Some of my fellow Christians criticize me for watching “secular”
television shows and movies that contain sex, violence, profanity, etc. and worst
of all, the “wrong message”. The wrong message
being anything against God, Christianity or The Church. Granted some shows have no redeeming qualities
and are nothing but blood and guts, boobs and butts, f-bombs and worse. If I see one going that way, I turn it off. I’m just not interested and it does one no
good to watch or listen to that mess.
But there are shows that transcend their irreligious, dark
side of this world messaging. They tell stories
about the human condition in ways that move me to be even more thankful for the
faith God has given me and to be even more committed to becoming the person He wants
me to be.
One such show is on Netflix. “After Life” just wrapped up its third and final
season. The creator and writer of “After
Life” is Ricky Gervais, an award-winning English comedian. Frankly, I was never a Ricky Gervais fan. Watching him host the Golden Globe awards I
found him unnecessarily crude, mean and vulgar. And his stand-up routines are even worse. I could not imagine what he might do with a television
But I gave “After Life” a shot. And almost turned it off during the first episode
of season one. Gervais appeared to
simply be playing his usual nasty, despicable self. But there was a compelling back story to the
show and an interesting supporting cast. Gervais’ character, Tony, is a would-be
journalist working for a struggling small-town newspaper. He has lost his wife to cancer. Now his life consists of watching old videos
of his lovely, charming wife while petting his dog and getting drunk. His wife was truly the love of his life, his best
friend and his reason for living. After
losing her, he is just wanting and waiting to die, being miserable and making
everyone around him miserable. Sounds
like an uplifting show, right?
Tony’s nihilism mixed with biting humor and sarcasm is at
times funny, brutally honest and consistently dark. Most of the other characters are struggling,
anxious or clueless; but also interesting. A few attempt to express some vague message of
hope in the hereafter and a murky faith in some higher power. Without being too
much of a spoiler, the series ends on what is meant to be a happier note. Essentially the message is that this life is
all there is, be nice and kind to others, do what you can to make things better
and then leave the stage for the next actor. There
is a hint that your loved ones may be waiting for you on the other side or
perhaps it’s just a memory that also disappears when you do.
After Life is a genuinely well-done series. The writing is exceptional, the acting
spot-on and the production top notch all around. The music is perfect, always fitting and tugs at your emotions. However, “After Life”
left me with a deep sense of sadness. Yes,
I realize it was just a television show and it was fiction. But it looked a lot
like modern life for so many people. Those
who search for the big answers to the big questions but fail to look beyond
this world. So many people believe only in
what they can experience or what makes sense to them. They may hope there is more, but all their
efforts go toward finding happiness in the here and now, until they either give
up or die trying to find it.
As I said, shows like this make me even more thankful for
God’s grace. Grace that brought me to the
faith and sustains me. Shows like this
also give me perspective and understanding in my relationships with those who do
not believe in an afterlife or anything else other than what exists in the material
world. It challenges me to live in such a way that others may seek to know what
I believe and why I believe it. To be a
witness, to give testimony to the truth not only in word but also in deed.
faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15: 16-19