Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why I Watch "Saving Grace"

There are plenty of reasons not to watch this show. It is R rated, at least as far as free TV goes, because of its language and sexual situations that leave nothing to the imagination. The crime stories are often not very complex. The main character is a truly reprehensible person, albeit one with a good heart.

If you want to condemn the show for being trashy, you would be right. The main character, Grace, leads a man into adultery and breaks up his marriage. She is sexually promiscuous (and not just with the man whose marriage she has broken up). She drinks too much and smokes too much. She lies. Her language is filthy and blasphemous. She treats her friends badly.

OK, yeah, but I still watch it.

If you don't know the show, the twist is that Grace is visited by an angel. Not your typical wings-and-halo kind of angel ... not even Michael Landon. This angel dips snuff and looks like a construction worker or an out of work bass guitarist from the sixties.

But he loves Grace. Not in any sort of romantic way. In a biblical way. He is not in the business of condemning her, even as he makes it clear that he does not approve (and God does not approve) of her many transgressions. But he is more interested in leading her to God than he is in taking potshots at her, no matter how big a target she makes of herself.

Yes, I wish he spoke more explicitly about Jesus, and he has made some troubling statements about Islam. I don't claim that this show perfectly displays the church or lays out the gospel.

But, it makes a very important point - the process of sharing God with someone like Grace is just that: a process. Earl (the angel) is in this for the long haul, and he is building a relationship with Grace based on honesty and love. It is in many ways a model for us Christians to follow, even if we cannot disappear at will and pop over to France for lunch like Earl can.

The show does not take the easy way out. Grace has heard the message and seen evidence of the handiwork of God, and the typical story would be for her to hit her knees at the first opportunity. But life does not always work like that. The second most typical story would be for her confidently to proclaim her rejection of God and to shoo the angel away forever. But life does not always work like that, either. In this story, she is - usually, apparently - having nothing to do with what the angel says but she is intrigued by him and his caring for her and the relationship that he is building with her.

Again, it is a process, on both sides.

I don't know where this show is going. I have intentionally not read much about it in the press, but I won't be surprised if the producers and stars are not really interested in re-telling the Greatest Story Ever Told. I may be very disappointed by the ending, but I am intrigued by the journey.

Without ever supporting her bad habits or condoning (or even excusing) a single one of her sins, Earl is nonetheless building credibility with Grace. He is teaching her as much as she will learn, and he is leading her to a place where she will have to make a decision. He has helped her in ways that can only be supernatural, and while she may exercise her choice to ignore the obvious work of God in her life, she cannot pretend that she is not being given a chance to see Him.

So often, Christians are portrayed as judgmental. We are lumped in with those who march against ___________ (pick your sin-of-the-month). It is not original with me to say that it does not make sense for us to expect non-believers to act like believers. We seem to be angry that they act like exactly who they are, non-believers, and we forget that the only reason we (usually) act differently is because the Holy Spirit indwells us, because we have accepted the gifts God offers us. (Remember Paul's words: "... and such were some of you.") And yet we expect those who do not know the Holy Spirit to act as if they do know Him. Instead of indicting non-believers for acting like exactly what they are, we ought to be in the business of introducing them to the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who convicts of sin; we don't and can't, and we should quit trying. But often we omit the introductions and skip straight to the expectations of changed behavior. Hollywood has noticed, and Hollywood seems usually to portray us only in the judgmental light.

But not this show. Earl loves Grace and continues to seek her in spite of herself. Her best female friend on the show, clearly a Christian, also continues to develop a spiritual relationship with her. I understand this best friend character to be one who prays for Grace and looks for ways to share her faith with her.

You have to put up with a lot of language and weekly TV-MA or PG-13/R scenes, but the storyline here is unique, and the perspective is mature. This is not one for your kids, but it is one for your thought.

Don't expect a perfect rendition of your doctrine, but watch to see how the angel and the Christian try to work with the sinners in this show. I don't know if Grace will be saved or not, but I know that I want to find out.

1 comment:

Crystal Robbins said...

Always an interesting read, Lyn. I haven't seen that show and I'm definitely curious. It reminds me of a more grown up version of one of my old faves "Joan of Arcadia". We were sad when that one went of the air. . .