Thursday, November 01, 2012

Crime drama comfort

A&E/via Wikipedia
This post originally appeared as a column at MWR.

My husband and I recently added VegasLongmire and Elementary to our digital video recorder. These are the latest in a long line of criminal procedural dramas we’ve watched over the years — from older series like Cold Case and Law & Order to more current ones like The Mentalist, BBC’s SherlockBones and Blue Bloods.

The genre is formulaic, usually focused on solving a crime in each episode. But critics point out, this is part of its draw.

In the online magazine Deadline, Tim Adler says procedural dramas are comforting and reassuring. “By the end of each episode,” he says, “justice is done, the disease contained, order restored.”

Drew Belsky wrote on the television news site Wetpaint that crime dramas “give us faith in societal systems (hospital, law enforcement, justice) that often sorely test us in reality.”

CBS/via Wikipedia
But perhaps there’s a deeper reason we are drawn to these kinds of stories.

Crime dramas reveal that we and our world are broken and tap into a longing we have for a world set right. That echoes our own Story and the deeper longing we have for a return to a world created good and just — and the God who is working toward that.

In Everything New, Jeff Cook points out that our God is one of restoration — and we see this in Jesus. “In his acts one sees the physical world, the mental world, the world of the soul and society all being repaired,” writes Cook. “Jesus spoke over a world in disarray and began reconstructing what was once chaotic.” And there is a time coming, Cook says, when “all that was once dysfunctional—all the abuses of freedom, all the fractured relationships, all the systemic injustices, all of it!—will be wiped away.”

The best crime dramas echo this holistic redemption of both the physical and soul worlds. They give us heroes as broken as the world around them.

Walt Longmire, Sherlock Holmes, Lilly Rush, Patrick Jane, Temperance Brennan — they all struggle with brokenness. But even as we watch them right the world around them, we also watch their redemptions. We root for them to grow and transform — to become the people we know they can be. And that echoes our own Story, in which the transformation of our hearts and souls are intertwined with restoration of larger and systemic brokenness.

BBC/via Wikipedia
But our heroes are not alone in their transformations. Most of them are part of a group that has become more than colleagues: they are practically a family — one with a mission. Being cared for and part of a larger mission changes them. It is central to righting the world as well as to their own redemption and healing.

And this echoes something important about our own Story. “Salvation is a community-creating event,” observes Joseph Hellerman in When the Church was a Family. “God’s goal is not simply to usher me into a personal relationship with him. God’s goal is to transfer me from one group to another, from the world to the family of God.” And in this family we work out our salvation and transformation together.

And this new family has a mission. We work with God in his restoring, redeeming work as a new community — one, as Scot McKnight puts it in A Community Called Atonement, which “is the world organized on right principles. And those right principles involve … justice and peace and love of others.” Our living together works toward repairing and reordering not only hearts, minds and souls but also the world.

Crime dramas are comforting and reassuring on a basic storytelling level. But they also tap into deeper reflections of our own Story, which can bring God-talk into open spaces.

This post originally appeared as a column at MWR.


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