Friday, December 01, 2006

Grey's Theology

At the risk of exalting the trivial and desecrating the sacred:

I think Grey's A revealed God's character last night.

I know such a claim is absurd and probably damages my authorial credibility. If you aren't still reading, I understand. If you are, wait until you stopping laughing to continue reading.

But check this out.

Christina and Burke sin, er screw up royally. Huge, consistent mistakes that hurt others, themselves, and their relationship. Bailey demands justice. After all, punishment must follow sin. . . . sorry, I mean C&B must be disciplined for disobeying the rules. Regardless of Bailey's righteous anger, my bad, I did it again, her desire for fairness, the Chief will have none of it. He chooses grace, whoops, I mean he let's them off the hook for no reason other than that he loves them and it's good for the kingdom, I mean, hospital, yeah, hospital.

I just can't keep the religious language out of there.

I've often wondered about the A's treatment of Christianity and have noticed subtle yet powerful Christian themes underlying the plot. I don't know whether this evidences an intentional insertion of Christian themes or whether we just simply can't escape God and his truth. Every character is "damaged goods" (Meredith's own words). The withholding of truth burdens the holders and hurts all. Honesty frees. Relationships are often utterly broken. Death rules, and the world has no answer for it.

And last night was an example of how God the Father interacts with his creation. In an attempt to cover our naked brokenness, we hide who we are and sin, hurting everyone around us including ourselves. Relationships break, and we buckle under the weight of our sin and the conviction it causes. All the while, we rebel against God, refusing to play by his rules while trying to hide our mistakes. God, being perfectly just, demands punishment for this rebellion, but being perfectly loving, spares us the wrath which we deserve. The punishment is poured out on Jesus at the cross, the place where justice and love meet. We receive forgiveness, love, and grace even though we don't deserve it and get to enter the Heavenly kingdom, the place we were made to be all along.

Obviously, last night's Grey's A left out the crucial part of this salvation story - the cross. But given it's context of the secular world of television, it came pretty darn close to giving us a Biblical picture of God's character which demands justice yet bestows grace.

Sin. Confession. Justice. Love. Grace. Reinstatement. Change. All the key players were there. Oddly enough, so were the characters of Grey's A.


Jen said...

I agree with what you have said as the show explores the distructive power of deceit and secrecy. I also think it’s interesting to note that Burke’s “sin” results from his identity crisis. When faced with the potential of giving up surgery, he discovers that he feels that he is nothing without the identity of successful surgeon.

I do disagree some with your assessment of the Chief and Bailey. I may be the only person that will say that you weren’t watching the show close enough. Unlike God, the Chief’s grace was based on a heirarchy of “sin.” The emphasis repeatedly fell on the fact that no one died with Burke and Christine unlike Izzy who received punishment although one was an act of ongoing deception and risk to maintain an unhealthy identity and the other was a one-time act of misguided love. The truth is sin is equally as distructive despite differing levels of external effects or consequences.

As for Bailey, her anger wasn’t righteous anger for justice, it was displaced self-loathing. In her conversation with the Chief, he realized she was angry because she blamed herself for her interns’ (Izzy and Christine’s) actions. She wasn’t willing to accept grace for herself. You said the show left out the cross, but it did have Bailey trying to act as a faux saviour and taking on the sin of her interns. The truth is in her own imperfection, she is unable to carry that burden.

Due to the fact that the show is about doctors, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the issues of how the ability to heal can lead to a savior complex.

I’d also like to note that true healing in the relationships didn’t happen until the sin was revealed. I think of the Woman at the Well in John 4 (really there is sooo much in that story). This is a woman who made her identity her sin. Jesus intintionally brings her sin to light before offering her a gift that won’t cause her to “hunger or thirst” or live in shame and hiding anymore. He doesn’t do this to judge her, but realizes that she can’t live in true freedom unless she knows that he knows her sin and gives her the gift of grace anyways.

This is why confession (yep, I said it) is a huge part of the process of becoming a Christian as well as a continual part of the Christian life. It’s not about telling God what we did, he knows that, it’s about releasing that burden, guilt and shame and trusting that he’s big enough to take it. In the case of the woman at the well, she was so free she willingly went and told all her neighbors that already judged her about her healing. It’s about releasing what we place our identity in, the good and the bad, in favor of seeing ourselves and Jesus sees us—perfect.

Another comparison is the final locker room scene when Meredith tries to reconcile everyone to Christine. How do we as a community handle sin that comes to light? Do we judge or keep reminding the person of their sin and make it their identity like the woman at the well's neighbors? Or do we see our own sin (the plank in our own eye) and come alongside them because we too have been shown grace? As Meredith says “you’re my sister, you’re my family, you’re all I’ve got.”

Chris Pappa said...


I'd like to apologize for what you recognized as my apparent dislike for Grey's. I remind you that I watch the show every week, and secretly enjoy it. The characters' lack of consistency or integrity or virtue tends to bother me, though.

Keen insight into Grey's A from last Thursday. Jen's comments concerning the limited scope of your analogy are formidable, but I admire the integration of Christ into a patently pagan program. I've heard it said, and I agree, that the engaging element in any story is merely the reflection of the grand Story that God is even now weaving. To recognize part of God's drama (accurately!) is a significant mark of wisdom.

It also improves your appreciation for any art...if the story (painting/music/etc.) engages someone, there is something meritable in it. C. S. Lewis said something to the affect that this progression leads either to a general appreciation or an overall criticism towards literature. As usual, I agree with him. ;-)