I’ve been watching the TV series Firefly, which was on for one season in 2002-2003. It is science fiction. Although it was only on for one season (plus a movie was made to wrap up the story), it gained a cult following. I thought that the pilot was boring, but I have been enjoying the episodes after that. It is light and funny. I particularly like Shepherd Book, the preacher with a mysterious past, who is kind to everyone he meets.
Last night, I watched the episode “Jaynestown.” That episode has a
lot of good things: Shepherd Book and River talks about biblical
contradictions and inaccuracies, and what faith really means; the
companion Inara teaches a 26-year-old virgin what it means to be a man.
The episode revolves, however, around a town that is honoring Jayne.
Jayne is played by Adam Baldwin, and he is crass, blunt, and rather
self-centered. I think of what Leia said about Han Solo in Star Wars:
“Your friend is quite a mercenary. I wonder if he cares about
anything. Or anybody.” Jayne and some people of the Firefly crew are
going to a planet, and Jayne insists on disguising himself because he
caused trouble there years earlier. They arrive on the planet, and they
see a statue of…Jayne!
They go to a bar, and people are singing a song about Jayne. The
song says that Jayne stood up to the magistrate and robbed from the rich
and gave to the poor. Jayne dropped money on the peasant mud-makers
from his aircraft.
Jayne then remembers what it is they are talking about. When he was
last on the planet, Jayne stole money from the magistrate. When he was
in his aircraft, he had to drop cargo in order to lighten the plane. He
accidentally let out the money.
The mud-makers recognize Jayne, and they treat him like a hero.
Jayne learns that his presence inspired the mud-makers to unite and
stand up against the magistrate. “You had a riot on account of me?”, he
says. Jayne delights in his celebrity status.
The magistrate learns that Jayne has returned, and the magistrate
releases someone from a box, which is jail on that planet. The prisoner
is Stitch, who was Jayne’s partner in crime years earlier. Jayne not
only let cargo out of the aircraft to lighten the plane. Jayne also let
When Jayne gives a speech to the mud-makers in front of his statue,
Stitch shows up to confront him. Stitch tells everyone the type of man
that Jayne really is. Stitch says that Jayne dropped him from the
aircraft, and that the money only fell out of the aircraft by accident.
When Jayne replies that Stitch would have done the same thing to him,
Stitch vehemently denies that. Stitch says that partners are supposed
to have each other’s back.
Stitch shoots Jayne, and a boy from the mud-makers jumps in front of
Jayne and takes the bullet for him. Jayne is mortified that someone
would die for him. “What’s wrong with you?,” he shouts. “Didn’t you
hear a word that he said? All of you people, do you think someone would
drop money on you, money that they could use? Well, there ain’t people
like that. There’s just people like me.” Jayne goes to the statue and
knocks it down.
On the Firefly, Jayne is by himself, feeling sad. The captain, Mal,
comes to talk to him. Jayne laments that the mud-makers on the planet
probably raised the statue back up after they (the Firefly crew) left.
Mal replies that there are a lot of people who have statues made of
them, and many of them were probably SOBs. What is important is not
whether Jayne deserved that statue. Rather, it’s what the people
I do not know if this event will change Jayne in any way. On some
level, Jayne is resigned to being the sort of person he is. On the
other hand, can one be given that sort of undeserved admiration—-which
includes someone dying for him—-and be unchanged by that, at least a
I thought of a few things after watching that episode. In the movie Saving Private Ryan,
a group of Allied soldiers save Private Ryan so he can return alive to
his mother, but they all get killed in the process. The Captain, played
by Tom Hanks, tells Private Ryan right before he dies to “Earn this.”
There was a story on ABC News last night about a department store
Santa reaching out to a kid with autism. The Santa listened to the boy
telling him about autism and told him that he was a good boy. This
story has been liked and shared on Facebook thousands of times. This
department store Santa was probably a regular human being, with flaws
like the rest of us. He wasn’t even really Santa Claus! But he got to
be part of a sacred occasion.
From a Christian perspective, I think about Christ sacrificing
himself for us and giving us honor that we do not deserve. Does that
impact or change me in any way? It should, but it is often an abstract
doctrine for me. That is why it is good to see examples of that kind of
theme in stories, and in real life.