I’ve never been a big television watcher. I abhor commercials, and even more so, cable company monopolies legitimized by legislators dismissing the consumer’s best interest.
Thanks to the Internet, I’ve recently watched several exceptional television series. Which brings me to Jack Bauer. Watching anyone for over 200 hours could be exhausting, but the talented Kiefer Sutherland is quite easy on the eyes.
The Emmy-Award winning drama, 24: Live Another Day, effectively illustrates the universal reality that evil is as real as our need to be saved from it.
The ingenious twists and turns of an increasingly suspenseful plot (corruption in companies, governments, and families, presidential assassinations, murder cover-ups, kidnapping, political coups, nuclear and bio-chemical threats, treason, torture, familial betrayal) present impossible scenarios for Jack Bauer to overcome, let alone survive. He does survive, and resolves to serve, protect, and seek justice. But in doing so, his choices, methods, and mistakes cost him.
By Season 9, Bauer is alone, broken-hearted, living in exile, and nearly everyone he loves is dead. When he does reconnect with Americans, he is once again doubted, betrayed, and abandoned by the very people he saved from death.
While watching the entire series up to the latest episode, I recognized redemptive analogies woven throughout a narrative that necessitated a lone “universal hero” archetype in the character of Jack Bauer. His story is hard to accept–simply because most of us know very few people who have the courage or ability to repeatedly make sacrifices for others, if at all.
But at the same time, we identify with Bauer, rooting for him, because we yearn for a transcendent reality, something we sense deep down inside of ourselves as true, but do not readily experience in our lives. (2 Cor. 5:2, 13:12, Heb. 11:16, Ps. 84, Rom. 8:16, 8:26, Job 32:8, Ecc. 3:11).
C.S. Lewis best explains this in Mere Christianity:
The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”
In this way, wonderful human storytelling will always point us to the wonder of the greatest storyteller who entered his own true story in the flesh.
The art of acting provides us with a glimpse of the greatest, truest story–of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. George Miller, the award-winning Australian filmmaker explains,
… people gather in cinemas to experience things collectively the way they once did in church. The cinema storytellers have become the new priests.”
Obviously, Jesus is infinitely incomparable to a television character, as is television to church. But, as I watched 24 I kept thinking: in nearly every episode Bauer repeatedly made difficult choices and sacrifices to prevent or solve a life-threatening problem, and yet the very people who knew he had saved their lives later labeled him as a terrorist, seditionist, liar, or insane, causing him to flee the country he bled to protect.
In a more profound way, witnesses described Jesus healing people from various illnesses. Despite their testimony, many more despised and rejected him. Eventually, he was killed.
Bauer did not profess to be God, nor did he profess to be man’s salvation. But the portrayal of our need for a hero underlies the ultimate metanarrative Jesus told. He spoke of love, salvation, and eternal life through him (John 3:3-12, 16, 5:24, 6:35, 44, 65, 8:24, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1-27, 10:16, 20:31). He also spoke of God’s judgment of people who would be held accountable for their actions (John 9:38-39, 12:30-32, 16:7-9, Matt. 10:28, Rom. 14:12). Jesus also spoke of avenging his enemies, after which his people would never again suffer, mourn, or die (Isa 53, Matt. 24, Revelation).
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann adds insight in The Spirit of Life, writing,
… believers and apostles talk extensively about their experiences… of rapturous joy. When the Spirit of the resurrection is experienced, a person breathes freely, gets up, lives with head held high, and walks upright.”
Through faith in Christ’s redemptive grace healing begins. Moltmann continues,
When life is reborn out of violence and guilt, wrongs committed and hurts endured, and finally out of the shadow of death, this means a tremendous affirmation of life. The people who believe God acquire hope for this earth and everything living in it, and do not despair. They see through the horizon of apocalyptic terrors, as it were, into God’s new world.”
Our joy and hope points beyond the man wearing Kevlar body armor and a blast shield firing an assault rifle to a window into the “otherworldly.” Through the window, we watch, waiting for the rider on a white horse to come, leading his army with sword and fire. Then, the author of life will enter center stage, and the new chapter of an even more glorious story will begin.
June 25, 2014