So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17
My husband and I
recently added Vegas, Longmire 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 Sherlock, Bones 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,
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.”
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
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.
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 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
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
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