Thursday, November 13, 2008

TV Snapshot: The measure of a man

I would like to propose a toast to my partner, Seeley Boothe. I know who he is. But I forget sometimes because—because he never shines a light on himself. He shines it on other people. . . . Anthropology teaches us that the alpha-male is the man wearing the crown, displaying the most colorful plumage and the shiniest baubles. He stands out from the others.

But I now think that anthropology may have it wrong. Working with Boothe, I’ve come to realize that the quiet man, the invisible, the man who is always there for friends and family, that’s the real alpha man. And I promise that my eyes will never be caught by those shiny baubles again.

--Dr. Temperance Brennan (aka "Bones") at the end of the “The Con Man in the Meth Lab” episode of Bones; you can watch the full episode here.

I really liked this scene in FOX’s Bones, a series about FBI Agent Seeley Boothe (David Boreanaz) and his brilliant and ever only-give-me-what-I-can-see forensic anthropolgist partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel). Brennan’s worldview centers on anthropological drives and needs, leaving no room for God or faith. That view, however, is periodically challenged by Booth’s belief in God, and every so often his faith works it way into their lives and conversations.

While there isn’t any direct God-talk in this scene (or the episode, for that matter) Brennan’s toast reminds me of an important theme Jesus develops. In God’s kingdom, according to Jesus, the anthropological hierarchy that Brennan refers to is not simply flipped but rewritten. I recently wrote about this in light of Jesus’ repeated teaching that “the last will be first and first last” (in particular, Matthew 19:30, 20:16):
In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says that Jesus “was not just reversing the ‘pecking order’” but “abolishing it.” Jesus introduces a new authority or influence, says Foster, one not evidenced by status and power but by serving others. Instead of manipulation and force, God’s upside-down kingdom and those who live in it operate out of and influence through love, which bears itself out by doing what is best for others (as Jesus models).

In many ways, Jesus’ teaching gets at the second part of his grand summary of all commands, to love God and love others. We often connect serving with participation in organized ministries or programs, but at its core, serving others is simply loving them. It is, as the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible defines it, “the loving, thoughtful, active promotion of the good of others and the cause of God in our world.”
I found Brennan’s description of Boothe a good echo of this. Encountering people who really do act in the best interest of others—“in the loving, thoughtful, active promotion of the good of others and the cause of God” (like just-ness and right-ness, as most evident in the case of the fictional Boothe)—makes folks reconsider what they more readily consider the measure of person. Good stuff.

(Image: FOX) miscctgy

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