Supernatural and the Christian artist

Supernatural and the Christian artist

I love Supernatural.

The Winchesters, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) with the Impala

The Winchesters, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) with the Impala

It’s my guilty pleasure. I’ve loved Dean and Sam Winchester from the first episode of the cult television sensation, and with every succeeding episode, I’ve only become further and further entwined in the ever-unfolding drama of their ever-spiraling-the-drain adventures.

Is it a good idea for a Christ-follower to watch this show?

Well, I can’t answer that. It requires generalization, and I’ve learned it’s not a good idea for people to make generalizations when it comes to following Jesus. Sure, there are some generalizations you can definitely make (don’t love idols, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery, etc.).

But watching a television show doesn’t equate to any of those things. Yes, it can, if you let it. But so can music. So can movies. So can anything else in our lives. We can let anything take God’s place in our hearts if we aren’t careful, so it’s not a good idea to say one television show produced by the world is worse than another. If the show doesn’t glorify God to begin with, it doesn’t matter who produces it or who acts in it. We shouldn’t try to project righteousness or holiness on something that doesn’t have it.

Christians like doing that, if you haven’t noticed. We like to find “godly” actors in Hollywood. Sure there are some, and yes, for Hollywood standards, many of them are good role models. But I’m not sure our standards are up to par with what the Bible calls a good role model.

But I digress.

I love Supernatural, and I’m not going to spend a blog post justifying it. It’s a heretical television show. The entire concept of the show pretty much glorifies everything the Bible says is wrong—well, almost everything. In its best episodes, it paints God as absent and distant; in its worst episodes, it portrays Him as petty and human with our same frailties and weaknesses. At it’s best, it’s sacrilegious. Or it would be, if it were a religious television show. And it’s not.

It’s not a Christian show. It’s not supposed to be a Christian show. It’s mythology, religion, and legend re-imagined as fiction, which gives the writers the “freedom” to explore imaginary worlds of monsters, alternate realities, and spiritualities without being restrained by Truth.

Is that a good idea? Well, that’s a question for another blog post, and it’s irrelevant anyway. Because the show exists. And more than that, it’s thriving. And that’s what interests me the most.

Supernatural isn’t a happy show.

It’s not a cheerful adventure where everybody gets a happy ending and good always wins and the heroes always save the day. It’s a story about broken people from broken families who are just trying to do the best they can, and that message resonates with nearly everyone who watches the show.

Dean Winchester, the older brother, is an alcoholic womanizer with a load of guilt so heavy he can’t even imagine getting sober because he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. But he loves his little brother. And he loves his friends.

Sam Winchester, the younger brother, is a bleeding heart so desperate to save the world and everyone in it that he places his friends and family at risk repeatedly. He’s often so sure he’s right that he disregards wisdom and forges ahead no matter what the cost.

Castiel, fallen angel and friend to the Winchesters, ends up playing God more often than not and doing a terrible job at it. And it speaks to the tone of the show that other angels consider Castiel a better “god” than the real deal.

winchesters2

Broken beyond repair. Jaded beyond redemption. Lost. That’s the main cast of characters of Supernatural. They’ve lost every friend they’ve ever loved. They’ve lost every family member who meant anything to them. And as far as anyone knows, there’s no hope for anyone. No future. No better world. And the only life after death is either an eternity of torment or a heaven that’s limited by our earthly experiences.

And that’s where my interest peaks. Why do so many people identify with this concept? Why are so many lost, hurting people resonating with such a hopeless concept of eternity?

I love the show, but I think I love it most because it represents the world’s opinion of God—because it’s so incredibly far from the Truth. It’s not often you get such a clear picture of what God is not. So many times, Satan likes to present his lies with bite-sized chunks of truth so that it’s difficult to tell them apart.

Beware. Spoilers follow.

river-song-spoilers

In the last few episodes of Supernatural’s season 11, Dean and Sam meet God (aka “Chuck” … it’s a long story). This is a big deal, obviously, because God has been absent for a long time, although they have an interesting conversation about it.

God aka "Chuck" played by Rob Benedict

God aka “Chuck” played by Rob Benedict

But the way “God” is portrayed is very much like a human. He has worries and fears and regrets. He makes mistakes. Doubts himself. And allows his creation to lecture him on never giving up.

Mankind. Lecturing God. On faithfulness.

It’s laughable.

That’s not my God. If you want to meet my God, you should read Job 40-42.

But it makes me question if people really believe this about God. Is that what people actually think? Do they actually believe that God is that petty, that small, that ridiculous? Do they believe this cultural stereotype that God doesn’t care? Or that if He does, He’s given up on us?

If that’s what people believe, no wonder our world is in this state.

This is why I love Supernatural. It makes me ask questions about our world, our culture, our audience, and as a Christian artist, I need to know these things. I need to know what questions people are asking. I need to know what people think about God. Because it’s hard to provide answers when you don’t know the question.

I’m not writing this to encourage you to watch Supernatural, although if you do, I can definitely recommend several really wonderful episodes (three words: The French Mistake).

But if you’re a Christian artist, challenge yourself. Challenge what you believe. Look at the art you’re making and ask yourself if it’s really answering the questions our culture is asking.

What is the job of a Christian artist? I used to think that being a Christian artist meant making art that made Christians happy, but I don’t think that’s what we’re called to do. I think an artist who is a Christian is someone who should use the truth of Scripture and the personal relationship we have with God to offer answers to the world around us. But before we can do that, we have to know what questions they want answered.

Because if our job as a Christian artist is to make an impact on our culture, why are we answering questions that people aren’t asking?

Have you ever watched a television show that made you ask spiritual questions? What show was it, and why did it affect you that way?

  • avatar image
    Kat Heckenbach
    November 12th, 2016 at 12:13 am

    This–“I love the show, but I think I love it most because it represents the world’s opinion of God—because it’s so incredibly far from the Truth.”–and a few other statements you make here got me thinking that we need to be happy to see secular shows willing to show beliefs about God, no matter how far from the Truth. At least we know the writers, and viewers, are grappling. Maybe they are angry at God for being that distant, uncaring being the show portrays Him as. Maybe they are longing to be proven wrong about Him. But at least they are not ignoring Him. That’s what this show says to me–there is a struggle with belief. Even my 14 yr old daughter has watched some episodes with me and she’s picked up on that. We’ve had some great theological conversations because of the show. That doesn’t happen with shows that simply disregard God.

    Anyway, great article, great thoughts.

    Reply

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