Thursday, August 30, 2012

Breaking Bad and the Limits of Story

This summer, I became addicted to Breaking Bad. I didn't see this coming. Up until recently, my impression of the show was entirely negative. I had never watched an episode, but I knew it was about a high school chemistry teacher who gets involved in the meth business. I was disinterested for several reasons. One, because I thought the show was entirely amoral. I don't think all stories need to have unrealistically clear-cut distinctions between good and evil characters, but Breaking Bad seemed, at least from my distant viewpoint, to be a show where the good guys were really the bad guys, and I didn't like that. It seemed an irresponsible glorification of drugs and violence and further evidence of our declining culture. Secondly, I had the vague impression that it was "one of those crime shows" that's less about actual characters and more about the clever things people do to get what they want. I hate shows (and movies) like that. One, because I'm much more interested in human relationships then I am in people doing clever things to acquire wealth, and two, because I can never follow what's going on in those kinds of stories. Lastly, I knew that Breaking Bad was very critically acclaimed and that it had robbed LOST of several emmys in the categories where both of the shows had been nominated. I loved LOST (and still do), so I was always disappointed when Breaking Bad won anything that LOST didn't. I'd hear about Breaking Bad winning an award that I thought LOST deserved and I'd think to myself, "Well, there you go. The subversive show about drug dealing just won over the brilliant, character-driven dramatization of the search for answers to the most profound questions raised by our human experience. Whatever."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

John 13: Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet

Jesus answered,Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (Verse 8)

Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet. Why? It seems that he thought it inappropriate. A holy man (God?) shouldn't have to bend down and scrub a fisherman's feet! For the fisherman to allow him to do so would be shameful. Surely a reverent, moral man would protest: “No, my lord, I will wash YOUR feet!

But Jesus doesn't need anyone to wash his feet. If we tried to wash them, we'd only make them dirty. We need him to wash our feet. The moral thing to do is not to offer God our foot-washing services. The moral thing to do is to receive the foot-washing service that He offers. Those who belong to Jesus are the ones who realize that they need to be washed and who are willing to swallow their pride and allow themselves to be washed.

All this makes sense to me. What I don't get are verses 9-10. Peter says, “Then, Lord – not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answers, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'll Probably Be Embarrassed I Wrote This Later

In less than two weeks, I'm going to be starting seminary. This marks a significant shift in my life. For the last ten years, late August has meant preparing to go to UCONN (four years as a student, six as a campus minister). Even though I feel confident that God has me where He wants me, there is still part of me that wishes I was going back for another round.

At the risk of sounding incredibly narcissistic, I'm going to admit that sometimes I think of my life as some kind of TV show, and every school year is the start of a new season. I imagine that there is an audience to my life that speculates as to which characters will play significant roles in the coming season and which ones will fade into the background or disappear entirely. I imagine that press releases go out in the summer, giving hints as to what the coming year holds. Last year's releases would have said things like, "Stacer and Dave have both renewed their contracts as regulars" and "Jeremy has been cast as a frequent guest," and "Jenni will remain a series regular, despite being in Providence." They would have hinted at surprises, like, "Next season will include guest appearances from an old friend" and "Certain members of Freethinkers will become series regulars starting at mid-season."