As Dre says at the beginning of the episode, church is something that has a lot of baggage. But black-ish addresses religion and churchgoing in a way that feels pretty fresh, considering that network sitcoms don't usually get to go for edgy religious material. Besides, the show points out that there's one thing all people of all religions can agree on: changing your weekend routine, whether it's going to a different church or switching brunch spots, takes some serious getting used to.
And what follows is a tour of all the different types of religion the same way that the show usually looks at different racial or cultural backgrounds. This all starts when the Johnsons meet the Coopers, a nice couple who invite them to visit their acoustic guitar-strumming church. Dre's long female coworker reveals that she's Jewish, and her use of the word "Jew" makes the rest of the office uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Charlie is convinced that his usual debauchery doesn't matter because he volunteers every week.
And after the Johnsons fruitlessly throw the term "culturally speaking" around as a ploy to scare away the well-meaning Coopers, thankfully for Dre, whose mother is happy to scare the twins about eternal damnation (the idea terrifies Jack, but liberates a YOLO-ing Diane) because they're not baptized, is willing to overwhelm them with a trip to her traditional Baptist church, which gives Dre flashbacks to his childhood.
Immediately, there are visible differences beyond just the demographics. The "white" church is informal, filled with jeans-wearers, and easy to sneak out of, while the black church is packed, deeply intimate (each member of the congregation gets a shout out), and dressy. Both have their benefits, both aren't quite right for the Johnsons.
What's interesting this season is that most of the controversial topics don't reach a solid conclusion by the end of the episode. Dre and Bow acknowledge that you can't decide one way for sure about religion in just a few weeks. Narratively, it can feel like a little bit of a cheat, but functionally speaking, it's nice to see a couple on TV who respect one another enough to agree that they should think about things.
Image: Kelsey McNeal/ABC (2)