Monday, January 21, 2008

What is a Christian? - 4 "Atonement" episode of ER

Did anyone watch ER last week? This episode, titled “Atonement,” included a subplot about a patient (played by Jonathan Banks) who came into the ER after saving a drowning boy out of frigid water. Turns out, the character was not only a physician himself, but he was the executioner at a penitentiary, the one who gave lethal injections to death row inmates. He was only hanging around the single mom and her son because he desperately wanted to make amends for putting that boy’s father to death. After putting 17 men to death, he was no longer sure it was the right thing to do. And his guilt was eating him up. (Whether doing this job to put these inmates to death was wrong or was “sin” is debatable, but we’ll go with it for the sake of this discussion.)

Add to that, he had terminal cancer. He knew he had a limited time to find forgiveness…if that were possible.

Enter the hospital Chaplain.

Now, if you've been watching the show recently, you know this lady who gives patients spiritual guidance also sleeps around unabashedly. After sleeping with one of the doctors, he apparently thought this was the beginning of a relationship, but she made it clear it was not. She wanted to be free to…um…sleep around with anybody with no ties, I guess.

They call her a Chaplain, but this character is not a Christian. I don’t know what faith she claims to be, if any. She just seems to be a mishmash smorgasbord of spiritual stuff.

So as she sits beside this dying man’s bed trying to bring him comfort, he wants some answers. Answers to questions like, Is there any forgiveness for me?

She can’t give him any clear answers. About three times she starts in with, “Well I believe—”

And he angrily cuts her off. Finally he explodes, telling her he doesn't need her New Age crap (not an exact quote—I can’t remember the exact quote. Wish I could. It was good!). He wanted real answers…and she didn't have any. He told her to get out. Get out! “Get out!” (That’s an exact quote.)

In a later scene, this Chaplain sat talking about the situation with a doctor. He’s trying to comfort her and she says when she became a Chaplain, she thought “being inclusive” was the way to go. He assures her that it is, but you can tell she’s not so sure anymore.

He’s wrong. She’s right…on this point. Being “inclusive” is not the right way to go.

Being inclusive means having a bunch of really nice thoughts about God and religion, but none that offends or excludes anyone. Being inclusive can’t be anything other than a mishmash smorgasbord of ideas. It might look good. It might feel good. But it’s lacking something critical: Truth.

This dying character didn't want religious platitudes that sound nice but mean nothing. He didn't want a bunch of spiritual crap. He wanted the Truth. She didn't have it. He knew it. He threw her out. And I was cheering him on!

Christianity is Truth. That makes people mad because they think Christianity is not “inclusive.” Christianity states very clearly that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the only way to God the Father. The only way to heaven. If you believe and accept that, you’re included. If you don’t, you’re excluded.

Some well-meaning Christians try to make Christianity inclusive so they don’t offend or exclude anyone. But that’s impossible. Can’t be done. If you try, you end up with a watered-down bunch of spiritual mishmash smorgasbord crap. You don’t end up with Truth.

What that character in ER was asking was, “Since I have killed 17 people and now I think this was wrong, what can I do to make up for it? I've gone to their families and tried to make amends, but it doesn't seem like enough. Is it enough? How do I find forgiveness? Is there forgiveness for a man like me after what I've done?” After the mother of the boy he saved found out who he was, he sought forgiveness from her and she angrily refused. He was devastated.

But he didn't need her forgiveness. He only needed God’s forgiveness for all of his sin.

If a Christian Chaplain had been there to give him real answers, this Chaplain would have told him that there is no way to make up for our sin. We can do all kinds of good deeds until the day we die, and it still won’t undo the wrong we have done. Because we can’t undo our sin, we can’t do enough good deeds to earn our way to heaven.

How then, can any of us have any hope at all? Jesus came and took the penalty for all the wrong we have done. He traded places with us. He took our death and gave us life. This doesn't sound inclusive to some because they think if they don’t “believe in Jesus” they are excluded from heaven. That is absolutely correct. But Christianity—true Christianity, not the watered-down crap—is totally inclusive because anyone…ANYONE…who chooses to put their faith in Jesus Christ is saved from the penalty of their sins (death) and given life for all eternity.

I love the way ER portrayed this man’s desire to know the truth and that the writers of this episode allowed this character to recognize the Chaplain didn't have it but only had a bunch of spiritual hooey. That rocks!

1 comment:

Sue Tornai said...

All I can say is AMEN, SISTER! Right on! Truth is truth and you said it!