I am always intrigued by the secular world’s attempts at representing religious figures and ideas. The recent release of “Messiah” by Netflix is no different. I watched the first season last week and I will say that, overall, I was impressed by the show.
Let me put my comments about the show by stating upfront some of the pros and cons I had with the show. First, the show was obviously (at least to me) not written by someone who was trying to put one particular religion in a prominent place. The show casts the religious context of the show with the notion that all religions are essentially the same. This is a form of syncretism. It is a significant theological issue (one I disagree with), but I was not surprised by this perspective. Just because most of the world’s largest religions contain the idea of a Messiah does not mean that they are all looking for the same figure.
Second, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that none of the religions represented was maligned or caricatured in too heavy-handed a way. Some of the many tropes used in describing members of the various religions did find their way into the show. But, it was not gross. What I mean is this. The good and bad examples of members of the various religions did not leave me feeling like this was a hatchet job. I am thankful for this.
Third, I could have done with less political posturing. But hey, this is coming from a secular and a generally more liberal-leaning political culture. I’m just glad I was not left wanting to punch my computer and was not yelling at the screen. So there is that.
Let me turn now to my reflections on the show.
There is a Real Yearning Common to the Human Experience
One of the most compelling aspects of the show was illustrating the universal yearning that exists in the human heart for justice, joy, peace, and hope.
It is easy to forget that regardless of where you are born there is a common thread within the human experience. A thread I believe exists because we are image-bearers of God. We all desire to love and be loved. We all want to live with purpose. The show does a good job capturing that money does not solve the problems created by a broken heart.
Some in the show turn toward hope and others turned toward hopelessness. Many in the show were the victims of the circumstances they were found in. Others were the perpetrators. It really was a stark reminder that good and evil can be found anywhere. From across the street to around the world.
The Secular World Inadequately Answers Theological Questions
My second take away from the show was that a secular world-view cannot adequately answer theological questions.
The secular is inherently atheistic. Therefore, it rejects out of hand the possibility of divine intervention and interaction. Without God, some questions have no context. And some problems have no remedy.
As a Christian, I am shocked at how often the Church (and her representatives) surrender the theological/biblical argument to secular thinking. These two systems are not the same. And they are not compatible. We have to recapture a theological worldview that speaks to the real issues of the human experience. The Church has to point to God’s answers for what is troubling the world.
The Political is an Impotent Substitute for Genuine Faith
The final take away was quite simple. I don’t make a habit of talking politics, and I won’t start now. But, I will dip my toe in for a second as a pastor and say this: The political process (at least in the USA), is an inadequate substitute for genuine faith in Christ.
I don’t care who a person votes for. I care about what a person believes. The ballot box is not the sum total of a person’s life or identity. At least it should not be. Some do try to make this the case. And if it is, there will be some serious problems in that person’s relationships with others.
Genuine faith should not be political. It should be prophetic. It should be powerful. It should even be practical. But when it becomes political it shifts from being about serving to getting power.
If you are interested, watch it. There are some powerful moments throughout. I will be writing about one in the coming week.
If not, don’t.
If you have watched the first season let me know what you think in the comments.