The Church Could Learn A Thing Or Two From Scandal

Photo Cred: The Weeklings

Photo Cred: The Weeklings

That may be a shock to many-a-system but it needed to be said. I recently read a piece on Shonda Rhimes – the mastermind behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and most recently, How To Get Away With Murder. She is also the media mogul behind ‘Shondaland’, the production house that keeps giving us such gripping television. In the piece I read on her, you can see that she is acutely aware of human behaviour and nature. She uses this intuition and understanding to create shows and characters that are real and that viewers can relate to. Reading this article got me thinking…

Shonda Rhimes is a great inspiration of mine but we do have our differences. She unapologetically develops characters with intensely uncomfortable novices and kryptonites that don’t quite sit well with some. I for one had to give up Scandal for a while as I found myself rooting for Olivia Pope’s adulterous and incestuous relationship with a married man who just happens to be the President of the United States. As a Christian, such behaviour and lusts are one of the many reasons we seek God and prayer – to be freed from these devices. Take a good look at Olivia and you too will see the torment she goes through as she grapples with right and wrong.

While I may not support or validate this behaviour, I have to tip my hat to the likes of Shonda, Matthew Weiner (creator of ‘Mad Men‘) and Beau Willimon (creator of ‘House of Cards‘). They have produced some of my all-time favourite shows. These creators, their writers, their actors and production teams manage to portray the realities of many individuals. Yes, they are often exaggerated, but people keep coming back because they resonate with our struggle as humans. I would not call myself a sadist, but I resonate deeply with the struggle of the human – just like the struggles of some of these characters.The struggle of pursuing goodness or wanting to get out of what we are naturally inclined to do and wrestle with – for me it speaks to what the Apostle Paul himself said:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do.”| Romans 7:15

You see, I resonate with these characters because they share in a struggle that I too often struggle with – the desire to be better whilst possessing a sinful nature that keeps bringing you down.

I think sometimes in a church or religious setting, as we strive for members to seek out higher values that are instilled in the Bible, we create a culture of shunning others out and zero tolerance to the fact that we are human. In doing so, we don’t connect with the needs of people and what they need help with.

If we were to unpack the complexities of life as some of these shows do, we would be able to reveal some of the root issues people are suffering from and begin the journey to recovery. If we keep upholding this ‘I’m perfect and don’t need any help’ mentality, we will perpetuate cycles of people coming to church and leaving unchanged. Of people seemingly having Christ but not having the heart of Christ.

‘Christians are perfect right? They don’t have such issues or if they do, they deal with them at home.’ This is a great misconception of Christianity. It’s not to say we should air everybody’s dirty laundry, but we ought to keep things a tad more real. We ought to be helping communities and not skirting over issues.
I do not agree with television and pop culture for condoning and willfully accepting detrimental behaviour as an acceptable norm. Yes, it’s good to highlight these issues, but how do we curb them in a healthy manner – a manner in which God would have us deal with them? That is what is missing from television and media today.
I do not believe that the behaviour that does not fall in line with the teachings of the Bible should be celebrated, but who are we kidding? We are not righteous in our own might. Righteousness comes from God.

In the same breath, the church does need to learn to appeal more to the complexities of the human heart and mind. To identify and understand our shortcomings as they truly are and instead of Stevie Wonder-ing over them, seek out real and effective ways to help each other overcome through Jesus Christ. That would be true effectiveness on the part of the church.

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