Posts Tagged ‘morality’

bluebloodsBlue Bloods, the CBS TV series about the New York Police Department starring Tom Selleck, may be the best Christian drama on television.  I know that seems like an odd thing to say, but let me elaborate.

Blue Bloods premiered on CBS in 2010 and has remained a Friday night staple since, with a viewership of 10-13 million weekly.  While there is always the police versus criminal element in the show, much of the drama surrounds the Reagan family, four generations of law enforcement in NYC.

Frank (Tom Selleck) is now the Police commissioner, the Top Cop, of NYC, after serving on the force his entire adult life.  His father Henry (Len Cariou) had also been police commissioner, but is now retired.  Both father and son are widowed.

Frank has three grown children: Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), Erin (Bridget Moynahan), and Jamie (Will Estes). Danny is a top detective though highly volatile. Erin is a rising Assistant District Attorney, and Jamie is a Harvard graduate with a law degree who has given up law to take up the “family business” as a beat cop.  Another son Joe was murdered in the line of duty before the series opened, a loss that is always close to the surface in this very tight-knit family.

Danny is married to Linda (Amy Carlson) and they have two sons. Erin is divorced and is raising teenage daughter Nicky (Sami Gayle), a good girl but very strong-minded, and Jamie is very eligible.

Every Sunday this entire family sits down to dinner together. Every episode includes this often moving, sometimes humorous, and occasionally tense intersection of the family’s personal and professional lives.  And every meal begins with a prayer!

The Reagan family is Irish Catholic, and they are devout, not in the maudlin manner of Christian TV with everyone holding hands in church, but in what I believe is a more realistic way, in a way that affects every minute of their lives. Sure, there are often references at the dinner table about the homily at Mass that day, and sure, their saying grace is sometimes just a simple family ritual—but there is an assumption in this family that their faith is real and that it is an omnipresent, all-encompassing framework for both their private and their public lives.

And that is why I think Blue Bloods might be the best Christian program on TV!

As police officers, all of them face moral dilemmas almost daily.  Does the right outcome justify using any means to achieve it?  Is life fair when the victims of crime lose and the “perps” walk free on legal technicalities?  When does one keep the letter of the law or opt for the spirit of the law?

Last week’s episode was especially interesting, involving a detective who was cleaning up neighborhoods of drugs, but then buying up the drug houses, cleaning them up, and flipping them for a big personal profit.  After being investigated by Internal Affairs, no one could find anything illegal about this cop’s actions, but Frank maintained it was wrong, even if it wasn’t illegal!  His moral point was that the police must use a higher standard than just the criminal code to evaluate themselves. Not everyone agrees with him—and so the ethical and moral debate characteristic of almost every episode begins.

The drama of the debate, the challenges of their lives are brought to the family dinner table each week.  Often it is the two young boys who innocently raise the moral questions:  “So are you going to kill the bad guy who shot the cop?”

Of course, there is family drama as well: Will Danny be tempted to be unfaithful by women he meets in the line of duty?  Will he cross boundaries in trying to get justice?  Erin and Nicky have the usual single Mom versus teenage daughter issues, and Jamie has such a soft heart—the heart of a priest, as they say in one episode—that he is often in conflict with what is right legally and what is compassionate.

These are not perfect people.  All of them make choices that you wish they had not made, but don’t we all!  The show is almost completely free of profanity—almost—which is refreshing. You can actually admire all of the main characters.  The action and drama are absolutely engaging.

Evil is always evil and never good.  That fact sets this show apart from almost all drama in our increasingly amoral culture.

And God has a lead role.  If you have Catholic hang-ups, get over them and be thankful for a TV show that shows serious believers, practicing their faith publically and privately in the real world. Be thankful for people who believe in truth.  Be thankful for people who pray.

Previous seasons of Blue Bloods are available on Netflix and Amazon–maybe others as well.

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The killing of Osama bin Laden immediately reassembled moral questions that followers in the Judeo-Christian tradition—have struggled with for centuries, if not millennia.  As I read the comments and tweets, it seems to me that most of the questions gather themselves into two main dilemmas:

1.            Can a God-fearer purposefully take the life of an evil person?

2.            Should God-fearing people celebrate the death of an evil person?

As with many moral dilemmas, I think I was first confronted with the question of pacifism through reading war novels as a teenager. I remember reading Mila 18 by Leon Uris and the struggle the Jewish citizens of Warsaw had as the Nazis first captured the city, then literally walled them off into a ghetto, followed by aggressively eliminating them.  I still remember vividly the tense debates between the rabbis who argued for patience and trust in God to deliver them and the Jews that wanted to take up arms and resist the evil perpetrated upon them.

The same dilemma occupied faithful Christians in National Socialist Germany. I just finished reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. In some ways, the whole Confessing Church struggled with resistance to the evil Hitler began introducing long before he was powerful enough to begin killing Jews.  One of the first things he did was to corrupt the church, installing leaders more faithful to him than to Christ, re-writing creed and doctrine to fit new moral standards, and imprisoning those Christians who refused to adopt the new church order!   What would you have done as a Christian when the God-ordained government (Romans 13) corrupted the church?  Would you have disobeyed the government or sought ways to “live at peace with all men?” Would you compromise by keeping silent and not resisting your church leaders  because you were to submit to those who rule over you?

Then, of course, Hitler and his government changed the social rules of morality: no commerce with Jews, report any bloodline discrepancies, have babies for Hitler, ad nauseum! What would you have done when ordered to act like a bigot or to betray your neighbor?

A German friend of ours told us that one day her best friend—a little Jewish girl—didn’t  show up at school—anymore. No one dared to ask—she didn’t ask—because if you asked, you would be the next one who disappeared in the middle of the night! What would you have done?

Would you have hidden Jews in your home as the ten Booms did? Would you have lied to protect them when the Gestapo knocked on the door?

Six million Jews died in concentration camps, four million German civilians died in WWII, seven million Russian civilians, six million Polish civilians—none of these numbers include the soldiers who died.

“Shall I shoot? I can get inside the Fuhrer’s headquarters with my revolver. I know where and when the conferences take place. I can get access!”  In November 1942, Werner von Haeften, a staff lieutenant of Hitler’s High Command, could no longer hold his burning question in check. The man confronted Bonhoeffer with this question because they both were Christians with deeply held convictions.

The two men reportedly talked for hours. Bonhoeffer offered him no easy answers, but one part of their conversation I’d like to share with you to think about. Bonhoeffer told von Haeften that he should not make his decision based on guilt because guilt was going to be the result of either decision. If he did nothing in the face of evil, he would be guilty; if he killed in the name of Good, he will be guilty. He could not emerge without guilt, “but then that guilt was always a guilt borne in suffering.” (quoted in Bonhoeffer, 425-6, Kindle Edition)

Von Haeften was part of the July 20, 1944 failed assassination attempt on Hitler and was executed the next day. Bonhoeffer too decided that he could actively participate in attempts to kill Hitler.Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s best friend and confidante, explained

We now realized that mere confession, no matter how courageous, inescapably meant complicity with the murderers, even though there would always be new acts of refusing to be co-opted and even though we would preach “Christ alone” Sunday after Sunday.

Thus we were approaching the borderline between confession and resistance; and if we did not cross this border, our confession was going to be no better than cooperation with the criminals. And so it became clear where the problem lay for the Confessing Church: we were resisting by way of confession, but we were not confessing by way of resistance.” (Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. P. 24).

As I sort through this difficult question myself, I come to what I believe to be true from my own understanding of God. God never asked his people to do anything that was intrinsically evil. He repeatedly told the Jews to purge themselves of those who did evil and to put them to death (Deut. 13:5; 17:5, 7, 12; 21:21 and more.)  He did not order them to do evil.

Moses ordered the killing of Israelites who chose the golden calf. God’s judges killed those who did evil. David, the man after God’s own heart, killed Goliath.  What do you do with these executions of evil people, apparently approved by God?  God does use servants to punish those who do evil!

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”    (Romans 13:4)

God hates evil. Yes, he is longsuffering so that all can come to repentance—and we must be also. He is rich in mercy–and we must be also, but His wrath is frightening and the wages of sin is death.

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