Hope and Expectation

NBC has a new series that they hope will capture the highly courted Christian market. The Book of Daniel is not a TV adaptation of the Old Testament prophet; rather it is about an Episcopalian priest, named Daniel Webster, and his family. (And, yes, this Webster is related to the famous one.)

The evangelical community has been up in arms over this show, even before the first episode aired. The brief complaints I have heard were mainly centered around one of the priests’ kid is gay.

My first reaction to the complaining was to roll my eyes. The first episode had not even aired, and there was a war starting already. Immediately, I could see how this COULD be an amazing story about how the Gospel can affect even the most difficult of circumstances.

Now, I am not so naive as to expect NBC Universal to get it right. But, there is always hope. A TV series that explorers how the Gospel affects a family with an openly gay child could be amazing.

But, those are just some thoughts I had before seeing the pilot episode.

There is much more to the series than an Episcopalian priest with a gay son. The priest himself has a slight addiction to painkillers. He also is complicit in getting his bishop, Dr. Beatrice Congreve addicted to them as well. Speaking of the bishop, she is sleeping with another bishop, Bishop Bertram Webster, who already has a wife, with Alzheimer’s. This happens to be Daniel’s parents. Daniel also excuses a couple that is living together with out the benefit of marriage.

Daniel and his wife have three kids. The oldest, Peter, is gay. The next in line, Adam, is adopted from China, and has no problem getting whatever he wants from the ladies. The youngest, Grace, is a girl. She is an aspiring comic book artist that wants some more powerful software and hardware to improve her art, and she will do anything to get it, including selling drugs.

Daniel’s wife, Judith, is not without her own issues. Any time life gets the least bit hard, she runs for the nearest martini. Her sister’s husband was hired by Daniel to oversee some funds at the church to build a school. He skips town and is found dead. Fearing the worst, Daniel has a Catholic priest friend call in the mob to quietly find the dead guy and the money. There is concern that the dead guy ran off with his secretary, but the truth is much better. Evidently, Judith’s sister and brother in law had a boring marriage. So, to “spice it up a little” they brought the secretary into the relationship. The newly widowed woman seems to have fallen in love with the secretary. And this is not the first time this has happened.

Now to my favorite part, the role of Jesus. Jesus comes off like some hip, cool, guy that seems to have all the answers. The writers have fallen into the trap that many evangelicals do; mischaracterizing the nature of Jesus. In this series, Jesus main characteristic is niceness. Yes, Jesus is kind, gentle, a friend to sinners, merciful, forgiving ect. But He is also righteous, holy, sovereign, worthy to be worshiped as He instructs, not as our vain imaginations decide to.

Now to the more technical aspects of the show. The writing is less than compelling. It pulls up the same old arguments that liberals have been using against Christians for a number of years. Theologically it takes Scripture out of context, much like the Left Behind series does. The music was as riveting as watching paint dry, and the stained glass window ending before every commercial break was done on the old show “Our House”.  I am yawning just thinking about it. It is too bad really. All of these issues could be dealt with in a redemptive fashion.  Not like 7th Heaven, which tends to be a bit moralistic, but in a real and meaningful way.  How does the Gospel change what we do? How does Jesus direct us in dealing with real world tough issues like homosexuality, promiscuity, breaking the law, addiction, affairs, and the like? What does Scripture say about dealing with habitual sin that seems impossible to break?  What about the less obvious struggles of life? Being a pastor is no walk in the park, if you are fulfilling the role in a Biblical way. What does the Bible say about love, or discipline, or the nature of God? All of these things could be addressed in this show, but the reality is that it is probably not the case.

There are 3 or 4 markets that have pulled the show already, choosing to fill the time slot with other shows. It would be unfortunate if this show were to be canceled before running a bit of its course. As poorly done as the show is, overall, there are some opportunities for the church to engage the culture with the issues addressed in the show, and maybe affect the direction of the script over the coming months.

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