenny is sincere, honest, and very devout in his convictions; a faith that seems to be able to withstand terrible burdens and responsibilities, leaving the most radical leader in today’s religious climate to be portrayed by none other than a conservative.
  5. Even though HBO may not have a history of respecting religion, The Young Pope does just the opposite: in the young universe God is real, allows for visions, contains instances of genuine healing, miracles, and even the liberation of the truth – containing the justice that comes when saints pray, not just make power moves.
  6. Lenny may appear to be unbelievably rigid in his beliefs, but the show demonstrates his ability to transform the way he thinks through relationships, argumentation, and a steady diet of the scriptures.
  7. The hero, whether people admit it or not, is a conservative, leaving the villains to the progressive side; a move many will not appreciate, but one that is at least tapping into one side of the story often unheard.
  8. The best debates on the main issues are had here, and they are excellent. One of the best discussions on abortion happens in an episode, with all of its nuance and tension, related to forgiveness and care; as well how different generations understand our shared orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
  9. The younger generation seems more radical and more conservative, which emerges from the malaise of modernity.
  10. The aesthetics of this show are in Catholicism itself, leaving the viewer to recapture the beauty of religious devotion, and to admire its many complexities.



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