NewsBusters has ranked Young Sheldon one of television’s worst shows towards Christians, and the October 11th episode “A Financial Secret and Fish Sauce” provided viewers with a reminder of why.
Sheldon (Iain Armitage) has been so troubled by the need to keep a secret from his mother at the behest of his father that he can’t even go to the bathroom. To distract himself, he stays at his best friend’s house for his very first sleep-over. His friend, Tam (Ryan Phuong), is a Vietnamese Catholic and the family practices their heritage and religion at their home, which does not go unnoticed by Sheldon.
Adult Sheldon: Visiting Tam's house for the first time was an emotional roller coaster. For example, it's traditional in Vietnamese homes to have gruesome religious iconography near the entrance. I did not like that. However, it's also customary to not wear shoes around the house for sanitary reasons. I did like that.
Not only does Sheldon mock Vietnamese culture, he specifically points to his distaste for religion, Christianity to be exact. As a non-believer, and someone who has voiced his opinion over his best friend’s religion before, a crucifix is regarded as “gruesome religious iconography” rather than respected as a deeply important symbol of one’s faith.
And, Sheldon disregards the Catholic faith in other ways. While he and Tam are playing, he’s unable to concentrate on their game because the secret weighs so heavily on him. He and Tam get to talking about Confession, and, even though Tam is not a priest and Sheldon is not a Catholic, they set up their own form of the Catholic sacrament.
Tam: Sheldon. Did you hear anything I said? Sorry, I was reliving a traumatic experience.
Tam: What do you mean?
Sheldon: Tam, I have a secret that's weighing on me, and I need to tell someone.
Tam: Okay. Tell me.
Sheldon: But I promised I wouldn't.
Tam: Okay. Then don't.
Sheldon: But it's driving me crazy.
Tam: Too bad you're not Catholic. You could confess it to a priest.
Sheldon: That's a great idea. You're Catholic. I'll confess it to you.
Tam: I'm not a priest.
Sheldon: I'm not a Catholic. It makes perfect sense.
Tam: Okay, whenever you're ready.
Sheldon: What are you doing?
Tam: Assuming the position.
Sheldon: Okay. Forgive me, Tam, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.
Tam: I forgive you, my son.
Sheldon: I was doing my parents' taxes and noticed a check was missing. I asked my father about it...
Adult Sheldon: As I walked Tam through the whole sordid affair, I could feel a weight lifting off my shoulders. It was a relief to finally unburden myself of this deception. By the time I reached the end, I felt like a new person.
Sheldon: That's the whole story.
Tam: Cool. Can we play now?
Adult Sheldon: And now that my conscience had been cleared, my colon was ready to do the same.
Though Sheldon may not intend or even realize it, by describing this kind of weight lifted off of his shoulders, which also enables him to later confront his father about not wishing to keep secrets any longer, he is communicating the benefits of Confession. He can even use the bathroom again!
Imagine if Sheldon were to become Catholic and actually receive the sacrament of Confession by confiding in an actual priest. His burden, and any other burdens he may have, would be lifted in a way that provides an even more enduring peace than Sheldon momentarily receives in this scene.
Unfortunately, we know that will not be the case, as Young Sheldon is a prequel spin-off to The Big Bang Theory, where adult Sheldon continues to bash religion and his mother for being a practicing Christian.
This episode is not the first and likely won’t be the last to bash Catholicism. The same goes with portraying the sacrament of Confession, though Young Sheldon not only mocks it through its titular character, it misses an opportunity to have this same character recognize and praise its benefits.