The Great British Bake Off is undoubtedly a broadcasting phenomenon.
Most of you will have seen it, heard of it, or heard someone talking about it. It brings record ratings year after year, and during this year’s final episode, more than 12 Million people tuned in.
That means more than half of the total TV licences purchased in the UK this year were being used to watch this one programme. For so many people to be keenly watching just a few ordinary people baking some cakes and biscuits is quite remarkable. For whole families young and old to enjoy watching it together is a dream for TV producers who long for the old days when many of their shows had large and loyal audiences.
Apart from the regular double entendres from Sue Perkins this is a family show – it’s good clean fun that you would not be embarrassed to be seen watching when your grandmother calls round. Although it can sometimes be rather tedious waiting for yet another dramatic pause and music, after we hear “and the winner is…” it is a good watch and we enjoy entering into the emotion of it.
So what is it that makes this show so popular? What is good about it?
We recently had an Autumn School series at our church and one of the tracks was Watch What you Watch, with the final week dealing with how we should watch films and TV critically, with our minds engaged. To think about the cultural features, what were they key influences or philosophies; what was it teaching or implying, what does it say about God, humanity creation, fall, redemption and hope. Does it connect with reality of sin along with the glimpses of God’s glory woven into our lives?
So to put this into practice, what could be a better TV show to analyse, than the most popular show in the country?
Have you thought about why you were watching the Bake Off? What influences it may be having on you. How you respond to such a programme? Do you love it or hate it? What do you like or dislike about it? How does it make you feel or act? These sorts of questions are important for us as Christians. What does it teach us about ourselves or our world. What world-view is being promoted by those who produce and promote the shows. Here’s a few ideas for you.
God created great food
The Great British Ratings Winner was a great celebration of creation and creativity. To eat is to consume part of the amazing variety of food that God has made for us. God is a creator and provider and every time we make a meal for someone we consume his produce and copy his pattern. When we work at cooking we are enjoying God’s provision, but we are also fulfilling our mandate to rule and subdue the earth and of course we are creating amazing original dishes, cakes, sweet, savoury, luxurious or simple. Part of the GBBO fun is the creative use of ingredients to try and make your average cake stand out against the competition. We want to celebrate the joy of cooking, baking and eating food – the colours, shapes, textures and tastes. This is part of being made in God’s image. Can you imagine a pair of lions staring at a deer carcass they are about to consume saying – well you know it’s all about the presentation. We are different. Yes taste matters and we crave those things that our body needs – sometimes a little too much – but eating is more than that. It is creativity and the enjoyment of form and well as function, and something we want to share with others.
The Christian way to celebrate cooking and baking is with thankfulness. Sadly, no-one ever gives thanks for the food on GBBO. God is not present in any part of the process. We have managed to divorce the created things and the creative facility we have from the creator himself. Either it’s the food or the competitors who get the glory.
The Bake Off did well in promoting diversity. Anecdotally, many people were willing Nadiya to win – an Online poll called “did the right person win the bake off?” had 86% saying YES! Part of her charm was that she represented some of the good things about diversity in our society. She had her Bangladeshi background, but you could also tell exactly where in this country she was from by her accent. She has her own distinctive culture but many things we could relate to – she was a wife and a mother with a wider family. We should love many aspects of cultural diversity and the mixture in Britain can often be an enriching experience. She herself said in an interview in the Guardian “that [GBBO] tent is also a symbol of British society today – 12 of us from very different backgrounds went in. I knew I represented different people – stay-at-home mums, Muslims, and the [British] Bangladeshi community”
God creates unity in Christ
But being multicultural is not enough. Embracing diversity is great but we cannot just be united around a few shared values, whilst what we really believe and how we live does not matter. True unity comes not by worshipping the God of multiculturalism or tolerance but Christ who is Lord of all.
Revelation 7:9 says “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
This is such a delightful picture of the church. Every nation, every tribe, every language. God is all about unity, about bringing many different people together under one head – Jesus Christ. The church needs to be multicultural in order to properly reflect who God is. So, we should seek to celebrate cultural diversity whenever possible. This is one area where the Bake Off manages to reflect God’s good purpose.
We may not be great cooks, just armchair experts who get their cakes in paper bags from the bakers. But we can celebrate God’s goodness as we create meals, cook share and eat. We may have all kinds of concerns about the fractures in society but we can look forward to the day that God’s people from all nations will gather united for a great feast. So many millions you won’t even be able to count them.
Written by Stuart Holloway and Graham Nicholls
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