Mariana’s flirtation with Catholicism led to The Fosters‘ strongest — and most controversial — material yet.
There is no subject more personal or controversial than religion. Most television series either shy away from the topic or, if it comes up, reveal their characters align with some sort of faith, even if they don’t mention it much. The Fosters took a different approach by taking a brave, straightforward stance on the subject when Mariana told her moms she wanted to be baptized in the Catholic Church in order to be Isabella’s godmother.
Stef was raised by a religious father, and it was previously established that a big part of what drove a wedge between them was Stef’s refusal to be part of a church that believed she was going to hell because of who she is. She made a choice for herself to not take part in organized religion. Lena’s beliefs were less defined, but if her statements in “Faith, Hope, Love” were any indication, she is a spiritualist. She believes in a higher power and she believes in love, but she is unwilling to define her beliefs any further.
This was Mariana’s first brush with spirituality and, at first, Mariana did not grasp the enormity of what she was committing to. She wants so badly to be a part of her biological family that she let her grandfather’s desire for her to be part of the church and her own desire to stay close to her biological sister cloud her judgment. Although Stef and Lena admitted they had always planned to let their children choose their own spiritual path, when confronted with Mariana being baptized as Catholic, their first reaction was to simply not allow it.
It is understandable that Stef and Lena would want to shield their daughter from a religion that is opposed to their marriage and to so many other truths that they hold dear. However, they ultimately let Mariana make her own decision and she came close to being baptized — then the priest told her the church would accept her mothers because it “accepted all sinners.” For a strong-minded feminist like Mariana, that was all she needed to hear in order to know the church was not for her. She came to the conclusion that taking part in a ritual she didn’t believe in was not necessary for her to look after Isabella’s well-being.
Throughout the scene in the church, Mariana kept focusing on the words printed across a sign hung among the usual Christian iconography. The sign read “faith, hope and love,” three tenants which the Foster family has always let guide them along with compassion and acceptance. To further illustrate the hypocrisy that can exist within organized religion, Mariana had to force her grandparents to truly open their hearts and help Ana with her battle with postpartum depression instead of expecting the worst from her. To paraphrase Mariana, she may not go to church, but she knows that the true mark of being a good person is believing in a person’s ability to find their best possible self.
The Fosters very firmly presented the notion that organized religion and a belief in God with a capital “G” are not the only paths to goodness. The only guidance Mariana found in the church guided her right back out of it. The hypocrisy of her grandparents only added to the overall message that organized religion is a messy road full of fear for many people, instead of a comforting place of inclusion.
Stef and Lena don’t want their children to fear anything or to limit themselves in any way. In their eyes, the church is a place of oppression where the good messages are drowned out by talk of hell and damnation. It may not be the way everyone raises their children, but Mariana’s strength and capacity for love prove it is just as valid as raising a child to be religious. The Fosters‘ take on religion, although firm, was respectful and refreshing. While it may raise ire from some viewers, Stef and Lena’s family is built on a foundation of love and they would never interfere with someone else’s beliefs; they only asked for the same respect when it came to guiding their own children spiritually. In a country built on freedom, what better message could the show send?