“There are plenty of people in the world who believe in something and fail to live up to it at times.”
That was the blunt – and surely, the only redeeming – message of last night’s episode of House, the Fox drama about the brilliant, but deeply flawed physicist Dr. Gregory House, who is more prone to popping pain killers than providing any personal comfort to any of his patients during the course of their mysterious illnesses. Last night’s episode should have come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this character or the state of the media’s secular worldview. House does not believe in God and when he comes in contact with a possible miracle, he is hell-bent on proving that there is always – undeniably - a rational explanation for anything that can happen in this life. For those of you not familiar with the program who could give a care less about anything Fox network has to say about God or faith or medicine, please bear with me, I have a point to make. (If you could bear my soap opera references below, I trust you’ll find this equally relevant. One can hope!)
The patient that House comes into contact with is a 16 year old boy who claims to hear the voice of God. As per usual on Fox and any other network approaching such a delicate subject as devout faith, the boy was made out to be more of a cartoon character than a human being and more of a nut than a Christian. This is not surprising. What, after all, has the secular media to offer to debate in the Christian community? More than we realize, I think.
While Christian programming is popular among those who subscribe to the Christian belief system, it is often inaccessible for those who lack faith or spiritual maturity. They are left to get their lessons on God from secular programs that pretend to be religious such as 7th Heaven, which – although it was a program depicting the family of a pastor – was careful not to make any references to God or prayer throughout the course it ran. As a Christian, I sometimes feel it’s important to be familiar with what messages the secular media sends out, if only to be able to rebut the false notions that are presented. I was eager to see how House would frame the issue, though my hope that it would sent any message of redemption dwindled as the program progressed and the main character seemed to become more possessed than convicted.
To sum up the story (so I can finally reach the point I promised earlier) House makes a list comparing his victories to God, and another doctor on the staff who himself is no beacon of morality makes a comment that hits a nerve. He tells House that the reason he cannot believe in God is because that would mean he’d have to admit that he is not in control of everything, that he would have to believe that at any moment, God could exact his will and leave the good doctor paralyzed and incapable of changing the situation. In effect, he tells House that he would have to admit he’s been playing God and give up the power he’s assigned himself. And it hit me that this is a struggle we all go through when we begin to lean on faith, and for a moment I hoped that the character would realize the relief that would come of admitting it’s not all in his hands. But sadly, the story does not end here. It turns out that the “miracle” was actually nothing more than a fraud on the part of the 16 year old boy who in truth had herpes after engaging in pre-marital sex. House concludes that the boy is little more than a hypocrite and the other doctor makes the statement that appears at the top of this blog. That people falter, that people can have beliefs and still fail. Perhaps, not the redeeming message that one might have hoped for, but a start, nonetheless.
And - although it unfairly charecterized Christians - it got me thinking. How often do we really live up to what it means to be a Christian? How often do we behave in ways that diminish other’ perceptions of our faith or cast doubt on the strength of our convictions and then turn around and discuss God? We all fall short, but we still try to send out the message of hope and salvation to a world that is waiting for us to stumble, hungry for more material for late night skits. The example in House is a bit obnoxious and barely conceals it’s skepticism of Christians, but perhaps there is something to be learned from it. We have a duty to respond with love even to criticism and hatred in spite of the fact that we are incapable of leading the sinless life that Christ did. We have a duty to go beyond preaching to the choir and engage those who need better instruction than Oprah’s proselytizing about intolerance or redemptive messages from primetime dramas. We have a duty to admit that we are not perfect but to try our best to live the lives we should. To be an example. (If only it were as easy said as done!)
In admitting our shortcomings, I think, we better glorify a God that does not fail or fall short.