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January 23, 2008

2

TV Theology 1: ER exposes postmodern forgiveness

by quaesitor
Thanks are due for this to my friend, Paul Carter, the-pastor-with-his-eye-on-the-pulse (if you can have eyes on pulses) over there in Virginia. Last week’s ER episode (I was a devotee when it started in the mid-90s but have rather fallen out of the habit) shown in the USA is intriguingly called Atonement. Seems to be a bit of a trend (see earlier post). I’ve obviously not seen the whole episode, but this clip is just fascinating.
The guy in the bed is a former prison doctor, Dr Truman, who is dying of cancer. He is gripped by guilt over his involvement in the execution of an innocent framed for murder (I think, on the basis of this short clip). Reiko Aylesworth (recognisable to all 24 fans) is Julia Dupree, a chaplain in postmodern mould. Truman’s fury exposes the absurdity and cruelty of relativist platitudes when confronted with our mortality. Of course, much more needs to be said about whether or not there is even the possibility of knowing truth and having confidence of forgiveness or atonement. But what this clip shows very shockingly is that the spirit of our age simply will not do. We’re no doubt meant to feel acutely sorry for Julia Dupree – but in the end, Truman is surely right.
Here is some of the script (courtesy of TV.com)
Dr. Truman: I don’t want to go on. Can’t you see? I’m old. I have cancer. I’ve had enough. The only thing that is holding me back is that I am afraid. I am afraid of what comes next.
Julia: What do you think that is?
Dr. Truman: No, you tell me. Is atonement even possible? What does God want from me?
Julia: I think it’s up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.
Dr. Truman: So people can do anything? They can rape, murder, they can steal, all in the name of God, and it’s okay?
Julia: No. That’s not what I’m saying.
Dr. Truman: (voice rising to a shout) Well, what are you saying? Because all I’m hearing is some new age, God is love, one size fits all crap!
The classic bit though is just before this:
Dr. Truman: God tried to stop me from killing an innocent man, and I ignored the sign. How can I even hope for forgiveness?
Julia: I think … sometimes it’s easier to feel guilty than forgiven.
That may well be the case – but her crucial omission in all of this, which Truman is ruthlessly and rightly clear about, is that there IS SUCH A THING as objective guilt… For which forgiveness is the only hope. While our take on reality is always flawed, partial, provisional, or even misguided, we cannot avoid the simple truth that reality is a reality (if I can put it like that!) and that things can be and are objectively true.
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. alex
    Jan 25 2008

    hey boss – this is awesome!! love the way that post-modernist, relativist fluff is just blown out the water in the face of objective reality (guilt & death). the fact that it’s made it into a popular tv storyline suggests that the world is becoming increasingly frustrated with said fluff. bring on the one Truth…

    (my goodness! I’ve used a lot of big words there without knowing exactly what they all mean. my apologies if I’ve spouted a heap of gibberish…)

    Reply
  2. Mar 28 2008

    Boy am I glad you posted this AND that you added you commentary. These are some of the things I’ve been thinking about over the last weeks as I get ready to head off to seminary.

    Recently I was part of a discussion with a seminary professor, who began to address this kind of pastoral issue. He told a story about the time he spent in Germany, having gone there to pray and to work on some very specific issues of his own. During that time, he said, he experienced something like a choice regarding whether he really wanted to pursue those issues – it was as though God were saying, “Are you sure you really want to do this?” Considering he had gone to Germany precisely for this reason, he set his mind on tackling those issues. Over the next 3 months, he said, every one of his personal nightmares came true – he lost everything.

    In the end, this professor realized that the losses he faced were necessary, because God meets us in the depths of our own personal “hell.” That’s the place where we come to realize that we can’t dig ourselves out – that we need God’s help.

    THis prof told me, then, that since that time, he’s never again been afraid – as a pastor – to walk with a parishoner into his/her own hell.

    It seems as though that’s what is happening in this ER clip. Julia can’t walk with Dr. Turner into his own version of hell since she can’t admit that such a thing exists.

    Anyway, this is excellent. Thanks again for posting it and for your commentary.

    Reply

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