Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spiritual Insights on Six Feet Under

I’ve been watching the first season of Six Feet Under.  I like it so far because of the stories, and also because I like Michael C. Hall (who later starred on Dexter), Rachel Griffiths (who later was on Brothers and Sisters), and Freddy Rodriguez (who was in Lady in the Water).

There were interesting points about religion in a few of the episodes that I watched recently.  Michael C. Hall plays David Fisher, a homosexual who (at least in this season) is ashamed to admit publicly his homosexuality.  David is rather conservative, in the sense that he is responsible, dutiful, and rather uptight.  David vacillates between two churches: a rather conservative church that he attends with his mother, and a more gay-friendly church that he attends with his boyfriend.  The priest at the conservative church helps to make David a deacon, and my hunch is that this is because he knows that David is gay and hopes that David will try to move the church in a more progressive direction.  But, to the priest’s disappointment, David is not that type of person, for he prefers to avoid making waves.

At the liberal church that David attends, the priest was offering an interesting interpretation of the story of the Fall in Genesis 3.  According to her, the sin of Adam and Eve was not that they ate the forbidden fruit, but rather that they believed the serpent’s lies without allowing God to present God’s own side—-to refute the serpent’s charge that God was lying to Adam and Eve and was trying to hold them back from what was good.  I like this interpretation because it places God in a positive light and treats people as if they have minds of their own and are able to listen to and evaluate different sides.  That differs from the usual interpretation that I hear of Genesis 3: that God expected Adam and Eve to obey him mindlessly, no questions asked.

At the conservative church, as I said, David is made a deacon.  The church is thinking of bringing in another priest, who is quite progressive.  This priest tells David that Jesus was a revolutionary who was assassinated by the powers-that-be, and that the same thing would happen to Jesus today.  The priest also said that sitting in church does not exempt people from moral responsibilities, and that people should stand up and protest when a gay or an African-American is killed by bigots.  Rather than pursuing this kind of relationship with God, the priest laments, many parishioners prefer to limit their devotion to praying to a man on a cross.

The priest was making some powerful points.  I don’t think that Jesus was a revolutionary in a violent sense (and I am not sure if this priest was saying that).  But Jesus’ acts of compassion and moral indignation were controversial and brought upon him the wrath of the powers-that-be.  His eating with sinners challenged social and perhaps even religious norms.  His healing on the Sabbath ran against the piety of certain Pharisees (according to the Gospels).  And his cleansing of the Temple concerned the authorities, both among Jews and also Romans.  And, in my opinion, compassion today can challenge entrenched special interests—-a number of health insurance companies, a racist society, people who put profits ahead of people, etc.

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