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Category Archives: TV

A Masterpiece of lowering respect

My wife and I have become fans of Masterpiece Theater on PBS. We have watched and enjoyed several of their programs including Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Endeavour, Poldark, Victoria, World at War, and Grantchester. Several of the programs are historical dramas that provide insight into the history, culture, and values of the respective time period in Great Britain.

While we have enjoyed most of the programs, we have been surprised and puzzled by how the clergy is portrayed in Grantchester. It is a drama that takes place in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Cambridge. The main character is a Vicar in the Church of England named Sydney Chambers who works with the local police to help solve crimes. The stories are entertaining murder mysteries.

In the first season, Sydney is suffering from PTSD (although the term is not used) from his time as a soldier in the Scots Guards during World War II. He self-medicates by consuming alcohol and smoking. Over the course of the first four seasons of the show, he also sleeps with at least three different women. Rather than being portrayed as a rogue, Sydney is viewed by all as a “good man,” someone who is simply “human.” Because of his actions, he struggles with his guilt, identity, purpose, and faith in God and the Church, which in turn leads him deeper into alcoholism. As Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (who doesn’t believe in God) tells Sydney, “You fall into the cycle of sin, guilt, drink, sin, guilt, drink …” When they show Sydney preaching, he is giving pious platitudes and self-help wisdom.

In addition to the Vicar, there is a Curate named Leonard, who wrestles with homosexual leanings. There is also an Archdeacon who covers up the sexual abuse practiced by another Vicar in a different parish.

On the one hand, the dramas are well written, entertaining murder mysteries. As an historical drama, they present an accurate portrayal of the 1950’s & 1960’s church culture in England. On the other hand, the program subtly devalues those who serve in ministry. The clergy are portrayed as hypocrites who preach godliness but engage in sinful habits behind closed doors. Dramas like Grantchester subtly devalue and lower our respect for clergy. No wonder the church is viewed as irrelevant.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2020 in Church, Culture, TV, UK

 

Honest lessons about life and business

Book Review: Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, by Chip Gaines

If you are a fan of the HGTV reality show, Fixer Upper, you will enjoy reading Chip Gaines book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. Chip shares honest and humorous stories about his successes and failures in life and business.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part 1: A Time to Learn, Chip shares about his background. He tells stories about growing up, playing baseball, juggling three businesses in college, and lessons he and his wife, Joanna learned in the early years of their dating and marriage. In Part 2: A Time to Grow, he tells stories about how they got started in retail, remodeling houses, and fell into reality TV. He also explains how the town of Waco, Texas, helped shape his identity and approach to life. in Part 3: A Time to Build, Chip talks about where they are headed in the future, including why they are ending their popular TV show after the current season. He challenges his readers to pursue their own dreams and how he does that with his employees.

Rather than being a book about business principles, it is more about life lessons and how to invest in and take a chance on yourself. The book is entertaining and encouraging.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Books, TV

 

Making light of marriage

Normally, NCIS is one of my wife and my favorite TV shows. However, I was disappointed with how they treated marriage in the most recent episode, “Something blue.”

For the past season, Special Agent Timothy McGee and Delilah have been living together while planning their wedding. As the other agents help in the planning, Quinn and Torres debate on whether or not to take a plus-1 to the wedding or try to hook up with a stranger afterwards. After Delilah faints due to stress, the scene shifts to the hospital where McGee anxiously waits for news on her condition. When he discovers Delilah is pregnant, McGee passes out. The rest of the team responds joyfully to the news and quickly participates in a surprise wedding with Dr. Palmer taking a 20-minute online course to become an ordained minister in order to perform the wedding.

What NCIS taught in this episode:

  • Cohabitation has become normal for TV characters.
  • Pregnancy before marriage is normal.
  • Humor (McGee passing out) is used to make abnormal (pregnancy out of wedlock) more palatable and normal.
  • Religion and ministers are mocked when Dr. Palmer becomes “Reverend Jimmy” after a 20-minute online course. Making light of religion and ministers is normal

With NCIS being the “Most Watched TV Show”, all of this—cohabitation, hookups, pregnancy before marriage, dismissing religion, alternative lifestyles, etc.—becomes normal, mainstream, and acceptable. While I normally enjoy the show, this episode was disappointing to say the least.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Marriage, TV

 

Subtly communicating a worldview

Most commercials are loud, direct, and blatant in their message. Retailers like Target, Wal‑Mart, and Toys-R-Us shout “BUY!” Car dealerships shout the same message while high end auto manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi tweak the message so it proclaims, “Status!” Drug companies promote health (blood pressure, diabetes, Hep-C, etc.) and pleasure (Viagra, Cialis). Trailers for movies and TV shows shout, “Watch me!”

On rare occasions comes a commercial that promotes a subtle rather than overt message. During the FOX broadcast of the NFL Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving Day, there were two commercials that promoted a very subtle worldview. One praised mankind while the other promoted tolerance and acceptance.

Dodge Ram pickup trucks aired a commercial that was aimed at praising hard-working Americans. However, it is blatantly man-centered. The tagline of the commercial was “Praise the work!” As parents, we teach our children to say “Thank you” to someone who does something for you. As Christ followers, we say “Thank you” to God because we know that all good gifts come from his hand. The Dodge Ram commercial promoted thanking yourself because you did all the hard work required to obtain and enjoy all the blessings you have. Because men and women are strong, wise, creative, and hard-working, they don’t need to acknowledge anyone else. They can “Praise the work” rather than give thanks. A very subtle, self-centered message.

Apple aired a commercial promoting tolerance and acceptance. The commercial, called “Frankie’s Holiday,” began with a Frankenstein creature laboring in a workshop. He took a package and walked down the hill and into the town square. He took out two Christmas lights, one red and one green, and attached them to the electrodes on his neck. He then played “There’s no place like home for the holidays” on his smartphone and started to sing along. The townspeople stared at him in horror and amazement. When one of his bulbs went dark, a young girl in the crowd helped reattach it so it lit up. She then started singing with the creature. Eventually, all the townspeople joined in. The commercial’s tagline is “Open your heart to everyone.” The subtle message was that there are no monsters, only people who are different. We should accept and tolerate all people, especially those who are different. Again, a very subtle, worldview shaped message.

While most commercials air several times during an NFL broadcast, these two commercials were only aired once during the FOX broadcast. Not watching any of the other two Thanksgiving Day football games, I don’t know if they appeared on CBS or NBC. While the commercials were creative and well done, they were frightening in the subtle way they communicated and attempted to shape one’s worldview.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have to be alert and aware of what is being taught and communicated. We have to ask the question, “How does this fit with what Scripture teaches?”

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Culture, NFL, TV

 

How TV subtly ridicules evangelical faith

Out of curiosity, I watched the “Pilot” episode of the new CBS drama, “Pure Genius.” I was surprised how subtly evangelical faith was mocked in the program.

The premise of the show is about a Silicon Valley tech billionaire who establishes a hospital, Bunker Hill, and recruits world-class doctors to staff it. It would be akin to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates partnering with the medical community.

The pilot episode mocked evangelicals in two ways. One is that the show establishes the “majesty of man.” “If we can dream it, we can do it” is the resounding theme of the program. As the tech billionaire, James Bell, explains to Dr. Walter Wallace, a new recruit, Bunker Hill blends the best of technology with the best of medicine in order to “cut through the red tape” and “get things done.” They dream up solutions and create new technology in order to save lives. They do not accept or abide by any limitations.

The second way the program subtly ridiculed faith was by portraying a Christian as a controlling, abusive person. One of the story lines in the first episode was a pregnant woman who had a tumor growing around her heart. Doctors could not operate because her pregnancy wasn’t far enough along for the baby to survive outside the womb. The parents had chosen previously not to undergo chemotherapy because of the potential side effects on the child.

As the story moves forward, the father clearly exhibits faith and wants the doctors and his wife to trust God. He asks them all to hold hands and pray for “two more weeks” before performing a C-section to deliver the baby and also doing surgery to remove the tumor from his wife. He is portrayed as an evangelical since he prays in the name of Jesus.

Up to this point, it appears to be an even handed portrayal of faith and prayer. However, James Bell, the tech billionaire is clearly uncomfortable with faith because he stands in the hallway looking on while the parents are praying. Later, you see a group of people either meditating or practicing yoga on the grounds of the hospital which indicates eastern religions are favored. The show takes a negative turn by revealing that the husband has been abusing his wife.

The episode leaves you with a negative view of religion. On the one hand, you don’t need God because men and women are smart and creative enough to solve any problem. On the other hand, those who profess to follow God are controlling and abusive. If you must practice religion, make sure it is of an eastern variety rather than evangelical Christianity. A very subtle message woven skillfully into a drama.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Culture, TV

 

Words have power

CSI: Cyber tackled the subject of cyber bullying last week in “URL, Interrupted” (S1, E7). The tag at the end was one of the characters leaving a video explaining that words have power. It reminded me of Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2015 in Culture, Scripture, TV

 

Where can I find forgiveness?

All of us long for redemption. Even villains long for a happy ending. Storybook characters struggle with guilt. If you follow the ABC TV show, Once Upon A Time, you know that the current story arc focuses on this topic.

In last week’s episode, “Best Laid Plans” (S4 E17), Prince Charming and Snow White think they are protecting their unborn child, Emma, by stealing Maleficent’s egg. When they discover it is a baby and the sorcerer sends it through a portal to another dimension, they are plagued with guilt.

Snow White asks Prince Charming if redemption is possible. He responds, “I have to believe that we can earn forgiveness. A chance at grace. But to get there, we have to be the best people we can. Work for hope and faith every day. Because otherwise what we did will stay with us forever.”

Sin, of course, is man’s greatest problem. No matter what kind of religion a man has, if it cannot deal with sin, it is of no value. By nature, men and women are sinners; and by choice, men and women prove that their nature is sinful. It has well been said, “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.”

As the characters in Once Upon A Time are discovering, our good deeds cannot erase our guilt. We cannot earn forgiveness.

The author of Hebrews addresses this issue in chapter 10:1-18. In verses 1-4, he explains that we need a better sacrifice.

By their very nature, sacrifices were inferior. They were a shadow of things to come. The sacrifices were designed to be temporary, not permanent. They never brought the worshipper into a permanent relationship with God.

Animal sacrifices cannot take away sin. They only remind you that you have to do it again next year. The next sacrifice reminded you that the previous one didn’t do the job. It wasn’t enough.

The sacrifices could cover sin, but they couldn’t take it away. A better sacrifice was needed.

Fortunately for us, God provided a better sacrifice (5-9). The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant. Christ’s sacrifice was different because he came to do the Father’s will. After Christ’s death, no further sacrifice was needed. He paid the penalty for sin once for all. He settled the question finally and completely.

Unlike animal sacrifices, Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t need to be repeated (11-18).

The ministry of the priests in the tabernacle and temple was never done and never different: they stood and offered the same sacrifices day after day. This constant repetition was proof that their sacrifices did not take away sins.

What tens of thousands of animal sacrifices could not accomplish, Jesus accomplished with one sacrifice forever! When he was done, Christ sat down. His sacrifice was complete.

The witness of the Holy Spirit confirms this to us.

God’s forgiveness is so complete that he chooses not to remember our sins any longer. When we come to Christ and receive forgiveness, God no longer holds our sin against us.

“When a sinner trusts Christ, his sins are all forgiven, the guilt is gone, and the matter is completely settled forever.” Warren Wiersbe

This is the synopsis of a devotional given at the Good Friday service at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 3, 2015.

 

Can a morally ambiguous hero demonstrate integrity?

24-Live-Another-DayDoes Jack Baur, the lead character of the TV drama, 24: Live Another Day, have integrity?

Before answering the question, I suppose I should confess to the guilty pleasure of watching and enjoying the show. I think I have seen all the episodes of Jack’s difficult days except when he was battling his father for a nuclear device. I never finished that day, I’m afraid. Granted, you have to suspend a great deal of disbelief to think Jack can save the world from terrorist plots all within 24 hours without ever taking a nap or a bathroom break … while at the same time fighting bureaucrats who don’t want him to succeed. But hey, why let reality get in the way of a good story?

But back to my original question, Does Jack Baur have integrity?

Over the course of the many days of the series, Jack has routinely demonstrated he is morally ambiguous. He neglected his wife and daughter, slept with Audrey, tortured his brother, manipulated coworkers, killed his enemies, resisted his superiors, operated outside the law, went into exile rather than face punishment for his crimes …. We nervously watch to see if Jack can “save the world and save the girl.” At the same time, we overlook his indiscretions because he “gets the job done.”

The current season, 24: Live Another Day, is set in London, UK. (Since both friend and foe alike were killed on his last day and there weren’t many left standing in NYC, it’s understandable he went to another country.) Two weeks ago (or two hours as the show indicates), Jack was trying to convince President Heller that he was telling the truth about a terrorist plot to take over US drones and attack London. Jack told the President, “I never lied to you.” Last week, Jack told the President that if he released him to go after an arms dealer, he would turn himself in afterwards.

Is integrity a single act? Can you break nine of the Ten Commandments, but as long as you don’t lie to one person, still have integrity? Would you be considered trustworthy? Or, is integrity the sum total of your character, where you are the same person in public that you are in private?

A cynic might say that Jack Baur has integrity. He can be trusted to do whatever it takes to succeed and win the battle. But if he does whatever it takes, can he be trusted to tell the truth?

Does Jack Baur have integrity?

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Character, Integrity, TV

 

What if Snow White chose evil over good?

Once_Upon_A_Time_2How do you live with guilt when your choices lead to evil? Where do you find forgiveness when your heart condemns you? Can you be restored once you compromise your convictions? These are the questions confronting Snow White in the most recent episode of Once Upon A Time.

Once Upon a Time is an American fantasy-drama television series on ABC created by Lost and Tron: Legacy writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. It explores the premise of, what if the battle of good vs. evil waged in fairy tales was brought into the real world? Like any fantasy story, you have to suspend a certain amount of disbelief, but the screenwriters weave a good yarn. Each of the characters has a fairy tale persona as well as a modern day identity. The stories bounce back and forth between the different venues.

The most recent episode provided two scenes which illustrate how guilt consumes a person once they choose to do evil. The character of Mary Margaret / Snow White was tricked by Mr. Gold / Rumplestiltskin into casting a curse that took the life of Cora, one of the evil characters into the drama. Though her conscience plagued her, it was too late to undo the damage. Mary Margaret asks Mr. Gold how a person can live with themselves after doing bad things. “You tell yourself you did the right thing — and say it often enough that you might actually believe it,” he answers. The conversation illustrates both the great need for forgiveness as well as the natural attempt to cover it over and pretend it was justified.

Wallpaper-once-upon-a-time-32359340-1920-1080Mary Margret shows up on Regina’s (the evil queen in the drama and Cora’s daughter) doorstep and urges her rival to just kill her. “It has cost us so much, it has to end before anyone else dies,” she explains. “So please, just do it.” Regina plucks out her foe’s glowing red heart (remember this is a fantasy drama), and happily discovers a dark blemish has formed on it. “I don’t need to destroy you,” Regina snarls. “You’re doing it to yourself, and you’ll bring down your perfect little reunited family.” The interaction graphically illustrates the corrupting power of compromise. Once a person chooses to do evil, their heart is tainted and begins to turn black. Without outside help, the black spot will continue to grow and eventually turn the heart completely black.

I found it interesting that earlier in the day a friend told me of hearing about an apology hotline. Someone could call a phone number and apologize to a recording. Once again, it illustrated a manmade attempt to find forgiveness, but all the while avoiding confessing our sins to the one we have hurt.

No amount of rationalization can ease the guilt of evil choices. No amount of penance can repair a broken relationship. No amount of good works can cleanse a darkened heart. No amount of confession to an anonymous machine can relieve the guilt we feel. Only Jesus Christ can truly forgive and free a person from the penalty and the guilt of sin. Only Jesus can give us a new heart.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Theology, TV

 

Glimpses of grace

Occasionally network television weaves a redemptive message into the fabric of its dramas. One such message is found in the CBS drama, Blue Bloods, the story of a New York City family of police officers.

In the most recent episode, “The Job,” Frank, played by Tom Selleck, and his father, Henry, played by Len Cariou, are having a late night/early morning discussion about survivor’s guilt. “Where you were on 9/11?” and “Why him and not me?” are two questions Frank is wrestling with. His former partner got sick from breathing the air at Ground Zero while Frank did not.

In his response, Henry makes a profoundly redemptive statement when he affirms the sovereignty of God. He said, “I see God’s light in this family every day. While I may not understand it, I trust in his plan for us all.”

God does have a plan and a purpose. And he can be trusted.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Theology, TV