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The Danger in “This Is Us”

The show may be a cultural phenomenon, but there's a significant problem with what it's preaching that should be noted.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reprimanded by friends and loved ones, “You haven’t watched ‘This is Us?’ Why not?!” It’s as frequent a refrain when the topic of favorite shows comes up as is this line: “It’s honestly about the only thing worth watching on TV these days.”

It’s true my wife and I have never watched an episode. Not because we have anything against the premise of the show or because we are trying to resist some bizarre form of adult peer-pressure. We just never think about it and in the short time span between getting our young kids in bed and when we fall asleep ourselves, television takes a back seat to the myriad of other things we have to accomplish.

But while I know the program is a bit of a cultural phenomenon right now, there’s a significant hole in what it is preaching that an increasing number of people are starting to notice: the program is apparently completely devoid of faith. Kristen Wetherell wrote an excellent analysis of this disconcerting and confusing reality that brings up a number of excellent points, first of which is that the lack of religious values shouldn’t surprise any Christian:

Christians shouldn’t be surprised by this void. It’s a secular show created for an American culture whose primary “religion” is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, interwoven with relativism and moralism. But we should take careful note of the gaping, godless hole in This Is Us. We can enjoy the show and be thankful for its themes, while still recognizing the absence of ultimate truth.

Perhaps I should stop here just to make it clear that I am not suggesting that believers not watch the show. As Wetherell is saying, a Christian can easily appreciate that there is a show on television that isn’t inappropriate or promoting immoral themes while still acknowledging that it falls short of edifying Godliness. For example, it’s wonderful to promote the importance of family, but a Christian understands,

No human being can supply what only God can in Christ. To expect family to fulfill us, then, is a dead-end road. While family is a wonderful gift and can be a place of safety and security, it was never intended to be our “everything.” It simply can’t be.

The same is true of the central principle in the show – that while death is inevitable and is inescapable, the memories of our loved ones live on through “us.” But every believer knows that this is antithetical to the truth articulated by Jesus that real death is escapable: “I am the resurrection and the life…whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

Again, this isn’t so much a warning to Christians not to be misled into thinking Jesus was wrong, but rather a reminder that a great number of our fellow citizens watching don’t know better. Wetherell writes,

The gaping, godless hole in Kevin’s explanation (“I think it’s us”) should leave us deeply concerned and unsettled for viewers who lack clarity on spiritual realities. It’s confusing at best and damning at worst. Christians should grieve the culture’s God-less, Christ-less view of life and death; and we should also rejoice that, in our Savior, death is confronted and destroyed, leading to life that literally “has no end” in his presence.

You may not be able to reach everyone who watches the show with this truth, but given its popularity, you can probably reach a few. It could make an eternal difference if you do.

I watched the first season or so before I got bored, but from what I saw its a show that promotes promiscuity and homsexuality, at the very least. I'm not sure where "Christians" are getting the idea that it " isn’t inappropriate or promoting immoral themes ". There's probably more than that, but I can't remember because it's a saccharine, boring, politically correct
show.

I don't know. Can't people just watch a show they enjoy? Must everything always boil down to you trying to convert people?

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Yes, it does boil down to " making disciples of all nations". Our time on earth is brief. We need to use the talents we ve been given to reach the lost. The sole purpose of man is to love the Lord our God with all our heart mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. I can't say I love my neighbor by not concerning myself with their eternal destination . To have my heart break for what breaks Christ s heart. Just to get along with people isn't enough . Imagine people are drowning . Jesus is the life line that you can throw them.
Do you callously let them drown or offer them the hope of the lifeline ? Now they can reject the rope but that isn't our concern . We need to have a heart for those who are the
walking dead .

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Jack_Krevin: "How much do you have to HATE somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?" - Penn Jillette, Atheist

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I agree with @Jack_Krevin on this one. The show is clean, deals with real issues, and illustrates how American/Western cultures try to make meaning of life and death. I'm not generally a fan of television drama, but I find this particular show well-written and well-acted. Additionally, if you DO watch the show and know others who watch it, it may afford you an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialog about what it means to grieve not as unbelievers do (1 Thessalonians 4:13). I certainly don't want Hollywood preaching faux faith at me. I prefer the relative honesty of a show where people without faith struggle to understand the purpose of pain. It at least gives me a place to start.

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I also agree with Jack_Krevin.

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@bllck100: Shrug. I just don't see the point of always being "on". Some things are just meant to be enjoyed rather than an opportunity to have some "discussion" no one but you wants.

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It would be a much shorter list to name the shows that have any faith element, outside of using it as an occasional clown parade.

Given most of Hollywood's lack of knowledge of faith issues, we are better off if they don't discuss it. Now if they were willing to get in an advisor (like they would do for any other story line they know nothing about), that would be different. But they won't. You'll get a bastardization that is worse than nothing, like the Russell Crowe "Noah" movie, to name one example or you'll get Sheldon Cooper' s mom (that's an example of the clown parade).

A good example if Mac from Agents of Shield. He's actually one of the hero characters and has a strong moral compass, moreso than anyone else on the team and he unapologetically relies on his faith. None of the other characters do, but he isn't presented as a clown show. It's also a much more accurate portrayal of the average Christian than Sheldon's mom is.

(edited)
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My husband and I LOVE the show...Yes I don’t like the gay story line but, best to turn off your TV completely if you don’t want a show that promotes that. And I agree, it is devoid of Christianity, but it doesn’t (so far) mock religion as so many shows do. The concept is new & different, the writing is good, the acting is terrific. (By the way, the Black actor is a Christian in real life) Our main reason for enjoying it so much is that it is so much like our life (not too many can say that). We have boy girl twins and an adopted Black (daughter) who is 18 months older. They are our big 3. (But we also have a son who is 6 years younger....an actor). We are from Pittsburgh as Jack and Rebecca were and we also were a young married couple when the Steelers won that Super Bowl. I will say that I also like Blue Bloods which while I’m not Catholic, shows a respect for religion and even shows the family saying grace together each week. On today’s TV, pretty amazing.

When you ask producers what their deal is with eradicating Faith from movies, shows and comics, they'll tell you "It's about reflecting the world outside your window" (or some other BS like that) while missing the point that their attempts to do just that means that they're not reflecting the world outside their window.

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