I dedicate this post to the best Pop Pop ever,
who is happily watching my kids while my husband travels for work
and I sit in a coffee shop, with hours of uninterrupted time. Hallelujah!
No one would accuse prime time network television of being the locus of moral and theological learning. With each passing ‘season,’ the jokes get raunchier, the violence more gruesome, and the sexual situations edging ever closer to softcore pornography. Television (whether it be drama, comedy, reality or news programming) shows us the worst of who we are as humans- selfish, shallow, morally apathetic and greedy. Network television is a wasteland. I know this because I watch a lot of it.
This is my confession- digital bunny ears balanced on top of my childrens’ play kitchen, I end many days on my couch, watching whatever the networks are offering. (I’ll save the reflection on my bizarre habit for another post)
Imagine my surprise two weeks ago when on a quiet Sunday evening, CBS’s hit show The Good Wife premiered the episode entitled, ‘Dear God.’
The set up:
Two men, farmers both, are in court; one is suing the other for patent infringement. The defendant has apparently been swiping the genetically-modified seeds of his neighbor for his own farm- without paying for the privilege. The lawyers argue, as lawyers do, and the accused and accuser, we see, become more and more uncomfortable in their respective seats. They are Christians, we learn, and they have become uncomfortable with legal process for resolving their dispute.
In the very next scene, four uncomfortable lawyers sit around a table on the floor of an amphitheater- style sanctuary, with a pastor in place of a judge. The plaintiff and defendant have decided to proceed with binding Christian arbitration, known as The Matthew Process, to resolve their dispute. It is a funny scene- these lawyers so out of their element, forced to argue within the confines of mercy and forgiveness.
Flummoxed as to how to proceed, Alicia Florick, an avowed atheist, reaches out to her teenage daughter, Grace, a professed Christian, for help. Grace tells her mom that she can’t pull certain verses out of the Bible to prove her point.
“It’s called proof-texting, Mom; you can’t do that. You have to look at what the whole Bible says.”
“But I’m a lawyer, Grace, that’s what I do!”
After a meaningful pause, Alicia says, “So you really believe all this, Grace?”
“I don’t know if it’s all historically accurate,” Grace responds, “but I think it can be true in another way.”
“What other way?”
“You know, like poetry. It can still be true even if it’s not accurate. Look, if I wanted you to remember that God created everything, I’d probably tell you a story about it happening in seven days. It doesn’t actually mean that it happened in seven days; it just means that I wanted you to remember that God created everything.”
There it is. Right there. Really good theology on primetime network television. Thoughtful engagement between an atheist and a Christian within a setting that is neither vitriolic nor dismissive. Between a mother and daughter whose views are different but whose attachment is secure.
I won’t tell you how the case between the farmer resolves. I actually don’t even remember. What I remember is the pleasure of watching something that matters to me in my life and vocation portrayed on television in a way that is funny, wise, engaging, a bit cynical, and, above all, thoughtful.
The moral of my story? Watch TV; maybe you’ll learn something!
No, not quite. But, perhaps, to be engaged in popular culture is not equivalent to being disengaged with good theology. At least, not on Sunday nights…