With The Office going down the drain last year, my wife and I agreed on one show: Parenthood. In the end, I think the writers raise one major question: what does a real family look like? Not so much what one should look like-that’s what the other shows like Modern Family and The New Normal attempt to do-but what might it look like? Several work together. They play together. They live together, and celebrate countless parties together. So what does it look like when a family is ALWAYS together? Scenarios arise, and questions are raised.
Like any show, the nuclear and extended family is either denigrated and redefined (Modern Family/ The New Normal) or it is idolized (only the latter is the case). At the same time, the directors/writers/producers/actors in Parenthood also provide a positive picture and even include, at times, “biblical” instruction.
Positive “biblical” instruction:
One couple has recently adopted a 7-8 year old lad. He is correctly accused of stealing some sort of lizard, but the new mother doesn’t want to bring it up. At the end of the show, the husband exclaims that, “By not bringing it up, you are not treating him like family, but like a stranger.” The implication being that family can ask tough questions that unsuitable to ask stranger in the same home. Of course the truth also applies within the body life of the local church. If we’re not willing to ask tough questions, which may or may not imply guilt or the need to change, we are treating each other like strangers, not family. Loved this one.
After spending some time with another set of grandparents, a child is found praying. The parents are none too thrilled about that, as they want the right to raise their child according to their beliefs. Fair enough. But when asked to define their “doctrine,” neither could offer an answer. So the search begins and ends with the matriarch and patriarch. Neither seems to offer too much help, but the bigger questions like “Where did we come from,” is raised. The standard existential “whatever you decide it to be” wins out, with one “string” attached. This isn’t utterly existential. What shapes the question, and thus the question is this: Whatever “truth” practiced and expressed within the family exists in order to ameliorate the family.
The sad part about this is its accuracy. Many people come back to church to give their kids religion and morals. However many professing Christians never leave this stage. What can your church do to make my kids better kids? What can Jesus do for my kids? I’m good with anything that helps my kids be better kids. If Jesus can do something for my family, I’m good with him. It ends there. No sacrificial giving or going. No bringing people in to the family unless they make it better or more comfortable. Jesus can’t ask anything of me that might keep my kid from a scholarship, being more popular, more comfortable.
Of course this belief is on a continuum and shows like Parenthood help raise keep that struggle before us. If you love your family, this is always a struggle! In the end, I’m thankful to have a show raise such questions and issues. If we take every thought captive-particularly our favorite TV shows-then they can be as devotional as they are enjoyable.