The Fox TV series House made an interesting, rather subtle comment on religion and unbelief last night, but the scene reaches so many levels of irony most viewers won’t know what to make of it.
The show was the series’ Christmas episode, the network having apparently saved it as a way to get viewers to return as the all-important February ratings sweeps approach. (February is one of the months when advertiser rates are determined, and most series are running out of new shows or have already been tapped out, due to the Hollywood writers’ strike.)
A subplot predictably dealt with House’s dislike of Christmas, and another seemingly minor plotline dealt with a pretty, young, blond prostitute who has contracted a disease through contact with a donkey or mule—she cannot remember exactly what it was.
The strong implication is that she got the disease venereally. She invites House to see her act, and after looking at the flyer she hands him, he seems uninterested, though unusually polite about it.
After the primary case is solved, House looks in on the office Christmas party and seems sad to see his coworkers enjoying one another’s company, laughing and looking foll of cheer. He leaves the building, and the next place we see him is a beautiful Catholic church sanctuary filled with people during a Christmas Eve service.
As House sits in a pew beside a humble-looking family, he looks toward the chancel and sees that a living Nativity is beginning.
Sitting on a donkey, representing the Virgin Mary, is the prostitute. She and House exchange knowing smiles.
The idea that a Christian congregation would have a living nativity unwittingly featuring a prostitute as the Virgin Mary is clearly supposed to be important, given that the producers saved it for the final moment of the show.
The main story line of the episode is about telling the truth, and obviously this young woman has failed to tell the congregation’s leaders the truth about herself.
Yet House doesn’t fault her for it, unlike his treatment of everyone else in the episode. He could have done so when she gave him the flyer. But instead he holds his tongue, for perhaps the first time in his life.
Why? Apparently because he enjoys the irony. But House would never allow that as an excuse for any other lie.
The only thing we can conclude is that House hates religion more than he loves the truth.
That’s a very revealing point about House—and about many unbelievers in general.