Jericho centered on the lives of folks in a small Kansas town after a series of nuclear bombs destroyed key American cities. The first season focused on the townsfolk coming together as a community, and the second on their growing awareness that a new national government competing with remnents of the old one and run by a self-proclaimed president is corrupt to its core. The townsfolk started mobilizing to stand up against it—which brought with it some interesting threads and themes.
In the last few episodes, it was intriguing to watch the unfolding of a revolution. The series drew direct allusions to both the American Revolution and her Civil War; watching the struggles of the Jericho townsfolk lent insight into some of the issues our forebears must have processed through. I thought the series also did a fair job of exploring the personal costs and sacrifices we face when dealing with injustice and the machinations of corrupt systems and people. How much are we willing to risk to stand against that—and help others survive? Are there lines we won’t cross, or is it all up for grabs? Good questions, ones that invite some good reflection.
I was particulary haunted by the thread centering on the death of good-hearted Bonnie and the consequential actions of her grief-consumed brother Stanley. Bonnie is shot and killed by a para-military thug who is out to coverup his own embezzlement. We know Bonnie’s fate is sealed once she decides to pick up a gun to defend Mimi (her brother’s fiance who has proof of the embezzlement), and that scene still makes me grieve for a world where a young girl would even face a choice like that—a choice far too real and faced by far too many people in this broken world.
But it was what happened later that really struck me. Shortly after Bonnie’s death, her brother Stanley—a goodhearted and loving man himself—reflects on the difference between her death and the death of their parents years earlier in car accident, and some of the series only overt God-talk occurs. Another character reflects that what happened to Bonnie is harder to deal with than accidental deaths—or, as he puts it, “acts of God.” Stanley’s face hardens and he says simply, “Aren’t they all.” Whether they intended it or not, however, the series reveals the weakness in that line of thought in one of the more disturbing yet powerful scenes of the series. Not long after this conversation, Stanley walks up to the man who killed his sister, points a gun to his head with a trembling hand, squeezes his eyes shut and pulls the trigger—and then stumbles away, falls to his knees and vomits. That death was no act of God: it was an act of man—just like Bonnie’s death. And while his friends understand why he did it, Stanley himself is horrified by his action. Intended or not, that scene reveals that much of the darkness, destruction and death in this broken world comes not at the hands of God but at the hands and choices of we broken people.
The scene that resonated the most with me this season, however, occurs during "Sedition," the second to last episode. Jake Green (the leader of the town’s rangers and who, along with his brother, seems to have inherited his recently deceased father’s strong moral center) is imprisoned and pressured to reveal the whereabouts of Stanley (who’s now wanted by the military). At one point, after being deprived of sleep and water, Jake slips into a vision where he’s talking with his grandfather, who died before the series started. Jake’s struggling with how to get through to the well-intentioned but deceived Army Major Beck in charge of Jericho; they need Beck’s help if they are going to stop the corrupt government vying for control of the country. Then the enormity of what he’s up against hits Jake: “It’s not just one man,” he tells his grandfather, “it’s a system.”
Oh, how I identify with that. When faced with the darkness of this world, a sea of broken people and how we as the church are a mere shadow of who God calls us to be, I feel like Jake. At times, it all is so vast and crushing. How do we face such overwhelming brokeness? And how can we ever change any of it when we are a pale version of the people God enables and longs for us to be? “Revolution” is the answer Jake comes to in his vision, and a significant part of me resonates with that. If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I’m among those who think that the way we understand and “do” church today is not working. And I deeply long for us to be as we are created, enabled and called to be. To be the physical and local expression of those wide open spaces of God’s rule of Life, Love and Rule. To live-together out of the life that comes as we live in and with Jesus in such a way that we overflow with fellowship, revolutionary mission (towards healing, right-ness, justice, life and reconciliation), always inviting others, and deep community. To be love.
But ultimately all of that—from fighting the darkness to bringing hope, healing, restoration, light and redemption to becoming the people of God as he calls us all to be—happens one person at a time. It happens as we walk with and trust God, live in and from his love and life. It happens as we pay deep and acute attention as we go, really loving those with whom who we cross paths, taking every opportunity to bring right-ness where there is wrong-ness right where we are.
This episode of Jericho reminds me of that. Jake doesn’t lose sight of individual people in his quest for revolution, to set things right. Ultimately, his integrity and actions—and the actions and integrity of the rest of the Jericho townsfolk—start to influence and win over Major Beck. When Beck shares the truth of what’s happening with the men under his command, they too join the revolution. That’s how revolutions work. That’s how the world changes. One person at a time.
So yeah, I’m sorry to see the series go. It had its flaws, but it certainly brought a lot of God-talk to these open spaces. And that’s something I’ll miss.
(Update: for more, see the recent Jericho, good stories and their fans.)
(Images: CBS) jerichoctgy